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Break-dormancy is well past. Most cacti and succulents are well into their blooming cycles - buds were initiated last Fall and Winter - and many will rush into bloom at about this time. Only a few easy tricks are needed to grow Cacti and Other Succulents in Spring and Summer. First, they need thorough watering every time BUT soil must be coarse, drainage perfect, and soil must dry out between irrigations. Damp cool will kill, dry cold is good; therefore, DO NOT water on dull days. Second, fertilize only with low nitrogen fertilizer (like 9-9-26) at half the standard rate, only once in May, and once in June. No fertilizer needed for repotted plants until next year.

All this keeps growth compact and sturdy, flesh firm, epidermis shiny and spines strong with plenty of colour. Seedling cacti need some shade, but all others need lots of sunlight until July. April/May is the best time to start seeds. Use a sterile medium, bottom heat about 22oC(75oF), NEVER let them dry out and no dormancy the first year.

Thanksgiving Cacti have finished blooming. Give them a cool rest for a couple of weeks, then feed with 1/3 or 1/2 strength 15-30-15 just once. Christmas Cactus is still in bloom until about May, then is treated the same way. Both should then be fertilized regularly with a low-nitrogen/high potash fertilizer (9-9-26) at 1/2 strength about every 2 weeks until late July. Easter Cactus and most Orchid Cacti are in glorious bloom.

In mid-June, when danger from frost is past, place all epiphytes outside, shaded perfectly from direct sunlight, under open sky. Suspend them from simple tripods or stand them on piles of stones to discourage bugs and worms (take off all saucers). Be absolutely certain that drainage is perfect. Let the rains or your garden hose leach out the soil. Do not let more than the top one or two centimetres of the soil dry out at any time. Occasional severe drying out doesn't cause any real damage, but it does reduce the number of blooms drastically.

Paul J. Brunelle
Oct 5, 2001