By Roger Brown dvm

Nurturing plants involves providing the proper place and conditions for them. Cacti grow in a variety of habitats, and ideally, where they are grown should mimic the conditions of their habitat. As a practical matter, cacti are tolerant of a wide range of conditions but some cacti may require protection from extremes. For example, many cacti are tolerant of prolonged drought, and most do best if their roots are not constantly wet. Also, many cacti are adapted for absorbing water and storing it in their succulent stems, swelling as the stem accumulates water. Cacti that are swollen with water may be susceptible to bursting if they are exposed to below-freezing temperatures for a sustained period. When grown outdoors, cacti should be placed in soil with excellent drainage. Cold-hardy plants should be selected for areas that are not frostfree. Many cacti will require protection in a greenhouse, depending on the climate and weather conditions of the area in which they are cultivated.

Regardless of where they are grown, however, successful cultivation also involves providing cacti with the right amounts of nutrition, light, and water. Close observation of the plants will prompt you to make the necessary adjustments in this triangle of plant care. For example, dormant periods will occur during late fall to early spring when light levels and temperatures are lower. Short periods of rest will also occur during extremely hot periods in midsummer. The frequency of watering should be diminished during long periods of dormancy, and fertilizer should be withheld during both long and short periods of dormancy. Growth should not be stimulated when a cactus chooses to rest.

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