General Advice

If ever there was a hobby with many facets, this is it. Members find so many aspects to interest them – collecting, study, history, literature, showing, seed-raising, photography, philately – the list seems endless. The only common thread is that special plant – the succulent. Many people start growing plants by being given cuttings and offsets of plants and this is a good way to get to grips with the basic culture. Flowering plants are always popular so it is a good idea to seek out plants that will reward you with flowers within a few years. Cacti such as Rebutia, Sulcorebutia, Mammillaria, Gymnocalycium, Echinocereus, Notocactus, Parodia, Lobivia and many species of Echinopsis will flower after only a few years from seed, with many and very spectacular flowers. If the attraction is leaf form and shape, then start the hobby with species of the succulents Echeveria, Crassula, Haworthia or Gasteria which, whilst they do flower, are most appreciated for their leaf surfaces and markings. All of these are species that will grow happily on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse. Another group of plants that are suitable for beginners are the so-called epiphytic plants like the Christmas cactus. As these have different cultivation requirements, they are discussed here. Some of the easier large plant types, not suited to a windowsill as they are faster-growing and some have large spines, are Cereus, Trichocereus, Cleistocactus and Opuntia. Try not to be tempted by the ‘rare’ and ‘difficult’ until you feel you have mastered the basic growing techniques. Some new members to the BCSS may well of course have been growing cacti and other succulents for years and will already have their favourite genera.

Some easy to grow cacti:

How cacti and other succulents evolved

A considerable number of plants throughout the world have evolved over many thousands of years to be able to survive prolonged water shortages. They have found many interesting ways to cope with this life-threatening problem. Those best adapted to storing water in long, dry periods are referred to as succulents. Many succulents store this water in their stems and have no leaves, or have a limited number of succulent leaves, and all can shrivel quite happily in droughts, sometimes for long periods such as a whole winter without dying. Plants with water-storage adaptations are called succulents and many plant families from all over the world contain some succulent plants. One of these families is that of the cactus plants. These all originated in the American continent, from Canada in the north right down to Chile and Argentina in the south, though many types have now become naturalised in other parts of the world. If you join our Society, you will have opportunities to increase your collection through plant sales at branch or other meetings, nursery visits, seed-raising, and the generosity of fellow enthusiasts. Advice is readily available from experienced growers in our branches.

Some easy to grow succulents:

<i>Rebutia perplexa</i>  David Quail
Rebutia perplexa David Quail

A full set of cultivation leaflets are given free to new members and are available for sale in our shop.

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