Succulents cultivation

Succulent plants: common general characteristics

Succulent plants, commonly called succulent plants, belong to different botanical families which, although presenting considerable diversity, have in common certain characteristics due to adaptation to particularly arid climates. The breathing and transpiration processes are reduced to the maximum and there are particular fabrics capable of accumulating considerable quantities of water, in periods of rain, which is then released when needed, in the long periods of drought that characterize the places of origin. The leaves, stems and roots have a thick and fleshy appearance. Many species have transformed the leaves into thorns and transferred the chlorophyll function to the stem. The size is generally small, as is the growth, and this facilitates the cultivation in pots. However, there are giant species that, in ideal conditions, they can reach up to 12 meters in height. The origin is varied and rather mysterious, the Cactaceae, for example, come from Central America, the Aizoaceae and the others without thorns from the Eurasian continent.

The most loved and widespread families of succulents

The cultivation of succulents does not require excessive care, but it makes a lot from an aesthetic point of view, for the original and exotic appearance of these plants. They belong to different families, with hundreds of different species in shape, color, size and new ones are always discovered. The Agavaceae family includes agave, a centenary plant also used for the leaves rich in fibers and from which drinks, such as tequila, are obtained. Among the Aizoaceae we remember the Lithops, “living stone”, very original, consisting of a pair of leaves transformed into conical stems, welded together, which resemble a stone. The Lampranthus, with a rustic and bushy appearance, are striking for their spectacular flowering and are very suitable for creating gardens and flower beds. The Cactaceae have a very deep root system and a stem that takes on very different shapes and sizes, we remember the Opuntia, the classic prickly pear, which produces the well-known and tasty fruits. The Crassulaceae family is the most numerous, it includes hundreds of species very appreciated for their beauty and ease of cultivation, such as the Kalanchoe.

The rules to follow in the cultivation of succulents

Adapted to very arid environments, succulents are robust and resist long periods of drought, so they do not suffer serious damage if watering is scarce and temperatures are high. On the other hand, they are in difficulty in case of poor lighting and low temperatures, which should not drop below 5 ° C. Where the winter is harsh they cannot stay outside, except in small greenhouses, but, on the other hand, in the house it is necessary to pay attention to the heating, which should not exceed 20 ° C, considering that the plants would need however a period of lower temperatures, between 7 and 5 ° C, for the winter vegetative rest. The most important rule in the cultivation of succulents is that the soil must be kept well drained, to avoid dangerous stagnation of water, therefore watering must be contained, on average about 1-2 per month, to be increased to 5-6 in summer. At the beginning of spring it is advisable to provide fertilizer rich in phosphorus and potassium and poor in nitrogen, to stimulate growth and flowering. Succulents do not need pruning, except in exceptional cases to remove diseased parts or to obtain cuttings.

Growing succulents: How to defend succulents from disease

To have healthy and prosperous succulents, it is first of all necessary to find the right location and provide adequate care, watering without excess, eliminating the suffering parts. If these conditions are not respected, the plants can get sick or suffer attacks from fungi and parasites, such as mites, aphids, spider mites and cochineals. In succulents where the thorns have replaced the leaves, it is often more difficult to notice that something is wrong. The greatest danger comes from water stagnation that can cause the plant to rot starting from the roots, in this case the plant tends to turn yellow. Yellowing can also be caused by poor or incorrect nutrition. If they have a stunted appearance or the stem becomes white and thin, they probably receive little light; if the stem is covered with cracks the cause is the exposure to too intense cold. In all these cases, the position or cultivation technique must be changed. At the beginning of spring and winter, it is possible to carry out preventive treatments against parasites with systemic insecticides and fungicides.

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