Cactus and Succulents forum→Australia Winter and Succulents

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Sydney, NSW
JimsPlants
Jun 10, 2020 6:33 PM CST
Hey,
This winter is the first one I've weathered with succulents. We've currently had a couple of days of rain with more expected and my succulents are in a spot that receives about an hour of sun during winter (its the perfect summer spot with 6am til 10am-12pm of sun).
They're in mostly succulent soil with a mix of perlite or sand at different ratios but I'm a bit worried about how much they're receiving.
How do I tell if my soil is free draining enough and should I move them to a more sun but more open to the elements position?
Some plants are in plastic pots but most are in terracotta.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 10, 2020 6:49 PM CST

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What is your annual minimum temperature? Are you close to it at the moment? What are the daytime temps like? What kind of plants do you have?

Lots of light during winter is generally helpful if your plants are outside. I would be concerned about an east facing exposure like the one you've described only getting an hour of sun during the winter. Two or three times that much would be better, and more would probably only help. I keep most of my succulents on a rooftop patio facing SW and they get hours of daily sun during the winter. Some actually get more direct sun during winter than they do during summer, because of the exposure and a shade cloth overhang. It's less intense, though, because the sun rises lower in the sky during the shorter days of the year, and thus is less likely to burn or shock plants. Do you have a more northerly exposure?

I view lots of sun during winter as a double bonus, because it keeps the plants from stretching and it helps promote the drying out of the soil. This is especially true for unglazed clay (terra cotta) pots which evporate through the sides as well as the top.

Winter rain is not necessarily a problem unless it's combined with cold. Ideally your plants would have a week or two to dry out in between episodes of heavy rain, but for whatever reason rain water is less likely to provoke rot than tap water if it comes at the wrong time. You will learn over time (and probably through some losses) which of your plants are more sensitive to wet feet in winter. I keep a small number of succulents under overhead protection (so they don't get wet when it rains) during the winter in our winter rainfall climate, but the vast majority of them can handle the ~18cm of rainfall they typically get during the winter months with no protection. Our climate is very mild (winter minimum about 8°C) and your results will vary depending on how far you are away from that number. Most of the plants that I protect are caudiciforms that lose their leaves and actually go dormant during winter, and all of them will go out into the rain if it comes at the right time.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 10, 2020 6:53 PM (+)]
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Sydney, NSW
JimsPlants
Jun 10, 2020 8:27 PM CST
About 0-5°C, I live in the equivalent of Zone 10 of America. The day time temps are probably anywhere between 10-20°C, its currently 12:30 and 18°C and sunny but more rain expected.
I've slowly been moving them to unglazed clay pots so that that happens.
I can move it to the south side of my garden which means it would get the sun from early morning until about 2-4pm (I havent properly checked it since Autumn) I have moved my cactus' to inside, west facing windows that get strong afternoon sun between 3-6pm but thats it, does get bright shade otherwise. I figured they'd gone completely dormant so thats why I brought them in (I watered my Euphorbia Trigonia about a week ago and it hasn't 100% dried yet so I based it off this that they have gone full dormant).
Thank you for your response @Baja_Costero I appreciate it.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 10, 2020 8:41 PM CST

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Once you're past the repeated rains you're in the midst of, this position with nearly day-long sun sounds excellent. Your cacti should not go dormant given the conditions you have described (as a general rule, with plenty of exceptions). If they continue to get hours of sun and temps continue to be mild, they should keep going all winter. At least that's what they do here. As indoor plants they definitely keep going. As soon as it gets cold (especially in the daytime) or dark (like <2-3 hours of daily sun) they may slow down, but I doubt they will actually go dormant there. The zone 10 growing season is pretty much year round, with maybe a few days off here and there when you hit the annual minimum.

Your trigona may lose all its leaves and stop growing, but I don't think that represents dormancy, more like stasis or rest or a buildup to the next growth phase. The stem is still actively photosynthesizing. That plant likes strong light during winter in order to stay strong, and presents a higher risk of rot when it's in the shade or far from a sunny window at that time. I would water mine regularly (when the soil is dry or nearly dry at depth) year round. You will find that the soil dries out slower during winter with the shorter days, less intense sun, and lower temps, so you may need to adjust the watering frequency for all your plants accordingly. Try to avoid watering on the coldest days. Assume that clay pots in the sun will dry out faster.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 10, 2020 8:44 PM (+)]
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Sydney, NSW
JimsPlants
Jun 10, 2020 8:48 PM CST
Ok thank you very much, I might move my cacti back outside and move my full sun ones over to the south side. Do you think moving them will burn them or is the sun strength weak enough that they won't be at risk? I was planning on moving to once every 2 weeks/month watering if theres no rain at the moment.

My trigonia hasn't lost any of its little leaves would that mean its not in dormancy? I know euphorbias dont like sitting in wet soil so have been paranoid.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 10, 2020 9:06 PM CST

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Fall/winter sun (especially at this time of year) is at its minimum strength, so I generally don't think twice about moving plants to more exposed locations. As long as it's not incredibly abrupt (like indoor shade to outdoor full sun) the risk is low. When in doubt find an intermediate location and park your plants there for a week or two to give them a chance to build up resistance to the UV.

When I'm in the process of advancing a young plant from shade cloth protection to full sun (say it has graduated from the nursery and is now big enough to tolerate adult exposure) I usually take a lot longer to do it (maybe twice as long) during late spring/early summer compared to late fall/early winter. The difference here is that the midday sun during late spring/early summer reaches 80° in the sky (nearly vertical) whereas the midday sun during late fall/early winter reaches 33° in the sky (a third of the way to vertical). Solar energy is related to that angle and the difference between those two states is roughly two-fold. So late fall sun at midday is like late spring sun under 50% shade at midday.

https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/...

If your trigona has leaves then it's definitely awake. There is a sort of spectrum with that plant, from rapid stem growth with lots of new leaves being generated, to a sort of rest state with leaves, to a sleepier resting state with no leaves. I don't think it will ever be truly dormant in your climate, provided things stay mild and bright. Lots of sun will help with evaporation, in turn helping you avoid wet feet. Fast draining soil will tend to hold a lot of air and that helps too. Not using too huge a pot would be a good idea too. Otherwise, trigona is not a Euphorbia you really need to worry about during the winter, compared to some of its kin anyway. Smiling
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 10, 2020 9:20 PM (+)]
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Name: Connor
Boerne, TX
Smotzer
Jun 11, 2020 9:22 AM CST
Well Baja covered most everything but something I wanted to add about your soil mix. I would in the future advise against not using sand in mixes, it's partial size is actually very small and can actually reduce pore spaces in soil mixtures while having a stronger soil water retention capacity. Your best bet would be to remove to sand percentages and up your rates or perlite or other larger stone aggregate.

I have done field capacity tests and soil water retention capacity tests with sand in soil mixtures and it actually can prevent the fast draining you are aiming for. Especially depending on where and how you put the sand in the mixture. And it also leads to lower oxygen levels in the soil by clogging natural pore spaces.

While yes it may have a higher pore space ratio than clay particles but much smaller than using larger aggregates. Most sand you can easily get is a very fine particle and actually stays wet for a long time.

I have actually used sand in seed germination mixes that I want to hold onto water a little bit tighter, but not because I want to mixture to drain better. For that I'll use larger particle size stone aggregates.

Just my two cents in on how you can get a faster draining soil especially during the dormant winter months.
Sydney, NSW
JimsPlants
Jun 11, 2020 3:27 PM CST
@Baja_Costero I have moved everything to the more sun position although it'll be a bit hard to see how its going as its raining again rip. I didn't realise how weak the sun gets during winter, thats amazing.
I purchased my trigonia from a specialty nursery and they told me not to repot until spring which drives me insane because I'm pretty sure its quite rooty and its in a plastic pot (I assume it is its growing pot) so I'm very paranoid about moisture content of the soil.
Just a question I have meant to ask, does root rot get caused by wet soil, as in no visible free water but clearly the dirt has been watered and has absorbed moisture and isn't fully dry or does it have to be soaking in water?

@Smotzer Man you hear such mixed reviews on sand, I've read to use it and also read the same as what you said. It's hard to get porous stone where I live so I primarily use perlite, no set ratio but my current mix is probably 30-40% perlite to 60-70 cactus mix. I have been using horticultural sand in my cactus' though.
Name: Connor
Boerne, TX
Smotzer
Jun 11, 2020 3:52 PM CST
@Jimsplants yeah I personally just stay away from it when I was getting my degree in one of my soil science courses we did tests about soil properties and retention tests and sand in some instances was worse. I like most people thought it will help but with everything I've seen there are much better options.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
Jun 11, 2020 4:08 PM CST

Moderator

JimsPlants said:Just a question I have meant to ask, does root rot get caused by wet soil, as in no visible free water but clearly the dirt has been watered and has absorbed moisture and isn't fully dry or does it have to be soaking in water?


Usually root rot is caused by the soil staying too wet for too long, or to put it another way, the soil not drying out enough often enough in between rain/watering. One day of rain is never a problem unless it comes too soon after you've watered or right after it previously rained. If it is forecasted to be raining for several days in a row, you might consider moving the sensitive plants under overhead cover after the first day. That's what I do.

E. trigona does not need a lot of space in pots. If you can share a picture, we might be able to offer more specific advice.

About sand: when in doubt, just screen your sand. Pass it over a window screen (I have a bonsai screen for this purpose) and discard the fines. River sand has sharper, grittier particles than beach sand and works excellent for succulent soil mixes, if screened when necessary.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 11, 2020 4:37 PM (+)]
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