Shirley-Anne Bell has
been running Glenhirst Cactus Nursery with her husband
Neville for over twenty years. Here she shares her insights
into creating an impressive indoor display of these
How many times have you wailed, “I love houseplants,
but they don't love me!” Most die because you’re
too busy to keep them well-watered and fed. Or maybe
you have that one south facing windowsill where the
plants always shrivel and die. If either of these sound
like you, try cacti! They hate wet feet, they positively
thrive on a regime of benign neglect and they lap up
Cacti come in a huge range of shapes, sizes and colours
and many have the bonus of producing astonishing annual
flower displays that can virtually cover some of the
plants with blooms.
For a modern, minimalist
interior, the stark outline of candelabra-like or columnar
cacti, like Cereus and Opuntias, could be just for you.
Or you may like the idea of a troll-like line up of
‘Old Men of the Mountains’ or Oreocereus,
which are columnar cacti covered in long white hair.
Lovers of the miniature can choose fascinating little
gems, ranging in colour from furry white Mammillarias
to little black Neoporterias, and with every pattern
and variety of spination from soft bristles to ferocious
If you want a change from spring bulbs, bowls of flowering
cacti are a delight in April and May. Cacti that flower
abundantly when young include Rebutias, Chamaecereus,
Echinopsis, Lobivias, Mammillarias and Notocactus.
You can use any proprietary
compost for your plants, but you may need to add a good
handful of horticultural grit or sharp sand to the mix
if you suspect that you might be over-generous with
the watering can. Luckily, cacti are generally pest
free, apart from mealy bugs, which can be treated with
Malathion, Sybol or a systemic insecticide.
Water weekly in the growing season and feed every two
or three weeks with a cactus fertilizer like Chempak,
or with a tomato fertilizer. Try to remember to turn
them every time you water, so that they grow evenly.
Gradually reduce watering from the end of September
to rest your plants. They need a period of dormancy,
and this triggers bud production. If kept in the warmth
of the house, you should be giving them just enough
water from November to March to prevent them from shrivelling.
Increase watering from early March so that by April
they should be delighting you again with strong growth.
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com