With the release of the newest All-Region Guide, Crazy About Cacti and Succulents, Brooklyn Botanic Garden reveals the allure that the world of succulents offers, along with valuable tips for everyone from the cacti novice to the seasoned collector. In this enticing guide, readers learn the inside scoop on stapeliads, ceropegias, and other jewels of the botanical world from people whose passion for these fascinating plants has led them to the art of bonsai, to competitive exhibition, and to growing succulents outdoors even in colder climates.
While newbies to the succulent world may keep an aloe vera on hand for its skin soothing properties, readers will learn about the closely related Aloe ferox—often referred to as the “grandfather of all aloes”— which is used to cure ailments, from arthritis to stress. And if you’re a succulent aficionado, you may already admire the twisted and gnarled shape of the Bursera fagaroides, elephant tree, which grows wild in the Sonoran Desert and whose aromatic resin is used to make copal. But did you know that this tree is relatively easy to prune into bonsai?
The architectural forms, stunning displays of color, versatility, and availability of suitable plant choices for every region make succulents the perfect focal point or complement to any garden design. Crazy About Cacti and Succulents presents fascinating and surprising information that will inspire beginners and demystify the world of succulent plants, as well as help more experienced succulent gardeners to expand their collection, and even groom these stunning plants for exhibition. Excerpted from BBG’s new handbook, below is a selection of spectacular cacti and succulents to grow for every garden.
Spectacular Cacti and Succulents
Living Sculptures and Architectural Beauties: from Hardy Cacti to Stapeliads
· Hardy Cacti: Living Sculptures – Hardy cacti have two key requirements: good drainage and abundant sunshine. For this reason, they do best when grown among rocks, such as a rock garden or stone wall. The glorious hedgehog cacti (Echinocereus), with their cylindrical symmetry, will always hold pride of place in a hardy cactus collection, in particular Echinocereus reichenbachii, which has the greatest cold tolerance and is least sensitive to excess moisture. Commonly known as lace cactus, this wonderful species is easily grown from seed and offers a tremendous range of flower color, spine development, form, and stem size. Hardy cacti also do well in containers, either in stone or stonelike materials such as hypertufa troughs or frost-proof stoneware containers. Many of the more sensitive Southwestern cacti, such as plains cactus (Sclerocactus) and fishhook cactus (Pediocactus) thrive in containers.
· Stapeliads: Seductive Sea Stars of the Desert – Stapeliads are a remarkable group of stem succulents with beautiful and intricate flower structures. The group is best known for two striking characteristics: the distinctive five-pronged flowers that look like sea stars and the incredible aroma that emanates from them. Huernias are remarkable succulents that make good houseplants and have flowers decorated with hairs and small bumps. Though stapeliads are not the easiest plants to cultivate in the home, they are well worth the extra care; Crazy About Cacti and Succulents offers all the tips you need to successfully grow these jewels.
Medicinal Varieties to Grow at Home
· Aloe ferox is as practical as it is stunning. It can be utilized to treat a number of ailments, including arthritis, conjunctivitis, eczema, hypertension, and stress. Externally, it is useful as an aid in treating sores and wounds. When young it has bluish-green leaves covered with toothlike spines. At maturity, it can reach 15 feet in height with a rosette of dull green to reddish-green leaves. Aloe ferox responds well to spending the summer outdoors before being moved inside for a few months under lights or on a bright windowsill.
· Bizarre-looking and twisted in shape, Boswellia carteri has been widely sought after since the beginnings of recorded history. The dried sap collected from the tree—called frankincense, or more poetically, dried tears—has been used for incense, perfumes, embalming, cosmetics, and medicine. It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Give the plant as much light as you can in your home.
Easy Cacti and Succulents to Grow on a Windowsill
· Epiphyllum Species and Cultivars: Often called orchid cacti, the exotic-looking flowers exhibit a rich and gorgeous palette of colors, are often fragrant, produce colorful fruits, and display a flamboyant design. Some can be grown upright, while others grow best in hanging baskets. They thrive in indirect light and should have cooler night temperatures, especially in the winter, to encourage flowering. The potting mix should remain moist and not be allowed to dry out.
· Jatropha podagrica: This plant looks like a genie’s bottle, hence its common name bottleplant. It may drop its three-lobed, dark green leaves in fall but always puts on a display of red blooms in early March. At times it will flower even without leaves. The naked plant then looks like a handsome tan bottle holding a bouquet of small red flowers.
Easy Succulent Bonsai for Beginners
· Adenium obesum, desert rose, impala lily – A relatively fast grower, a seedling can develop into a rewarding bonsai in as little as five years. Many specimens develop large, twisted bases and roots, which are partially exposed and displayed. Profuse two- to three-inch variations of fuschia-pink flowers with white throats cover the plant when it is in active growth. Branches can be wired and growing tips pruned or pinched to encourage branching and compact growth. This species thrives in full, all-day sun but will tolerate lower light conditions; it can be grown as an indoor bonsai if excellent indoor light is provided.
· Bursera fagaroides, elephant tree – A Sonoran Desert species related to myrrh, the aromatic resins of this plant have been used medicinally, to make copal, and to bind paint pigments. In the wild, specimens are often twisted and gnarled by the wind and desert conditions where they grow. However, its branches are very flexible and easy to wire. This species responds well to pruning with increased branching. Grow at 70ºF to 100ºF in full all-day sun, with moderate water.
For more plant ideas, growing tips, and inspiration for starting or perfecting your succulent collection, consult BBG’s Crazy About Cacti and Succulents. From basic growing tips to expert advice on grooming cacti and other succulents for exhibition, this beautifully illustrated and information-packed handbook is a one-stop reference for anyone who shares a passion for these remarkable living sculptures.
New York Times Book Review called BBG’s handbook series a “brilliant collection of little gardening handbooks...Each one takes a small bite of subject matter and chews it thoroughly...the mix of common sense, practical advice and, on occasion, pointed debunking...makes these slender volumes do the work of books twice their size and three times their price. And what the handbooks ... lack in acreage they make up for in authority.”
Crazy About Cacti and Succulents (ISBN 1-889538-72-8) is available at a discount direct from Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s online store at www.bbg.org, or by calling 718-623-7286. It is also available in bookstores and at garden centers for $9.95 in the U.S./$12.95 in Canada. For wholesale ordering information, call Sterling Publishing Co. at 800-367-9692 or visit its website at www.sterlingpub.com. To receive a free brochure of current and past handbook titles, call 718-623-7241.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden handbooks have been published continuously since 1945. They are the only series of popular gardening books published by a botanic garden in North America. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s All-Region Guides include specific information for gardeners across the U.S. and Canada.
Founded in 1910, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is an independent nonprofit institution committed to education, research, and the display of horticulture. BBG serves communities in New York City and internationally through its world-class gardens, extensive research collections, and numerous educational and community programs. Situated on 52 acres in the heart of Brooklyn, the Garden is home to over 10,000 types of plants and hosts more than 700,000 visitors annually.