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Monthly cactus care

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Spring is starting this month and a look on every cactus collection gives the proof: flowering cacti and cacti which form buds are more, most of them are mammillarias and stenocacti (echinofossulocactus).
The weather of this month in Greece varies from very warm (20o C) to snow and cold! A month with many surprises, so although some days look like it is already summer, caution must be taken to protect cacti especially from rain. On the warmer days, cacti should be ventilatad very often. Even at night, I leave one side of my small "greenhouse" open, if the temperatures do not fall below 10-12o C.

Covering material should not be put away yet, since March, and sometimes April also, can surprise with frosty nights and snow.

Depending on the weather and the cactus species, watering of the cacti can start this month. The following must be considered:
1. In the beginning of the month it is better to water only the cacti that are already flowering and not yet the ones that start to form buds. Exceptions are stenocacti (echinofossulocacti) and notocacti that might need some moisture. If watered to early, some cacti start to develop their body rather and stop the development of flowers.
2. The first watering should be very light, since the roots need to gradually adopt on taking more moisture.
3. The best time for watering is in the morning, so that during the day excess moisture can evaporate and the soil is not wet during the night when the temperature drops.
4. Fertilizer should not be given with the first watering. I don't fertilize my cacti this month at all.
5. In the middle of the month and/or at the end of it (and always depending on the weather), following cacti can be watered: mammillarias, eriosyce, rebutia, parodia. At the end of the month, I start gradually to water columnar cacti like pachycereus, stenocereus, cephalocereus and cleistocactus. Copiapoas should also be sprayed or watered lightly this month.
6. Echinopsis and echinocereus should not be watered yet.
7. It is important to watch the weather forecast, and every use of water should be done on days when the forecast for the next 4-5 days is good weather, without rain, humidity and low temperatures.

Click here to find links to weather forecast websites.

Overall, watering in this month should not be heavy and not very frequent (maybe 2 or 3 times during the whole month, for flowering cacti and less for the rest).

Cacti that until now stayed inside or in a location with little sun or light, should be gradually moved to a sunnier and brighter location this month. But this must be done with caution, since cacti with few spines that are placed from a shady location to full sun can suffer from burnmarks. So, this proccess can be done either by gradually expose the cactus to more sun (1/2 hour for a few days, 1 hour for a few more days etc.). Anoter option is to use something to provide shading (this is better since it does not require constant moving of the plants).

At the end of the month, most cacti stay outside (e.g. balcony), especially if night temperatures do not fall below 10o C. Cacti love the difference between night and day temperatures and they show it by starting to produce more and more growth and/or flower buds! Exceptions: cacti that are sensitive to cold like melocactus and discocactus. These like it to stay out for a few hours during the day when temperatures are 20o+ C and brought back in for the night (at least in my case where inside there is not that much light).

This month repotting can be started, where necessary. Cacti that are developing buds or flower already, are left alone and repotting is done after they stop flowering. There are a lot of cacti that start to grow later in the year, like: ferocacti, echinopsis, echinocereus, columnar cacti, so these can be repottet now. Of course, it is better to avoid repotting on cold days and repotted cacti should not be watered for about one week, according to weather conditions, or not watered yet at all.

This month, when repotting or just because more time is spend with cacti, someone can discover infestations. Especially, scale insects, mealy bugs and root mealy bugs. If these are going to be treated with chemicals, it is better to do so after the first watering. Insects discovered on one plant could mean that the pest (e.g. eggs) has also moved to some other plants and might not yet be visible. So it is good to treat all the cacti. Of course, everything depends again on the weather conditions. If these early spring days of March are still cold and rainy, it is better to treat the more heavily affected cacti and wait for the next month to treat the rest of the collection (when almost all of the plants are watered).

Flowering now
Cacti that flower this time of the year:
mammillaria gracilis, mammillaria carmenae, mammillaria haageana conspicua, mammillaria rekoi leptacantha, mammillaria bombycina, mammillaria microhelia, mammillaria densispina, mammillaria hahnianna, mammillaria candida, echinofossulocactus.


Click here to see succulents that flower this time of the year

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