The cactus plant is a member of the Cactaceae family and should not be mistaken for succulents although it is an easy error to make. These two are more or less identical in appearance because they have evolved the same way, so-called parallel evolution, but differ in composition. In reality the cactus plant and the succulent plants are not even related with each other. The cactus plant is only found in the New world, on the American continent that is, with only one exception.
Rhipsalis baccifera is not only found in the New world but also in the northern parts of Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka which has puzzled scientists for some time. It is though believed that this plant has been carried there by migrating birds for over thousand of years ago, an age not very impressive when it comes to plants in general and therefore makes this a rather young plant in the so-called Old world. One should bear in mind that the cactus plant on the New world has evolved for over 40 million years, now that is a long time!
Adapted to very harsh and dry environments, it has an extremely special look to it. Although mostly shaped like a thorny balloon, they are just plants, nothing else. The shape helps it to keep its moist due to low transpiration, which is water evaporating of leaves, and at the same time, the stem is used to store water in for usage during extremely dry seasons. The stem is also the only place where photosynthesis take place due to the lack of actual leaves. Instead, the leaves have formed into something completely different. To defend the cactus plant from thirsty animals, evolution has seen to it that it has spines, almost like thorns, with which it protects itself while at the same time helps cooling it under the gazing sun. The spines are, as you already have guessed, actually former leaves that have evolved for millions of years to suit the needs for defense. One might still see leaves but they will soon wither and fall off. There are just a few that still keep its rudimentary leaves.
While leaves do not exist flowers may still do on some and they are usually magically beautiful. And of course the fact that many are night blooming makes the magic even more present. This is one of the reasons to why a cactus plant is such a common house or garden plant. Being that it will need minimal care is of course also an obvious reason. There are a lot of different kinds for your household, while some will fit in a small pot standing on your bookshelf, there are others that would grow like a tree in your garden, there are even ones that bear eatable fruit. It is a very attractive plant, although you would not want to fall into its spines by accident.
Cactus Plant Care
Cacti are way cool plants that go more or less anywhere with anything. They are relatively easy to grow and require more or less minimal care. Usually you buy already planted plants and that is wonderful because they can be a little difficult to raise and raising them from seed requires a more advanced care. If there are any questions, ask at your local garden store or simply browse the web for forums that discuss care and planting. Now, I will give you some tips, so that your wonderful cactus, either bought or planted, won’t perish within the first week. It is unlikely that such a disaster would occur but trust me, it can happen.
The container in which you will have your cactus should be chosen with care and respect towards what kind of plant you have. Find out what is suited for just your cactus. The soil should also be an important question. Mainly the soil needs to be extremely well drained, otherwise the roots will rot and it will die. But it still needs to be compact enough to hold your cactus upright. This is very serious problem for many and it is therefore many cacti are planted in an almost rocky soil.
While watering your cactus, remember that it is supposed to endure long periods of dryness. Over-watering it is therefore a serious problem that causes the roots to rot and is one of the most common causes that a cactus dies. Pay much attention to the moisture of the soil and just splash the soil with some water once and awhile. Some of them need fertilizer, some do not. Find out the needs for your specific cactus plant when you buy it to be able to give it the best care possible. There are no general rules for this one.
Your cactus most probably enjoy sunlight, be sure to give it some but not directly. Full sunlight mixed with filtered gives the best result for the most plants. During summer you could bring it out, it will most probably appreciate the change of scenery. But remember that the sunlight is much stronger outdoors so refrain yourself from placing your cactus in gazing sunlight. In the shade of another plant or under a partially transparent roof is most suitable for the job.
You might think that your cactus is not growing as it should, do not worry about it. It is very slow growing and you will probably not even notice it growing. This is because they can become pretty old and with some great care it is quite possible that the cactus will outlive you. How about that.