Cacti are the Houseplants of the month for August 2016
Nothing captures the midsummer feeling better than cacti: surreal, hot, able to cope with scorching temperatures and right on trend with geometric styles.
There is no plant that is as decorative and surreal as the cactus. A grey-green base can produce a dazzling pink globe, and fantastic flowers can appear amidst the spikes. Mammilaria are flowering cactuses, Echino is spherical with beautiful even ridges, Gymnocalycium looks like it’s made up of green lumps and has a funnel flower, Opuntia grows in flat discs. Cereus grows in a pillar which can reach a height of ten metres in the wild. The varying shapes and sizes of these houseplants fit well with the current style trend in which traditional boundaries are fading. An example of this is that indoors and outdoors and living and working are increasingly merging in the home. Cactuses fit with this: they are ancient and modern, they can survive both indoors and outdoors and create calm and focus in a rapidly changing world.
Press the reset button
The curious appearance of cactuses is best displayed in smooth and functional materials such as wood, injection-moulded plastic with a smooth surface, and ceramics with a pattern or relief. The unusual shapes of cactuses partly link up with today’s popular geometric monochrome patterns, but at the same time provide a counterbalance with their calm and imperturbability. The cactus then becomes the reset point in a room, which brings calm to an optical jumble. Whilst their distinctive shapes and proportions offer a challenging and stimulating visual effect, particularly in an appropriate pot.
Cactus & care
Virtually all cactus species prefer to be in the light, and would rather have too little water than too much: standing water is usually fatal. Cactuses have a large root system with which they store water in their roots, leaves and stems and thus control their own feeding. Watering once a month is better than a drop every week. You can allow the soil to dry out. Add some cactus food in the summer months; it’s best for the plant to rest in the winter. You should then give it less water, or even none at all: the cactus will then produce flowers (seeds) to survive.
- In the wild cactuses grow in Africa and Central and South America, both in cold mountain ranges and in the tropical Caribbean.
- Although cactuses are often associated with the desert, there are only a few which can cope with extreme drought. Most grow in areas with 5-50 cm of rainfall a year.
- The spikes are the cactus’s own ecosystem. In the wild they protect the plant against being eaten by animals, night-time cold and harsh sunlight. They also provide a certain level of cooling, dew absorption and the drainage of rain.
- Cactuses have been a source of food, drink, medication, tools and building materials for centuries.
- Although there are some 1,800 different species, virtually all of them fall into one of the two main categories as opuntias or cactoids.
- If you’re unlucky enough to be pierced by a spike, you can remove a large one with tweezers, whilst fine spikes can be removed by rubbing olive oil into your skin and then sliding them out.
- In Mexico the cactus is so common that the plant has even been included in the national coat of arms, alongside a snake and an eagle. Together they depict the legend of Tenochtitlan.
- The largest cactus in the world is the sagaura which can grow to 1 metre thick and 20 metres high; the dimensions of a sizeable tree.
For more information see: www.thejoyofplants.co.uk
Published on: 28 July 2016