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Abbey Brook Cactus Nursery
Old Hackney Lane


Abbey Brook Cactus Nursery
Rules for Success 

Cacti and Succulents make splendid subjects to grow in a house, office or greenhouse, as long as certain conditions are maintained.

1. GROWING MEDIUM : - With only a few exceptions, all cacti and succulents should be planted in a rich but well-drained compost, eg. a mixture of 3 parts peat/peat-substitute compost to 1 part of coarse horticultural grit. A top dressing of sand or grit should be applied to the surface to prevent rotting around the base of the plant.

2. LIGHT CONDITIONS : - Most species must be grown in as light a position as possible. A greenhouse/conservatory is the best place, but a sunny south or west facing windowsill will be quite adequate. Some cacti, such as Cereus peruvianus and succulents such as Aloe and Haworthia species can grow happily at lower light levels. Cereus peruvianus plants should be placed within 1m of TV/computer screens.

3. TEMPERATURES : - Growing in greenhouse/conservatory conditions, the plants are often subject to very high temperatures during sunny weather. Adequate ventilation must be provided otherwise the plants may become scorched. During the winter a minimum of 6-10 C (42-50 F) frost free conditions should be maintained. Cool, dry conditions in winter are necessary for flowering - if your house is centrally heated, give your cacti a winter break in an unheated spare bedroom, and they will reward you by flowering next spring.

 4. WATERING : - Cacti should be watered thoroughly once a week from the beginning of April to the end of September. During the remaining winter months NO water should be given if frost free conditions are maintained. Plants kept in a centrally heated room continue to grow in winter and should be watered sparingly about once a month or so.

Most other succulents : water once a week in summer, once a month in winter

Aeoniums : These are winter-growing succulents, and should be watered about once a week all year round.

Lithops (Living Stones) ; From October to April absolutely NO water should be given. They also need to be kept in the sunniest position possible; otherwise the culture is the same as for cacti.

Christmas and Easter Cacti : These are winter-growing jungle cacti. Water weekly from autumn through to early summer. Christmas Cacti can be placed in a sunny position in the garden for the summer, but Easter Cacti require more shade.

Cactus Bowl Arrangement

5. FEEDING : - During the growing season apply a low nitrogen, high potash feed once every two weeks, such as CHEMPAC CACTUS FERTILIZE.

6. PESTS AND DISEASES : The main pests are Mealy Bugs - these are small insects looking like miniature white woodlice which suck the sap and weaken and disfigure the plants. The first signs of attack are usually bits of "cotton wool" which cover the eggs. They will attack cacti and succulents and also other plants such as Saintpaulias which are nearby. They can be treated either by spraying with an insecticide which kills aphids, or with a biological control predator.

 Red spider mite is often a pest in hot, poorly ventilated greenhouses. Infested plants have a brown crusty appearance, and sometimes cobwebs are seen, although the mites themselves are microscopic. Use either a proprietary insecticide or a biological control predator.

There are no major disease problems with cacti or succulents - Botrytis may appear if succulents are given too much water in the winter. Avoid this by watering on sunny days only and try to keep drops of water off the leaves.


Healthy plants are usually deep green in colour, under their spines, and are firm to the touch.

Dead cacti are completely brown and shrunken in appearance (rather like a dead hedgehog!). They are often soft, hollow or slimy and have no roots.