I've been a little bitten by the cacti and succulents bug. I was given an unidentified opuntia as a gift. It needs repotting as it is in a paper cup! I'm so charmed by this plant that I've ordered online a variegated opuntia, an aeonium (sunburst), and an agave victoria-regina . Talk about not being able to stop buying plants! I have a south window with plenty of space. I need a potting soil mix recipe. I have on hand, shredded bark, perlite, peat, vermiculite and two sizes of dynarock (medium and small). I dont have any sharp sand, nor am I really sure what sharp sand is, exactly. I also have some standard "store bought" potting mix. Any advice out there?
I've been growing amaryllis and worseleya for about 10 years, just as a hobby. While I love them, I need a new challenge. And those darned opuntias are so cute!
What is "dynarock?" I use Black Gold cactus mix and medium size pumice usually mixed in equal parts for most cacti. Sounds like you have a good location for cacti in the house.
I don't know if dynarock is pumice, but I thought pumice was not available in the Midwest. You could substitute medium or large perlite for it.
There have been many threads on this forum about what soil mix to use. I try to keep it as simple as possible.
Me too. Whatever you end up with, try to be consistent. That helps with watering (which you also want to keep consistent). The store-bought potting mix should work fine if you cut it with enough light rock (lava rock, perlite, whatever... I use pumice). Skip the sand.
Note that many Opuntias are inactive through the winter (spring-summer is usually prime time). So don't expect anything dramatic to happen until 2013. The sunburst Aeonium grows year-round but seems to be most active in the winter. So give it strong light in the winter and avoid giving too much direct sun in the summer (because it's variegated and a little sensitive). The agave should be hassle-free. Be aware it's a slow plant and it likes to grow on the dry side (during summer you can water it more). Strong light is important for good form.
Dyna-Rok is silica stone. It is highly absorbent. It holds water and nutrients for a long time but releases it slowly. It both aerates and provides sharp drainage. It also has some micro nutrient and mineral content. I asked the horticulturalist at our local botanical garden about it late this afternoon and he said it was good for cactus, also good for orchids, anything that needs sharp drainage and/or aeration. It protects against any root rot.
I appreciate the plant and soil advice. I will definitely keep it consistent and simple. Regarding watering: do either of you acidify the water you use? Our tap water is highly alkaline - pH 9! I can easily acidify with stuff I use for my aquarium.
Our tap water is also off the charts. I acidify to pH 6, and would recommend doing so if you already have the kit. It's not necessary but you may see a difference, especially with the Aeonium, and especially if/when you use fertilizer. I make 5 liters at a time and don't see much of a rebound effect if it's used within a few days.
Ah Hah! Thank You! I will definitely acidify. One more question. How do you root a cactus pad? The variegated opuntia came as a cactus pad(s). I've got to new glass I guess because I didn't think I ordered pads. I thought I was getting a rooted plant. Now I've got 6 giant pads that I dont know what to do with.
Thanks again. I have a shipment of pumice due to arrive tomorrow. I'll make up some soil and get them all stuck when I get home from work. The pads are quite large. It wont be easy getting them to stand, but I'm sure there is a way. I appreciate your advice. When I get them all stuck I'll post a picture.
The mix I find most often reccomended in my readings over the last day or so is 1/3 pumice, 1/3 potting soil, and 1/3 coarse sand. "Coarse" may be the important descriptor - 0.63 to 2.0 mm, which incidentally is found abundantly in my landscape. (I've had my soil tested.) So, even while I have my original gift cactus that started this whole journey planted in 1/3 medium dyna rock and 1/3 potting soil, I'm going to try the 1/3,1/3, 1/3 mix for the Agave victoria - regina, Aeonium 'Sunburst' and to root the Opuntia monacantha var. variegata 'Joseph's Coat' pads. Nothing like jumping in with both feet right from the start. All the pots are clay.
I don't know how I avoided or overlooked the amazing plants in the succulent and cacti categories. I've been working with and collecting Amaryllis for a long time. While I love them, they no longer represent a challenge and I'm happy to be moving into something new.
I'm also am so very glad to have all the great DG'rs to turn to for information and experience.
For what it's worth, and of course your mileage may vary, Aeoniums tend not to do well in unglazed clay pots. This is not just my own personal experience, it's also mentioned by Rudolf Schulz in his Aeonium book. Find another option for best results, especially in smaller sizes, or just put the clay pot inside another type of pot to keep the sideways evaporation under control. Especially in very well-drained soil, things can go dry too fast the wrong way. Or at least that's the theory. Aeoniums tend to like regular water during their season (starting now, north of the equator) and they become visibly cranky (or glacially slow) when they go dry too long too often.
Thanks Baja. I'm heading for the garden shed to dig around for a glazed cache pot for the Aeonium. And I'll check for soil for mositure frequently to keep it evenly moist for the growing season. What would I do without DG'rs.?!
The mix I made last night is very free draining. 1/3 peat based commercial potting soil 1/3 coarse sand ( dug from my yard and fine sifted ) and 1/3 pumice.
Do you know what pH Aeoniums prefer for their water? I'm going to get that Schulz book. It sounds like I need it.
You alreay advised me about the Aeonim pH. My short term memory is apparently malfunctioning.
You're absolutely right Nancy. Luckily, the other side of the white pad does have sufficient chlorophyll to photosynthesize. I will keep that side facing the sun. I understand it will take about 1yr. for good rooting to happen. Is that correct?
Holy Cow! I take it that it can be agressive? The herbaceous and deciduous variegates I'm used to dealing with are usually slower in growth than the non-variegated plant of the same species. They also are often - but not always - prone to sun scorch in the white pigmented areas. With cacti and succulents I have so much to learn. I have ordered the Aeonium book you mentioned. Do you have a cacti reference that you would reccomend?
I haven't ever seen the normal version of that plant, but the variegated kind is quite fast and enjoys day-long sun. An exception to the rule. Eventually it becomes a small tree or bush if you give it space to grow. The only problem I've had is scale (watch for small white dots on the skin of the plant). The plant does better if you periodically repot it once it's outgrown a container, or restart it every once in a while.
The best all-around succulent volume for getting started is probably Miles Anderson's book. There's an older book by Terry Hewitt which is similar in presentation and content. There are lots of other choices, maybe people will chime in. Also consider the nice-looking book on succulent container gardening by Debra Lee Baldwin.
Yes, I rooted the variegated one in no time at all. However, in OH is may take longer until the days start to length and warm up your world!
I agree with Baja that Miles Anderson has an excellent book. It has been published under several names but they are all the same inside. Mine is called: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Growing Cacti & Succulents.
Terry Hewitt's is very good too and called: The Complete Book of Cacti & Succulents.
Another one I use is Gideon Smith's Cacti and Succulents.