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Cacti impress with their blooms in spring and summer. As far as winter care is concerned, they are among the undemanding plants. It is important that the right winter quarters with the optimal temperature are found for the prickly friends. This is the only way they can create a rich bloom in the coming season.
Botanical assignment and origin
Cacti or cactus plants (Cactaceae) form a family within the order Caryophyllales (carnation-like). The family consists of around 125 genera, which in turn are divided into 1,900 species. Their natural range is the American continent. There you can find the spiny friends from southern Canada to Patagonia (Chile, Argentina). In Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia is the highest density of cacti.
Cacti populate almost all habitats. They can be found from the lowlands to the high mountains. But they have also conquered tropical rainforests, steppes, semi-deserts and dry deserts. Although cacti inhabit a wide variety of habitats, one thing they have in common is that water is not available to them there all year round, but only seasonally.
Considering the biodiversity of cacti, it is not surprising that they have different wintering requirements. As with other plants, a distinction is made between hardy and non-hardy species in cacti.
Hardy cacti can be planted out because they can survive the German winter unscathed in the right location. It is important that they are dry in the cold season. Because severe cold combined with wet, heavy soil leads to rot. And this is deadly for the plants.
Tip: Effective drainage is essential for planted cacti.
Since too much water is the biggest enemy for hardy cacti, various measures should be taken to help the plants overwinter.
- choose a slightly sloping location for planting out
- use permeable substrate for the plants
- Avoid waterlogging
- attach translucent rain or snow protection (cold frame window or plexiglass panels)
- ensure sufficient air exchange
- Remove weeds (helps prevent rot)
In addition to these measures, you should pay attention to how winter or frost hardy the plants are when you buy them. In addition to their natural origin, the question of whether they have been hardened in culture also plays a role.
Tip: Even with a single sowing of cacti, the frost resistance can vary. It is therefore possible that some plants will not survive the winter outdoors, while others will get through the cold season without any problems.
So that the cacti really survive the German winter, the plants must also be prepared for the cold season.
- increase the watering intervals from August
- no more watering from September
- no fertilizer from autumn to spring
Tip: Don't worry if the cacti shrivel up or lie flat on the ground. This is part of their overwintering strategy and they should recover in the spring.
All non-hardy cactus varieties may not be planted out in this country. They have no chance of surviving our winters. In the case of the non-hardy varieties, there are two ways of overwintering depending on the temperature.
- permanently warm hibernation
- warm or cool hibernation possible
- permanently warm hibernation
The types of cacti that like warm temperatures even in winter include representatives of the following genera.
These genera can certainly "hibernate" in normally heated rooms. They can therefore be cultivated at room temperature all year round. But then they also need to be watered a little in winter.
Warm or cool overwintering
Most cacti take a break from growing. From the plants' point of view, this occurs after a hot weather period, i.e. when the summer is followed by a cool dry season. So that cacti really go into the dormant phase and create flowers for the coming summer, they have to be prepared accordingly.
The outdoor season ends in autumn. Depending on the weather, cacti should be brought indoors between September and October. However, the apartment is only a stopover before the cacti move to their winter quarters. Once the plants have arrived in the apartment, you should reduce the watering so that the cacti can adjust to a dry hibernation. Cacti should also be fertilized for the last time in September. At the end of October or beginning of November, the actual hibernation for the plants begins.Arrojadoa rhodantha
The ideal winter quarters are:
- airy (no draughts)
- between 5 and 12 degrees Celsius
Window sills or the conservatory are recommended as cool locations. Foyers or bright stairwells are also suitable for winter storage. A veranda can also be a good winter quarters if the temperatures are right. If there are spaces between the outside and inside windows in old buildings, these can be used as winter quarters for non-sensitive species.
Tip: Do not put freshly cast cacti in the winter quarters. Due to the lower temperatures, the root ball cannot dry out as well, which in turn can lead to rot and death of the plant.
When choosing the winter quarters, make sure that the cacti are not directly above a "warming" radiator, nor should they be placed directly on the floor with underfloor heating. This warmth from below disturbs the hibernation of the plants. It dries out the root ball too much and the plants need more water, which in turn stimulates growth. And this should be stopped during the hibernation.Discocactus placentiformis
Tip: Wooden blocks, styrofoam or other insulating materials protect cacti from the heat of the heating. Coasters with rollers or plant trolleys also help against the heat from underfloor heating.
If the plants protrude beyond the window sill, one-sided drying out can occur. You can counteract this by widening the window sill (slab) or by using a large coaster. But make sure that the cacti get enough light.
Tip: Since bedrooms tend to be darker living spaces, you can support the plants with artificial light. Fluorescent lamps are best suited for this. Incandescent or halogen lamps, on the other hand, cannot be tolerated by cacti because of the strong proportion of long-wave light.
Once the right winter quarters have been found, cacti no longer need any further care, because they feed on their stored supplies. Therefore, they should not be watered or fertilized.Frailea castanea
Tip: Cacti can only consume supplies they have built up over the summer. Therefore, a good and correct supply of nutrients for the plants during the warm season is important.
In the basement
Hibernation in the basement
Unfortunately, window sills are often not very cactus-friendly, they also serve as winter quarters for other plants, and a winter garden is not always available - so what to do with the cacti?
Although cacti are known for their sun hunger, they can also overwinter in the basement. This is partly due to the fact that they need less light during the resting phase. However, the cellar should definitely have the following properties.
- bright window
- constant temperatures
- Minimum: 5 degrees Celsius, maximum: 15 degrees Celsius
Tip: When wintering cacti in the basement, the darker, the lower the temperature.Melocactus tentneri
Even if cacti hibernate in different ways, general statements can be made for spring care, i.e. the "waking up" of the plants after the winter break.
- fertilized and watered again from March
- after the ice saints, the outdoor season begins
Tip: You can also put cacti outdoors as early as April. But then they have to be brought back into the warmth at temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius.
As for the hibernation, cacti also need preparation for the coming season. So that the sun's rays do not burn the plants, it is best to place them in a location that is not in full sun to get used to them. After about two weeks, the plants have acclimatized and can move to their summer location.
Tip: The risk of sunburn is greater the darker the cacti have hibernated.