Indoor Gardening, Caring for Cactus and Succulent Plants

Cactus and Succulents can add color and texture to your indoor garden, requiring little attention and care.  This unique plant group store water in the body, leaves and stems. Cacti store water in the main body of the plant and succulents store water in their stems and leaves.  

Generally found growing in warm arid regions of the world succulents have the ability to survive on very little water. Therefore it is not surprising that they have gained popularity as care free and low maintenance house plants. Mainly grown for ornamental purposes many cultivars are uniquely shaped in various colors and textures. Even though they are super easy to grow the most common question I get from clients is, how do I keep them looking as good as the day I bring them home from the garden center? It is not a difficult task if you follow a few simple tips.

Look for plants with a healthy root structure, vibrant green foliage and full shape. Avoid  plants with soft yellowing leaves, these are signs of poor watering habits.  Stickiness or a powdery residue are signs of insect damage.

Transplant succulents using the right type of soil. Cacti and succulents are not aggressive growers. In fact they are slow growers.  The root system is usually not as thick and fibrous like most plants. Transplant using well-drained soil containing a balance of sand, perlite and sphagnum peat moss, providing water and fertilizer retention.  I recommend using a soilless mix cacti, succulent mix that is specially formulated to keep plants well drained. Succulents can be planted in any type of container that allows for proper drainage. Make sure containers have a drainage hole for water to flow through.

Water plants when they are thoroughly dry. I always soak plants thoroughly and allow water to flow through, then wait a week and check again. If soil is still moist wait another week. I generally wait two or even three weeks between waterings. Some signs to look for if you are not watering properly are, drying and dehydrated looking leaves aren’t getting enough water and soggy leaves are holding too much water. Get into a regular watering schedule to help plants thrive.

Let your plants live in light. Succulents love bright, filtered light so find a bright sunny window where they’ll receive four to six hours of sun.

Fertilize with a water soluble succulent food as needed. Remove dead or decaying leaves to keep plants looking clean. This is a good routine to acquire. It allows you to keep an eye out for insects or any potential plants problems.  These easy to follow tips will keep your succulents happy and healthy indoors all year.

Making Seed Tape

If you are like me and save seeds from your garden every year or you like to direct sow cool season vegetables like carrots and radishes, you can’t wait to get in the garden and plant them.  For anyone who has done this knows that seed cultivation by directly sowing them into the ground can be a tedious and tricky process, especially when the seeds are very tiny and lightweight.  Making seed tape is a way for you to plant seeds without worrying about waste. They are so easy to make from biodegradable materials that you already have in your home.  Seeds are evenly spaced and glued to strips of paper using newspaper, paper towels or toilet paper and glued using flour and water.

To make seed tape you will need:

Toilet paper, newspaper or paper towels

White flour



Small brush or Q-tips.

  1. Mix about two tablespoons of white flour with one tablespoon of water to make a thick paste. You may have to adjust amounts.  Thicker glue will dry faster.  The paste should not be too watery.  You don’t want seed to absorb too much water.  The glue will hold the seed in place.
  2. Using a ruler cut one inch strips of newspaper, TP or paper towels.
  3. Place seed on the one inch strips in the middle.  Space seed according to the distance on package. You can spread the glue on the paper using a tiny brush then using the tweezers place one to two seeds per space.
  4. When you are done place a top layer of paper on top and glue together.
  5. Wait for glue to dry overnight before storing in a dry container.  Add rice to keep inside or container dry from humidity  and or condensation.  Don’t for get to label your seed tape.

When you are ready to plant take your seed tape to the garden and lay in the ground.  Lightly cover the tape with soil and water in.  Once your seeds germinate you will notice there is no need for tedious thinning and wasting of seeds.

How to keep that beautiful poinsettia blooming

by Tina Sottolano Cain

Keeping your poinsettia alive until next Christmas is not as challenging as you may think. With a little knowledge of the history of the plant and a few easy growing tips you will have an easy time getting your poinsettia to bloom again.

The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima is a tropical plant that is native to the southern region Mexico and was brought to the United States by the ambassador to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1825.

The beautiful red color of its leaves known as bracts make this plant very unique. When grown in their native environment they traditionally grow in part sun and shade, and can grow up to 13 feet tall.

To keep your poinsettias looking good throughout the winter months give them a sunny, south-facing windowsill where it is bright, be sure the light is filtered and free of any drafts. You also want to keep the plant away from any heat vents as well. I find that keeping the temperature between 68-70 degrees is ideal.

Watering poinsettias can be challenging for many. Striking the right balance of moisture and humidity can make all the difference in keeping your plant looking happy and healthy. I recommend checking water regularly. Remove the foil cover from the pot, if you already haven’t. This will allow the plant to drain properly. Too often I have seen a poinsettia take a turn for the worse only to find out later that it has been sitting in a pool of water at the bottom of the foil cover. This will also allow for proper air flow around the base of the plant. Some of the warning signs are the lower leaves turning yellow and curling followed by dropping off. Allow plants to dry out between watering cycles. Never leave excess water in saucers and cache pots.

Continue with this practice until spring. Stop watering and allow the plant to dry out, leaving the stems to shrivel and leaves to drop. Place plant in a cool location where temperature ranges from 50-60 degrees. At the end of spring cut back stems to a couple of inches above the soil line and repot using fresh potting soil. Begin watering again and place plant outside for the summer months in a shaded location. Begin fertilizing using a 10-10-10 ratio weekly at the first sign of new growth. Mid-summer begin pinching off the tips from the top of the plant. This is the new growth you are taking off to promote side branching. You want to do this two times during the growing season before you bring the plant indoors in the fall. Place in a sunny location and continue to water and fertilize regularly.

In autumn move the plant to complete darkness between the hours of 5 pm and 8 am. This triggers the plant to change its growth pattern. Its bracts will change color from dark green to red and flower. Once the plants bracts have completely colored, typically in November, return to a sunny location and enjoy for another holiday season.