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Cactus & Succulents

Carrion Plant

By: Deb Pavlosky


So, who really wants to grow something called carrion plant?  It doesn’t SOUND pretty or like anything anyone would actually want to grow and propagate. But, I am really enjoying watching mine grow and flower.  Carrion plants aka starfish plants aka toad plants are in the genus Stapelia.  This genus of approximately 50 species originates in South Africa.  Carrion plants use their flowers to attract pollinators just like other flowering plants, but the pollinators this plant attracts are blowflies.  Blowflies like rotting meat, so yes, Stapelia flowers have been purported to have a less than pleasant smell, much like the corpse flower that many go to museums and botanical gardens to see when in bloom.   It’s a novelty and interesting, but also very beautiful in bloom.
The buds look like tiny darts protruding from the stems and grow quite large and almost look like angular balloons with hand-sewn seams before they open.  Once the blooms open, they look like hairy starfish.  The blooms seem to last a very long time and I have yet to notice the smell, but I do have mine in a hanging basket about 7′ off the ground. So, I don’t get right up next to it.
These plants like bright, indirect light and can be grown indoors near a bright window as well as outside.  Full afternoon sun in the Houston area might be too much for this plant, but morning sun with shady afternoons would be ideal.  In the colder months, this plant needs to be protected from freezing.   I will be bringing mine inside to overwinter.  Like all succulents, this plant needs very well draining soil and only occasional watering (some suggest no water during winter).  Applying a very light/dilute fertilizer infrequently during the warm/growing seasons will help with plant health and flowering.  In the spring, I will transplant mine to a clay pot and also take some cuttings.  Cuttings should be allowed to dry and harden over before planting.  More carrion plants to share with friends and family!  Such a fun and interesting plant to grow and share.


The Night Blooming Cereus

By: Kim Messer
The Night Blooming Cereus is in the Orchid Cactus family.  The Cereus has many colorful nicknames, Princess of the Night, Dama de Noche and Queen of the Night.  The genus Epiphyllum has twenty or so night bloomers and a few Orchid Cactus varieties which bloom during the day.  They are a wonderful low maintenance addition to any yard or patio.  They also will thrive inside in a well lit location. 
Cereus Flat Leaf
They were first discovered in the Jungles of Central and South America and then transported to Europe. These have long narrow stems which can sometimes be sharp and thin, good for climbing into the crooks of trees.  They prefer morning sun and will usually not flower until they are four or five years old.  The flower will start as a small bud and grow to 5 inches or more.  The flower will begin to open around ten pm and fully open by midnight.  The bloom is quite spectacular and fragrant.  It can be four to six inches wide and long. Some people have a night blooming party, but we enjoy ours before sunrise.  The bloom will close once the sun lights the sky.  This flat leggy variety, I keep in a hanging basket underneath an oak tree.
     We also have another variety of Cereus in a pot on the patio.  It is a columnar cactus with an elongated body.  These upright Cereus are native to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of southern Arizona, east to western Texas and south to northern Mexico.  I have been lugging this one around since college.  It can grow to ten feet or more.  The flowers on this Cereus are more spectacular.  The petals are larger and the flower is almost dinner plate sized. It is also very fragrant.  Each type Cereus will have one to eight blooms at a time from June through October.  They require minimal water and only a light organic fertilizer.  When fall approaches, reduce watering and fertilizing throughout the winter so the plant can reserve energy for blooms next season.  
Cereus Upright with 3 Blooms
     Some plants are like an old friend… predictable, dependable and constant.  The flowers are just a bonus… Plant a cactus and make a friend.

Aeonium- Copper Pinwheel

succulent 2Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ is a branching succulent with large rosettes of variegated green and white leaves edged in bright, coppery red that stand up on stalks up to 18 inches (45 cm) tall. The white flowers bloom in summer on mature plants.

Aeoniums do not like really hot or dry weather. They may go dormant in summer and do not require any water, except in very dry conditions. In extreme heat, their leaves will curl, to prevent excessive water loss. Growing them in moist shade will keep them growing, but their true growth season is winter to spring, when temperatures are cool and damp. In the winter, water whenever the soil has dried out. Test by poking your finger down into the soil an inch or two. Too much moisture or allowing them to sit in wet soil will cause root rot. A sandy loam or regular potting mix is better than a mix specifically for cacti and succulents, since Aeonium need some moisture. If you are growing them in containers, repot every 2 –3 years with fresh potting soil.




Agave Quadricolor Century Plant

cactus 8The leaves can have a multitude of colors depending on the time of year. Normally the leaves are a combination of olive-green, dark-green and cream and are lined with a row of fine teeth that when young are a rich amber, aging to black, then ultimately to grey. Considered a small to medium agave, can grow over 2ft in diameter. It can tolerate dry conditions but grows much faster in the summer with regular irrigation.

USDA Zone Information: 8b-10
Family: Agavaceae
Ideal Light Conditions: Sun
Ideal Water Conditions: Moderate in summer, dry in winter
Speed of Growth: Slow to moderate
Mature Height: 24in
Mature Width: 24in+

Euphobia- Medusa Head

Water Requirements:cactus 6

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Suitable for growing in containers


under 6 in. (15 cm)

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)


12-15 in. (30-38 cm)


USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer


Grown for foliage



Cactus Blue Columnar

cactus 13Blue columnar cactus likes a position of full sun / partial sun and remember to apply water fairly sparingly. Use Zone 9 – Zone 11 as your guideline for the appropriate climate for this plant.

Blue columnar cactus is part of the pilosocereus genus and its scientific name is Pilosocereus pachycladus.

A type of succulent, it mainly grows as an evergreen plant – which means it retains leaves throughout the year.

Brazil is believed to be where Blue columnar cactus originates from.

Blue columnar cactus is great for inexperienced gardeners and those that like low maintainance gardens.

Echeveria Colorata



Hardiness: succulent 3

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade

Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring


Grown for foliage




Blue Barrel Cactus

12783582_10153593119578822_2567980944318109308_oGrowing barrel cactus requires a sunny location, well-drained potting soil and minimal watering.

Soil for barrel cactus is mostly sand with a little topsoil, perlite and compost. Prepared cactus mixes are suitable for growing barrel cactus. Unglazed pots are best for potted cactus because they allow the evaporation of excess water.

Water is a very important component to caring for barrel cactus. The plants are native to arid desert regions and usually have only rainfall to supply their moisture needs. Water your barrel cactus once per week in summer. The barrel cactus doesn’t need much water in winter when it is dormant. Water once between December and February. Adequate water in spring may cause the plant to produce a large yellow flower. Rarely the plant will then grow an edible fruit.

Old Man Cactus

12768392_10153580598083822_3613218025912233213_oThis cactus can go outside in USDA zones 9 and 10. Native to Mexico, they need hot, dry climates and bright sunlight. The long hair is used by the plant to keep itself cool in its natural habitat. As an outdoor plant, they can get 45 feet tall but are generally slow growing as potted plants.

Use a cactus mix or blend of sand, perlite and topsoil for indoor cactus growing. Also, use an unglazed pot for growing old man cactus. This will allow the pot to evaporate any excess moisture. Old man cactus houseplants like their soil on the dry side and overwatering is a common cause of rot and disease.

Old man cactus needs a sunny, warm location but has few other needs. You should watch it carefully for pests, however, which can hide in the hair. These include mealybugs, scale, and flying pests.

Mangave Macho Mocha


Category: Succulent
Family: Agavaceae (Agaves)
Origin: Mexico (North America)
Evergreen: Yes
Red/Purple Foliage: Yes
Variegated Foliage: Yes
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Infrequent
Synonyms: [Manfreda ‘Macho Mocha’, Agave hybrid]
Parentage: (Manfreda variegata x Agave celsii?)
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 4-6 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (Water) Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10° F