Window Gardening – Cactus A Favorite

Summary: Cactus make for wonderful plants in a window garden. Small plants can pack a punch in producing some exquisite blooms and an array of colors.

Do you have an Easter Lily Cactus in your window garden collection? It is one of my favorite cacti. The immense white trumpet-shaped flowers, which run eight to twelve inches long, are shaped enough like an Easter Lily to give this plant this name: Also the fact that it blooms right around Easter time and the blooming period continues on for sometime.

The plant is an attractive, dark green, globular, barrel shape. There are ridges running up and down and on the top of these ridges there are tufts of thorns at staggered spaces. It is from this tuft of thorns that the flower buds form. Small plants will usually bloom the second year. They grow very rapidly and are very easy to grow. Around the sides of this plant little barrels grow, these are called “pups”. These are used for propagating new plants. If you want a large showy plant do not remove these “pups.” Remember on all cactus plants if you take any cuttings from them, never break them off. Use a sharp knife and dust the wound left by this cut with sulphur. Never take cuttings in damp or cold weather as rot can easily set in and you will in most cases loose your plant. Echinopsis Hybrids is the botanical name of the Easter Lily Cactus.

orange flowered cactus

Peanut Cactus

Another favorite cacti of mine is the Peanut Cactus, Chamaecereus silvestrii, so called because of the shape and size of its joints. A plant even a small one looks like a pile of peanuts. Fine thorns cover the plant. It has beautiful cerise-red flowers of a nice size. They are very showy when in bloom. These plants are difficult to ship as the “peanuts” have a tendency to break off very easy. This will not harm the plants if you have good roots as they grow very fast and soon put out more “peanuts.” The flowers are long and the petals are narrow. Circles of petals form within circles of petals and the flowers are off a double shape.

Night Blooming Cactus

Notocactus mannulosus is another attractive blooming cacti. There are large golden flowers throughout the summer. It is a very attractive plant with short stiff spines and a dark red plant body.

For an odd cactus that you grow for the grotesque shape of the plant rather than for the beautiful flowers is Opuntia mammillata. This plant grows into crests and the crests shape and form into a thorny boxing glove shape and so the name “Boxing Glove Cactus.” A well grown plant is very unique. The older the plant becomes the more unique it becomes.

Window Garden Cactus Growing Requirements

All of the above cacti require all the sun you can give them in late fall, winter and spring. I do not agree with some authorities as to full hot humid sun in localities where there are very hot summers. We do not have as hot summers as do many localities and we give our plants filtered sunlight. Morning sun is also very good. Watering of these plants is another rule that we do not follow. In winter and early spring we keep our plants very dry. Never water cactus on a cloudy day. More cactus plants are lost in the winter due to over watering than by neglect. These plants can set for weeks in a very dry condition with no harm to the plants. When you do water your cactus give them a good soaking so that the water has a chance to penetrate to the bottom of the pot. Surface watering of potted plants encourages surface roots and poor plants.

After giving these plants a thorough soaking let them set, in fact forget to water them again until they are very dry. We have found that most of our cactus do most of their growing in spring and summer. During this growing period we give considerable more water. During hot weather your soil will dry out faster. We always let the soil become dry before watering even at this time of year and continue our soakings.

During the natural growing season of these plants is the proper time to feed them. In early spring we use a top dressing of one third well rotted manure, one third coarse sand and one third oak leaf mold. We place about one half inch of this on each pot. Some of the original potting soil leaches out through the drainage hole of the pots and this will fill in the soil lost and also feed the plant. We then follow this with a monthly feeding of liquid fertilizer, although commercial fertilizer is as good. Spray these plants at regular intervals with a good insecticide spray like malathion as scale is the worst enemy that you will have to cope with, once every three or four weeks is correct for spraying these plants and do it late in the evening.

Potting Soil

For potting soil we use one-third coarse sand, one-third leaf mold, one-third garden loam and a little well rotted fertilizer. It is also a good idea to put charcoal in the potting soil, charcoal from any burned wood is good. This will prevent your soil from souring. Be sure to have very good drainage, by placing pieces of old broken flower pots or stones over the drainage hole of your pot.

Never over pot a cactus plant. These plants are much better off pot bound and will bloom better and grow better if pot bound. When you do shift to a larger pot, when your plant has reached such a size that it just has to be done, break all the soil away from the roots around the sides of the soil from the previous potting. Work and loosen the soil and roots in to a depth of about two or three inches. The roots will then be ready to reach out and continue growing. This is necessary on all potted plants. If you take a plant from a pot with a ball of roots that are twisted and tangled between one another and are balled up to such a stage that it would be difficult for them to reach out to the new ground they will remain in this condition, so why bother giving them a larger growing space. Give them a little help and loosen this mass and they will reach out for this new ground immediately.

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