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Cactus Care

When most of us think of houseplants we probably think of something leafy and green; not prickly like cacti and succulents. But these plants make remarkable houseplants especially for those of us who often forget to water from time to time… and for anyone looking for something just a little out of the ordinary.

So, you're probably thinking, ok, one or two cacti might not be bad, but how about nearly a dozen greenhouses and cold frames full of cacti and succulents? These plants are part of the collection of Ann Shein, a remarkable woman who immigrated to America from Germany after World War II.

Allen: Among the cacti and succulents, is there a group you consider better for the home?

Anne Shein, Cacti Enthusiast, Marino, California: Yes, haworthias and gasterias make wonderful houseplants. You can put them on windowsills or they can make nice arrangements.

Allen: Grouping them together in a container?

Anne: Yes, grouping them together. They need some light, but diffused light. But they do very, very well.

Allen: What about over-watering? Is that a common problem?

Anne: Yes, most people kill their plants, their cactus and succulents, from over-watering. You water when they are dry. If it's completely dry then you water them all the way through, but don't let them stand in water.

Allen: And then let it dry out completely from that moment and then repeat the watering.

Anne: And I only do that from March to end of October. In the wintertime you can give them, once a month, a light watering. Some people think when they hear cactus or succulents that they don't need any water. I had somebody who bought a cactus here who, after two years, came back and wanted it repotted and said, "There's something wrong with it." And I said, "Did you repot it?" "No." "How about watering?" Never watered that plant in two years.

Allen: Oh no! Even cacti should be watered.

Anne: That's right.

Allen: What about fertilize? Do you fertilize cacti?

Anne: I do fertilize a very low dosage from April to the middle of September. A light dosage, normally only an eighth strength. And then you can do it every time you water.

Allen: Now, you say 1/8 strength. Do you cut it down to very dilute, 1/8th?

Anne: Yes.

Allen: I see.

Anne: I like to look at them everyday, from the day you put the seed in until the day they come up and sprout. There's a lot of excitement. And even my husband, he got hooked on it too. Every night after dinner we went out in the greenhouse and looked at the progress they made.

Allen: Well, your passion certainly comes through.