When in Manila, and in true #tita fashion, I have decided to try my hand at gardening. A few months in, I am proud to say that I have a small, but growing, cacti & succulent collection at home. But, learning about gardening was no easy task – many plant lives have been lost by my hand because I had no idea how to properly manage & grow them.
These are some of the plants I repotted and managed not to kill. Hooray!
In an effort to learn how to properly take care of my plants, I visited Amy Lastimosa, a cacti enthusiast and a member of the Cactus and Succulent Society of the Philippines (she also happens to be my tita so yay!). She gave me tour of her beautiful garden (the following photos were all taken from her garden) and taught me the basics of caring for your cacti. Here are ten tips for beginners:
1. Start with cheap cacti, get used to caring for them.
You can get common plants at 3 for PHP 100 at Farmers, QC Memorial Circle, or at any other plant store. Get used to caring for these plants. This way, when you move on to those more expensive plants, you already know how to care for them.
Generally, succulents easier to care for. Cacti are more challenging.
Cacti and succulents come in all shapes and sizes! You can move on to more rare and more expensive cacti once you’ve gotten used to caring for more common plants.
2. Give them as much sunlight as they need
Cacti are desert plants so they definitely need sun! However, depending on where you place them, the topical sun can sometimes be too much. Make sure your plants aren’t burning.
Cacti can be colorful, too! Here are grafted ones.
3. The medium is important!
The medium is the soil mix used for your plants. The basic mix is 50 % pumice, 50% soil. This is tweaked depending on other factors like the type of plant (example: for succulents, there should be more soil than pumice; cacti, on the other hand, need more pumice than soil).
For cacti, specifically, you have good medium if water it today and the next day the soil is almost dry.
Different shapes and sizes always make cacti such interesting plants
4. Water cacti!
The general rule is: water when dry. For plants that have already grown a stable root system in their pots, it is best to water until the water runs through the pot hole. It takes cacti 4-6 months until they are stable.
Succulents, on the other hand, are easier to establish. You can water them like normal plant as long as the root system is already stable.
Usually, you can water your cactus once a week duirng summers, and succulents 3x a week. When in doubt, conduct the stick test! Similar to the stick test in baking, you can poke a stick through your medium to check if there is still moisture. If dirt sticks to the stick, it’s still wet at the bottom, even if the top seems dry.
Cacti and succulents in pretty pots
5. Be observant!
Observe how your plants are. How they grow will generally tell you what they need!
If the plant is growing out longer as if trying to reach more sunlight, it is probably etiolation (naks, legit plant term!) and that means it needs more sun. If your plant softens up or you may be watering too much or there may be fungal rot.
Beautiful plants from Amy Lastimosa’s cacti & succulent garden
6. Pot your plants properly
Always, always have a drainage hole on your pot otherwise water may pool at the bottom and the roots of your plant will rot. Clay pots are the best pots to use because they are more porous.
An example of a beautiful community pot of cacti and succulents
7. Beware of pests!
You may choose to use fungicide to treat your plants if you do find pests but an organic option would be a solution composed of 1 spoonful of dishwashing soap, vinegar, and water that you can spray your plants.
A beautiful cacti pot can be a great addition in your house. Just make sure it gets enough sunlight!
8. Handle with care!
Plants don’t like being moved around so much. You may repot a plant when it gets too big for its pot. Succulents are handled like any other plant. For cacti, however, it is best to use a towel when handling the plant so that you won’t hurt yourself with the spines in the process.
There are big cacti pots and small cacti pots. This particular one is in a coffee mug!
9. ID your plants
When buying plants ask the seller what they are. Research about the plant’s nature and needs. Find out what their original habitat is & recreate those conditions so your plants will thrive.
Baby cacti with tags in the nursery
10. When in doubt, ask!
There are many plant groups you can join! One of them is the Cactus and Succulent Society of the Philippines. Becoming a member entitles you to free talks and seminars about gardening every month. They also have forums members can ask questions and discuss about all things gardening!So many pretty plants, so little time!
When in Manila, it’s time to get your gardening on! Let’s all channel our inner #tita and make the world a greener place! :)