Caring for Dormant Cacti to Ensure Thriving Succulents
There are often legitimate concerns regarding the welfare of a cactus when shipping during the colder winter months. This guide is designed to explain a little bit about why some cacti look the way they do when received in the winter, and to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to allow to cactus to thrive.
Cacti are seasonal plants. This means they are usually actively growing during the spring, summer, and fall whereas during the winter they are resting or dormant. Each cactus you receive spends its life in our outdoor greenhouse. A cactus begins entering dormancy when the temperatures become cooler, hours of sunlight decrease, and water becomes scarce. In fact, beginning sometime in September all our cacti receive little to no water for the next 6 months. This is why they appear shriveled and soft when received during the winter. They are water deprived and not actively growing. How do they survive for months without any water? Dormancy. As a result, a cactus shrivels up losing most of its stored water content and ceases to grow. It remains in this state of suspension until the spring when sunlight increases, watering begins, and temperatures rise once again.
The cactus you receive from October – May will be dormant. Its appearance and squishy texture are a result of it being deprived of water for the past few months. If you receive a cactus in December, it has not been watered for 3 months and a cactus received in February has not been watered for 5 months. Similarly, a cactus cutting can lose much of its former turgidity when cut. An open wound allows for transpiration causing the cutting to feel soft to the touch.
This natural process is necessary so that the cactus can protect itself from the cold, it does this by concentrating antifreeze like substances beneath its skin when water is lost. This allows it to resist colder temperatures in the winter. Even if the cactus were exposed to short bouts of freezing temperatures while in the mail, it will be fine. In our greenhouse environment it has already been steadily exposed to colder temperatures from autumn and allowed to properly dehydrate, so by this point it is already well prepared for colder temperatures while shipping. In fact, many cacti easily handle short bouts of below freezing.