Growing Cacti?

AndyWilson

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Hey Folks,

I was given cacti seeds from a wonderful women who is sadly losing her battle against a degenerative muscle disease, she is a great friend and i want to try my best to grow these seeds to honour her.

Now, i have absolutely no idea how to grow cacti or what type of cacti they are, seeing as there are so many diverse interests here i was hoping someone would have some general info for me, or maybe point me towards some reliable info. I only have a few seeds and want the best possible survival rate for them.

Any ideas or pointers would be much appreciated,
Andy
 

irene_b

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Do Not over water them!
Mom
 

Attila Soos

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Hey Andy,

I also love cacti for their incredible diversity, but there is not much use for them in bonsai....unless you want to use them for accent plants that suggest a desert environment.

But here is how you can make cactus growing fun: by creating desert landscapes with rocks, sand, gravel(or lava rock), cacti and succulents. Some succulents can take nice tree-like appearance. This way, you can practice your creativity in creating miniature landscapes - a skill very useful in bonsai.
Of course, from time to time you have to re-arrange the lanscape, since the cacti will grow out of proportion.
 
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Bonsai Nut

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I have an entire cacti collection along the top shelf of my barbeque island. I love them - very diverse and really easy to take care of. The critical factor (as people have said) is to not overwater. I water them maybe once a week in Southern California where they sit in 100% direct sun through the summer in burning hot temps. I fertilize maybe once per quarter. These are all small container cacti. Most of them are in 4" pots. They are completely bone dry within 48 hours of watering them, so most of the time the soil is bone dry. I have them planted in a commercial cacti soil that is very sandy with lots of rocks. You can tell when they need to be watered because they start to look a little deflated. Healthy cacti look plump and firm, while if they start to dry out they will wilt slightly first. You are MUCH more likely to kill a cactus by overwatering than by underwatering.

I tried to grow cacti from seed this summer with poor results. I could not get them to germinate. I had the seeds in a growing tray with a clear cover to give them humidity, but I think I tried to start them too late in the season and the cover on the growing tray caused them to get too hot. I did not get a single plant.

On the other hand, I have had a lot of success with reproduction via cutting. In most cases, it is as simple as removing a lobe or branchlet and sticking it into a pot of cacti soil with no other care required. Some of my cacti produce "pups" which you can split off of the parent plant quite easily and replant in a new pot. It seems to me that keeping the cactus root-bound in a small pot will increase the number of pups a cactus produces.

Other than that, there doesn't seem to be much to it. In addition to true cacti, there are loads of other succulents (agave, gasteria, haworthia, aloe, etc) that you can grow to compliment your cacti. All cacti that I have run into seem to do well as container plants and can put up with poor soil and infrequent waterings. Some can also be quite cold hardy and can take freezing temps and frequent snowfall.
 

AndyWilson

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Thanks fella's these are going to go outside in the ground, i have several large rocks i didnt know what to do with until now. Some plain white sand and maybe a few small acacia will do i think for this landscape. At least i know they wont get too much water here and they should survive our summer temps.

I do have a few aloe i have rescued, and many crassula and porto's so i guess it's pretty much the same treatment.

The temps here are fluctuating a lot, so i am going to try half now and check germination.
Hmm maybe i can find a use for that new digital camera my folks brought.

Thanks again
Andy
 

Rick Moquin

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... a little arid scene I created a while back. Kept indoors, watered maybe once a month. Enjoy!
 

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Tachigi

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I like that Rick. Its funny someone just gave me a cactus. Said I needed to broaden my horizons..lol.
Well who knows...a cacti landscape...no fuss, no muss...might be fun
 

Dale Cochoy

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Some succulents can take nice tree-like appearance. .

Euphorbia nerifolia 'crest'

About 28 yrs in a bonsai pot from a rooted cutting in a 4" pot.
weight now.....about 2 watermellons!:D
Dale
 

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Attila Soos

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Euphorbia nerifolia 'crest'

About 28 yrs in a bonsai pot from a rooted cutting in a 4" pot.
weight now.....about 2 watermellons!:D
Dale


That looks gorgeous, Dale. I was always tempted by the Euphorbias (this is a Genus with a large number of members), but I never really gave in to temptation. Growing succulents as bonsai has the risk that one day, after 20 years of growing, your work turns into mush (if left out in the winter).
But they look really interesting.
 

Rick Moquin

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I like that Rick. Its funny someone just gave me a cactus. Said I needed to broaden my horizons..lol.
Well who knows...a cacti landscape...no fuss, no muss...might be fun

Thanks Tom, enjoy yours:) they are pretty much maintenance free.

The downside to my arid scene, it had to be dismantled. The cactus on the right is twice as big and high as the stone. The one on the left is about 9" tall now and 2" dia. The are now in individual pots, just to enjoy, not bonsai. BTW that tray is 16 inches across, the stone about 5" high
 
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Cacti are actually very easy to grow from seed. You'll need a pot or pots enough to hold your seeds and regular cactus mix, straight out of the bag. Fill the pot and sprinkle the seeds. It will help to cover the seeds with a layer of sand or very small grit to hold the seeds in place. Don't cover them deeply because some cacti need light to germinate. Don't pack the soil down or the little root won't be able to dig in and your sprout will die on the surface. When they sprout water will a fungicide like "No-Damp" if you want to reduce your losses. High heat and humidity will help germination but also contribute to fungus.

Don't let them dry out until they are developed and look like little cacti. And even then, there is no need to while they are actively growing. Next winter you will need to cut back on the watering.

These pics are from early this summer.
 

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AndyWilson

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Very nice pics, was the gravel there to start or added later? i would imagine it would be difficult for a seedling to shift it. What is its function?
 

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Globalist, did you cover the pots with a clear lid or greenhouse cover, or were they open to the air? How frequently did you water prior to germination?
 
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Very nice pics, was the gravel there to start or added later? i would imagine it would be difficult for a seedling to shift it. What is its function?

That gravel is just a top-dressing for looks and to keep the perlite from floating up and sticking all over the plant. It's just for looks. All my succulents/cacti are in a mix of 50:50 store bought cactus mix and perlite. If you buy a big bail of it perlite is about the cheapest thing at the garden store. Great for propagation of all kinds. 50:50 regular potting soil and perlite is what I have many of my bonsai seedlings in. They are getting repotted every year for the first 2-3, so why waist the good stuff? I'm an akadama guy ;) And on that note, the cacti in the pic that have the smaller aquarium gravel as a top dressing are actually growing in akadama. There was a picture of a cactus on the akadama bag. Seems to work, but it's a little costly for my taste.

Globalist, did you cover the pots with a clear lid or greenhouse cover, or were they open to the air? How frequently did you water prior to germination?

They were sprouted in little pots in one of the seed flats with a plastic lid. "Jiffy" makes them. Once new plants stopped showing up and they had grow until they where touching eachother I picked them out and planted them in my regular cactus mix. I watered whenever the top of the soil started to look dry. After a while I found that a spray bottle helped. Cactus seeds are small and they are really sitting on top of the soil so it is easy for them to get washed around.

After bonsai, cacti/succulents are my favs. Thank-you for giving me a chance to talk about them.
 

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This would be a great topic for a short article. Take a bunch of pictures next Spring. I'll be trying to germinate some cacti seed next year as well - I fried mine this year :)
 
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I would have snapped some for you all today... but alas, my camera bit the dust and I've been spending my money on bonsai stuff instead. But at least I'm posting in a place where people can't blame me for that! :)
 

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They were sprouted in little pots in one of the seed flats with a plastic lid.

Can you describe the lighting and temp? I had mine in a similar setup but they were in full sun (in Southern California). I was concerned they were too warm. It is hard to imagine cooking a cactus, but the combination of the clear cover and the sunlight turned the inside environment into a steam bath. I'd be interested to hear your description.
 
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You have a very good point BNut! I had them in a window that didn't get tons of direct light. Any time it was being hit by direct light I would open the lid a little. A northern window or a shear curtain would help you, I just don't get the kind of sun you do. I let them grow until they were big enough to handle and then planted them into the pots you see there.

You can certainly cook your cactus in a closed container. If you have a greenhouse then you can skip the plastic lid, no? I don't know.
 

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