Succulents and cacti are great statement pieces for your terrace or backyard. The name succulent originates from the Latin word "succus" meaning sap of juice. Cacti are a type of succulent (but not all succulents are cacti). They are fascinating plants, that are so versatile, you can keep them in terrarium or pot, indoors or outside. You will need to be careful with your planting however, because not all species will tolerate the cold Canadian winters. They are great plants to keep on a terrace, as they don't take up a lot of space - and don't need as much care as other plant species. Here are some tips for looking after them in the cold months.
Placing your plants
As the days grow shorter, plants are exposed to less light - essential to help them to photosynthesise. When you are first placing your plants, consider the light. Cacti need to get a good source of light for at least four hours a day in order to flourish, even in late fall, when they become dormant though. Cacti are happiest in a south or east facing backyard or terrace. You are best keeping succulents in pots, as they generally won’t live if the temperature drops below fifty degrees - you will need to bring them inside if this happens. There are plenty of hardy varieties of cacti however that will survive a snowy winter, such as Opuntia, and Echinocereus.
Soil and drainage
You should make sure that succulents and cacti are planted in a gritty or sandy soil, with plenty of drainage - they don’t like sitting in their own water. Mix your soil with some fine gravel or pea shingle before planting - you should aim for 40% gravel. Make sure that they plant roots are well covered up, to prevent them from being damaged in cold winds, especially if they are placed out on a balcony. Raised beds are an excellent place to grow succulents and cacti too.
Watering your plants
Contrary to myth, cacti do need water all year round, although less in cold winters when they are dormant. Ordinary rainfall during the cold seasons should be enough to keep them going. If you have overwatered your plants and it freezes, this can kill the roots off. Although your cacti might not look that well, they actually shrink and become off-colored in order to prepare themselves for the cold weather. You shouldn’t need to fertilize your plants either, and if you do, avoid a nitrogen-based fertilizer, although these cause rapid growth, it makes succulents fragile in winter.
Cacti and succulents are ideal for keeping in pots on your terrace - they are both beautiful and hardy. Even in the Canadian cold, they can survive and flourish.
Written by Cassie Steele