Cacti are beautiful and can be found all over the world. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Many cacti have interesting or unique growth patterns that make them stand out from other plants.
The blue myrtle cactus is one such plant with its long pointed spikes sticking up at an angle like sword blades. It’s also known as the “sword” because if you look closely, each spike is divided into three sections – two larger ones on top and one smaller section below it. Other names include the Christmas tree cactus and candelabra cactus. These plants do not produce flowers but instead, grow spines (also called ribs). Some people even call these cacti thorns.
Although they may seem sharp to touch, these spines will soften once touched. You can cut your finger while handling this type of cactus without any harm whatsoever. However, when touching the spines, wear thick gardening gloves so that nothing gets stuck between your fingers. In fact, many gardeners believe that wearing gloves when working with thorny bushes helps prevent injury. This particular cactus belongs to the family of epiphytes which means that it grows attached to another surface like rocks or branches. One of the most common places where this happens is high trees.
When growing indoors, this cactus should be kept away from heat sources since it prefers temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Most folks don’t realize that some cacti can live up to 100 years! If you happen to find yourself having to choose a new houseplant, consider buying a cactus instead of a flower. And what better way to welcome spring than by adding a couple of these beauties to your indoor garden? We’ll start off our discussion on how best to care for a cactus next.
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Feeding Blue Myrtle Cactus
The first thing we need to know before watering a cactus is whether or not it needs regular water changes. A lot depends upon the amount of moisture available. Plants located close to bodies of water tend to get more frequent attention. To keep track of their watering habits, check the soil regularly under the leaves and see if there’s excess water inside the root system. Once a week is enough for most types of cacti including the blue myrtle cactus. Also, avoid giving too much fertilizer especially during periods of drought. For example, never add nitrogen-rich composts right after planting. Instead wait until after the roots begin taking hold. This prevents potential nutrient burn. Just remember that no matter how healthy a cactus looks, it still has to cope with environmental stresses. So if you notice yellow leaves, cracking stems, tiny holes appearing on the pads, or spots developing on older leaves, then stop feeding and give it time to recover. Afterward, reapply only organic fertilizers, keeping in mind that organically grown nutrients work best with cacti. Adding fish emulsion to the mix is particularly helpful. Fish emulsion contains potassium salts and phosphates which help boost the health of both the cactus and itself. Finally, always pay extra special attention to newly planted cacti. Keep them moist and take care to inspect the entire root base every few days. Any signs of rot indicate dehydration and require immediate action. Now let’s move onto the subject at hand…watering.
Watering Blue Myrtle Cactus
There are numerous ways to water cacti ranging from drip irrigation systems to overhead sprinklers. Since the environment surrounding the blue myrtle cactus tends to vary greatly depending on where it lives, it isn’t possible to provide general guidelines for watering this type of plant. But generally speaking, cacti prefer plenty of sunlight preferably spread across several hours per day. Water thoroughly until the sink area reaches saturation level. Then allow the bottom inch of soil to dry completely before rewetting. Repeat this process throughout the year. During hot weather months, mist foliage lightly with distilled water using small spray bottles. Never use tap water as it could contain minerals that might inhibit proper development of the cactus. There are different varieties of cacti that thrive well in containers and rock gardens. As far as the blue myrtle cactus goes, they typically tolerate full sun exposure. Yet others prefer partial shade. Because of this wide range of preferences, it doesn’t hurt to bring home multiple specimens just in case something doesn’t fit quite right. Next, let’s talk about repotting.
Repotting Blue Myrtle Cactus (step by step guide)
This step requires patience and diligence. Repotting a cactus involves removing old, damaged or diseased parts, loosening the substrate material underneath, filling empty spaces with fresh medium, and gently mixing in additional mulch or sand layer.
First, remove dead tissue and store them separately for later recycling. Do not disturb the remaining stem tips and buds. Make sure to clean off dirt particles left behind after pruning.
Remove any stones or gravel covering the original pot. Use a knife to carefully lift out the existing container liner. Take great care to protect your hands when lifting up the liner. Be careful not to damage the drainage hole. Look for cracks or holes near the rim.
Gently break apart pieces of broken pots with your fingers. Inspect the interior of the pot for loose materials and debris. Using a spoon, scoop everything out of the pot except for the inner core. Next, wash the pot thoroughly and soak overnight in a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.
Clean the pot again thoroughly with soap and water. Allow the pot to drain for 2 hours.
Rinse thoroughly and wipe down the exterior of the pot with a damp cloth. Loosen the substrate material with a trowel or shovel. Fill the center space of the pot with 3 inches of good quality pea gravel or riverbed mixed with a little bit of charcoal.
Mix in approximately 2 pounds of either vermiculite, bark, coconut coir, or leaf mold according to package directions. Place the cactus back in the pot and fill the rest of the space with freshly added media. Replace the liner and place the pot back on the tray.
Mist frequently with water. Replenish as needed. Keep in mind that cactus likes lots of light. Try providing indirect daytime lighting whenever possible.
How To Propagate Blue Myrtle Cactus
Propagation means producing additional plants from existing material either by dividing existing clumps or individual stems to create clones of your own personal favorite specimen. Cloning refers to using the same mother plant to develop multiple offspring plants all genetically identical to her. While cloning gives us another chance to experience our favorite plants again, we must do so carefully and only when certain guidelines are strictly adhered to. We want the resulting plants to look exactly like the original but not necessarily to taste the same way.
This is why it is important to clone only part of the root ball of the parent plant. A good rule of thumb is to leave half the roots remaining intact to ensure stability should future transplanting occur. Also, don’t bother trying to propagate new shoots from older woody stems unless they’re completely soft and flexible. Cutting away even one third of the bark makes propagation impossible. Once rooted, potted young plants should remain indoors in areas protected from direct sunlight and high humidity. If allowed outside, place them in shallow containers filled with compost and water sparingly.
Avoid fertilizing them excessively as excessive moisture leads to rotting and disease problems associated with fungi. When ready to move outdoors, gradually acclimate them to outdoor temperatures by bringing them back inside on warm days and allowing them to rest overnight. Afterward, you’ll need to bring them out again for short periods throughout the day. Don’t forget to give them plenty of fresh air and sunshine every day once they’ve established themselves.
Note that although the blue myrtle cacti reproduce readily via seed, the process isn’t very reliable and doesn’t always yield desirable results. For example, the cultivar described above is somewhat finicky about temperature and only tolerates daytime temperatures between 70 degrees F and 100 degrees F. Soil should contain ample nutrients and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. As previously noted, they enjoy moderate watering and don’t really require fertilizer except perhaps a little extra nitrogen added to help encourage vegetative growth.
Common Problems With Blue Myrtle Cactus
While blue myrtle cacti generally grow quite nicely, occasionally there may arise some minor pest issues. One of these is aphids that tend to congregate around the base of the plant and suck sap directly from vulnerable portions close to ground level.
They usually attack the underside of leaves and stems causing tiny pinpricks and blemishes that eventually lead to unsightly deformities. Aphids spread easily among nearby plants and colonies of them can quickly overrun a whole patch of plants. Fortunately, they aren’t particularly harmful and removal won’t affect overall health of the afflicted plant. However, if you notice any signs of infestation, try sprinkling affected areas with insecticidal soap made especially for cotton leaf curl virus diseases affecting lettuce, cabbage, etc., or spray infected spots with neem oil.
A far greater threat to the survival of blue myrtle cacti comes in the form of animals. Coyotes, deer and squirrels love to feast upon unprotected bulbs left lying about unattended. Although they typically ignore cacti of any sort, they sometimes get curious enough to nibble the tips of the lower branches. Birds seem less likely to dine upon them because of their thorns. But keep in mind that birds are opportunists and could happily feed upon blue myrtle cacti if offered tasty morsels in abundance. Even though natural predators exist, they rarely come down to prey upon these cacti. That’s because they live deep underground where they find abundant food sources.
cacti offer us endless opportunities for creative displays within our homes. Why not learn more about these fascinating organisms and discover how easy it really is to maintain them in just a few short steps. Whether you decide to buy a single specimen or grab a handful of them, now you’ve got everything you need to create a spectacular indoor landscape filled with color and life. Happy gardening!