Beauty in dryness
We do many things to keep our surroundings clean and beautiful.
Growing flowers and plants is one of them. Have you ever thought of
growing cactus and succulents in your home garden? The plural of cactus
is cacti or cactuses. The Tamil term for cacti is Kalli and the Sinhala
equivalent is pathok.
Cacti comes from the American continent and those found elsewhere in
the world have been introduced at sometime in the past. A succulent is
generally considered to be any plant which has the natural ability to
store in its body or roots. Succulents usually have fattened leaves or
thick stems filled with stored water, which allow them to live through
long periods without moisture.
They all have in common the ability of store water in the tissues to
survive periods of droughts.
Naleendra Senanayake living in Silverdale estate in Dodangoda,
Kalutara has been planting cactuses and succulents for nearly three
decades. He started planting cactuses and succulents as a leisure time
activity with a few varieties and had more varieties in quick
succession. He now has 350 - 400 varieties of cactuses and succulents in
his home garden. His success is the result of years of hard graft.
Senanayake told the Sunday Observer that anything can be done
successfully, if someone is committed and devoted to a cause. He also
said that the climatic condition in Kalutara district was not conducive
to plant cactuses and succulents. In spite of the unsuitable climatic
conditions, he has taken a challenge to prove that nothing is
According to Senanayake, the lifespan of some cacti varieties go up
to a 100 years. Finding labourers for the maintenance is also another
major problem he faces.
Anybody will feel immensely happy, when seeing a beautiful flower
amidst thorns. Cacti flowers are very beautiful and they please your
eyes. Many cacti are grown for their flowers. Others only for their
spines and magnificent form. The likelihood of flowering varies
enormously between species with others while quite young. However, if
your cacti do not bloom, there could be a number of reasons.
The amount of light given to cacti and succulents is one of the most
important factors in their growth.
Some plants need bright light, moderate light, dim light and
artificial light. The majority of cacti and succulents require strong
sunlight to grow well. A number of some other cacti and succulents will
grow in moderate light with some direct sun. These plants generally grow
well up to three feet (1m) from South, East or West windows. Few of the
plants need dim light.
Cacti and succulents do not live on water and light alone. They need
fertiliser the same as other plants, but in smaller amounts. Fertilising
should be done only while plants are actively growing. Growing plants
from seed is an interesting experiment, if nothing else, and it is also
the only way to propagate cacti which do not form offsets easily.
"If one of your own plants has set seed, growing it first is one way
to start. Later, you may want to order seed from a professional cactus
seed specialist. Cacti and succulents like many other plants, have been
used since ancient times as a source of cosmetics and medicines.
The healing properties of Aloe species were known to the Greeks and
Romans used them to treat a variety of ailments, from serious wounds to
minor skin complaints. These same properties are recognised today and
the mucilaginous sap from freshly split leaves can be applied directly
to the skin to smooth minor cuts and burns.
Some people believe that growing cactus is not suitable and they
believe it brings bad luck. If you have cactus and succulents in your
home garden, it will definitely add colour to your garden. We should
always consider the saying "Superstition is the religion of feeble