SUCCULENT & CACTI CARE BASICS
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET STARTED WITH THESE WONDERFUL PLANTS
*The following is general information only on planting and care of succulents and cacti.
WHEN YOUR PLANTS ARRIVE IN THE MAIL
Plants supplied by Scyppan Green will arrive to you having either been grown under covered hot house conditions (opaque light), shadecloth or out in the open.
Anything grown in the open is already ‘sun-hardened’ and (with consideration to that plants specific requirements for sun) can be planted outdoors immediately.
If you are container planting you can, if you wish, keep your plant in a part sun location for a day or two before re-introducing it to full sun, just to get it re-acclimatised after its zero-light conditions in the box during transit, but that's really a personal preference thing.
If a plant has been hot house or shade house grown it will need time to acclimatise before introducing it to an outdoor setting in direct sunlight. otherwise it will potentially ‘sunburn’, especially in the hotter months.
This means potting up and then placing the plant in an open ventilated area not subject to direct sunlight (such as a patio) where the plant can be gradually moved into spots providing increasingly brighter light over the period of a few weeks prior to full sun exposure.
BEFORE POTTING UP OR PLANTING OUT
If you are potting up into a decorative container, ensure it is slightly larger than the pot size the plant was grown in.
Make sure your plants are going into the right sort of growing media. This point cannot be over-emphasized.
- If your plant is going into a container, use a Succulent and Cacti potting mix that is sold as meeting the Australian Standard AS3743 Premium Grade for potting mixes (red tick label on bag). Over time, you may well start making your own potting mixes as you gain experience, but until then do not trust your ‘babies’ to any potting mix not meeting this standard.
Make sure there’s a hole in the bottom of your container! ‘Wet feet’ is the biggest potential killer of succulents and cacti. Excess water needs to drain.
If your plant is going into an outdoor succulent garden then soil type and necessity (if any) for amelioration (improving your soil) needs to be considered. If in doubt, seek expert help on this. Two key prerequisites for your soil include suitable pH (slightly acidic at around 6.5 is ideal) and suitable (read excellent) drainage. Get those two basics right and the rest is simply a case of tweaking the soil to optimise conditions for your plants. Nb. inexpensive soil pH testing kits are available from garden centres.
Unless you have purchased potted plants for local delivery, your plants should arrive to you from Scyppan Green bare and dry rooted.
As such, it is simply a matter of potting up your plant and placing it in filtered light conditions (as detailed above - ‘When Your Plants Arrive in the Mail’).
To ‘pot up’
Pre-fill your container approximately 3/4’s full (amount will vary slightly dependent on the plant) with your potting mix. Lightly tamp the mix to consolidate it but not so heavy as to compact it.
Dig a shallow hole in your potting mix and carefully place the succulent roots in the hole, then cover the roots with fresh mix and tamp down again to stabilise the plant in the mix.
Avoid leaves being covered or resting on top of the mix, which will lead to rot.
Finish by adding your own personal touch with decorative pebbles/stones. This has the effect of providing a barrier between soil and plant leaves (see point 3 above).
Particularly with bigger pots, consider using a lightweight grade permeable geofabric as a barrier between the pebble and potting mix to keep the pebble clean. Otherwise the pebble will tend to sink into the potting mix over time.
Once your plant is potted up then give it a good drink of water (preferably containing Seasol or other seaweed based plant tonic) and then don’t water it for a while.
The initial watering will help consolidate the plant in the pot.
After that apply the ‘soak and dry’ watering technique. As the plant is new to the pot, allowing the potting mix to dry out after it’s initial watering will encourage the plant roots to ‘chase’ the moisture, helping initial plant rooting.
nb. dependent on the type of plant purchased and because succulents are generally not deep rooted plants, you may need to initially stake the plant to help support it while it establishes itself. With small succulents the stake could simply be a thin bamboo kebab skewer, wooden ice block stick or small bamboo stake.
PLANTING OUT INTO THE GARDEN
If you are planting your succulent directly into the garden:
Make sure your plant is sun hardened and acclimatised before planting outdoors.
Ensure your soil is suitable for your succulents and adequate drainage* is present.
Dig a hole twice as large as required to ‘house’ the plant roots of your plant.
At this point you could consider adding a rock mineral/beneficial soil microbe product such as Earthlife ‘Garden Mate’ (for cacti) or ‘Garden Delight’** (for succulents) to the planting hole, applying according to manufacturer recommendations and blending it into the soil.
Make sure the soil is consolidated but not compacted.
Place your plant in the hole, covering the roots with fresh soil and consolidating the soil to stabilise the plant.
Stake your plant as required.
Mulch around your plant. Refer to our blog ‘Mulch for your Little Babies’
*this might mean mounding your garden bed or planting your succulents on a bit of a slope (or both). A simple way to check drainage is to dig a decent size hole to depth in your garden bed and fill it with a bucket of water and see how long it takes the water to drain away. If the water just sits there or drains really slowly you have an issue you need to address.
** see our blog 'Will it rock your world?' for more information, especially as some Rock Minerals are actually more fertiliser than rock mineral. This could potentially harm your succulents. Caveat Emptor.
Rock Minerals can also be used with container grown plants.
***Always wear gardening gloves when working with soils/potting mixes and handling plants and a mask and eye protection when working with fine particle products such as rock minerals***.
MAINTENANCE WATERING OF YOUR ‘BABIES’
To coin the immortal lyrics of Sweet, “love is like oxygen, you get too much you get too high, not enough and your gonna die…”
If the love you give your succulents is water, then too much is actually worse than too little.
If your going to err one way or the other, always err on the side of less water rather than more. Even if that might seem counter-intuitive. Succulents and Cacti are very efficient at storing water and adapted to prolonged dry conditions where rainfall is infrequent.
Same as rule No.1.
Your watering regime for succulents and cacti should be as follows:
Minimal watering in winter
More regular watering during the summer months but apply the ‘soak and dry’ technique. Allow the soil or potting mix to dry out between watering. Some waterings can also be used as an opportunity to ‘drip feed’ nutrient to the plants using soluble fertilisers.
FERTILISER FOR SUCCULENTS & CACTI
The key takeaway on fertilisers we want to convey is, if in doubt, DON'T!
As a generalisation (there are always exceptions) succulents and cacti are adapted to poor, low nutrient soils and as such have low fertiliser requirements. In fact, they won’t turn their toes up just because you don’t fertilise them.
Overdoing the fertilising is potentially more of an issue than under-fertilising, especially in the case of succulents and cacti, so if in any doubt err on the side of less rather than more.
Refer to our blog ‘Feeding your succulents' for more detailed information on fertilisers for succulents and cacti
If you are using a succulent and cacti potting mix that meets Australian Standard AS3743, check what slow release fertiliser it may contain. If it already has NPK slow release blended in to it then confirm how long that will provide nutrient for ie; 1mth, 3mths etc (should be on the packaging). Because you don’t want to fertilise if there is still ‘viable’ fertiliser in your potting mix.