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For Cacti and Other Succulents break-dormancy is near, and bedtime was long ago in October. Now we can cautiously allow a little temperature increase up to a maximum of 10oC(50oF) and, from mid-February to mid-March, we should transplant or repot those that need it, usually every two or three years. These are turned out of their pots, most of the soil is gently taken away from their roots, and the plants LEFT DRY, on a shelf, in good light, for 3 or 4 days, for the broken roots to heal and to form scar tissue. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Then they are potted up in DRY, coarse, moderately nutrient, very well-drained soil, and left in the cool. Soil mix is 2 parts good potting soil, 1 part coarse sand, 1/3 part aquarium or sandblasting gravel or perlite, with drain holes at bottoms of the pots loosely covered.

DO NOT IRRIGATE, but start watching and, early in March, allow gradual increase of warmth and daily, light misting of the tops when temperatures rise above 12oC. This starts root growth and, soon, the meristems - the growth centres - brighten, and the plants awaken. Now, early in March, a little water can be added around the rim of the pot, and the plants can be moved, gradually, to warmer, brighter spots, and water is gradually increased. "Gradually" is important. Take about a week to move them into full sunlight, and probably 2 or 3 weeks to reach full watering. Most of these plants need all the sunlight they can get at any house window until about July.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Cacti have started their second flush of bloom. Orchid Cacti are showing signs of budding by mid-February, as are Easter Cacti. There should be no transplanting at this time. Keep up with the watering schedule. A little 1/2 strength, low nitrogen fertilizer in early February helps. By late March, Thanksgiving Cactus is finished, and can be given a short, cool rest. Christmas Cactus follows a month or so later.

Paul J. Brunelle
Oct. 5, 2001