HOW TO WATER CACTUS
One of the main questions that a novice cactus and succulent lover needs to study is the question of how to properly water cacti. Usually novice hobbyists start watering cacti and other succulent plants like regular houseplants. That is, approximately once every three to four days. Added to this is the incorrect location of these plants: very often cacti are placed in poorly lit places – in the back of the room, on the northern windows, where there is no sun, in front of a computer monitor. For some reason, the myth that cacti absorb radiation coming from the monitor is very tenacious. It is not true. Therefore, if you have a cactus in front of the monitor, move it to the window sill – it will be much better there, and with proper care, it will delight you with a good appearance and beautiful flowering.
It is desirable to have cacti not in the back of the room, but in the sunniest place. It can be a window, a loggia or a balcony facing south or east. Due to the fact that cacti are often located in a poorly lit place and at the same time often watered, plants immediately have a lot of problems that will eventually lead to their death. Namely: the stem absorbs a lot of excess water and becomes “loose”, after a while it begins to stretch, the spines become small and thin – as a result, the plant loses its decorative effect. The plant often stops flowering. And after a while, from frequent overflows, the plant begins to rot and dies.
The photos in this article show cacti that were not properly kept – they stood in a poorly lit place and were often watered. And for comparison, photos of the same plants are given, which were kept in a fairly well-lit place, with rare watering. As they say, feel the difference.
The homeland of cacti is America – its North, Central and South parts. Most cacti grow in desert and semi-desert areas, but they can also be found in tropical rainforests (epiphytic cacti) and on the coast (cacti of the genus Melocactus). Since it rarely rains in deserts and semi-deserts, and the amount of moisture is very limited, cacti have learned to accumulate moisture in their stems and keep it for a long time, minimizing its evaporation. Based on this feature, frequent watering of cacti, like ordinary houseplants, is not needed. The main rule in watering cacti can be formulated as follows: it is better to underfill than overfill.
Water cacti and succulents preferably with “soft” water (low pH). Clean rainwater is very good, but if used without further treatment, it can be added to the collection of pests or fungal diseases. You can also use water filtered with household water filters. When watering with “hard” water, the soil in which the plant is located is rapidly alkalized. This leads to poor functioning of the roots of the plant and as a result, the plant slows down in growth, weakens, becomes susceptible to various diseases. Water usually used for irrigation is defended for 2-3 days. Boiling is used to reduce the hardness of water. Hardness is also reduced by adding oxalic or phosphoric acid, the amount of which depends on the volume and hardness of the water and is determined empirically. Several acid crystals are thrown into water, stirred, and the precipitate formed is removed. Water can be acidified with peat, as well as nitric or acetic acid (a few drops per 1 liter of water).
Since cacti are not watered in winter, watering begins with the advent of spring. When the plant woke up and started to grow, this can be seen by how the top of the plant (growth point) turned green, and an increase in young spines appeared on the top of the cactus, you can start careful watering. At the same time, watering can be started when the night temperature in the place where the collection is kept does not fall below +15 degrees for several days. The first watering should be carried out in the morning, so that during the day most of the moisture is absorbed by the plant, and the excess is partially evaporated, and by night, when the temperature drops, the minimum amount of moisture will remain in the soil, which will reduce the likelihood of root rot. The first watering should be careful – you need to slightly moisten the earth at the corners of the pot in which the plant is located to a depth of approximately 1.5-2.5 cm, depending on the size of the plant and pot. At the same time, the water temperature should be hot – not boiling water, but not warm either – determine by hand. Water, passing through the soil to the roots, cools slightly and warm water enters the roots. This will speed up the awakening of plants from hibernation. With each subsequent watering, the amount of water increases. The soil should dry out completely between waterings. Full watering can only be started when the plant is fully awake and active growth begins. When stable warm (hot) weather is established, it is better to water the plants in the evening. The interval between watering depends on the age and size of the plant. small plants and seedlings need to be watered more often, adults and large plants less often. In cold or rainy weather, cacti do not need to be watered. The rule of thumb is to let the soil dry out completely between waterings. With the approach of autumn, watering is gradually reduced, and the intervals between waterings are increased. With the onset of stable cool weather, in my region this is the end of October, watering stops completely.
There are two ways to water plants: from above, using a watering can, or from below – through a pallet. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. When watering from above, you can see how much water is consumed, the earth ball is completely wetted with water. But with such irrigation, the topsoil is washed out and quickly alkalized. Watering through the pan is convenient because the soil in the pot does not erode, the top layer does not alkalize. The main part of the water-absorbing roots is located in the lower part of the root system, so the root system in this case works more efficiently. However, with this method of watering, it is difficult to know how much water a plant needs – usually the water remaining in the pan is drained after an hour.
Important points to pay attention to:
— the water in the pot should not stagnate – for this, the pot in which the cactus grows must have drainage holes. Small pebbles, expanded clay are placed on its bottom.
— it is not desirable that water fall on the stem of the cactus during irrigation. This leads to an untidy appearance of the plant and causes corking of the stem in its lower part;
— cacti can do without water for a long time, and excess water can easily lead to rotting of the stem;
— the amount and frequency of watering directly depend on the temperature and humidity of the surrounding air, the lower the temperature, the less often you need to water the plant. Gradually, with the acquisition of certain experience, you will intuitively feel when you need to water your cacti.