On this page you find a short overview of the care of cactuses and other succulents during the year. The overview it rather general. This is alright for most of the species, but you have to keep in mind that some of the below mentioned data are not correct for a few species (mostly very difficult ones such as Uebelmannia's and the like).
During the winter most cacti and succulents are at rest. They must not grow then: wintergrow is weak and spindle. Early blooming cacti, wich are not perfectly at rest during the winter, do not bloom. Rest means none or very little watering and temperatures that may be as low as 8°C (46.4°F). The cooler the plants are standing the dryer you may keep them. That means particularly that the humidity has to be as low as possible.
Because there is not so much to do during the winter concerning the plants, it is the ideal period to work on the administration: completing plant data, renewing labels, going through literature, wrinting an article for the magazine, etc. However do not forget to examine the plants regularly toward vermin and the like. If you have a greenhouse, do also control the heater regularly.
Plants that seem to dry out a bit, may have a superficial haze on bright days before noon, but they must be dry again by the evening. Do ventilate during the day if the temperature outside arises above the 10°C (50°F). Plants that were kept rather dark during wintertime, require to get used slowly to sunlight again.
Please verify carefully - with a magnifying glass - on little red spiders: during the early springtime they can multiply very fast because of the dry atmosphere and the prolonged heating. Do control as well whether there are no other vermin. You may find them hiding in warm and dry places. Do take care because they can multiply explosively now.
Make your choice out of the seed-list. Look for those species you want to sow this springtime. Sowing is a rahter cheap and very instructive way to gain new plants. End Februar you can sow with artificial heating.
This is the ideal month to replant. If you have a large collection it may be done the whole year through. Make sure the roots are dry. In this way you limit the risk of damaging the roots during repotting. Use well a draining soil that is on greenhouse temperature. Place the plants in the same position with regard to the light after the repotting. You may mark the pot on the lightside. Plants that already have flowering buds, are being repotted after the flowering season.
If the temperature and the light are okay, the first flowers will be visual now (e.g. on some Mammillaria species).
It is important as well that you verify all the materials you use. Do you have to buy some more ? Are the pots and other materials well cleaned? Rigourous hygiene anticipates many diseases and vermin. Much light and fresh air remain important factors. Protect the plants against intense sunlight. On sunny days before noon you may haze or give a little water. Sowing can be done only with soil heating.
Now most of the plants should start growing (and possibly forming flowers as well). With beautiful weather you can water them with tepid rainwater so that the growth may go on.
In April you can place plants outdoor, if you can protect them against possible night-frost. In the beginning you have to protect them against intense sunlight, but after three weeks or so that is no longer necessary. With beautiful weather do haze and ventilate a lot. In a humid atmosphere the plants burn less easily.
Don't forget to pollinate the flowers! At this time of the year, there are not yet that many insects. So, if you want to be sure that you get seeds, you'll have to do the work yourself. Of course, you can always continue repotting your older plants.
May is the best month to sow if you don't have fancy equipment such as a heated sowing boot or soil heating. Make sure that the sowing is regularly fuddled when the weather is beautiful. Keep your seedlings during the first year out of the bright sunlight.
You may repot the plants that have flowered earlier. In the beginning protect the repotted plants against intense sunlight. After mid May you may plant outdoors: dig a hole underneath the pot and fill with gravel for a good drainage.
Now you may also take cuttings to enlarge you collection, but only if the plants are in good condition and growing well. Treat the wounds with charcoal and leave the cutting to dry for at least a week. Do not make the cuttings too big, but carve with a sharp knife a piece that is at least 5 cm long and that preferably shows signs of growth.
Note all your perceptions, good and bad experiences in a notebook. Together with books and magazines, these notes are an important source of information.
This and the next two months you have to visit events, shows and expositions. There you can find long wanted plants and above all you can meet other amateurs, of which you can learn a lot. All the plants should be growing at present; verify those that do not, on the roots.
It is now the best period to graft. Take graftings and inoculations that are growing well. Do graft on sunny, warm and dry days.
During sunny days, water substantially. On rainy days reduce the watering to the necessity. Seedling must never dry out! After 2 months you may replant the seedling. Don't plant them too far apart. They seem to grow better when they stand close together!
During the summer months you have to ventilate as much as possible whenever the temperature rises above 20°C (68°F). Do not let the temperature in the greenhouse rise too high. But also in the house or in the veranda the plants want fresh air as much as possible. Ventilation is okay, but draught is very bad!
During hot periods the plants take a rest and they do not grow for a moment. Keep that in mind when you water them, whenever it is not that hot you may water and haze them substantially. The best moment for this watering is at the evening round 19.00 - 20.00 pm. Then the plants have the whole night to take that water.
Plants that were not being repot, may be treated every fourth-night with fertiliser that contains little or none nitrogen (but not anymore in August).
Grafting and taking cuttings can still be done. Make sure that you do it on dry and warm weather. After the hot summer days, cacti renew their growth. If your plants are not growing the way they should, they probably are affected by root lice. Do control as well regularly on other vermin. These insects can multiply explosively during dry and warm weather.
During hot periods, the plants take a rest and they do not grow for a moment. Keep that in mind when you water them. When it is not that hot, you may water and haze them substantially. The best moment for this watering is at the evening round 19.00 - 20.00 pm. Then the plants have the whole night to take that water.
Grafting and taking cuttings can still be done. Make sure that you do it on dry and warm day. After the hot summer days, cacti renew their growth. If your plants are not growing the way they should, they probably are affected by root lice. Do control as well regularly on other vermin. These insects can multiply explosively during dry and warm weather.
The growing period of our cacti comes to an end now. You have to begin to the harden the plants towards the winter. That means much ventilation (avoid draught!) and reducing the watering. You should only give water when the soil is completely dry. Do not repot anymore, unless it is really necessary (e.g.. recently acquired or affected plants).
You may now harvest the seeds from pollinated plants.
It may be still relatively warm this month (the Indian summer!). Do not tempt to give water excessively in such moments. It takes a long time before the soil is dry again and since you never know within our climate ... When it suddenly gets colder again, sensitive plants may rot.
The hardening of the plants goes on by continuous ventilation and by stopping the watering; just haze a bit when the weather is dry and warm.
In not heated trays but covered some succulents are able to stay outside till mid November. Plants that are not covered have to be brought inside (shelter against the rain) certainly before 15 October. Do control plants and pots inside on vermin. Remove also all the old flowers.
Make sure that your plants are at rest in due time. The more thoroughly they stopped growing (giving them no water anymore and leaving them in a cool place), the better they will survive the winter. Control the heater of the greenhouse in advance, or prepare a spot in a cold room of the house if you have to keep the plants indoor during wintertime. Do not keep them in the living room, but make sure they have enough light.
Getting them through the winter can be done better in cold frost-proof quarters than in heated rooms. The best temperature is 8°C (46.4°F) to 12°C (53.3°F). Do not give them any water, only keep the seedlings and grafted plants lightly humid.
Make sure to avoid growth during the winter, with the exception of the those plants that bloom in this period. The mature fruits are being harvested gradually. However be careful that you do not injure the plants.
If you have a greenhouse, than it is time to isolate it with foil or better still with that special plastic as describe in the extensive version.
In winter cacti must not be forced grow at all, neither by giving water, nor through warmth. A good winter sleep is indispensable for flowering in springtime. Winter evenings may be used to make notes of the ewperciences of the past growing season. Notes with regard to sowing, grafting and blooming form in the course of the years important study material.
Now you may also have more time to study books about succulents. Do make use of the society's library. Soil for next year may be made ready. Set it over repeatedly and let it freeze: that is advantageous for the structure of the soil.