cacti collecting,cultivation and preservation


Rene's Urban Cacti


My name is Rene Prudhomme. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada , and I have been badly bitten by the cactus collecting bug.

My main interests are Astrophytum, Gymnocalycium,Ferocactus,Echinocactus and Melocactus, but I will pick up almost anything that catches my eye, These pictures will prove that even if you live in an apartment you can have lots of cacti. I have moved to a large country home with large sunrooms, and a large deck. My cacti will spend eight months outside here, with a couple outside year round in a cold frame. My collection is always expanding.These pictures are from the apartment days and are out of date.

I am certainly no expert,I presently have 300 plus cacti and about 200 seedlings. I enjoy collecting cacti as a hobby, and am continually learning. My collection consists of, in part; threatened and endangered species, and one of my goals is the preservation of these species through dispersment and propagation. Echinocactus Grusonii (Golden Barrell) is a good example. Extinct in the wild mostly due to loss of habitat,and illegal harvesting, it is common in cultivation. Topics will include propogation methods and tips, lighting, choice of pots, choice of species, soil, watering, feeding, pests, pest control etc. This page is continually being expanded and upgraded.

Globular(Globular Cacti Gallery)Gallery

Other Cacti(Other Cacti Photo Gallery)Gallery

Ken Copelands(Ken Copelands Epi Gallery)Epi Gallery

Choice Of Species


For the apartment dwelling cactomaniac I would suggest globular species such as discocactus, melocactus, astrophytum, gymnocalycium etc.,or some of the many other smaller species such as mammillaria, rebutia, parodia etc. I recommend these species for two reasons. One reason is space restrictions, and the other is the fact that because you are in an apartment you will someday move and you will go through hell when it comes time to transport a bunch of columnar plants without damaging them. My friend Pat and I once had to transport six 10 foot tall euphorbias which were in large pots and had dozens of 6 to 8 foot arms. Not a lot of fun. Personally I'd rather carry a 100 lb. barrel cactus anyday.

When ordering from nursuries outside your own country be aware of the need for phytosanitary certificates and CITES certificates. Do not purchase plants have been harvested in the wild. Buy only greenhouse grown plants. This helps stop illegal harvesting of endangered species. Always enquire when ordering about additional costs and time requirements.



Choice of pots


I would have to recommend plastic pots for many species for both water retention and weight savings as well as cost. I have many clay pots in the "living areas" but they are there for asthetic reasons only, especially when painted to your taste. Melocactus should especially be in plastic pots, or glazed pots as I have found that they prefer to be a little on the moist side, and the roots should not be allowed to completely dry out. For globular species try to keep the pot size 1 to 2 inches greater in diameter than the plant. Shallow pots are fine for most globular species as they don't require as much root space as columnar species. Columnar plants require a pot with a diameter that is one-third to one-half the height of the plant. Whether an indoor or outdoor pot it must have drainage holes. Place a piece of broken clay pot over the drainage holes to prevent the soil from being washed away. In very large pots you may want to put coarse gravel or clay pot fragments in the bottom to aid in drainage. Trays are handy items but remember to use plastic trays on carpet as clay trays will stain carpet and cushion floors.

Watering


For the beginner I would recommend a moisture meter as it is difficult to gauge moisture content of soil by touch alone. Many variables have to be taken into consideration; 1) Cacti in clay pots require more watering than do those in plastic. 2) Pot size or soil mass-generally the larger the pot the more infrequently it will require watering, and conversly the smaller the pot the more frequently it will require watering. 3) The species of cactus also dictates water requirements. Some are very "thirsty",and others will not tolerate overwatering. 4) The amount of available light a cactus recieves also dictates its water requirements, and 5) The Season. Do not overwater in the winter or in a dormant period as it can lead to root rot and collapse of the plant. Watering in winter also leads to atypical growth patterns, due to reduced light levels. You can mist or spray your plants in the winter to avoid shrivelling. As you get to know your plants and thier water requirements you may develop a watering schedule, however it is always safer to err on the side of caution. If in doubt don't water.

I prefer to water most of my cacti from the top, that is to pour water right on top of them. I do not however water the cephalium of melocactus and discocactus as it tends to wash the cephalium away. I also avoid watering from above the fuzzy crown of echinocactus, and any "hairy" cacti such as oreocereus for the same reason. When watering, give enough so that the water runs freely from the drainage holes.

The most common indicator that you are overwatering unfortunately is a sudden collapse of the plant commonly known as "black rot". Initially the roots rot from the bottom up so the damage does not seem apparent until cooler weather arrives. If you see black, mushy areas of tissue usually around the base of the plant it is time for immediate action to save the plant. Trust me this plant is not going to get better by itself. All infected tissue must be removed using a clean, sharp cutting tool. Make sure you cut into healthy tissue and ensure all diseased tissue is removed. The last cut into healthy tissue must be with a sterile blade. Apply rooting hormone and allow to dry and treat as per cuttings.

Pests


The most destructive and annoying critters to ever bother the cactomaniac have got to be the mealy bug, and scale bug. I've seen it in every greenhouse I've ever visited, and I've brought them into my home a few times as hitch-hikers on my brand new cacti.

The most effective organic treatments I've come across are the various insecticidal soaps such as Wilsons or Safers. It is important to follow the directions and re-apply the treatment in two weeks. It does'nt hurt to apply it occasionally as prophalaxis. Extra dry conditions seem to permit mealy bug infestation, so a little extra watering might not hurt. Remember that healthy, well cared for plants with good air circulation are less likely to become infested.

When you bring a new plant home remember to treat it as soon as possible. It is also a good idea to keep it seperate from the rest of your collection for a few weeks to ensure all potential pests have been eradicated. Other pests I have encountered are ants, which on a couple of occasions attempted to colonize a plant which had been placed outside(ant traps did the trick there), and scale bug. For scale bug you can wipe down the scale with isopropyl alcohol to break down the waxy covering and apply nicotine to kill the bug. You can use wet tobacco in a cloth for this. Adult scale bugs are not mobile, and once scraped off are immobile. You should use a systemic insecticide like Safer's which seems to work. Repeat in a couple of weeks. Always inspect your new cacti closely before you purchase it. Look for any tufts of white "fluff" that may be an indication of mealy and for any small "scales" around the base of the plant which are an indication of scale bug.

Artificial Lights

For an apartment dweller these are a must for truley good growing results. In my apartment I recieved only six hours maximum sunlight per day, so I supplement my cacti with artificial light. While Halide lighting is the best, Flourescent lighting is by far the most economical, efficient, and living space friendly. Flourescent lighting provides three times the light of incandescent lighting. Four foot tubes seem to be the most readily available, and the most reasonable in price. Shop light type double tube fixtures can be found at your hardware stores at reasonable prices. These fixtures can be suspended from the ceiling or stood up in corners to provide side lighting. In areas where the view would be obstructed I have opted for incandescent spotlight type grow bulbs in swag lamps. I had so many of these things in my house that they became my primary source of lighting. Its a good idea to hook them up to a powerbar and then to timers to avoid uneven growing cycles.

I leave the lights on 18 hours a day in the summer and cut them back to 12 hours in the winter to provide for a rest period. All of my lights are located in window areas and are meant to provide a more balanced and even growth.

Feeding

Generally I only fertilize in the summer during the growing period. If you fertilize continously throughout the year, salts will build up in the soil and stunt or kill the plant. You can use tomato fertilizer at half strength, but many brands of specialty cactus fertilizers are out there. Cactus Juice watered down a bit. Some heavily spined cacti eg: astrophytum ornatum will benifit from crushed limestone added to the mix. Consult a good cactus encyclopedia for details regarding your particular species.

Propagation

Seed is available commercially but for best results use fresh seed. In order to obtain fresh viable seed however you must first pollinate when your cacti are in flower. A small artist paintbrush works well for this, transferring pollen from one plant to another. Once the plant sets seed collect the fruit or seedpod and wash the seeds to seperate any organic material which may attract fungus. Wash all planting containers thourouly with soap and hot water. Use new cacti potting mix and microwave or bake the soil to sterilize it. You can use small pots and place them inside ziplock bags or I prefer clear plastic sandwich containers like those from the deli (with tops that snap shut) or shallow tupperware containers. Sow the seed and cover them with fine grit and thourougly wet the soil. Place the container in a warm 70 degrees+ shaded location. Strong seeds will germinate in a couple of days but it may take as much as two weeks.

When the seeds have germinated remove or open the cover every couple of days to provide air circulation and prevent fungal attack. If your seedlings do develop a fungal infection try a fungicide for damping off such as No-Damp. Mist your seedlings regularly and when they become large enough prick them out gently with tweezers and replant in nice even rows to prevent crowding. You may leave the seedlings in the propagator for almost as long as you want or until crowding becomes a problem. Beware you may end up with hundreds of seedlings but they make great gifts and get others interested in the hobby.

Cacti can also be propagated from cuttings, and this is an excellent way to reproduce hybrids. When taking cuttings always try to obtain a decent size cutting as it will root faster and thus increase the chances of survival. Use a clean, sharp, cutting utensil to avoid chances of infection, and sprinkle rooting hormone to the freshly cut surface right away. Once the cutting has calloused I don't think rooting hormone is effective. Allow the cutting to thouroughly dry and callous. Put the cutting in a dry shaded spot. Depending on the species and the size of the cutting this may take up to a month. Be patient and do not plant until the cutting is well calloused over. Plant the cutting and withhold heavy watering for a couple of months. Many cuttings will enjoy regular misting and light watering to stimulate root growth.

Jungle Cacti

While my experience with these cacti is somewhat limited, I do have a dozen plants or so. I enjoy them and place them in locations where desert cacti might not get enough light. These plants enjoy more frequent watering and misting than do desert cacti, and require plastic pots to maintain moisture levels, and to reduce weight for hanging purposes. Let them completely dry out between waterings, and use a well draining soil to avoid root rot.

Ken Copelands(Epi Gallery)Gallery

Soil

Choice of soil for a given species is one of the most important choices you will make. Different species have differing water requirements,Ph levels etc., but remember to always use a well draining, porous soil. Many brands of commercially prepared cactus soil are available for the home gardener; you can shop around until you find one you like, or you can make your own. Shultz and Garden Treat are popular commercial brands for me here in Canada, and I will often mix them together to achieve varying drainage and water retention characteristics. Various amounts of perilite, sand, loam, and peat can be added to vary drainage characteristics of the soil. This can be especially important to plants that are prone to root rot.

Top dressings are another matter and personally I don't use them as it interferes with my ability to assess soil conditions, reduces water evaporation, and provides hiding places for pests.

Cold Hardiness

In order to properly rest and winter my cacti ,I have been experimenting with temperature tolerances of different cacti on a limited basis. I am no expert and temperatures this winter have remained basically around 0 degrees C plus or minus 10 degrees, with a couple of minus 20 days thrown in. So far Opuntia, Mammillaria, Parodia, Espotoa etc. are doing well. Keep them dry. I will report more info in the spring when all the results are in.

Recommended Reading and Reviews

While my book collection is limited I would recommend a couple of books for beginners.

The Complete Book of Cacti and Succulents-by Terry Hewitt-RD press. ISBN 0-88850-307-5 Hardcover, 176 pages. Excellent book with many nice pictures but no Discocactus section. Published 1993.

The Ultimate Book Of Cacti and Succulents-by Miles Anderson of Miles To Go cacti and succulent nursery in Tucson, Arizona.(Consultant Terry Hewitt)-Select Editions. ISBN 1-896639-36-4 Hardcover, 256 pages. Excellent book with many nice pictures but no melocactus section. Published 1998.

Pocket Encyclopedia Of Cacti in Color-by Edgar and Brian Lamb- Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1197-3 Hardcover, pages. Many nice pictures but little info.

The World of Cactus and Succulents- Published by Ortho Books. ISBN 0-917102-59-2. Softcover, 96 pages. Interesting book with creative 1970's decorating ideas. Species names badly out of date. Published 1977

Canadian Mail Order Cacti Growers

Cusheon Creek NursuryBritish Columbia
Ben Veldhuis GreenhousesOntario

Links to really great sites


(Brazilian Cacti in Cultivation)Great melocactus, discocactus site. Lots of pictures
(The Melocactus Site) Dedicated to Melocactus.
(The Cactus and Succulent Plant Mall)The ultimate resource.
(Gerard Ardissons Site)Cacti, Succulents, Caudiciforms, Peyolts and Cristations.
(The Great Cacti & Succulent Page)Lots of pictures.
(Cactus Lovers Webpage)I love this yard. Lots of pictures.
(Blaise and Clotie's Cactus Page)Excellent grafted Lophophora and Ariocarpus.

Just got married August 28th to a real babe.

I am interested in trading seeds and cuttings. I am especially interested in obtaining the following; Euphorbia Obesa, Geohintonia Mexicana, Astrophytum Asterius, Astrophytum Asterius "Kabuto" type hybrids, Aztekium Ritterii, Lophophora Diffusa, and Melocactus any species varigated.

For the Spanish summary page of this site see(Cactusland)

Cacti Count 03 Dec 99 400plus.

ThisCactus Ringsite owned byRene's_Urban_Cacti
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1997 rene@sprint.ca
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