Having established a “prickly collection,” it is important to know how often water the cacti in winter and what other agro-activities for the care of succulents can be carried out during the cold period. It is also important not to forget about maintaining the optimum temperature for these drought-resistant plants, because in their natural habitat most species of cacti do not have to face extreme frosts.
It is very important to understand what it is and how you want to model for your collection plants in the "wintering" distance from the places of natural growth for many thousands of kilometers.
Proper care for cacti winter in the home and this article is devoted.
Wintering cacti in nature
In addition to the advice of colleagues, it will not be superfluous for every lover to imagine at least in general terms the peculiarities of the seasonal growing conditions of different types of cacti in nature.
Of all the variety of cacti with winter in our understanding (snow, frost, soil freezing, steady snow cover), only a very small percentage of them are encountered. For most species, especially from areas with a tropical and subtropical climate, strong and prolonged frosts are rather something extraordinary, and therefore often devastating.
For example, a few years ago such frosts caused serious damage to some natural populations of Homalocephala texensis - plants that usually easily survive night frosts to minus 8 degrees, provided that during the daytime the air warms to zero temperature.
Many high-altitude plants generally encounter low temperatures, but, as a rule, strong nighttime temperatures are more than compensated by good daytime heating of the soil and air in the mountains, which makes it relatively easy for plants to exist in such conditions.
Perhaps the most critical factor in wintering under natural conditions for many plants is water deficiency. It is the absence of this resource that significantly limits the opportunities for the growth and development of cacti in the winter period in their homeland.
In some cases, it can be observed that the possibility of obtaining moisture in winter, even at low and very low temperatures, significantly affects the annual cycle of plant development in nature.
Thus, the line between winter and early spring at plus temperatures of just a few degrees is the time of active growth of many Sclerocactus, Pediocactus and Echinocereus. As soon as it gets warmer and the possibility of getting moisture disappears, these species are forced to go back to a long hibernation, now summer.
This natural habit is so strong that for many similar species in the collections, summer watering is tantamount to death.
For some of the most high-mountainous (furry) Austrocylinropuntia, the winter period with an abundance of light at altitudes above 4000 m. y m., with low, close to zero temperatures and abundance of water - the only possible time in the year for active growth.
That is why A. floccosa, A. lagopus and other types and forms are practically absent in our collections - it is extremely difficult to provide a small group of plants with such a set of environmental factors (especially winter high illumination).
And if these species are found, their appearance in terms of the compactness of the shoots and their omission is very far from those found in nature. Therefore, their content in the collections is rather a matter of prestige, but in no way expediency and aesthetics.
Given that in nature the most frequent limiting winter factor is the absence or presence of water, it can be argued that the wintering of cacti in nature for many species is a less traumatic event regarding its duration, beginning and end.
Any early rain, atypical for this time of year, if we talk about average data for many years, or, on the contrary, its long absence can significantly (by weeks and months) change the traditional and well-established periods of winter rest of plants.
Winter cacti care: watering and optimum temperature
In winter, it is important to provide cacti with well-defined living conditions - in other words, wintering. Many amateurs know that we are talking about the content of most of the collection at low temperatures, on average, + 7 ... + 8 ° С (from + 2 ... + 3 to + 12 ° С).
Why is it important to lower the temperature quite strongly at this time of year, because many species of cacti in nature rarely encounter long-term cold weather (in Moscow conditions up to 5-6 months!)?
The key factor is a very large reduction in light levels and a reduction in the number of sunny days from mid-October to mid-March.
If in September many species of cacti (hymnocalyciums, stenocactus, alpine lobivia) grow quite dynamically at moderate and even partly low temperatures, then in October a turning point comes when even relatively high temperatures will not be able to compensate for the strong decrease in light during the day.
Under such conditions, most cacti, while continuing to irrigate in winter, cannot form full-fledged young tissues and a good spout at the growth point, which can potentially lead to deformation of the correct stem shape, development of degenerative spines and suspension of budding and development of flower buds.
That is why, when caring for cacti in winter, it is necessary to deliberately slow down and suspend many processes occurring in plant tissues, i.e., stop watering in advance and ensure partial dehydration of tissues (content without watering from late August - September).
For most cacti, the termination of irrigation, coupled with a strong reduction in the length of daylight hours, is a powerful factor in preparing for wintering — growth stops or slows down, young fabrics mature.
And the subsequent long period of cold keeping, on the one hand, contributes to the preservation of the plant in its “sleeping” state, on the other hand, prevents at this time excessive water loss.
Does the aforesaid mean that winter rest for cacti is so necessary?
Until we can provide high illumination in winter, commensurate with summer, we will have to use wintering in central Russia and even to the south. On the other hand, a number of nurseries located in low latitudes (closer to the equator) reduces this technique in growing or even abandons it.
Illumination throughout the year, for example, in Thailand, has less seasonal variations, so the plants can be kept “in growth” almost all year round. This does not automatically mean that it is possible to grow plants in Thailand with a more beautiful environment than in our middle zone or beyond the Arctic Circle.
But we have to admit that cacti grow faster in Volgograd and south of it, i.e., where amateurs can shorten the real wintering period from 6 to the entire 2,5-3 months and, accordingly, significantly increase the length of the growing season!
However, the level of winter temperatures in + 6 ... + 10 ° С will be an obvious overkill for a number of cacti genera growing in Central America and Brazil. For example, for most species from the genera Melocactus and Discocactus, the optimum temperature level is + 14 ... + 18 ° С.
So, in some cases, amateurs should know, at a minimum, the countries and places of growth of individual species and make appropriate corrections for their origin and biology in winter.
What temperatures are extremely low for cacti, minimal?
It turns out, as in everything else, in this matter we are waiting for an amazing diversity, because the ranges of certain types of cacti stretch from southern Canada (north of the mainland) to almost the southernmost continental borders of Argentina.
In some cases, altitudinal zonality is superimposed here. Cacti grow at various altitudes - from only a few meters above sea level to 4200 and even almost 5000 m.
The most significant part of cacti does not tolerate prolonged frosts for 2-3 days even at -3 ... -5 ° C, although most of them easily tolerate late spring (May) night frosts in the Moscow region to -8 C during the week!
At the same time, most of them cannot be pre-watered, but there are also such cacti (Mailiuenia, part of Pterocactus, Escobaria and Echinocereus), which will be able to withstand such decreases in temperature even after early irrigations in March and April!
Of course, this family has its own champions - some representatives of Opuntia, Escobaria, Echinocereus. They are able to tolerate constant winter temperatures below -20 ... -30 ° C!
So, I have a number of varietal and species of North American prickly pears, already 4-th year wintering in an unheated greenhouse in the country. Plants do not sprinkle with snow, the temperature in the greenhouse and outside, especially at night, is almost the same.
If the average temperature of a few weeks is kept at the level of -28 ° С (nighttime to -35 ° С), then the plants overwinter at this temperature.
Frost-resistant plants are very popular among many lovers who live outside the city, therefore, in the catalogs of seeds or plants such positions are usually highlighted. An obvious physiological adaptation of these plants is their own active dehydration of tissues in the autumn.
Even standing under the torrential autumn rains, the plants lose water and shrivel - they dry in the rain! At the same time, cells and cell organelles lose so much water that ice crystals cannot form in them, which can destroy the integrity of tissues and destroy the plant.
In spring, cacti calmly freeze over, often forming new adventitious roots that can compensate for the function of old shoots killed in winter and the associated part of the root system.
Needless to say, there is a large group of species that do not like sub-zero temperatures of any length, as well as long-term decreases in temperature to the level of + 2 ... + 6 ° С.
Reducing the temperature to minus can also lead to the death of large seedlings, if the cooling period is not preceded by a period of gradual hardening with large temperature differences, but in a more gentle range.
In addition to the above-mentioned melocactus and discoocactus, low temperatures and frosts do not like many plants from the coast of Chile, for example, the genus Copiapoa or Eriosyze.
Cacti that bloom in winter and photos of blooming succulents
The question of whether cacti bloom in winter is far from idle. The flowering of cacti is equally interesting for both the green novice and the experienced amateur. The difference is only in the scale and complexity of the goal, but not in principle. We all expect beautiful and abundant blooms from our pets. And, if possible, all year round!
However, if we talk about the winter bloom, we can wait for some disappointment. There are not so many winter-flowering species as such. These include, first of all, a part of epiphytic cacti (some rippsalis, Schlumberger), mammillaria (for example, Mammillaria plumosa), Turbinicarpus schmiedickeanus, many species of the former genus Neoporteria, now belonging to the genus Eriosyze.
See how the cacti blooming in winter look on these photos:
Another part of the succulents can be considered conditionally winter flowering. It includes turbinicarpus T. andersonii (= panarottoi), T. valdezianus, Brasilicactus (Parodia) haselbergii, many species of Stenocactus (formerly Echinofossulocactus).
When discussing cacti blooming in winter, one should be aware that in many of these species the early stages of development of buds begin in December - January and even in October - November. That is, in these months you can admire quite large buds.
And then their development, apparently, is entirely determined by external factors - the average temperature, light, the number of sunny days. If in the middle and late fall is sunny and warm weather, the flowering instead of December may shift to November.
If from November to the end of January the weather is cold and overcast, the flowering, on the contrary, may shift to the end of February and even to March.
Flowering can be accelerated and made more predictable by placing the plants in the later stages of bud formation in the room (warm), under fluorescent lights. It is necessary to water cacti in the winter as seldom as possible, especially if after flowering the plants are supposed to be returned for wintering and still have to be kept in the cold for a long time with a lack of lighting.
Formed in the conditions of deficiency of heat and light, flowers can have immature anthers, which will become an obstacle for pereovleniya flowering specimens and the subsequent production of seeds.
The timing of winter flowering is very dependent on the latitude of the area where the amateur lives. If in the south of Russia any types of cacti bloom in January - February, then in central Russia flowering periods are shifted to the end of February - March.
If an amateur has a heated greenhouse, which also warms up well on sunny winter days, then his cacti will bloom much earlier than cacti on the glazed loggia of his colleague.
But in any case, the winter flowering of at least one cactus from the entire collection is an extremely pleasant event that cannot leave anyone indifferent, despite the modesty and often the inconspicuousness of such flowering.
And the emergence of the second and third flowering plants, when there is still snow outside the window, will be the best confirmation that winter is nearing the end and spring is not far off. Water and feed fertilizer most winter-blooming cacti are not needed, an exception can be made only for epiphytic cacti.
Cacti transplantation in winter and other care activities
Only a few days passed after the first snow fell, and winter shyly reinstated its rights. And for an amateur it is time to prepare for spring. Of course, if the collection is relatively small, the preparation will not be large-scale. But for those who own hundreds or even thousands of plants, there won't be much time before spring.
3ima - the period when you can actively replant plants that are in deep peace. This does not mean that transplantation can only be done in winter! You can give preference to the autumn-winter transplant, start it in October - November and often ending towards the end of March.
At this time, the plants in the collection do not water and do not actively grow, therefore, as a rule, they endure a transplant without loss and the subsequent continuation of wintering. The main requirement is that “dry” plants are transplanted into a completely dry new mixture.
If someone prefers to transplant at the very beginning of the growing season, that is, closer to spring, then winter is a great time to procure new pots for use. Usually at this time of the year the choice of pots in large specialty stores is the most extensive.
Here are some activities that you can perform in the winter when caring for cacti:
- January - the first month of the new year, when updated seed catalogs appear. It is important for those who are actively sowing to come to this point prepared, having studied in advance on the Internet sites, in books and periodicals all promising new products of recent months. A small delay in the order may subsequently lead to his many months of expectations, and promptly placing an order will make it possible to receive seeds in February.
- In the winter months, you can slowly view and analyze the composition of your collection. Select unnecessary specimens among adult plants, make a selection among the growing seedlings, planting for themselves the most interesting and promising, and separating others for subsequent donation or sale. The collection, like any other collection of plants, needs regular thinning and removal of all that is superfluous.
- Under conditions of cold wintering (worse if under warmer conditions), pests such as spider mites or mealybugs can be activated. The cold will restrain their potential for the time being, but already in the first sunny days of February they can begin to multiply rapidly. Therefore, in winter, you should regularly and selectively conduct a careful examination of the plants and their roots (during transplants) in order to respond instantly if necessary. And for this you need not only to have the necessary drugs, but also to know how to use them. Such knowledge is better to obtain in advance, until the problem has become unnecessarily acute.
- In the winter months, those who are actively sowing seeds can check their lighting equipment and greenhouses for repair, modernization and expansion (if necessary) of the sown area. This is the time when it will not be superfluous to prepare containers for sowing, components for the sowing substrate and means for stimulating seed germination, if used. Of course, all this to a lesser extent applies to amateurs who carry out crops without reference to a specific time of year. But experience shows that in winter there is a little more free time than in summer or spring.
- February - A great time for lovers who prefer to germinate seeds and grow seedlings in sunlight. The duration of daylight hours increases markedly, the number of sunny days increases. The only thing to remember about the cunning of a low sun on such sunny days is that in a matter of hours it can severely burn the crops and lead them to death. It is necessary to take care in the future, to shade delicate seedlings in the first weeks of life.