We Have Become Terrarium City

You will be a terrarium too.

Now these two were more difficult. Ian made the one on the left, and I made the one on the right.

I used a bottom layer of charcoal with a layer of sand filling in around it. Cactus soil, packed tight. Then I make a bit of a hole and added the taller cactus, the Cereus, and used the back end of a small paint brush to get the roots fully into the hole, and then push the soil over it.

Then another layer of sand, and the paintbrush to spread it out evenly.

Then I added the sempervivum cuts right through the sand and the crassula cut too. Make sure you take off the bottom leaves of the crassulas so that there is a good piece of stem to go down into the soil.

I added the seated smoking lady figure, and then brushed all the sand back into a level playing field. Ian added the bee because he likes bees.

The Latest in Airplant Terrarium Technology

I just can’t get enough of these very small airplant terrariums with tiny holes to shove little things through.

A couple Tillandsias, a mix of mosses and some lichen to round it out. No room for anything more than that.

Tall Terrarium Like a Cactus

I got a million of these things. I can post terrarium pics for the next year. Although, with the expected rains, I think I will post only a 1/2 million of them.

That’s some layering – rough gravel and then raffia and then a smooth gravel and then a larger smooth gravel and then some preserved reindeer moss and finally 2 lovely airplants – Tillandisa bulbosa and Tillandsia recurvata.

Every Succulent Terrarium is Unique

I try not to repeat myself.

We have a Cryptanthus, a Peperomia and a Crassula, plus the biggest colored gravel I could fit through that tiny hole on top. And a shell or two.

Yes, there is soil under those rocks. And some charcoal under the soil.

Small Succulent Terrariums Rule

The glass is only about 6″ across, a small globe with legs and a hole on top. These things are hard to photograph. I hope you can see everything in there.

The succulents are planted in soil. A small bit of charcoal at the bottom, sand on top, and then I push the tiny cuts through the sand and into the soil, using my tiny fingers. I mean using long thin tweezers.

Tiny sempervivum cuts will love it in here, but the crassula cuts will eveually outgrow the sphere.

Twisty Terrarium

And here we see Ian reaching into a twisty terrarium to plant little sempervivums in the far end for a customer. The glass was made by the customer’s brother. I hope they appreciate the effort Ian is putting in to this. It’s awesome.


More Succulent Weddings

Savvy Scoop has the skinny on the succulent centerpieces.

Not the most colorful I’ve ever seen, but minimalism has it’s place too.

And here’s the best part, the written description is true!

Succulents have a lot going for them. First, succulent arrangements can be made long before the “day of.” If you’re doing your own wedding centerpieces, this can be a huge time-saving advantage. Secondly, they’re great gifts for your wedding guests to take home that will last for months to come. And finally, succulents are super easy to care for and eco-friendly, too!

All true. But if you really want the guests to have success with the succulents at home, I recommend pots with drainage holes in the bottom. White glass is sophisticated and all, yet not as easy.

After the Halloween Parties

Did you say you have a hangover this morning? Have you tried cactus?

Discovery Sliced Cactus, £1.29 per jar

How it works: Extracts of prickly pear cactus have been shown by one U.S. study to alleviate the symptoms of hangovers, though it’s not clear why.

Tester’s verdict: Eimear O’Hagan, 26, from Belfast, says: “Waking with a dry mouth and a sore head, I ate a few pickled cactus slices and went back to sleep.

“They were OK if you like pickled food, but had no impact on the hangover. I had acid reflux later on.”

Expert’s verdict: “Extract of cactus is rich in antioxidants that can neutralise damage caused by free radical cells. Better taken before drinking not afterwards, so the body’s defences are primed.”

Is there any science behind this prickly theory? Why thank you for asking, in fact, yes there is.

A study published in the June 28th, 2004 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who took a dietary supplement containing extracts of a species of prickly pear cactus before consuming alcohol, had reduced symptoms of alcohol hangover compared to individuals who drank but took placebo.

So there you go. You have to take it ahead of time, but it works! And it appears that an extract works better than a pickled cactus. Sorry I forgot to tell you about this yesterday before you got drunk.


How to Install a Cactus

This is how we install a big cactus for you.

First we mummify the plant and then we deliver it to you on a stretcher and we lay it out on the ground nice and gentle while wearing nitrile gloves

Then we plant it and remove all the wrappings and walk away from a job well done!

Now, don’t go getting all pedantic on me, you know I know that’s not a cactus – it’s a Euphorbia. I didn’t say these were photos of us installing a cactus, I said this post was about how to install a cactus. We just chose a Euphorbia for this particular demonstration, but the information is the same.

What to do in Sonoma Tomorrow

Let Master Gardener Anne Lowings introduce you to the wide variety of succulents that thrive in our Sonoma climate at a free workshop on Sat., Sept. 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Healdsburg Regional Library, 139 Piper St . She will discuss choosing, cultivating and propagating these tough and fascinating plants.

Carnivorous Plant

We were not having a lot of success with our pitcher plants this year so Hap tested the water. In the past, EBMUD’s water was nicely neutral, but this year it has become a lot more alkaline so we’ve had to start correcting the water.

Everyone recommends distilled water for carnivorous plants, and we agree.

But we’re using a teaspoon of vinegar in a gallon of regular water at the nursery since it’s cheaper. And at home we’re using our refrigerated drinking water – we put lemon slices in the water and that works too!

Nepenthes alata growing a new baby pitcher, finally. It’s only about an inch right now, but it will eventually get to 12″.

What to do in Colorado Tomorrow

Wendell “Woody” Minnich is the featured program presenter at the Chinle Cactus and Succulent Society’s Sept. 9 meeting.

His program will focus on his experiences in the Rio Grande Do Sul, the most southern state in the country of Brazil. The public is invited to attend the free presentation at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Building at Mesa County Fairgrounds.

“This seldom-seen region of Brazil is rich in cacti, bromeliads, succulents and other unusual plants and animal, fascinating birds and where many of our most well known cacti are to be found,” Minnich said.

Louisiana Cactus

Epiphyllums are popular wherever they can be found. I would suggest, humbly, that it is because of the amazing flowers.

Cuttings from the plants are easily rooted. From spring until fall, the plants can grow outdoors in hanging baskets attached to tree branches, providing filtered light. The baskets can be lined with coconut fiber and filled with cactus soil, both to ensure excellent drainage….

When temperatures drop, baskets need to be moved to a protected location that has bright natural light.

I don’t recommend that you click through to the article that this lovely photo comes from. I have safely excerpted as much as you need to know about epi’s. Whatever you do, don’t read the part about how they fertilize. Noooo!!!!! Oh, the humanity.

We use a well balanced slow-release cactus fertilizer, and add extra fish bone meal to encourage blooming. If you want to use a liquid fertilizer, only use a low-strength organic product for strong healthy growth.

We water them once a week, and plant them in our jungle cactus/orchid mix soil which is very similar to a cactus soil, but has chunks of coconut husk chips in it, and extra slow-release organic fertilizers.

Definitely use a hanging basket, coir-lined if possible. And don’t forget to share your cuttings with your friends.

For Christmas Cactus Blooms Your Work Starts Today

Everybody wants to know how to get your christmas cactus to bloom at christmas. Well, let me tell you. Now is the time to start your preparations.

Now is the time to start giving your christmas cactus some bloom food every time you water and begin the process of bringing more darkness to your plant. We use 100% fish bone meal for our plants. You can use a liquid if you prefer. Not too strong, though, since you are going to be feeding it every watering for the next 3 months.

I go over all the details here.

But beware, incorrect darkness can result in blooms in spring. Oh noes!


How to Eat a Cactus

…Dallas Style.

Easy, step by step instructions, including:

1. Pick out your paddles…

2. With your knife, remove the spines…

3. Boiling water…

4. Drain excess water…

5. Grill the nopales.

Easy enough! And if you click through the link you can see all the rest of the information that goes with that list.

Here, have a picture.

Executive chef Amador Mora and Sarah Eveans


Follow this link only if you are prepared to be shocked by all the information about gasterias that you could ever need. Unless you are a gasteria biologist in which case it’s probably not that much information at all. In fact, really it’s not that much information at all. I might have been exaggerating a bit, for effect. But it is some good information nonetheless, about gasterias. I personally don’t really like gasterias.

Summer Heat in Vancouver

This calls for planting succulents.

What can you grow in a container on your overheated west-facing balcony or patio? The answer is to plant a “hot pot” full of sun-loving succulents — plants that carry their water supply around with them in their leaves and can take all the heat you can give them.

I’ll annotate as we read together from the Vancouver Sun.

To create the tender hot pot, first place gravel or terra cotta shards in the bottom of the pot to ensure good drainage.

Just make sure you don’t block the hole. In fact, cover the hole with mesh, and place a fast-draining soil all the way to the bottom.

Fill the upright 18-inch pot with a quality container soil mix.

Make that a quality cactus and succulent soil mix. Regular container soils will rot the plants.

Next, place your centrepiece — the large, Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf’. This will stand about 35 to 45 cm high in the pot.

We always start with the big plant, although we often plant it off-center for effect.

Moisten the soil before taking the three large “collector’s echeveria” — colours range from warm pinks to cool blues — and placing them equidistant apart around the aeonium. The roots can be pressed into the moistened soil without much difficulty, but be careful not to damage the leaves or interfere too much with the roots.

We recommend planting into dry soil, and not moistening anything for another week, since succulents have tender rot-prone roots. In other words, rather than press the roots into wet soil try digging a hole into dry soil.

Finish off your container by planting the smaller, filler sedums in between the echeveria.

I approve of surrounding echeveria with smaller sedums.

This container can be placed in full-sun, but will need to be moved into a frost-free room in winter.

So true for those poor unfortunate freeze-loving Canadians.

Learn to Draw Cactus

Learn how to draw a desert landscape with How Stuff Works.

You too can learn to draw this:


And how do you do that?

In this section, we’ll show you how to draw this desert cacti landscape. You can draw it freehand while looking at your computer monitor, or you can print out this page to get a closer look at each step.

Here, we’ll show you an illustration of each step and then give you a description of how to draw it. Follow the red lines in each illustration to learn…

OK, that is not what I want to learn how to draw. I would prefer to learn how to draw this Zombie Cactus, Pepito, from kitsunekei1.


Alas, there are no instructions.

Cactus Roots Grow Deep

Cactus in the desert can have wide spreading shallow roots. But what about in wetter areas like here, this winter?

Cactus Museum has this to say.

Roots: Cactus roots help to gather and preserve water in several ways. In some cacti, shallow, extensive root systems spread laterally away from the plant (e.g. some prickly pear roots spread 10 to 15 feet away). In brief showers which only wet a few inches of soil, the shallow roots help the plant maximize water intake from a large area.


Cactus roots also change characteristics as the water supply fluctuates. After a rainfall, existing dehydrated roots become more water conductive and new rain roots are formed to help soak up water. In times of drought, the rain roots shrivel and fall off and the existing roots dehydrate. The shrinkage of the existing roots creates an air gap that helps to prevent water in the roots from escaping back to the soil. A corky layer on the roots also helps to prevent water loss.

Now that may be true in the desert, but we have found in a densely planted garden where there is water down in the (fast-draining) soil (that you’ve added or amended in your garden), the roots can be deeper. Competition between adjacent plants will cause roots to try deeper than wider, and when they find water down there, which they won’t in the desert but they will in your garden, they’ll want to stay down there.

In fact, we notice that they will go down until they hit the water table in winter, and then they’ll rot off back up to the drier parts of the soil, which also tends to match up with the depth to which you amended your soil to make it faster draining.

This will then cause them to spend the early part of spring growing new roots before they start growing new branches. Every year this cycle repeats, and if you haven’t amended your soil deep enough, then eventually the cactus will fail.

The Lesson: make sure you have amended your soil to be fast draining deep enough that the roots will have plenty of depth to establish and survive the winters. For larger cactus, we recommend at least 2 feet of depth, and don’t crowd them too close to each other either. Give the roots room to grow above the winter water table.

Barrel Cactus from Seed

DoitYourself.com has instructions in growing barrel cactus from seed. It seems very complicated. And you need lot’s of tools. I wonder if we do all of this when we grow them from seed?

Grow a Barrel Cactus from a Seed

Tools and Materials Needed:
(long list deleted in this excerpt. click through for full info.)

Step 1 – Collect Seeds
Step 2 – Remove the Seeds from the Pods
Step 3 – Soak the Seeds
Step 4 – Prepare the Potting Soil
Step 5 – Set the Seeds
Step 6 – Distribute the Seeds
Step 7 – Wait for Germination
Step 8 – Transfer to Pots
Step 9 – Final Positioning

Wow, that’s a lot to keep track of. I wonder how the plants do all that themselves in the wild?

Here’s a picture of a barrel cactus seed pods.

You can see the “seed pod,” also known as the fruit, in the back to the left behind the bloom. I was looking through all my ferocactus photos, and that’s the only one I can find with a fruit in the shot. I normally focus on the flowers or the spines.

How to Eat Cactus Fruit

The fruit from the Cereus peruvianus is called a Cactus Apple, and the St. Petersburg Times has a reader who knows how best to eat them.

Paul Zmoda has been growing the (Peruvian apple) cactus at his research facility, Flatwoods Fruit Farm in Riverview. He says that aside from eating the pulp fresh, he recommends serving frozen thin slices sprinkled with sugar and lime juice. The pink peel can also be candied. Paul thinks that the rind might even make good sweet and sour pickles similar to watermelon pickles.

Our plants don’t fruit, since they need to be pollinated by bats and we don’t have bats at the nursery.

You can buy seeds from Trade Winds Fruit, and see what they have to offer in all kinds of tropical fruits, even though this is not a tropical fruit.


They also sell Saguaro seeds.


What does it take to grow lithops? Let’s see what the Deseret News out of Utah has to say.

My friend Clark Moorten, a desert-garden authority, recommends that I keep a misting bottle near the lithops. “If you just can’t stand it and must water them, wait a week, then spray them with the mister,” he says.


Misting is important because much of southern Africa, from the east coast of Natal to the pointed Cape Horn, experiences a long dry season. In the brutally dry west coast of the Atlantic, the dry season is even longer. However, heavy coastal fogs travel inland, often at night, to lay down a thick layer of dew. Plants here have evolved to utilize this airborne moisture during a long drought. It explains why regular watering regimes during a dry season are a killer.

Well that’s what I tell everyone around here: Mist! Don’t water! I suppose that means if you’re growing your lithops outdoors in the Bay Area, close to the coastal fog belt, then you don’t even have to mist them at all. Just be sure to have them under cover during the winter rains.

Identifying lithops species can be very difficult, what with the hundreds of subspecies. You generally have to wait for the plant to flower, and then you can try to match the leaf markings and the flower color to pictures in a book. Good luck with that, I always say. We have identified about half the species we carry. Sometimes we leave off the subspecies name, just because the names can get too long for our labels.

We also grow them very small, which is how they grow in nature – basically invisible among rocks of the same colors. Some people like to grow them bigger, which means more water, but then they’re very prone to rotting out quickly. So we do not do that.

Here’s a small one that hides well in our lava mulch.


Lithops aucampiae ssp. koelemani

And here’s one that doesn’t hide well in our red lava mulch. Maybe we should find some green rock.


Lithops lesliei ssp. lesliei v. albinica

And here’s my favorite lithops bloom photo. It’s the one I use for greeting cards.


Lithops schwantesii

It’s probably a ssp. schwantesii, but that seems excessive.

Sometimes we find little bite marks out of them – the mice like them it turns out. So then we lay out little no-kill mouse traps, and check back every day for live mice that we release down the street. If you forget to check a no-kill trap for a day, it becomes a kill-trap.

Cactus Cuts

I don’t give a lot of gardening advice on this blog, unless someone asks a question directly. But here you go.

If you like to take cuttings of your plants and propagate new ones then you should know that we’re taking our final cactus cuts of the year so they’ll be rooted before winter – any later than this and they’ll rot away to nothing.

Phew, that was useful.

Maybe I should make a video.


From Austin (TX), home of the Austin Jaspers semi-pro basketball team in the Texas Grass League, comes a nice concise set of instructions for growing cactus from seed.

I wonder if Hap will agree with their instructions?

October 2023

US Constitution


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