Cacti: the Houseplants of the Month for August 2020

The story of Cacti
Whether it’s the trendy geometric shapes or the air of unapproachability, Cactus is an exciting houseplant that has a big impact on an interior and often lives alongside its owners for generations. This classic plant’s comeback is particularly due to the fact that it’s a very easy houseplant with an unusual look.

Origin of Cacti
The spiky creations that we call cactuses (official name: Cactaceae) are native to a large territory in North and South America, with a strong concentration in Mexico. The plants mainly grow in dry desert regions where they have adapted brilliantly to the extremely dry conditions and also manage to reproduce whilst surviving.

The name cactus is derived from the Greek word 'kaktos', which means ‘spiky plant’. Every cactus is a succulent, but not all succulents are cacti. Like many other succulents, cacti have succulent properties - the ability to store moisture in their thick fleshy trunk and stems. These reservoirs are used to bridge periods of drought. Cactus roots are strongly developed and are usually just below the surface in order to slurp up as much water as possible during rainy periods.

The stems feature areolae, the place where the leaves should actually be. On the Cactus these had developed into thorns, spikes, glochids (barbed bristles) and bundles of long hairs. The cactus’ outer skin has a layer of wax to minimise evaporation. Cacti have been cultivated for centuries, usually by real enthusiasts.

What to look for when buying Cacti

  • The Cactus purchase is determined firstly by the species and the pot size in which the plant is supplied.
  • The age can also determine the price. It is also important to think about the transportability, particularly with large sizes, because of safety.
  • Check that the cacti are free of mealybugs on both the plant itself (the body) and the root system. With its woolly white wax coating containing oval insects it is one of the most common pests in cactuses, and difficult to get rid of both at the point of sale and by the consumer.
  • Red spider mite (eight-legged insects that weave a delicate and dense web over the plant), aphids, scale insects and thrips can also occur.
  • Also check for damage and that the root system is intact. If the plants have been kept too wet for a long time they may have rotted ‘from the pot’. This can also be caused by fungi and bacteria. The green part - the actual stem - can then feel soft.

Cacti range
The range of cacti is enormous and extends from tiny sleek shapes through to bizarre massive pillars, and from soft grey hairs through to big sharp thorns. Many cacti are sold in mixed trays, particularly the smaller sizes. The species that are most commonly sold by name are Echinocactus, Ferocactus, Gymnocalycium, Opuntia and Mamillaria.

Succulent Euphorbia species closely resemble cactuses and are often placed in the same product group. It’s easy to spot the difference: with Euphorbia the spikes and thorns grow directly out of the green body, whilst on cactuses they grow out of the areolae, the thickenings/bumps on the green body.

Calyxes can be classified by genus, origin or shape. The following groupings apply to the shapes:

  • Disc cactus: produces edible fruit, watch out for the hairs (Opuntia)
  • Dillar cactus: upright shapes that start small and develop a real pillar shape later (Pachycereus)
  • Rock cactus: rock-like shape (Cereus)
  • Creeping cactus: small horizontal stem (Selenicereus)
  • Globe cactus: attractive globe shape (Echinocactus, Mamillaria)
  • Hanging cactus (Aporocactus)
  • Epiphyllum group: epiphytic cactus (Epiphyllum)
  • Grafted cactus: Two species grafted onto one another (Gymnocalicium)

Care tips for customers

  • It’s easy to look after cacti. To get the plants to flower every year, it’s best to give more water in the summer and less in winter. This partly dependent on the species and size of the plant.
  • Too much water is never good. It’s better to allow the soil to dry out a bit before watering the plant again.
  • A cactus can tolerate a warm and sunny spot in the summer, even outdoors on the patio or balcony. The placement should be cooler and light in the winter. This hibernation period in the winter helps the cactus to flower in the spring.
  • If the plant needs repotting, use a fairly nutrient-poor soil. Special cactus soil is available for this.
  • Place the plants in a safe place if there are children or pets around.

Sales and display tips

  • One cactus isn’t enough. The plants speak to the imagination best if different species are displayed together. Enhance the display with the POS material that you can download below.
  • The cactus is the easiest houseplant ever in the home, in a student room or at the office.
  • The various sizes on offer - from mini to massive - make them ideal gifts.
  • Combined cactuses are attractive and exotic in bowls, terrariums or bell jars. Make sure that the latter have a ventilation hole. 
  • The plants can be used both in traditional interiors and in a modern setting. A folklore look is bang on trend, and doesn’t need to be restricted to South America. Artisan pots with folklore patterns and colours create a cheerful setting for the rather stoical cactus. 
  • The plants can also be used for certain summer or holiday themes (beach, Mexico, indoor rockery).

Images of Cacti
You can download and use the images below free of charge if you credit Thejoyofplants.co.uk.
Instagram: @thejoyofplants 
Facebook: @thejoyofplants

Cacti posters
You can download the postesr using the link below. 

Cacti Poster A1

Cacti Poster A3

 

Cacti: the Houseplants of the Month for August 2020
Download image