Growing Tips

Below is our quick guide to get your plants back into pots and growing happily!

 

They've Just Arrived!

First things first, get them out of the box. Letting them begin to breathe again is important as no living thing wants to be wrapped up in a parcel. It's best to get them potted and into a sheltered position within 48hrs of arrival.

Get those pots ready - a safe bet when choosing your pots is double the plants diameter and ALWAYS ensure ample holes in the bottom for quick drainage.

Substrate Suggestions & Potting Them Up!

 

We use a very rocky mix, and recommend you do the same to facilitate similar health & growth!

It's worth checking out your local garden supply depots to see what sand/rock/scoria is available to you. Most will not only offer cost-effective bulk quantities but also smaller bagged portions for easy transport & storage.

Here are three simple mix suggestions (loosely based on our own) and the plants that are suited to each.

The 'True Grit'

Best for Cacti (excluding hanging varieties such as Rhipsalis, Hatiora etc.)

- 1/5 Potting Mix (a 'succulent' mix from your local supplier, or similar course Pine-based mix)

- 1/5 Scoria (in the 2-10mm range)

- 1/5 Small Pebbles/Gravel/Grit (in the 2-7mm range)

- 1/5 Perlite ('medium' grade works best for us, lightening & aerating the mix)

- 1/5 Course Sand (river sand or propagation sand, NO 'play sand' or fine sand)

& add Controlled Release Fertilizer at HALF the recommended ratio.

The 'Half & Half'

Best for Mesembs, Adromischus, 'Caudex' plants and 'Hanging Cacti' (such as Rhipsalis, Hatiora, Lepismium etc.)

- 4/8 Potting Mix (a 'succulent' mix from your local supplier, or similar course Pine-based mix)

- 1/8 Scoria (in the 2-10mm range)

- 1/8 Small Pebbles/Gravel/Grit (in the 2-7mm range)

- 1/8 Perlite ('medium' grade works best for us, lightening & aerating the mix)

- 1/8 Course Sand (river sand or propagation sand, NO 'play sand' or fine sand)

& add Controlled Release Fertilizer at HALF the recommended ratio.

The 'Leafy Greens'

Best for Echeveria, Sedum, Crassula and the 'leafier' succulent plants (that we don't often sell)

- 4/6 Potting Mix (a 'succulent' mix from your local supplier, or similar course Pine-based mix)

- 1/6 Small Pebbles/Gravel/Grit (in the 2-7mm range)

- 1/6 Perlite ('medium' grade works best for us, lightening & aerating the mix)

& add Controlled Release Fertilizer at HALF the recommended ratio.

NOTE: As these varieties grow it's best to add some larger rock (scoria/pumice) to the mix as you pot them up & up. This helps to structure the soil as the weight of the succulent plant increases over time.

Plants should be potted so that their succulent body sits above the substrate, and we recommend some larger rock/scoria/decorative stones to stabilize the body of the plant above this point.

All of the mixes above are designed primarily to

- dry quickly (no more than 3-4 days in Summer) & drawing air past the roots as it dries.

- maintain structure as the plants grow and allow for roots to work their way through gaps in the mix

- promote longer, stronger (and fewer) roots than you'd see growing in pure organic substrate.

- last a long time - especially when it comes to cacti which will grow almost 'hydroponically' once the nutrients in the mix are depleted. Please read on for information about fertilizing as you water!  

When To Water & Feed?

Finding a balance on this front will differ greatly from grower to grower. Factors such as your local temperature/humidity and the exact component-balance of your substrate will cause noticeable differences in moisture retention.

So, like everything political, we'll reduce our advice to two soundbites:

"If in doubt, DON'T WATER"!

These plants are built to last incredible lengths of time without a drink, we've found it's usually best to just step back and give the plants time to adjust and/or further indicate any issues they may have.

"Let the substrate dry out completely before watering again"

The biggest threat to succulent plants in our eyes is 'sitting in a puddle', Soil that appears dry on the surface often still holds a large amount of moisture deeper into the mix, and it's here that rot & fungal issues almost always begin. Get yourself a moisture meter and make sure the substrate dries right out before you grab the hose, always a safe bet.

Food! We use liquid fertilizers & additives with every water, and this is easy to do at home too. As long as you stay away from high-nitrogen fertilizers almost anything will do, and there are countless natural sources of nutrients available to gardeners wherever you're based!
We're fans of Seasol for healthy roots & low-temp resilience, paired with PowerFeed by the same company. Both are affordable and Aussie-made, and we use them at half (or even less) than the recommended dose.

The Australian Sun, and those rainy, frosty Winters...

We're a little low on O-Zone here in Aus, just ask those Winter tourists we see each year sporting severe sunburn.

These succulent plants feel much the same way, and with a harsher climate than their natural habitat throughout Central America and South Africa it's best to give them some protection.

Greenhouses are a great investment. Whether you just need a covered rack to house a small collection or you want to go semi-profesh with a proper tunnel, greenhouses in today's age are affordable and long-lasting when set up well and anchored correctly. We suggest additional shade cloth with your greenhouses as temperatures can skyrocket inside leaving plants even more susceptible to the harsh Aussie sun.

Greenhouses are just as useful through the colder months too, providing extra warmth & total frost protection, but most importantly giving you control over their water intake when they're most susceptible to rot. Just keep an eye out for rodents, birds and other pests looking for their own holiday from the Aussie elements - they'll chew right through a spikey cactus just for a taste-test!

(What's worse - they know where your favorites are and they never like the taste. Talk about lose-lose).

Other Ideas for Protected Positions

- Under Trees & Shrubs - Many Cacti & succulent plants will use this trick in their natural habitat too.

- Shade Sails or suspended Shade Cloth - Great for sunny spots and protection from hail/minor frosts, but they'll still get all the rain, ambient temperature & humidity.

- Indoors/Windowsills - we haven't had much success growing indoors/on windowsills but some of our customers have found the magic balance! These plants want a lot of light, but windows will increase the strength of the suns rays and we've seen some tragic cases of sunburn when it all becomes too-much.

We hope that helps!

We enjoy the trial & error in finding that perfect balance, but if you're after some further or more specific advice just shoot us an email at thecactiguys@gmail.com - we'll get back to you as soon as we can!