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How to plant cacti and succulents together

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How to plant cacti and succulents together

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Growing different types of plants together is one way to level up your gardening game and create a visually pleasing look that elevates the beauty of your décor. The important thing is that those plants need to be compatible and have similar care requirements. While we're all familiar with the captivating charm of succulent arrangements, there's a whole world of plant combinations waiting to be explored. Have you considered pairing cacti and succulents together? 

Growing different types of plants together to elevates the beauty of your décor
Growing different types of plants together to elevates the beauty of your décor

Cacti belong to the Cactaceae family and are technically succulents, but they are very different from other types of succulent plants. They have distinct differences that make for an intriguing mix. With their unique structure and robust spines, cacti add a touch of fascination to any collection, particularly when paired with certain types of succulents. Growing cacti and succulents together can seem daunting, but with the right guidance, it's a task anyone can tackle. Let’s dive into this fascinating world of plant combinations and see what kind of stunning arrangements you can create.

Cacti vs Succulents – Differences and Similarities

Cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Both types of plants are adapted to arid environments and are able to store water in their leaves and stems. They both have fleshy, thick leaves or stems that allow them to survive in dry conditions. However, cacti and succulents also have a lot of differences.

One of the key differences between cacti and other succulent plants is that cacti have specialized structures called areoles, which are small, round, cushion-like areas on the surface of the plant. These are where spines, branches, and flowers emerge. Areoles are unique to cacti and are not found in other succulent plants. Cacti are also known for their spines which protect the plant from predators and help to reduce water loss by reducing airflow around the plant.

Another important difference between cacti and other succulent plants is the photosynthesis method. Most plants perform photosynthesis through their leaves, but cacti have evolved a unique form of photosynthesis that takes place in their stems. This allows cacti to conserve water and survive in extremely arid environments. Therefore, cacti generally require less water and can stand harsher lighting than succulents.

[Preparation] How to plant Cacti and Succulents together – Preparation

Choose the correct cacti and succulents

Do some research before picking up your cacti and succulents. Not all cacti and succulents can be grown together. For example, almost all cacti can stand direct sunlight and need a lot of bright light. Some succulents like Snake plants or String of Hearts can get sunburned easily. Cacti also need less water than succulents, so pairing them with succulents that have a more frequent watering need will yield bad results.

When choosing the plants, you should also make sure they have a similar growing season, as some cacti/succulents grow the fastest during spring-summer and go dormant during the winter, and vice versa. 

Another thing you should consider is the design of your arrangement. Choose those that complement each other in terms of color, texture, and shape. For example, combining a tall and spiky cactus with a low-growing succulent can create an interesting contrast.

Correct planter and soil

The container you choose will not only affect the overall aesthetic of your arrangement, but it will also impact the health and growth of your plants. Cacti and succulents do not like to sit in standing water, so when selecting a container, it's important to choose one with good drainage holes and made from a porous material like concrete, terracotta, or ceramic. You can use a variety of containers, but make sure it has a wide opening to allow enough space for each plant. 

In terms of soil, cacti and succulents require the same sandy, porous, well-draining soil, as they are prone to root rot and hate waterlogged soil. You can purchase a ready-made cactus and succulent soil mix at any local garden center, or you can make your own by mixing potting soil with sand, perlite, volcanic rock, and fine gravel. Alternatively, a soilless mix using coconut coir and perlite is also recommended. Avoid using too much compost and organic matter as it would lead to mold and pest infestation.

Gardening supplies

One thing you need before getting to the actual work is an arrangement design. Plan carefully and make a drawing beforehand. If you need some inspiration, there are plenty of beautiful cacti and succulent combinations on Pinterest, Instagram, or other Arts and Decor sites. 

You also need a thick pair of gardening gloves to protect yourself from the pricky cacti, as well as other gardening supplies: a pair of scissors(for pruning off damaged roots of leaves), shoves, and a watering can. You can also use a bottom net for the pot to prevent soil from spilling over the drainage hole. 

[Step by step] How to plant Cacti and Succulents together – Step by step

Step 1: Remove succulents and cacti from their own pot.

You should water your cacti and succulents a couple of days before repotting them. After repotting, your plants need time to adjust to the new soil, so you shouldn’t water them during the first 2 weeks. Watering before that helps your plants to soak up all the water they need. Moistened soil also makes it easier to remove the roots.

To remove each plant, you can turn the plant sideways and pull it up gently. Handle them with care so you do not break off their roots, stems, or leaves.

Step 2: Inspect each plant 

Each plant needs to be inspected for signs of pests, diseases, and root rot. If left untreated, these issues can spread to other plants in the arrangement. Trim off any damaged parts, and tidy up your plants if they need pruning. 

Step 3: Plant your cacti and succulents

Now it's time to plant your cacti and succulents! Here are some useful tips:

 it's time to plant your cacti and succulents!
 It's time to plant your cacti and succulents!

Tip 1: Follow your design and consider the overall arrangement and the visual impact of each plant. You can create a sense of balance by placing taller plants in the back and shorter plants in the front. You can also create a sense of depth by placing smaller plants towards the front and larger plants towards the back.

Tip 2: You can start from the middle of the planter or start with the biggest plant first. An important tip: just make sure that when you're planting your cacti, you only bury 1/2 to 1/3 of the roots in the soil. Leave those roots exposed and cover them up a bit later. For succulents, though, cover up all the roots - they need a bit more moisture than cacti do. The reason why we need to apply this technique is that cacti need a lot less water than succulents. By leaving some roots above the soil level, you can reduce the risk of overwatering your cacti. 

Tip 3: Don’t forget to leave a couple of inches between each plant so they have enough space to grow. 

[Care tips for succulent arrangement] Care tips for your cacti and succulent arrangement

  • Do not water during the first 2 weeks so the roots have enough time to settle into the new soil.
  • Place your planter in a lit spot with plenty of bright light. Direct sunlight in the morning or after 5 PM is recommended. Protect your plant from the scorching afternoon sun, as some succulents are very sensitive to sunburn. 
  • Water thoroughly once the soil is completely dry. Drain all excess water afterward. Bottom watering or watering only the soil using a can with a long spout is recommended. 
  • Rotate your planter regularly so all plants, short and tall, can get enough light.
  • Any sign of pests and diseases should be treated right away to prevent them from spreading to other plants in the same container. 

Check out this quick video to see other factors that determine how to plant cacti and succulents together:

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