They are generally called cacti or succulent plants, in fact it would be more correct to call them succulent; they are all those plants adapted to life in arid or subarid climates, having transformed stems, leaves, and/or roots in real warehouses for water.
Among the succulents a genus that counts many species is that of cacti, globose plants, with leaves transformed into thorns, all originating in Central and South America, many other plants are however succulent, and come for the most part from Africa.
The places of origin of the succulent plants are not necessarily warm all the year round; on the contrary, many succulent plants are adapted to live in arid places, but with minimum temperatures close to -10/-12°C; in the deserts, the winter can be very rigid, with very wide temperature ranges, from day to night; some arid zones, then, are placed at a certain altitude, and this causes quite low average temperatures.
Succulent plants have adapted to life in conditions prohibitive to other plants, this thanks to the transformation of some organs into deposits for water; this does not mean that they can always live without water, but only that they can withstand even very long periods of drought; these plants do not develop in sandy deserts, but in sub-desert areas, or arid, where rainfall is condensed in a short period of time, to be placed mostly in summer.
Therefore, it is mistakenly believed that the succulent plants do not need to be watered, during the hottest months of the year, on the contrary, it is necessary to supply water, so that the plants can re-establish their water reserves. In most places where the succulents develop, however, the coldest months of the year are completely free of precipitation, forcing the plants to a prolonged vegetative rest.
The vegetative cycle of the succulents, therefore, usually begins with a warm and rainy season, followed by a cold and completely rainy season, followed by a fairly hot period, during which the plant uses its water reserves to develop and produce flowers, fruits and seeds.
So if we want to have healthy succulent plants and flowers we should try as much as possible to recreate in our house a climate similar to that which the plants can find in their places of origin, so most of the succulent need in winter to be placed in a cold and completely dry, while during the remaining months need watering, which can wet the ground deeply, but letting it dry completely for a few days between one watering and another.
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Types of greenhouse
For most succulents in winter it is sufficient to protect them from water, so they can be placed in a cold greenhouse, i.e. in a place sheltered from the weather, heated by the sun, but without the need for a heating system provided by man.
If we have few plants and small size we can even just place them on a shelf outside, placed in a sunny place and sheltered from the house, and cover everything with plastic film or with agritourism, during the months to come we will be careful to ensure that it does not develop cochineal or other insects, but in principle our plants should not have problems and we can leave them undisturbed until spring.
If we have larger plants and we have the right place, we can instead prepare a real greenhouse, to be left quietly without heating, sunlight in any case will heat the greenhouse, keeping the temperature above zero.
If the plants are large but the place for a greenhouse is not there is the ideal is to bring them into the house, but choosing a room not very heated, a stairwell, a basement, possibly still an area without heating but bright.
Cold succulents: Various exceptions
We can say that most of the cacti can be grown during the winter in cold greenhouses, many succulent, however, come from tropical areas, arid but always warm climate, some even come from areas almost free of precipitation, but still have a good humidity environment. All these succulents are to be cultivated in temperate greenhouse, or even in apartment, where they can enjoy minimum temperatures over 12-15°C.
Therefore plants like the euphorbias or the rhipsalis are quite afraid of the cold, and should be placed in a place with a temperate winter climate; often this genus of plants can need watering even during the winter, we notice it from parts of the stem withered or from the foliage that falls; in any case, even for these plants diminish watering during the winter months, taking action every 15-25 days, and avoiding soaking the substratum.
There are also succulents native to the Mediterranean and Europe, such as some species of sedum or sempervivum; these plants can be placed in the garden, in pots or in the ground, exposed to the elements; they do not fear the frost and usually do not need watering, but are satisfied with the rainfall.
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