Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Plants use body language to indicate how they are doing. If we become attuned to how they look and what they’re trying to say we can better meet their needs. This is especially true for cacti and succulents. This method applies to both house plants and those that are grown in outdoor gardens. However, those growing outdoors are subject to certain additional kinds of stress, such as exposure to ozone, which can damage plant tissue.
Watching your indoor plants for these signals can play an important role in keeping your cacti and succulents healthy, vigorous, and growing. Keep your eyes open for the following signs of trouble.
Attractive green moss growing on the top of the soil indicates the soil may be draining poorly, and has become acid. Cacti and succulents demand good drainage. If they are growing in pots, repot them into a quick draining mix.
If your plants are bending over towards the light, the chances are very good that they need more sunlight. If you don’t have a more suitable indoor location for them, you can make it a regular habit to rotate the pot a little every day or so. This allows different areas of the plant access to the light over a period of time.
When the flower buds wither, this may be a sign that the house plant was exposed to drafts, either hot or cold. This happens most frequently with ones like the Christmas cactus.
The various species and cultivars of cacti and succulents can differ in their color. This is to be expected. Know what the normal color for your plant would be. If it becomes pale and discolored, then you can suspect that there is a problem. You might initially think the plant is getting too little light when in fact the opposite might be true. For example, with shade loving cacti like the epiphyllums, this may mean they are actually getting too much sun. This often happens when we take our plants outdoors for the summer months where the light is stronger than it is indoors. In addition, plants may change color if they are moved from a spot where they were getting adequate light into a poorly lit spot.
When we see a plant wilting, we may automatically think it is getting too little water. That may be true. However, it may also mean the plant has been overwatered, resulting in root rot. In that case, the wilt is a sign the plant is unable to take up water as it normally would.
Plants that look leggy or spindly are indicating that they need more light. This is most common with columnar cacti and succulents. Quite often when this occurs, the plant will become abnormal in shape as well.