Euphorbia triangularis branches in the cultivation pot
Surreal, prehistoric and prickly
A cactus brings a hint of the desert into your living room. The plant is ancient, rugged and surprising, thanks to its eye-catching shapes and flowers.
COLOURS AND SHAPES
There is no other plant as decorative and surreal as the cactus. A bright pink globe can emerge from a grey-green base, and magnificent flowers can appear amidst the spikes. Mammilaria are flowering cacti and Echino is spherical with beautifully even ridges. Gymnocalycium appears to be made of green lumps and has a pitcher flower, Opuntia grows in flat discsand Cereus forms a pillar which can reach a height of ten metres in the wild.
The cactus’s thorns create their own ecosystem. In the wild they protect the plant from night-time cold, harsh sunlight, being eaten by animals, also provide some cooling, dew absorption and drainage for rain. Cacti have a large root system. They store moisture in their roots, leaves and stems and therefore largely regulate their own food intake. All in all, the plant is fairly self-sustaining.
Cacti have been a celebrated source of food, drink, medicines, tools and building materials in Central America for centuries. In Mexico the cactus is so common that the plant has even made it onto the national coat of arms, together with a snake and an eagle. Combined, they depict the legend of Tenochtitlan.
Cacti grow wild in Africa and Central and South America, in both the cold mountain ranges and the tropical Caribbean. They have been around since prehistory - excavations in Mexico have shown that humans used to cultivate them for fruit in the past. Although cacti are often associated with the desert, there are only a couple that can cope with extreme drought. Most grow in regions with 5 to 50cm of rainfall a year. There are some 1800 different species. The world’s largest cactus is the saguaro, which can grow to be 1 metre thick and 20 metres high, and is therefore the equivalent of a sizeable tree.
CARING FOR CACTI
Cacti like a light and warm spot, and can cope well in direct sunlight.
Water very moderately - it’s better to underwater than overwater. Avoid standing water. The soil can be left to dry out. Watering once a month is better than a splash every week.
Add some cactus food in the summer months.
In the winter it’s best to let the plant rest. Give it little or no water: the cactus will then produce flowers (seeds) in order to survive.
If you’ve be stuck with a spike, you can remove large ones with tweezers. Small spikes are removed by sticking duct tape on them and then pulling it off, or by rolling and old pair of tights into a ball and rapidly rubbing this over the spot. The final fine spikes should be worked out using olive oil.
This Euphorbia triangularis is proposed in a 17 cm pot, the height of the plant is 40 cm.
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