Just over a year ago some new friends inspired me to start collecting cacti and succulents. I’d always admired the different species but only as a passing interest. However, once they showed me their incredible collection, I was hooked. Have you ever studied these plants? Structure, leaves and flowers? They are beautiful! Okay, I concede beauty is in the eye of the beholder but over the next few months I will share my collection, latest additions, challenges and passion and just maybe you will be converted.
A woman on a mission my search for plants began in earnest. I was amazed to discover most garden centres in the Algarve offer an extensive choice of cacti and succulents at reasonable prices. So my advice: don’t be tempted to import, buy locally if possible. Even Lidls sell cacti and succulents on occasions from as little as €1 each. I’ve also picked up a few plants at car boot sales while friends have donated plants and cuttings.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered and still find confusing, is identifying the plants. Although I’ve been a keen gardener for several years, I’ve never had any inclination to dig deeper (no pun intended) beyond their common names such as Morning Glory, Money plant or Lady of the Night etc. Now I’m faced with words such as Phylum, Life, Family, Subfamily, Genus, Tribe and Species etc. etc. And as for the Latin names, they are real tongue-twisters! I envy people who can memorise and then reel them off at the drop of a hat.
I am now on a journey of discovery so if there are any cacti and succulent gurus out there, please step forward.
Plant Family – I already have several plants from the list below. Now comes the fun part of identifying them
Genus: Aloe (over 500 species)
Genus: Agaves (over 200 species)
Genus: Crassulas -(about 200 species)
Genus: Echeveria (about 150 species)
Genus: Gasteria (7 species?)
Genus: Haworthia (about 60 species)
Genus: Kalanchoe (about 125 species)
Genus Sedum (around 470 species)
Genus: Sempervivum (40 species)
For ease of reference, I will just focus on the genus and then identify the species within each. This will give me a better understanding of the needs of each plant, especially as some species require bright light but not full sun.
We are fortunate that in some areas of the Algarve most succulents and cacti can live outside during winter as we don’t have severe ground frost. I grow the tender plants in containers so I can move under a covered terrace during the winter months. I think they would be fine if I left them out, but as a new collector I’m on a steep learning curve so I err on the side of caution.
For example: Aloe is the genus of which there are over 500 species! So far I have succulents and cacti in following and now it’s time to photograph and identify each of the species.
Tip: when you buy a plant in a garden centre they sometimes remove the identification label when you go to the till as they need the barcode.
Who else grows cacti and succulents?
I’d love to hear from you, so don’t be shy and please leave a comment below.