How to care for my home potted cactus

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by Kokonuht, Dec 25, 2010.

  1. Kokonuht

    Kokonuht Member

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    Alright, I posted a thread earlier and since it was an Identification thread, I thought it would be irrelevant to post stuff about how to care for my cactus. So I went along and create this new thread :)! Sorry if I wasn't supposed to.

    Okay so first of all, here are some pics of it!
    http://img411.imageshack.us/i/img00052201012261355.jpg/
    http://img257.imageshack.us/i/img00053201012261355.jpg/
    http://img46.imageshack.us/i/img00054201012261355.jpg/
    http://img704.imageshack.us/i/img00051201012261355.jpg/

    My friend bought it for me in a place called Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, it's pretty much like in the hills? So the temperature there is lower. Also, the pot it came with is so tiny, I've read that I should transfer it to another pot. What kind of pot should I use? How often should I water it? Do I need to use special water? (I heard I need to use acidic water). How about soil? Can I place it under my table lamp for light?

    Thank you :)!
     
  2. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    As you now know it is a Parodia, subgenus Eriocactus. Whether it is magnifica or warasii or some other (I think there is at least one more that looks like that when young) I dare not say.

    Nothing wrong with the pot size, it looks almost a bit large. Plastic pots are fine too, as long as the soil is not too dense.

    They come from warm, rainy areas in Brazil, see here (they are listed as Notocactus there). It is usually recommended to water them infrequently during winter, unless they are stored cold, to avoid root problems. I don't think Malaysia is neither cold nor dark enough to motivate a dry period.

    A table lamp is not enough. Don't you have a sunny spot where it can sit?

    Soil ... always a source of debate. I have not found this group of cacti too picky about the soil, a portion of organic matter is even recommended by many growers, in contrast to many other cacti. They are almost the only cacti that I have got from professional growers planted in peat mixed with perlite or some other material that improves drainage (drainage is important). Personally I avoid peat because it compacts with time, but I guess bark in the compost would work.

    Is your water very hard? If so it might be a worth acidifying it. Otherwise I would advise you to try your ordinary water and see what happens. Or, preferably, rain water.
     
  3. GreenLarry

    GreenLarry Active Member 10 Years

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    A cactus's natural habitat is semi desert to desert, growing in either full sun or in semi shade depending on species. Parodia (old name Notocactus for some species) tend to be found growing amongst rocks where they get a little shade, but in cultivation temps tend not to be so extreme so full sun will be favoured. In general cacti like as much bright sun as they can get, and the ideal way to water them is to allow the soil to dry then give a good soak till it runs out the bottom. In the summer this might be once a week to once every two weeks. Of course in winter things are different (northern hemisphere) Cacti in winter should receive hardly any water till spring. It may seem harsh but a cactus is basically full of water so it can shrivel in dry periods and not die. Generally with succulent plants the hotter the temps the more water they need. When its cold they dont need any.
    Oh if you use artificial lights its not the same as the plant being in full sun. The plant will be cooler so will need less water.
     
  4. Kokonuht

    Kokonuht Member

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    Thank you for your replies :)! The roots have grown out of the pot at the bottom and someone said that I should put the cactus in a larger pot. So I assume I should but how big? or it doesn't matter?

    Also, I do have spots that give sunlight but not always. How long is it suppose to receive sunlight? Should I let him out in the open from morning till evening?

    One more thing is that, this is my first time taking care of a plant so I'm not sure about soils and stuff. Can I use any type of soil? Like the soil my parents use to plant their flowers. Not sure what soil it is though.

    I'm also not sure if my water is hard or not, is there a way to check? I'll just assume it is, so I'll collect rain water and use it to water my cactus?

    Once again, thank you for your replies :)
     
  5. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Remember that Kokonuht is located in Malaysia, close to the equator. Your advice is the usual treatment of cacti in northern Europe, with our low light and temperatures in winter. I am not convinced that a long, dry period is recommendable where Kokonuht lives, especially as the habitat of these cacti is quite wet all year around.

    The problem is not the temperature but the much lower light intensity, which causes the plants to become etioliated, especially if the temperature is high. Again, this is probably an even worse problem in warm climates.
     
  6. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Not too much at a time, 2-3 cm wider until you learn how fast the roots grow. It is preferable to remove the old soil as you did not make it and you don't know its properties. When old soil is removed a lot of the roots is likely to be torn off too. Let the roots heal (without soil) for a day or two before you repot it.

    That should do. Note that if it has been grown behind glass previously it might be sunburnt if it is put out directly in the sun without acclimatising first, just like people. I have seen cactus collections in your area grown under sunscreens.

    No, it must be something with good drainage, plants don't like to have their root sitting in water for a long time, and cacti are especially vulnerable to it. The composition depends on the climate too, in cold, humid climates like mine a higher proportion of coarse material is used as the water evaporates slowly. Ordinary potting soil is usually too dense. I don't like to guess in this case, you should preferably get that information from cactus growers closer to where you live. Something like 1 part commercial potting soil and 1 part grit/perlite/fired clay perhaps.

    People with very hard water usually know that, since they have to dissolve the precipitated lime on walls, bathtubs, kitchenware etc. with acid now and then. Those who supply the water should know (unless it is from a private source).
     
  7. Kokonuht

    Kokonuht Member

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    Alright! Thank you very much mandarin. I leave the cactus outside my window where it can get sunlight. Is that okay?

    My mom helped me to changed the pot and I think it's around 3cm wider so it should be okay :D!

    My mom also helped to changed the soil but I don't know what soil did she use. Will it be okay? If it was normal potting soil, will the cactus die?

    I put it in my bathroom at night. Is that okay? Or will the water vapour in the bathroom affect it?

    Once again! Thank you very much for your replies ^__^!

    EDIT : Can I use a table lamp? Like those with a bulb that is around err 40cm tall or around there? It has quite a high temperature if shine directly under and has quite a bit of light intesity. Will post a picture tomorrow :)
     
  8. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Some cacti and succulents are very difficult to grow in organic compost, but Parodia can usually cope with organic soils. Ordinary potting soil (in Europe and North America at least) is usually peat with some limestone (to adjust the pH). It is used mainly because it is cheap and lightweight. It has many drawbacks, and cactus growers usually avoid it. One of the worst in my opinion is that it crumbles as it ages and forms a hard, dense layer around the roots. There is an example of the problem here.

    Remember not to water for a few days after repotting, there is always an increased risk for root rot because of small, even invisible damages to the roots due to the handling.

    Even if the soil is "wrong" I don't think the plant will die from it, not in a few years at least. The Eriocactus group are relatively tough.

    Outside in the sun should be ok, but why would you move it inside during night? I don't think the higher humidity will kill it as it is only during nights, but I don't understand the purpose of bringing it inside.

    I don't understand why you want to use a lamp either, or when? Do you plan to put the plant under the lamp when it is outside or inside at night? The temperature should not be an issue. Very few cacti like high temperatures, when grown in European greenhouses fans are often used to circulate the air and avoid overheating. What is the normal day and night temperatures where you live?
    Lamps are mostly used for raising seedlings. Your plant is still small, but I doubt that your lamp would give enough light to promote a healthy growth. When lamps are used for bigger cacti, high pressure gas discharge lamps is the typical choice, but that is hardly what you mean with "table lamp".
     
  9. Kokonuht

    Kokonuht Member

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    Alright! Thank you for your reply! I'm afraid that the cactus might get wet by the rain since it rains often here. That's why I move it in at night when i'm asleep or when I'm away from home.

    The temperature where I live is usually 28 degrees - 35 degrees celcius. Around 33 in the afternoon, 28 at night. I plan to put the plant under the lamp when it's inside, if it's raining outside or when there's little sunlight outside.

    My mom did help me water the plant right after repotting o_o; Should I do something with it?

    As for the soil, I guess I'll just leave it be for now :). Thank you.
     
  10. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    If the compost is porous enough that should not be a big problem - it rains frequently in their habitat as well. The problem is that I cannot judge the compost from here, of course.

    Something else to consider is the high humidity that you seem to have. Watch out for dark spots on the skin, they might be a sign of a fungal or bacterial infection. They attack more easily in humid weather.

    The temperatures you listed are high - no need to supply extra heat. If it is that warm even when cloudy it would be better to cool the plant rather than heat it. The reason is that if the light is too low and the temperature too high the plant will grow tall and thin (etiolation). That happens easily where I live if the plants are kept inside and the weather remains cloudy for 2–3 weeks, not so easily when put outside, as the temperatures are much lower then. I have grown Parodia magnifica and other cacti outside in summer, when the daytime temperature is 15–30 °C and 10–18 °C at night. That gives much better results (more compact plants) than if I try to grow them indoors.

    I am not sure what I would have done if I had lived in Malaysia, but I think I would have tried a well-draining soil and let the pot stay outside both day and night. Maybe I would take it inside now and then to dry if it had remained wet for long. It depends on how long the rains last and if the plant has a chance to dry up before the next rain.

    You must be prepared for some losses before you find your way to grow these plants, I lost dozens before I learned to grow them reasonably well.

    Two alternatives:
    1. Leave it and hope for the best.
    2. Take it out again and let it dry.

    Which one I would choose depends on how valuable the plant is. If it had been mine I would have left it as is.

    Experienced cactus collectors don't let any relatives or friends help them with neither watering nor repotting ... ;-)
     
  11. Kokonuht

    Kokonuht Member

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    Thank you once again for your reply :)! When I decided to do it myself, my mom already helped me with it haha.

    When it's cloudy, it's around 28 - 30. So what is the optimum temperature for Parodia magnifica? It rains pretty much every day or twice a day once. When it rains, it rains moderately, which is considered kinda heavy. Rains usually last from 10 minutes (sometimes) to 4 hours.

    By the way, what do you mean by compost and porous? Is it the soil? Sorry I'm not too sure about these things. First timer. :x

    Alright, I will make sure to look out for dark spots. If there are dark spots, what do I do?

    Also, I guess I'll look for a well-draining soil and once I have found it, I'll leave it outside day and night. Though, if it rains, won't the cactus absorb too much water and die from it? Or will the well-draining soil do the job?

    One more thing I have in mind is where when it rains, won't it be the same as watering the cactus? The cactus grower told my friend to tell me to water it once every 2 weeks. Though if it rains almost everyday, wouldn't it be like watering it everyday?

    Once again, thank you very much for taking your time and slowly replying to my questions. :') I appreciate it a lot. :'D!
     
  12. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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  13. Kokonuht

    Kokonuht Member

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    Okay! Thank you very much once again for your reply :D!
    So, if the soil doesn't have wide pores, and it rains, will the cactus die from overwatering?

    Also, I assume my mom didn't use soil with wide pores so is there a way to get a good medium for my cactus to grow in? Am I supposed to make it myself, the mix? Or can I buy it from gardening shops?

    One more thing is, since it's a cactus seedling, will it be a matter if I put it out and it rains and the soil doesn't have a good drainage system, will it die?

    Also, you said that cactus seedlings are usually kept constantly wet, so, should I keep mine constantly wet? How so? Making sure the soil is always wet?

    Thank you again for your time and replies :)!
     
  14. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    If the soil is is too water-retaining, then yes, there is a serious risk that it dies. Do you have a spot inside that is reached by the sun for several hours per day? Could be an alternative.

    Such mixes are rarely offered for sale except from specialist shops, so I guess you will have to mix it yourself.

    Your plant looks too big to be treated like a small seedling, and it might die as I wrote above. (Seedlings die too if the soil is too dense, by the way.) It is ok to water it only when the soil has nearly dried out, I meant that it can probably live in constantly wet soil too, if it is well-draining.
    Watering (and nutrients) should ideally be balanced against the amount of light and heat, but it is difficult to describe how to do that. I basically "listen to the plants", that is if they grow too fast I try to find a cooler place and cut back on watering, and vice versa.
     
  15. saltcedar

    saltcedar Rising Contributor 10 Years

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  16. Kokonuht

    Kokonuht Member

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    Thanks for the reply :)!

    Okay I understand a lot better now thank you :). Yes there is a place that receives sunlight several hours per day, but it's behind a window, does it matter?

    One more question, is there any tutorials or whatsoever to making the mix?

    Also, I doubt my parents would let me build that around the house. =P
     
  17. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    The major differences are:
    1. The ventilation is poorer, which means that there is a risk for burn damages from overheating. I use a small fan to circulate the air around plants that I grow behind glass when the sun shines right on them.
    2. Glass absorbs ultraviolet light, so there is less risk for sunburn.
    3. It is protected from rain, of course.
    4. The light intensity is lower, both because of the walls and that some light is reflected off the glass.


    Oh yes, there are plenty of them. Here is one that I remember right now:

    On CactiGuide
     

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