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Caring for your cactus

Cactus, deriving from the family Cactaceae, has over 1750 known species. It is popularly known that cacti are perfect for areas with intense humidity. It is the perfect drought-tolerant, ornamental plant and can thrive in deserted areas.

Cacti are found in all shapes and sizes.

Almost all cacti are succulents with the capability of storing water. However, the stem is the only part of most cacti where the process takes place. Most cacti lose their true leaves and retain only spines which act as a defense against herbivores. Spines, produced from areoles, also help prevent water loss by reducing air flow, provide shade and the areoles give rise to flowers.

Cacti are excellent additions to your home. Their striking shape, size and unique flowers add interest to your décor.

To propagate cactus, you can use secateurs and gently take a cutting from a healthy cactus.  Place the cutting in a sunny area for two days, the wound will heal and form a callous. It is important that the wound heal before planting, so the cutting does not rot.

You can also grow a new cactus from a pup that shoots off from a healthy mother plant. Choose a pup that is plump and healthy, break it off and plant it. Select a small pot that has proper drainage and fill it with a soil mixture that has rock pebbles or perlite.

You can then place the stem or leaf cutting callous-down in the potting soil and push the cutting in just deep enough so that it will stand up on its own. Use your hands to gently firm the soil around the cutting to stabilise it.

Moisten the soil and choose a windowsill or a well-lit area but avoid too much direct sunlight since it can damage a new cutting. Leave the cutting in this location for a month or two, until new growth starts to appear.

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Caring for your cactus is very simple.

  • Choose a sunny location—Most species of cacti need several hours of direct sunlight every day.
  • Water the cactus weekly—Overwatering can kill a cactus, but the plant will need weekly watering during the months of February to August. A good rule of thumb is that when the soil feels dry to the touch, water the plant until the soil is thoroughly damp and if the soil is still moist, do not water at all.
  • Fertilise the plant—You can use a balanced 10-10-10 fertiliser before watering during the watering periods.
  • Ensure that there is adequate ventilation—Cacti will thrive in areas where there is plenty of fresh air.
  • Rotate the pot monthly—Encourage balanced growth by providing the cactus with even light and rotate the pot a quarter turn every month.
  • Repot the cactus annually—Use a well-draining pot that is one size larger than the current pot, fill with the cactus potting mix and transplant. For the first two weeks after transplanting, do not water the cactus.
  • Pests—To avoid pests such as spider mites and mealybug, mist or rinse the cactus to wash away the pest.