cactus?! what is it and what should I do?
by Paula Turner
I have a cactus, I think, and I am not sure what to do with it. It has grown a lot but in a curvy, heavy kind of way. It recently produced a pretty bloom on the end but I would like to me it more presentable. I have not been able to locate any pictures on the web that resembles it. I am completely stumped. Thank you, Paula Turner
Drought Smart Plants reply:
Hi Paula - this is not a cactus! Although cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti, and this one happens to be some type of Echeveria, one of my favorite species.
These plants are great houseplants, but as you've found out, they need more maintenance if they're kept indoors.
They originate in extremely hot and bright climates, so if they're kept indoors and in less than optimum light conditions, they tend to try and seek out more light, and get really long and leggy.
Here's what I recommend;
Take the part with the flower off and discard it - once it's dried up of course.
Then with a sharp pair of pruners or a razor blade, cut the stem part into several pieces, about a couple of inches long, with each part having a few leaves if possible.
If the leaves fall off, that's fine too, as each one will form its own roots and make a separate plant.
Now here comes the part most people have trouble with. Leave the parts on top of some DRY potting mix, preferably a well drained mix of some kind specifically for cacti or if that's not possible, then with added perlite, pumice or even small gravel.
In a few weeks, they'll start to form pink roots, after which you can stick the end of the cutting into the dry soil.
In another week or two, water them with warm water (tepid, or lukewarm) and then let them dry out again for a couple of weeks. After this, you should see some tiny little rosettes starting to form.
You can either leave these and have a cluster of plants, or remove each one and follow the same procedure as you did with the stem. Dry soil, wait for two weeks etc.
Happy Succulent Growing (bet you won't be able to stop at just one!)
See also these pages for more:
Echeveria List A-L
Echeveria List M-Z
How to Grow Echeveria
Succulent Plant Propagation
Succulent Plant Propagation E-Book