Cactus Myths

Dispel these myths about cacti and find out how to care for your own cactus.

| June 2018

  • To help you better understand your cactus or succulent, and to make sure it thrives, it’s useful to dispel some of the myths that surround these plants.
    Photo by Unsplash/stairhopper
  • “Happy Cactus” helps you discover what makes your plant unique and how it might behave when treated with a little bit of love.
    Cover courtesy Dorling Kindersley

Happy Cactus (Dorling Kindersley, 2018) unearths the secrets of different cacti and succulents, with profiles on more than 50 popular varieties

To help you better understand your cactus or succulent, and to make sure it thrives, it’s useful to dispel some of the myths that surround these plants.

  1. Myth: Cacti are different from succulents
    Truth: All cacti belong to the group of plants called succulents, which are adapted to store water in their leaves, stems, and sometimes their roots. However, only cacti have round, cushion-like areas – called areoles – where spines can develop. In other succulents, there are no areoles although there may be spines.
  2. Myth: They are all desert plants
    Truth: The ability to store water allows cacti and succulents to survive not only in hot, arid environments with limited rainfall (eg. Echinocereus), but also on rocky outcrops (eg living stones), or as epiphytes, growing on the surface of other plans (eg Christmas cactus, which grows on trees in rainforests).
  3. Myth: The don’t need watering
    Truth: Cacti and succulents in the wild require seasonal rainfall in order to grow and reproduce flowers..
  4. Myth: They all require hot, sunny conditions
    Truth: Although many cacti and succulents need full sun during their growth period in order to thrive and flower, some require bright but indirect light (eg Chihuahua flower) to prevent their leaves becoming scorched. During their winter rest period, they need to be kept in a light place, but not below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Myth: They’re indestructible!
    Truth: Cacti will only survive if cared for properly. This includes using the right, gritty, potting soil, not overwatering them, and keeping them free from frost (eg dwarf Turk’s cap).
  6. Myth: They grow slowly
    Truth: Some cacti quickly produce a whole clump of new stems (eg crown cactus). Other fast-growing cacti include some trailing species that are suitable for growing in hanging pots.
  7. Myth: They don’t flower easily
    Truth: If they are given a winter resting period, and cared for correctly in spring and summer, most cacti will flower reliably. Many will produce spectacular blooms (eg glory of Texas), and some from an early age.

More from Happy Cactus:

From Happy Cactus (Dorling Kindersley, 2018); used with permission of publisher.

6/14/2018 2:50:59 PM

The rainy side of Washington State actually has native succulents. I have one that has popped up in the wetter side of my garden this year that's already doubled in size, and a few years ago I put my small potted aloe (bought from Walmart so you know its not native) outside for the summer months where it was pretty happy, even considering most nights were below 50. I think it matters more that there are regular dry periods between the rain than anything else.

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