Accelerating succulent and cacti growth

One thing I remember from my childhood greenhouse and large cactus collection was how heavily I used to water them. I’d let them dry out but more often than not I used to soak them in buckets of water, breaking all the rules of cactus growing.

A lesson learnt

For some reason this madness actually worked. They didn’t rot, they grew rapidly. I remember as a child I thought I had discovered something miraculous.

I’m not so carefree now and I would never risk soaking my succulents like that knowing what I now know. However it was a key lesson, that to grow cacti and succulents they need more water and fertiliser than people think.

This year I really want some of my houseplants to grow faster. I’ve put them on a weight gain diet. I buy all of our plants as tiddly little things because, well, what’s the point in buying a plant that’s already done the growing? You miss all the fun of seeing them grow and change, becoming unique to you. There’s tiddly though and then there’s too tiddly.

This summer I’ve concentrated on giving them all maximum sunlight, excellent watering routines and good amounts of fertiliser. It’s paying off. They have never looked healthier and happier and they’ve all rocketed in growth.

Breaking the bonsai habit

My trio of Beaucarnea recurvata aren’t succulents but they do have a plump caudex (a water storing stem) that make them look like onions when young. You wouldn’t believe that I’ve owned these plants for ten years due to their diminutive size – I’ve done it by effectively keeping them as a bonsai, starving them of nutrients in a small pot and keeping that in near shade.

This year – with a growing interest in plant biology and the beauty of trunks and stems – I decided to break that ten year habit and go large. I repotted them in spring, moved to full sun and have been fertilising. In as little as 8 months, after all those years of being round blobs, they are now developing trunks:

Beaucarnia recurvata bonsai

It’s going to be fun seeing the comparisons in a year’s time, hopefully they won’t takeover the flat!

The following two tabs change content below.

Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *