Pet Sitting Trends | Sitter and Pet owner feedback

Updates from the thriving pet sitting business.

My Photo
Location: Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

See my profile at linkedin Linkedin profile for Ian White profile

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Family Project: Indoor Cactus Garden

Not all cactus are alike. They come in many different colors, sizes and types. Some are great for an indoor cactus garden. A cactus garden is a great indoor project for the family. It can add green and other colors to an otherwise dull inside.

What is a Cactus?

Cactus are in the family of succulents which includes these cacti and other plants such as the aloe plant. Most cacti (plural for cactus) come from regions of little water, or arid regions. This includes the desert regions of the world. The cactus plant has adapted to these desert regions with several adaptations. Storing water in a succulent (thus the name given to the family) leaf is the main adaptation and growing spines for water retention and defense are important adaptations as well.

Choose the Type of Cactus

There are many types of cacti and succulents that are great for an indoor cactus garden. Some of these succulents and cacti are typically grown outside in hotter climates. They can be brought indoors for winter and colder months.

1. Christmas Cactus
The Christmas Cactus, also called the Holiday Cactus in some places, is well known for it beautiful flowers that bloom just before Christmas time. It is a winter blooming cactus and the blooms vary in color from pink to white to red. It tolerates light shade and does well as an indoor plant under artificial lighting.

2. Aloe
The aloe is a succulent, related to the cactus. It is a tropical plant that will not tolerate freezing. It is perfect for growing indoors because of its inability to withstand these cold temperatures. Aloe plants have been used for perhaps thousands of years as medicine for burns and cuts. It’s the sap inside the aloe plant that is used.

3. Old Man Cactus
This tall cactus is famous for its "old man" look. It has tufts of white "hair" covering the spines of the cactus. This hair is an adaptation to help reflect sunshine so that it does not get so hot. This cactus will bloom although it can take many years to do so.

4. Prickly Pear
These cacti are famous for their long protruding spines. The pads (or modififed leaves) and the fruits the prickly pear produce are edible.

5. Barrel Cactus
The barrel cactus is a good beginner’s cactus. They can be used in small and large containers alike. They are barrel shaped with yellow spines.

6. Organ Pipe Cactus
This very tall cactus plant is a good cactus for a larger container. It is a column shaped cactus that can grow very tall in the wild. It is the second largest cactus found in the United States, next to the famous Saguaro Cactus.

7. Jade Plant
The Jade Plant, known as Crassula (because of its scientific name) is a succulent plant native to South Africa. Jade plants, like the Christmas Cactus are winter bloomers and will bloom close to Christmas time.

Care of the Cactus

Most cactus plants and succulents need lots of bright sunlight. Growing them indoors can present a challenge because of the lack of sunlight. You may have to supplement them with artificial lighting sources if you do not have a window that gets sufficient sunshine. You can buy grow lights for artificial lighting at any home and garden store and most chain department stores.

Even though most cacti can thrive in arid (or low water areas like deserts) regions, they will need some water especially if grown indoors in containers. The amount of water depends on the species. But most cacti and succulents will need, on average, at least one watering each week. Make sure the soil in the container is completely dry before watering again. A great way to check the soil is stick the top two inches of your finger into the soil. If your finger comes out dry, the plant will need watered. If it is still damp, then wait a few days.

Since most cacti live in desert regions, the temperature is a factor in their growth. Most cacti thrive in dry hot climates. They will need a warm place to grow. A temperature of at least 70 degrees. But do not place them somewhere that is beyond 90 degrees. This will ensure they survive as they are susceptible to burning.

Choose a Container

The container you choose is an important step. Some cacti need room for the roots, even if their roots are shallow. Some cacti grow tall, like the Organ Pipe cacti and may weight a lot. A sturdy container may be needed for these cacti especially if they need to be moved often.
Choose a container that won’t dry out as quickly and will be sturdy enough to withstand direct sunlight. A pot made from clay would be an ideal choice. A clay pot will keep in warmth and will stand up to direct sunlight.

You can be creative in your choice of container. You don’t have to use the traditional clay or plastic round pots. You have other choices. An old boot, a basket and even old food buckets can be used for the cactus.

Potting Soil vs Cactus Soil

The soil you choose for your cactus does matter. Available on many market shelves is cactus soil. It is a mixture of potting soil and sand or other fine particles. You can also make your own cactus soil by mixing equal parts potting soil with equal parts sand.

Regular potting soil alone might be good enough for the cactus plant. But it can encourage over watering. Potting soil tends to retain moisture very well and could cause more problems with the cactus plant. Adding the sand adds air pockets to the soil loosening up the soil. It can help with drainage. Many cactus soils also add pumice or lava stone to the mixture. This pumice or lava stone helps with drainage and can help keep the right balance of moisture in the soil. Experiment with the soil to find the best soil for your cactus plant. You can always repot the cactus if the soil you have is not working out.

A Great Gift Idea and Activity

Cacti and succulents are a great present especially for the gardeners on your list. They are relatively easy to grow and care for. In fact, they tend to survive better when you leave them alone rather then tending them constantly. You can add a small tag on the container that instructs how to care for the cactus plant or plants that are in the cactus garden.
Use the winter months to grow a cactus garden indoors with your family. It will be a fun project and can take off some of that winter boredom.

Copyright © 2006, Ian White Access 2000 Pty Ltd

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home