Succulents can be potted or grow in the ground. Most require a lot of sun and excellent drainage. In -ground plants do fine without extra water. They often do best if planted on a sandy mound. Potted plants should be grown in a cactus soil mix for good drainage. Unglazed clay pots offer an extra measure of insurance against over-watering. Water only in the morning if it is required. Succulents are very prone to fungal problems and excess watering can easily kill them.
Q. I have a cactus that is growing wild in my small condo garden. Can it be replanted?
A. The cactus can be replanted and probably is not suitable for a small condo yard. See if the grounds committee will OK transplanting it to a large landscape. It needs to be out in an open, sunny dry area away from people.
Q. I need to repot my cactus. What is the best way?
A. I would wear good thick gloves when working with cacti. They require a sandy, sharp draining soil, full to part sun, and very little water. A clay pot or dish would be best. Make sure it is unglazed for good air circulation and drainage. Put a layer of stone in the bottom to insure good drainage but do not block the drain hole. A layer of sphagnum moss over the stones separates the soil from the stones to prevent the soil from washing down the hole. Use a very light soil mix or mix the potting soil with 50% builders sand to insure good aeration. Most regular potting soils are too heavy for cactus growth. Fertilize every two months between March and October with a liquid houseplant fertilizer
Q. My catcus has scale. What should I use to get rid of it?
A. Use Orthene and repeat the treatment in seven to ten days. You can take a hose and blast the cactus stems and wash off the dead scale. Living scale do not come off easily and you can see fresh feeding damage if you flick them off.
Q. My aloe has turned a reddish brown. Is it dying?
A. When aloe foliage turns a reddish brown it is usually the oldest lower leaves and they are preparing to dry up and die. This is a natural condition and I would remove the oldest leaves that are affected.
Q. I planted buds from a burro's tail but they don't seem to be growing. What is the problem?
A. The burro's tail or donkey's tail is a type of sedum that likes bright conditions and little water. It is extremely brittle. The trailing branches can be broken off and rooted fairly easily. Remove the bottom leaves from a 2-inch shoot and insert it into a light potting soil mix. Use Peters 20-20-20 or other liquid fertilizer at half strength to assist the rooting process. The best time to get new shoots is in April or May. Keep the soil fairly moist during the first five to six weeks to promote rooting. After that ease off on watering. Burro's tail has small delicate roots that are prone to root rot. . Putting the plant into brighter light conditions should improve its color, too.
Q. We would like to plant a night-blooming cactus. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Cereus like an open, dry spot. Some of the Peruvian types can reach 20 feet tall, so don't plant it under wires. Cereus usually have spectacular 8-inch white flowers that open at night and are very fragrant.
Q. What is causing holes in my yucca?
A. It may have a yucca stem borer which can tunnel through the stem and destroy the plant. Probe in the holes with a wire to impale the borer if possible. Dursban may be of some help if sprayed on the stems and around the holes. Yuccas like the same conditions as crown of thorns…full sunlight and dry. Water in the morning only.
Q. I have a holiday cactus. I don't know how to tell which one it is or how to care for it.
A. There are three Schumbergera cultivars commonly seen in cultivation. They normally bloom at either Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, depending on the species. The Christmas cactus has scalloped margins on the segments and blooms at the tip only. The Easter cactus blooms at the stem tips and between the stem segments. The Thanksgiving or crab cactus blooms at the stem tips and has two to four pointy teeth along the margins of the stem segments. Keep your cactus in a bright light on a porch or patio area or under a tree. Direct sun could scorch the plant. Fertilize with a good liquid soluble fertilizer monthly from March to October. Do not fertilize over the winter months. These cacti are all short day plants. They need cool temperatures (in the 50's) and shorter day length to set buds and trigger bloom. Keep your plant away from artificial light for about six weeks in October and November to initiate bloom. Artificial light includes interior lighting, streetlights, etc. that could interrupt the day length sequence. After bud set do not move the plants as the buds can easily drop off if disturbed. They do not need repotting too often as they have a small root system. Use a clay pot and a sharp draining potting soil that does not have too much peat moss to avoid root rot. Water when the top half of the soil is dry in the pot. Drain off excess water at the bottom of the plant. These cacti grow on trees in Brazil.
Q. My Christmas cactus has brown growths on the stems and it is falling apart. What is wrong?
A. It looks like the cactus has odema which causes swelling growth and weak stems. I would restart the plant from healthy shoots and cut back on watering. Do not water until the soil feels totally dry.
Q. I want to buy a pencil cactus. Can you help me locate one?
A. Pencil cactus does well outdoors. Be careful of the milky poisonous sap. Many nurseries do not carry the plant any more because of this. However, some might special order it for you.
Q. Our condominium board planted cactus plants along the walkway to the parking area a few years ago. They have grown very big and stick out into the walkway. One at the end has sharp points on the ends and I'm afraid someone is going to get hurt. Do you think we should move them?
A. Your cactus sounds like an agave or century plant. Most yuccas also have dangerous points at the ends of the leaves. They are hard to transplant, as the root systems are quite deep. Some agaves spread by a suckering root system. Most put up a huge flower spike in 10 to 15 years and then die. New suckers or offsets continue the plants after the mother plant dies. These plants are not appropriate along walkways. A potential lawsuit is a real possibility for the condominium if an injury occurs. At a minimum, all points should be removed from the plants near walkways. Transplanting to an open area would be the best solution. The plants are not poisonous, but the spines can cause a festering puncture wound.