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The nights are becoming cooler. Cacti and other succulents love this and perk up, but greater care with watering is essential. These plants rot very quickly by the combination of cold and wet, even though they can stand a great deal of wet heat or dry cold. Avoid problems by ensuring that drainage is very free and the top of the soil is covered with a coarse gravel - aquarium gravel is good - to allow air circulation partly under the plant body.

Irrigate only when the soil has been dry for a couple of days, but only on bright days, as early as possible, when temperatures are rising. Late in September, start holding off longer between waterings - prepare for dormancy which should start in October. Some plants are still blooming, but continue to prepare even these for dormancy; it will pay off in the spring.

Crassulas, the group which includes Jade Plants and Aeoniums, are winter growers and bloomers, and enjoy cool conditions. Do not dry these off entirely, water them occasionally, and keep them a little warmer - say 10C to 15C (50F to 60F) - this should induce blooms.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Cacti, Easter Cacti and Orchid Cacti. These have been outside in light shade, but no direct sunlight since mid June. Care has been taken to avoid drying out, and proper 'hardening off' was started in July/August. Take final precautions against dirt, debris and bugs now. Be fussy! It pays!

About mid September Thanksgiving cacti are showing buds, Christmas cacti not yet. Stem segments are dark, glossy green, a picture of health. Before frost, they must be moved inside. Because of this outside treatment, they will NOT drop their buds. They have been properly hardened off, and you don't have to worry much about lights on them after sundown because they have had their 20 to 25 "short days" induced naturally.

Paul J. Brunelle
October 5, 2001