Cultivation

A generous sampling of the cactus Family can be happily housed in a typical amateur glasshouse provided that it has ample light and ventilation and a minimum winter temperature of around 5°C (40°F). Occasional drops to freezing point will do no harm if the plants are dry. If no heat is available, the choice is much more limited, but not beyond hope. Certain groups of cacti need extra heat. There are the moisture-loving tropical pereskias and Hylocereinae, along with their hybrids, the epicacti. Collectors attracted by these, which mostly take up a lot of space, are usually willing to give them a house to themselves, although they consort well with orchids, bromeliads and some tropical African succulents such as Kalanchoe.

More xerophytic heat-lovers are the Cactinae and isolated species of other subtribes from the drier parts of Central America: some recent acquisitions from Brazil come within this category. The fancier of these plants has various ways of accommodating them. He can position them over the heat source, or he can build a polythene tent in a corner of the glasshouse, perhaps including his propagator as a heat source. Another possibility is to bring the plants into the home during the winter. A sunny windowsill in the lounge can be put to good use, if the temperature does not fall below about 10°C (50°F) overnight. If in doubt, cover theplants with newspaper in the evening, or move them away from the window and return them the following morning.

All Cactaceae can be treated as summer growers, irrespective of their origin north or south of the Equator. The only exceptions are a few that flower in the winter months and therefore appreciate a little water and extra warmth when the buds are forming: Schlumbergera X buckleyi. some Rhipsalis species, Mammillaria plumosa, Neoporteria wagenknechtii and a few others. After blooming, they should be kept dry and encouraged to rest.

Grafting is more practised in Cactaceae than in the other Families of succulents, and some extraordinary results have been reported, such as flowering A riocarpus in the first year from seed. It is also possible to make novelties available in quantity for the market almost as rapidly as budded roses.

Overall, the majority of cacti are the least troublesome of all tender succulents to manage, which is doubtless a factor in their popularity. This tolerance of neglect and mismanagement has, however, often reacted to their disadvantage: whereas most plants die when maltreated, cacti linger on, and the terribly malformed, scarred survivors one often encounters serve to give the public the impression that all cacti are equally hideous. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If only the critics could be brought to see a really well-kept collection!

Right (16.44): Gymnocalycium species in the research collection olan English specialist Each specimen is documented tor origin and locality- essential tor studies on classification

17: DIDIEREACEAE

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