Thursday, April 26, 2018

CACTI AND SUCCULENTS HANDBOOK. A book review

Cactus and succulents have enjoyed a recent popularity among both outdoor gardeners and indoor gardeners alike.
Anyone can grow these plants, right? Well, yes, but a little knowledge on how to grow them is a must and this book will ensure a successful life for your cactus and succulent purchase.


I was interested to read that although most cactus and succulents hail from frost-free areas of the world the majority of cactus collectors and home enthusiasts live in the Northern hemisphere. Their popularity is partly founded on their ease of growth indoors and recent availability. They ask for little in the way of maintenance and many will reward with gorgeous flowers.

This book covers not only those frost-sensitive cactus and succulents but those species which can be grown successfully outdoors even in colder climates. A comprehensive guide to cultivating cacti and succulents is followed by a section which includes 60 common species of cacti some of which can be grown outside. Gideon provides an easy key to identify growing conditions. There is a big difference between frost free and a minimum of 50ºF. I made that mistake this winter when the temperature dropped down to 18ºF one night. My greenhouse heater could not keep pace and subsequently I lost several of the more sensitive plants I had.


Outside, frost free greenhouse, cold greenhouse, outdoors in summer, indoors in winter. It is important to know exactly what you buy and what conditions will ensure the survival of your purchase.

A short section then covers some of the worlds best collections including 3 in North America, two in South Africa, one in Monaco and surprisingly one in Switzerland. I have actually visited the one in Zurich and was truly amazed at what they were growing there both inside and out.

The rest of the book covers selected examples of plants from 12 different succulents families such as the agaves, yuccas, sedums, sansevierias and euphorbias, many of which are grown as house plants.
As with all plants there are pests and diseases and these are covered in a rather short section.  I think he might have expanded a little to include some of the other really common bugs like the annoying yucca plant bugs. Also maybe a chapter on home made soils as I find a lack of good cactus good growing soils in the marketplace and frequently make attempts to mix my own with varying degrees of success.

Other than that it is a great little book, amply illustrated with lots of good information. This is a great book for Texas gardeners as we are able to grow so many cactus and succulents outdoors. Even then they must be given the right conditions to protect against wet rather than frost.

Gideon Smith is a renowned South African author on succulent plants and has held multiple positions  both in research and  environmental research. He is the author of more than 900 scientific papers  as well as over 50 books.

Published by Fox Chapel Publishing


I was delighted to receive Cacti and Succulents Handbook by Gideon F Smith, as a review copy.



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