Care for succulent plants
The succulent plants are characterized by a high resistance to the absence of adequate care, but this involves an unnatural vegetative stasis with consequent stunted growth, weakening towards the parasites, absence of blooms, up to the recurrent root rot.
Adequate brightness, temperature and humidity, satisfying nutritional requirements allow these fascinating plant sculptures to show themselves in all their beauty and above all to give us one of the most suggestive blooms of the vegetable kingdom.
Light and temperature
Although most succulent plants originate from desert environments, there are genera, commonly known as tropical forest plants, which in their natural habitat grow on trees (epiphytes) in warm and humid wooded areas. The first type will require dry and sunny conditions, with locations in full sun, while for the second one it will be necessary to recreate a humid and shady environment. Among the latter are the genera: Epiphyllum, Rhipsalis, Schlumbergera and Zygocactus.
Generally the rest period of succulents is winter. Favored by low temperatures (10 - 15 ° C) it can be seriously compromised for those plants kept in heated houses, with the negative repercussions on the success of the following flowering. In these cases the plants should be placed in fresh and well-lit rooms. The succulent plants of tropical origin, on the other hand, need higher temperatures during the winter (13 - 18 ° C).
In the case of plants grown outside, in terraces or gardens, the minimum temperature is generally 5 ° C, as there are succulent plants that tolerate temperatures up to 0 ° C. It is a good rule to protect the plants from unexpected frosts or from very harmful hailstorms with tarpaulins, paper or plastic.
Good tolerance for high summer temperatures even above 32 ° C.
Soil and fertilization
Whether it is potted plants or open field plants, the essential characteristic required of the growing medium is to ensure excellent drainage. For plants originating from the desert it must be free of decomposing organic material and sufficiently rich in mineral salts, whereas for forest plants, more humid soils are preferred which have a good organic component.
On the market there are specific composites for succulent plants, but due to the variability of needs between the different species, often, in breeding in pots, mixtures of easy preparation are used, containing different proportions of sand, soil, fine gravel and in some cases, land of leaves or peat. To these mixtures, appropriate doses of mineral fertilizer in grains can be added.
Succulent plants, especially those bred for flowers, take great advantage of fertilizing with products rich in phosphorus and potassium. This should be done, generally with liquid formulations, at the beginning of the spring period.
For the species of forests it can be repeated monthly, until the summer, having, however, the foresight to make sure that the fertilizer is abundantly diluted.
A general rule to keep in mind is that succulents need to be watered during the growing and growing season (spring and summer). During the vegetative stasis, which generally falls in the winter period, the watering interventions must be appropriately spaced, if not completely interrupted for some species native to the desert, in order not to disturb the necessary vegetative stasis.
Winter watering of plants kept indoors, in heated rooms, should be done about every 10 days, although at times sprays on the aerial part may suffice. Practice this to avoid in the case of young plants.
Exceptionally, they make the succulent plants native to the tropical forest, to which, even during the winter period, a certain degree of soil moisture must always be ensured.
It should also be remembered that succulent plants, especially Cactaceae native to the desert, if over-irrigated, undergo radical rupture which in a short time leads to certain death. Be careful, therefore, never to drown them, even in the period of greatest summer water requirement. In general, therefore, it is necessary to make sure that the soil has dried completely, before the next watering.
Defense from pests
The care of succulent plants cannot prescind from an adequate pesticide defense, although this type of plants are naturally resistant to common attacks by parasites.
The red spider, characteristic of dry and hot environments, can attack the plants causing rust-colored patches. If present in the vegetative apexes it can even compromise the regular vegetative growth of the plants. In these homes it is good to resort to a specific acaricide.
Fearsome enemies of the flowers of succulents are aphids and cochineals, which, in hot, humid environmental conditions, may succeed in compromising the entire flowering, through their exudates on which subsequent fungal attacks can be grafted. Also in this case, treatments with specific products are required.
But the most insidious pathogen, frequent in potted plants, is certainly the rot of the stem and the roots. Caused by fungi and bacteria, it is favored by water stagnation or by a particularly fat and compact growing medium. If located on the stem, it is necessary to eliminate the areas of diseased tissue, if instead it is located at the root, the possibilities to save the plant are rather small. Appropriate will be a timely repotting with elimination of diseased parts and replacement of the compost.