Humble, disliked plants now in great demand


Sadly, for gardeners, we are facing a lack of rain and heat to come.

In the city we are blessed but, in country areas, no doubt the garden is way behind, keeping crops and stock alive. 

It is no wonder that cacti and succulents have become so popular, now used to create a minimal addition to modern architecture.

These humble, once disliked plants are now in great demand. Agaves, who would have ever considered planting such a specimen? 

Their fleshy, somewhat spikey-looking leaves grew in masses in neglected gardens – they grew on footpaths, under trees, anywhere it was difficult to cultivate a garden. I must confess, I have filled the front garden up with this succulent instead of weeds, which have been hard to eradicate.

Such plants are featured in glossy mags, positioned amongst white rocks or as a one-off specimen in a decorator pot. There is a consolation prize if you particularly dislike this style of gardening – it is the survival rate. Requiring little watering, such plants are ideal for our Australian climate.

Potted succulents and cacti actually need different treatment – for example, cacti prefer a winter rest, requiring little watering during this period, watering just a small amount every couple of weeks to keep the root system from drying out, whereas succulents like to dry out and then to be saturated.

When potting cacti and succulents it is essential to have a free draining mix, which are now available, especially designated for such plants. It is possible to mix coarse river sand, potting mix and one-part sand, but ready to go mixes such as Searles Cacti and Succulent Mix are probably more economical.

These hardy plants still require nutrients to grow – applications of Flourish for Cacti and Succulents which has specified amounts is ideal.  Like other plants they can be prone to pests such as red spider mite and mealy bug, which may need spraying the appropriate product.  Both succulents and cacti like a sunny spot, inside a sunny window is a great alternative.

This week

  • Spray new growth on roses which are being attacked by aphids.
  • Remove spent blooms on azaleas, and mulch with peat moss.
  • Give gardenias a good soaking to prevent yellow leaves.  It may be necessary to apply iron chelates or magnesium.

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