Here’s the deal on windowsill plants. Growing plants in a window mean you do not have to live in the Southwest to enjoy the fascinating hobby of collecting and growing cacti.
Cactus plants (and many types of succulent plants) do well in a sunny window anywhere in the world.
Cactus is a family of plants that have adapted to living in arid regions.
When cactus are grown as house plants (south facing windows are great) they must have periods of dryness during which they can use the food and water stored in their tissue.
Cactus Plants For Windows, Pots and Dish Gardens
There are numerous cacti that are of a size small, enough to plant in pots and dish gardens.
Also, a favorite with collectors are the oddities of the cactus family.
The strange horny living rock (Ariocarpus fissuratus) and the stone-like star Bishop’s cap cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma) both completely spineless.
These and many more, too numerous to mention, require only a sunny window to flourish and bear their annual gifts of exquisite cactus flowers.
The ideal cactus for dish gardens are the seedlings of the various large tree-like cereus.
The old man cactus (Cephalocereus senilis) is a must for his long white hair and the old woman cactus (Expostoa lanata) has beautiful soft silky hair, to mention only a few.
All the barrel (Ferocactus and Echinocactus) cactus seedlings are desirable for the beautiful filigree of colorful spines that enclose the small globular plants.
Flowers on the barrels do not occur before the age 0f twenty-five or thirty years.
The Dish Garden
A dish garden planted with several slow-growing seedlings of the cereus and barrel cacti need not need transplanting for years.
They can be placed on a coffee table instead of a window, and they do not require full sunlight.
A realistic desert scene can be produced using different sizes of cereus and barrel seedlings plus a few colorful rocks or mineral specimens.
This miniature landscape requires only an occasional drink of water in summer and almost none in winter when the plants are resting.
Always allow the soil to dry out completely before watering.
It is best to start with only a few plants until the urge to overwater has been overcome.
When To Plant Cactus?
Cactus can be planted at any time of the year with equal success, but withold water if planted during the winter months.
A porous soil with lots of organic matter (leafmold or compost) in it is an absolute necessity. The soil must not dry out too quickly.
Create a good mixture by mixing:
- Two parts rich garden soil or peat moss
- One part gravel or pumice
To this mixture add a tablespoonful of crushed charcoal and one of hydrated lime.
Cactus Planting Rules
One of the important rules for planting cactus is to cut the roots back to about an inch.
Leave only the short stubs of roots to hold the plants in position.
After trimming the roots, allow them to heal over for several days before planting.
Experience has proved that cactus re-establish faster when they grow a new set of roots.
Use glazed or clay pots, which are a little larger than the plant’s circumference, including the spines.
Place an inch or two of broken crock should at the bottom of the pot for drainage, followed by the soil mixture.
Leave a cone-shaped hollow in the center. Hold the cactus with a pair of kitchen tongs over the hollow and fill with clean sand.
A thin layer of gravel over the top prevents the soil from washing aside when watered. Handle unrooted cuttings of cactus in the same manner.
Watering Newly Potted Cactus
Do not water newly potted plants for several days, and then only sparingly until plants become established.
A thorough soaking twice a month during the hot summer months is sufficient.
When plants are very small, apply a little water every few days.
A small drink once a month during the winter months keeps the dormant roots from drying out.
Most cactus growers provide the botanical and common plant names in their price list and attach a label with the botanical name to the cactus when shipped.
It is surprising how little effort is required to remember the botanical name of a plant once you associate it with a particular plant.