Branch of the British Cactus & Succulent Society



Setiechinopsis mirabilis by Robbie Robinson – print of a woodblock.

Setiechinopsis mirabilis is a short-lived monotypic Argentinean cactus that has suffered many name changes. It flowers at about 1.00 a.m. and the flowers are generally sagging by daybreak. Judging by the exotic perfume and long, narrow flower tube, the natural pollinator must be a long-tongued moth. Hundreds of seeds are produced in every dry fruit whether it has been pollinated or not.


This is the first Newsletter of the Northumbria Branch of the BCSS. If you wish to receive the others this year, please forward the enclosed form to our treasurer.

At the beginning of the year, due to retirement of long-serving members, Ray Stephenson offered to take over the general job of branch secretary and Avril Talbot offered to take minutes. Other responsibilities remained mostly unchanged.

With this Newsletter is the schedule for the next year plus. As you can see, more than ever before,

we have contacted and booked some speakers each of whom are prepared to travel in excess of a 500 mile trip to be at our venue — from: Oxford, S. Lincolnshire, Malvern, York, Nottinghamshire, London, Essex, etc. PLEASE MAKE THEIR TRIPS WORTHWHILE: as a national speaker prepared to travel the length an breadth of the country, there is little more disheartening than to have made a very lengthy journey, to be hosted by branch members at often great inconvenience to themselves, and then to turn up at the venue to be greeted by merely a handful of members. – Ray S.

Suggested calendar of watering / heating regimes


Cool condition winter-growing Aeonium, Aichryson, Monanthes, Greenovia, Crassula, Tylecodon, Adromischus, Pilea, Pelargonium, Senecio, Kleinia, Othonna etc. need regular irrigation but water sparingly and only in brighter, warmer spells. Do not water from above with a rose. Winter-flowering epiphytic cacti also need some water. Keep terrestrial cacti perfectly dry. Try to keep frost away. If night temperatures fall below freezing, compensate the next day buy raising the temperature by at least 8oC. Money is better spent on raising daytime temperatures than only using the heater at night.

For tropical cacti and succulents it is best if they are kept indoors or in a heated area of the greenhouse where the temperatures are rarely below 10oC. Water in proportion to growth i.e. if a plant is obviously growing well – encourage it. If not withhold water.


As for January but as many of the above ‘cool condition’ plants will now be in flower, water those in flower a little more generously. Beware that even as early as this in the year plants can be scorched in a greenhouse. Open doors and windows on bright, breezy warm days.


Some terrestrial cacti are now budding. If buds are present, it is quite all right to water sparingly. Keep up the watering regime for the others. Ensure the greenhouse is well ventilated.


All cacti and summer-growing succulents of other families need a really good soaking now to bring them to life. Water well, then once a week from now on if pots are fully dried out. Beware that big pots or those containing water-storing elements within their compost could take longer than a week to dry out. Increasing the day-night temperature range is more important than ever now to allow photosynthesis in plants that have been dormant for a long period. Refrain from using heaters at night (except to ward off frost) and boost daytime temperatures if you can – especially in dull, cool springs. Beware that more than ever previously in the year, scorching is a possibility.


No changes but after Crassula, Tylecodon etc. have flowered, some will lose their leaves, but all will need a rest from watering. Put them is a shaded spot – under the bench is fine. Most cacti should now be flowering.


Some cacti do not start growing until after the longest day – e.g. most Opuntia. They do not seem to come to harm if watering starts earlier than growth, but now is the time to feed growing plants with a weak solution of low-nitrogen fertilizer. Start watering by the end of the month Lithops, Conophytum and the mesembrianthemums that produce a new pair of leaves each year by breaking through dried skin. Stop watering the cool winter-growing species. They may benefit from a period outdoors, but cover during particularly long wet spells.


A lot of subtropical (including high altitude species) cacti have a rest at this time – be careful not to water until pots are fully dried out. Make sure the greenhouse doesn’t harbour pockets of intensely hot, stationary air.


Water everything that is growing well as soon as the pots are bone dry. A second dose of weak fertiliser will allow plants to build up strength to face the future dormancy period only a few weeks away.


Except for mesembrianthemums and tropical species in growth, now is the time to reduce watering. In the Northeast we are often fooled by an ‘Indian Summer’. Allow the plants to shrink – they’ll come to no harm. Beware of early frosts. A heater set to cut in at 1oC is OK for all temperate species. Move tropical ones indoors or to their heated winter home. Winter-growing species will now be showing signs of life – water them.


Continue to water mesembrianthemums but only when pots have dried out fully. Continue to water winter-growing succulents and now is the best time to apply fertiliser especially to Aeonium, Crassula and winter-flowering species.


Feed epiphytic cacti and ease off watering the mesembrianthemums by the end of the month.


See January.

The more different families of succulents you grow, the more you are likely to have flowers every month of the year, but more difficult becomes the differentiation of regimes for watering.

There are always anomalous species that behave differently to the norm but the above is intended to help you. If your cultivation methods are different and successful – please let Ray know. Articles, suggestions, anything at all suitable for the next Newsletter should be received by April 1st. To 8 Percy Gardens, CHOPPINGTON, Northumberland, NE62 5YH or pass it on at any of the group meetings at Brunton Park, second Thursday of each month (except August).

Did you know that Cruck Cottage on the Scarborough Rd. is still active and a new cactus nursery has opened just off the A19 1st Junction N of Thirsk?

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