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Cactus may thrive with a buddy nearby

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Cactus may thrive with a buddy nearby
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Q: I have a lovely cactus that my boyfriend gave me. It is a tall, column-like cactus that at times has a crown of flowers. It was doing very well in my old apartment. However, we moved across the country. During the move, the cactus was damaged at the crown. Now there is white and grey matter at the top.

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At our new home, it's much colder and the soil is wetter. I replanted the cactus in soil that was too wet. Realizing this mistake, I replanted the cactus in soil that is very dry. It is 90 percent sand and 10 percent dirt. I placed it outside in direct sunlight during the day.

The cactus is starting to turn a little brown and gold. What else can I do to save it? I'm thinking a vitamin pack might help. It also has a small root structure that hasn't supported its height very well. I planted the cactus a bit deeper in the pot so the sand covers a bit of the base of the stalk. Is it OK to do this?

A: I know you want to try to save this little plant of yours. You are doing everything reasonable, but I would like you to prepare yourself for replacing it if this one doesn't make it. Try to locate another cactus exactly like the one your boyfriend gave you to act as a companion or nurse plant to the cactus that is struggling to survive. If they both make it, great. If not, then at least you've made a valiant effort and can enjoy the surviving plant.

Q: I am going to try one of the handicap garden boxes at our Rainbow Gardens plot. Do you have any information on what to plant and how close I can plant them in the raised, handicapped- accessible boxes?

A: The best advice I can give you is to get a copy of "Square Foot Gardening." The author describes raised handicapped accessible boxes for gardening. This book is very complete with media suggestions, as well as plant combinations. You will be pleased at the density of the plantings you can use in this type of gardening.

Q: We've been having some weird weather for the last couple of weeks. It has been 70 degrees to 80 degrees, which made my tulips grow very fast. Now the forecasters say it's going to freeze and go back to normal March weather. Do you think it would make sense to dig the tulips out and plant them in a pot inside until the weather is better? They are beautiful flowers, so I would like to enjoy them this year.

A: The answer is no to digging the tulips out. Normal spring weather will not hurt them. Tulips are cold hardy plants. Your digging them out will make things worse for them. If it will make you feel a little better, get some straw and scatter it around the emerged flowers during the coldest periods.

Q: I bought a calla lily plant a few weeks ago. I repotted it and put it in my kitchen in a shaded area. It was doing great and had purple flowers. A few days ago, I noticed that the leaves were curling up and then started drooping. I put it in a sunny spot, but that did not seem to work. Does my calla lily want to go dormant? The leaves are green, but droopy.

A: It probably does want to go dormant. Allow it to dry down and die back. Give it 60 to 90 days of dry soil and then start watering the plant. It should come back.

To contact Ron Smith for answers to your questions, write to Ron Smith, NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, Dept. 7670, Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 or e-mail ronald.smith@ndsu.edu.

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