Failing succulents

(Question)

I purchased a collection of succulents in Jan and they were all doing really well until the last week or two. Now each seems to have a different problem. The cactus has white stuff on it. It looks like Mealy bugs to me (perhaps, but this is just based on an internet search). The string of pearls is loosing its pearls and the “succulent” (in not sure what it’s prober name is) has grown tall and become leggy. Please advice. I’ve grown attached to each of them. Thanks!

(Answer)

Thank you for your inquiry. Without knowing the growing conditions of your cacti (light, temperature, soil, water) it is difficult to give an accurate assessment of what could be wrong.

You mention that you have been growing these cacti since January. Your problem could be a result of how you grew them during the winter months. Cacti go dormant in the winter, and do their active growing during the summer months. During the winter months cacti should be watered sparingly, this means very little water every few weeks to a month and no fertilizer. If watered more often, the roots will rot and the cactus will appear shriveled as it’s not taking up the water. Dormant cacti prefer cool conditions; placing them next to a cool window is often several degrees cooler than the main house.

Cacti should be repotted as the dormancy period ends- as winter is coming to an end, and at this point, you can start watering a bit more frequently. The pot should be barely larger than the biggest cactus, or the group of cacti about 2 cm from the edge of the new pot.Unlike most household plants, cacti do not prefer soil that holds moisture. Any cactus mix from a reputable garden centre would do.

You are correct in  that your one cactus has been infested with mealy bugs.  Our Gardening Guide on Growing Cacti and other Succulents gives detailed instructions on how to deal with these pests. You may also wish to refer to the following articles for general and winter care of cacti: www.csssj.org/welcome_visitors/basic_culture.htmlwww.lancaster.unl.edu/hort/articles/2008/cactiwinter.shtml

Finally, if you can, put your cacti outside in the sun from spring to fall. They are actively growing, and with sun and regular feeding, they will thrive.