Now that fall has officially arrived, many gardeners are considering which plants to bring in for the winter. Taking cuttings of some plants, starting seeds of others, and, planning which bulbs to dig up to store for the winter are all part of the gardening year.

For those who enjoy plants but like to keep it small, windowsill gardens take the place of gardening outside. Living in an apartment or just not having time to take on large flowerbeds can also lead to an indoor gardening hobby.

The cactus family plants called succulents with fleshy stems and leaves are popular as houseplants where they are grown on windowsills in direct light. They store their own water so they are great houseplants for busy people.

Given the right conditions, a hobby can grow into a small business. Terri Mann and Bill Keeth of Sand Springs, owners of Chaos Cactus Nursery, have a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse plus the surrounding area filled with their hobby.

"When the temperatures fall and we have to move everything into the greenhouse, there will not be room to walk inside," said Mann. "Bill will go in to water but there is barely room to do that."

A tour of the greenhouse and the plants outside can only result in surprises for the novice: Large footed Elephant Foot plants (Dioscorea macrostachys) that look dead are actually growing 30-foot heart-shape-leafy vines, a Hoya Plant that blooms year round, cacti in every shape and form imaginable.

"In the spring, the place is covered with blooms of cacti and succulents," Mann said. "Bill grows a dozen Hoyas and they bloom all year."

Mann said that the Thai hybrid Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) is popular with her customers and that Pencil Trees (Euphorbia tirucalli) grow fast and sell well.

"We attend Cactus and Succulent Society Shows in Oklahoma City, Ft. Worth, Wichita and Tulsa," Mann said. "In 2008 we will also be selling at Herbal Affair events in Sand Springs, Jenks, Owasso and Tulsa."

Herbal Affair will be in Sand Springs April 19, 2008.

Keeth said that he makes his own planting mix for the thousands of plants they grow. It is a combination of perlite and pine bark based potting mix with a touch of 15-30-15 slow release fertilizer and a fungicide.

"We propagate in a mixture of 75 percent pumice and 25-percent potting soil," Bill said. "Many of our best Jade trees actually self-propagated by dropping a leaf onto the soil and growing."

A popular trend in windowsill gardening is making an entire landscape scene in a planter the depth of a flowerpot saucer. Once a variety of tiny succulents and cacti are put in place, doll house furniture, garden ornaments such as arbors and benches as well as garden tools are added to make a complete picture. These miniatures require very little care and make thoughtful gifts.

Chaos Cactus Nursery plants are priced based on their size and rarity. Common plants are $4.50 in a 3.5-inch pot and a rare Madagascar Pachypodium horombense sells for $50. The Pachypodium is easy to grow with bell-shaped blooms on 24-inch peduncles. Mann said they specialize in Desert Rose (Adenium obesum), which sells for $7.50 and up.

"Tell people they can call or email me any time," Mann said. "They can arrange to visit the greenhouse or ask me questions about their plants."

Contact Terri and Bill at Chaos Cactus Nursery in Sand Springs 918.241.3252 and email puppyfoots@hughes.net. Their twelve dogs greet unexpected visitors at the gate so call ahead and make an appointment.

On October 20, the Tulsa Cactus and Succulent Society will have their fall sale at the Tulsa Garden Center near 24th and Peoria. The club meets the first Thursday of the month at 7 pm at the Tulsa Garden Center. Keeth is the editor of the monthly newsletter, Stuck Up News that comes with each $10 annual membership.

Growing Tips

Cacti can stay outside until the temperature drops below 40-degrees-F. Succulents should come in when the temperature dips to 45-degrees.

Homes are generally too dry and do not receive the 4-hours of light plants require. Give the plants a south facing window or artificial light and run a fan in the room.

Leave the plants outside for the summer. In the spring make their transition to outdoors a gradual one. Over the course of two weeks, move them outside under a tree, then into direct sun.

In the winter, cacti and succulents grow slowly or go dormant. Water only every two weeks or once a month. If the soil is damp one inch below the surface, it does not need to be watered.

Cacti and succulents need a porous, coarse, planting medium that allows water to drain away from the roots. Mix small gravel with planting soil in a 3 to 1 ratio. Sand can hold too much moisture on the plant's roots so avoid using it in the mix.

Fertilize from March to October but use only one-fourth the strength recommended for foliage plants.

Cacti and succulents prefer to be pot bound so when moving them into a larger container, choose something just slightly larger than the one the plant outgrew and wait until spring when they will be growing.

Some leaf dropping from succulents is normal. Black spots come from over watering. Instead of sprinkling like you would herbaceous plants, soak potted cacti and succulents, and then let them dry out.

To propagate by offset division, stem cuttings and leaf cuttings, refer to the website of the Henry Shaw Cactus Society in St. Louis, MO at www.hscactus.org and the Cactus Society of America at http://www.cssainc.org.

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