Mixing small indoor cacti and succulents – growing together in same pots / planters?


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Hi everyone.

We have a few cacti and succulents – see attached photo.

I think they are:

A - some kind of dwarf aloe / jade plant, so a succulent
B - some kind of dwarf aloe / jade plant, so a succulent
C - Parodia Parodia microsperma, so a cactus
D - 'frankenstein' grafted moon cactus

It would be fun and visually appealing to mix the cacti and the succulents in the same planter, BUT – are their watering requirements so different as to make that impractical?

So far, I've kept both healthy by watering the cacti once a month, but watering the succulents much more frequently, every week-to-ten-days. But it's been complete guesswork by me...

Thanks!





ABCD cacti succulents.jpg
 
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A. Echeveria cultivar, showing slight etiolation
B. x Gasteraloe hybrid
C. spination is oddly reduced for Parodia microsperma, but possibly so.
D. lutescent form of Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii), grafted onto a stem of Dragon Fruit (Selenicereus undatus, formerly Hylocereus undatus)

All of these plants may be grown together in the same container of soil with sharp drainage in a sunny window.
They can all take full sun, with an added caution for the lutescent moon cactus, which may benefit for some light diffusion. Let's say a sunny window with a gauze curtain. If you did leave the grafted Moon Cactus out of the mixed container it might be easier, but it could be done if you stay observant.

Irrigation frequency should be determined by lifting the pot to judge weight. When the pot begins to feel light (dry) water again. As your plants will be kept indoors year-round, you will water more often in Summer and rarely in Winter. Let me add for general comparison that I water most of cacti collection twice a week in summer and not at all in Winter. However, my plants are kept outdoors in mostly full sun year-round, but under a porch roof to protect them from Winter rain.

Fertilize once a month, Spring through mid-Fall (not in Winter), with a complete, general-purpose liquid fertilizer.
 
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Marck,

Thank you so much!

Your comment about C, the (maybe) parodia parodia microsperma, was prescient. At the time of that photo, I'd just bought it. Two years later, watering once a month in the winter and once every 24 days in the summer (what do I know? Guesswork), it looks like this:

20220202-14114646-01-D-AWM-iPhone8.jpg


I was surprised when it started to grow vertically, changing from its ball shape into a column – now 5-6 inches tall, as you see. At first I was afraid that I was overwatering or over fertilizing or both, but it seems healthy. The only problem is that it tends to tip slightly, with its shallow roots. Every few waterings I have to try and get it straight again, but it's difficult to handle: those spikes are deadly! It lives indoors (hardiness zone 8b, latitude ~40ºN) with its cactus friends on a south-facing windowsill. Do you have any advice on watering and / or fertilization?

D, the graft, died soon after the photo. When I came to transplant it from the store-pot in which it came, I found that there half its underground mass was missing. It looked like someone at the nursery had been a bit careless with some kind of sharp tool and mutilated it, then just stuck it in soil in a pot anyway and sent it out to be sold ('not my problem'). The things have tiny root mass anyway, and this guy was left with almost none.

I'm in two minds about the grafts: yes, they are 'artificial', frankensteins, and maybe they are doomed as I've heard – will only last a few years at best; but they are colorful and cheerful. I've not replaced the one that died, but only because I haven't seen a really healthy-looking specimen at (admitting it!) Home Depot, my supplier...

Thanks again for your learned info. Very much appreciated.
 
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What a nice container of cacti. The should do well with standard cactus care of full sun to bright indirect light, fast draining soil that is allowed to mostly dry between watering, and a once a month application of a complete liquid fertilizer from Spring to Fall.

A good way to repot or move a cactus safely is to first wrap it in an old towel or many layers of newspaper and then unwrap it after it is in its new pot or location. Even then, it is still a good idea to wear gloves.

The tall cactus labelled as Parodia microsperma, looks more like a Mammillaria sp., but it would be good to see flowers for identification. Have any of your cacti flowered for you?

The woolly cactus on the right looks like Espostoa lanata. I'm not sure what the other two are.
 

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Marck, If i may ask:

Still relatively new to succulents, I'm feeling my way between over-watering, which i guess is the more likely fault for those of us coming from 'regular' plants (is there a term for 'regular plants?? :unsure: :notworthy: I should know..) and under-watering.

I have one echeveria which grew huge when it was young. Its leaves started to flop over this winter, so I've pulled back a lot on the watering, leaving the soil bone-dry for 3-4 days before watering each cycle. Today I noticed the discoloration you see in the pic. Two leaves only, facing the glass on a sunny windowsill.

Question: is this 'sunburn'? If so, is watering in any way an issue, or is it that i just had the thing too close to the glass on a sunny windowsill, it overheated, and it would have happened whether the thing was over- or under-watered or neither? What do you think?
 

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By the way, check this out. Sent to me by my son...:


Gotta get me one of those bad boys, yessir....
 
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Yes, that looks like sun scorch. It can happen when a plant is suddenly moved from less light to more light, even if the plant is well-watered. Was the plant moved or did the angle of sunlight change? Still, Echeveria do fine in full sun and the do color up more that way, but many people also grow them well in bright indirect light. As long as the soil drains well, you shouldn't need to let the soil go bone-dry. Partly dry is enough, and they will grow faster that way.

Yes, I've encountered the Teddy-bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). It is a beautiful plant, but it would be hard to manage in a garden. One accidental brush with a piece of stem and it would stick to you like velcro. I've had pads stuck to my boots. It was hard to even kick them off. Attenborough describes the sticky spines as defense, but they are also a method of propagule dispersal. When the stems finally do fall off they might be miles away and able to start a new colony.
 

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Sun scorch: that's interesting, thanks again. None of the above, really: It's been on that (south-facing, sunny) windowsill for months. I typically rotate it at every watering so that heliotropism doesn't bend it over one way, so it has had even exposure to the sun – over time, meaning for ant two-week stretch or so, it's faced the same way. The 'change' if there was one, was that I've extended watering intervals recently, because (1) it seemed to be flopping a bit and (2) it lost a few lower leaves – they yellowed as they died, which made me suspect over-watering. From what you say, though, likely not and maybe in fact under-watering, darn. I live and learn, thanks...

That Cholla is a terror, albeit a wonderful terror, and i was joking of course about trying to rear them as houseplants. Disaster waiting to happen. Extraordinary piece of evolution, though. You have to think that those barbed spines and the plant's overall size mean that the 'take me for a ride' dispersal method has adapted for fairly large animals with thick skins. I wonder what fauna fits the bill in its environment.
 
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I'm not certain what the exact cause of the necrotic patch might me. The species is either Echeveria agavoides or a hybrid with that species. I've had that species scorch easily on occasion. But I've also had it color up beautifully in the sun. The right amount of eater and drainage is key. After they get their roots deeper they seem to become more resilient.

As for potential cholla dispersers, perhaps something that is now extinct, such as giant mammoths or giant ground sloths, but really most animals of even moderate size could drag one away. The cactus wouldn't care if it was cumbersome. If the animal died with the a stem stuck in its side, there would be added fertilizer nearby. I've known people who had them stuck in their skin. They cut or tore them out. It was awkward and painful, but it didn't require a trip to the hospital.
 
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Cacti update: four months on from my 2nd Feb posting above, here's how the cati have grown:

Feb:
20220202-14114646-01-D-AWM-iPhone8.jpg


June:
Screen Shot 2022-07-09 at 8.10.06 PM.png


The tall boy, Mammillaria per Marck, has put on almost an inch and a half, vertically. The growth of the fellow on the left may be even greater in volume/mass.

Even more surprising, at least to me, has been the extent of phototropic 'lean' – they live indoors on a south-facing, sunny windowsill; every time I water, it's evident how much they lean to the sunny side and of course i turn them round each time. I have not repositionoined Mammillaria, i.e, straightened or altered its tilt, manually. The change in its 'attitude' is putre tropism – AND, unlike a temperate plant, the cellular 'push' is happeniong as much at the base, making it lean, as much as toward the tip, making it bend. Just remarkable.

Following Marck's advice, I've been watering more frequently now, in the summer (though I'm still working up to twice a week!).

Question:

The Mammillaria is getting so big that I'm afraid it's going to fall over under its own weight and rip its roots as it does so, and die. So I'm thinking about re-potting: that planter barely allows for two inches of soil. BUT, newbie as i am to cacti and succulents, I'm still amazed by how shallow-rooted they are. Different example: today I repotted some Haworthia aloe – because they had got bigger and felt loose in the soil to the touch, so i figured they needed more soil depth to strike deeper, better-stabilizing roots. BUT:

Screen Shot 2022-07-09 at 8.44.24 PM.png


Nope! They have hardly any roots at all! Amazing (at least to a newbie like me).

I gave them a bigger, deeper pot anyway. But it makes me wonder: maybe the roots prefer to expand more laterally, and confer stability that way?

Mysterious. I'm vaguely casting around for a bigger, especially deeper, planter for the cacti, but maybe I'm worrying too much?
 

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