This exercise will give you the opportunity to talk about how cacti have adapted to the hot, dry environment of the deserts where they come from. You can also discuss the variety of different types that exist.
How long will it take?
An hour to plant up, plus a nice trip to the garden centre.
What you will need
- plastic washing-up bowl or large plant pot, not too deep
- crocks (broken plant pot)
- shingle and coarse sand or grit
- cacti and succulents
- a few pebbles from a beach trip or a walk
1 Ask your children to place some crocks in the base of the pot or bowl. They need to cover them with a layer of shingle or coarse sand. This is to give the plants the good drainage that they need.
2 Next they should mix some coarse sand into their compost, then nearly fill the pot with it.
3 Tell them to sort the plants into those with prickles and thorns, and those without. They should carefully take the non-prickly plants out of their pots and plant them into their bowl. They need to ensure there is enough soil around the roots - plants like to feel safe and well firmed into their new home, not loose and floppy!
4 Now for the prickly ones! The children need to pick them up by wrapping a folded sheet of newspaper around each one, so that they do not get the prickles in their fingers. Ask them to plant them in their pot and carefully firm them in.
5 When they are all planted, the children should place pebbles in the spaces between the plants, then use the sand and shingle to cover any soil they can still see.
6 They can water the pot gently using a watering can with a sprinkler end on it.
7 They should place their new garden on a windowsill and wait for it to start growing!
8 The garden will only need to be watered when the soil is dry. These plants come from places where water is extremely rare!
9 Drainage is all-important for these plants. Mix up two parts of compost with one part coarse sand or grit.
Tips and advice
- Choose plants with your children from the 'cactus' section at your local garden centre. Take care with the thorns and prickles; some are extremely sharp! Others are dangerous because they enter the skin like a splinter, but cannot be seen, which makes removal difficult.
- Although these plants are generally grown for their beautiful foliage, some will flower.
- Find out more about cacti and succulents in our Did you know? article.