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Growing succulents: tips and advice
Cultivating succulent plants at home is not at all difficult, since they are species that do not show specific needs and do not require special care. This does not mean, however, that when the succulents are planted, it is appropriate to pay attention to some fundamental factors. In particular, to be able to originate a correct vegetative cycle it is necessary to take into consideration the exposure to the sun, the air temperature and the humidity of the environment. Above all this last element has a decidedly high importance: in fact, a humidity level prolonged over time and excessively high risks compromising health and damaging the plant, causing phenomena of rot that would almost certainly lead, within a few weeks, to the death. This risk, obviously, does not run in structures equipped with heating systems capable of maintaining constant temperature and humidity. It is worth remembering, however, that common houseplants and succulent plants often exhibit different needs, in the sense that the former in most cases prefer tropical climates, unlike succulents who instead like low humidity levels .
Environmental conditions to be respected
In the same way, the fact that succulents, due to the average temperature, corresponding to about twenty degrees, of a domestic environment, is not able to face the vegetative rest period in winter deserves to be emphasized. This means that they grow continuously, even if it is a slow growth. The consequent risk is that of the etiolation, which however can be avoided by placing the plants at home in a sufficiently illuminated place, especially in the summer months when the most evident vegetative restart occurs. Conversely, a poorly lit place would cause rapid growth (given that growth occurs at night) and at the same time would slow down chlorophyll photosynthesis. The result would be visible in the whitish or yellowish trunk, in weaker tissues and spines and in general in a plant that is clearly more fragile and sensitive to attacks by fungi and parasites.
Lighting and irrigation
It is therefore preferable cultivate succulent plants on the balconies or on the windowsills, or alternatively positioning them near a window. In the event that this location is not possible, it would be advisable to avoid abundant irrigation, so as to slow down the development of the plant. In this way the thin and delicate absorbent hairs will not undergo death, and in general the plant will not weaken due to the marked tapered growth. A further trick to take in regards to domestic cultivation concerns lighting: the plant, in other words, should be rotated gradually once a week, so as to avoid a growth of only one part towards the sun. Another problem would be flowering, which often occurs later than expected: in columnar species, for example, it occurs only after the plant has reached at least a meter and a half in height. For this reason it would be better to cultivate more common and smaller species at home, which, in the face of slow growth, have the advantage of flowering in a short time: this is the case of mammillaria, lobivia, ecinopsis and above all of the coryphanta. Regardless of size, however, all succulent plants must be protected from the risk of contracting diseases, which increases - sometimes giving rise to irreparable damage - in the event that the environmental conditions do not correspond to ideal conditions.
Just think of too high a temperature, which causes the appearance of infected pests such as scale insects, the enemy par excellence of species grown in pots. To check their presence, it is sufficient to look at the stem and leaves: if there are areas, even small, covered with cottony material, it means that the plant is attacked by scale insects. The insect is just inside this whitish casing. It is possible, in any case, to eliminate it manually by applying a solution of linseed oil or soap and water, or alternatively simply using a toothbrush. In any case, given that the eggs are inside the soil, it will not surprise the appearance of other scale insects: therefore, it may be necessary to proceed with repotting using sterile soil.
Cultivating succulents: the air
An element often underestimated, in the cultivation of succulent plants, is represented by the air. In particular, like all other plant species, succulents need carbon dioxide, essential for photosynthesis, and oxygen, which is used for respiration. While, however, common ornamental plants absorb carbon dioxide by day, that is when chlorophyll photosynthesis occurs, in succulent plants the opposite occurs, since, although photosynthesis takes place during the day, assimilation occurs during the night. The poorly ventilated environments should be avoided to promote optimal cultivation, and in general those that do not allow adequate circulation of clean air: the risk, in fact, is that fungi can develop, and therefore infections. These attentions, however, must apply even more if the cultivation takes place in heated greenhouses.