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Proctor:Grow the desert indoors

3:14 PM, Jan 26, 2014   |    comments
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KUSA - The air in Colorado is dry. Heat it inside in winter and it's really dry--as dry as the desert.

Most houseplants put up with our dry, hot homes, but cacti and succulents thrive in them. Growing these denizens of the desert is both easy and rewarding. They come in a fascinating assortment of shapes, textures and colors and many have beautiful flowers. Best of all, they need a minimum of care. The only way to kill them is by over-watering them.

Most cacti and succulents grow best in a sunny windowsill; a few tolerate dimmer light. They grow relatively slowly and rarely need repotting. A gravelly potting soil blended for desert plants is best. A decorative but practical mulch of fine gravel or pebbles helps ensure good drainage and shows the plants to best advantage.

How often you water is determined by how warm you keep your house. I rarely water more than once a month. These are very forgiving plants; feel free to take a long vacation.

I take my cacti and succulents outside in the summer. If you do this, make certain to expose them to the sun gradually. The can get terrible burns that may scar them for years. I expose mine by using a shade cloth that cuts the direct rays they receive. I leave this on for a week or so, pulling it back a few more hours each day. Cacti and succulents may also be exposed to sun under the shade of trees, gradually moving them to sunnier positions. As much as they love heat, these plants can also withstand cool temperatures. Low night time desert temperatures has enabled them for this, so they are appropriate for foothill and mountain gardeners as well.

Cacti and succulents have few pests or diseases and animals rarely tangle with them due to sharp spines or needles. If you need to handle your plants for transplanting, use heavy duty kitchen mitts or leather gloves. I use welder's tongs that are really just big tweezers to remove debris that may get lodged in crevices or stuck to the needles.

Small specimens are usually inexpensive. Larger ones may command high prices because it takes years for them to obtain size. With sun and little care, you will likely own them for a lifetime.

Plants are courtesy of Tagawa Gardens.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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