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A cactus with a magnificent pop of yellow

We’re keeping the holiday spirit alive into the new year by going with balloons — balloon cactus, that is. This gorgeous globular bluish-green species is native to southern Brazil and other select South American locales. The view from above is spot on: pale yellow spines radiate from the rusty gold middle atop and down the center of the attractive ribs.

Flowers appear spring to summer, even into fall, providing a yummy pop of yellow on yellow. This one is relatively indoor friendly — a single stem can reach 6 inches in diameter, but over time, clumps may spread to 2 feet or more across.

In the linked video below, our cactus whisperer Tom highlights the beautiful glow effect when the plant’s bristle-like spines are backlit by the sun.

Notocactus magnificus (balloon cactus) is available at shopaltmanplants.com (retail) or the Cactus Shop (wholesale).

 

 

 

 

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Succulents make super holiday gifts for friends, family, and yourself

As of Nov. 27, Altman Plants has now lowered the threshold for free shipping at shopaltmanplants.com to $50 for the holidays

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This old man, he plays it cool

Old man of the Andes cactus is just one of several hairy species

The cactus family is chock-full of old men and old ladies. Enough so that they deserve their own membership wing in the AARP. Ha, we kid, but the “old …” cacti all share an eye-catching attribute: a coat of protective white hairs. That hairiness, while not of identical density, can make it tough for nonexperts to distinguish individual species from one another. Today, though, we’re singling out one senior cactus in particular: Oreocereus celsianus, aka old man of the Andes. The prefix, Oreo, means “mountain,” from the Greek word oros.

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Celebrating the flowery side of cacti

Forgive us if we ever get a bit flowery in our musings about cacti. These plants are often noted for their spiny (not thorny) toughness, but — beyond cactus geeks — probably don’t receive their proper due for all the textures, shapes, and hues they possess. Their satiny, out-of-this-world flowers are some of the most fetching ones on the planet. Alluring reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, whites. Even purple. Some run small while many are certifiably ginormous. (The flowers of Hylocereus undatus — dragon fruit — can exceed 12 inches in length.) Many bloom after dark when other plants have closed up their displays for the night.

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Old man Andes has a point: The purposeful hairiness of Oreocereus celsianus

This old man dwells far above the sea, although you won’t encounter “him” unless you’re exploring the mountains of Argentina, Bolivia, or Peru. It is in those high-up places that old man of the Andes cacti stand like snowy sentinels, eventually reaching up to 10 feet tall. 

We recommend planting a specimen with porous cactus soil that allows for adequate or better drainage. Try to avoid watering Oreocereus celsianus during overcast or humid weather, or on cold winter days. Outdoors, this mountain native is fine with full sun, but it does not care for extreme heat. If indoors, it will want to be near a sunny window.

Look for old man of the Andes cactus at our retail shop and wholesale shop.

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BFFs for your succulents

Non-succulent companion plant options are numerous. Here are five:

One of the biggest garden design challenges is focusing your enthusiasm. Even if succulents and cacti are your #botanicaljam4lyfe, choices must be made. There are thousands of species on the planet, yet you only enjoy space for 75 plants. That means you’re probably going to plant 25 species at most, unless you have a hopeless case of the “onesies” and are determined to get your mitts on one of everything.

Plus you might want to make room for a few non-succulents. We here at Altman have soft spots for all kinds of plants and know just how beautiful a mixed landscape, abounding in rich colors and textures, can be.

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Five picks for heat-enduring, non-prickly succulents

Those who have found this particular outpost of succulent fandom are probably aware that succulents have their limits. For example, to decorate desert ground with any plant accurately answering to the name “succulent” is to expect or desire one very possible outcome: fried succulent. Personally, we much prefer going the “fried” route with cauliflower or chicken.

Cactus, agaves, and aloes, this post is not intended for you. (Now’s a good time to acknowledge that plants generally don’t answer when called upon.) With summer here soon, we thought it would be cool to highlight some needle- and sword-free specimens that should do pretty well in the hotter spots of the garden. To be clear, not desert hot — we’re not about to completely deep-fry our senses. We are referring to areas that experience temperatures of 90+ degrees Fahrenheit (32° Celsius) without much if any marine influence.

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Gardeners & Pests: not a love story

Dealing with destructive little ones doesn’t require a scorched-earth approach

Spotting pests making homes on your cacti, succulents, and shrubbery is never a delightful discovery. The more those little buggers thrive and multiply, the likelier it portends not-swell effects for your precious leaf babies plants. As much as we gardeners want to evict those gluttonous trespassers like yesterday, ideally the solution doesn’t lie in harsh, chemical-heavy measures. No. 1, it starts with ecologically minded gardening (namely, approximating your plants’ natural habitat as best as possible).

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In the ground versus containers

Ideally, it’s not an either/or predicament for succulent enthusiasts

Stick ’em in the ground or contain them to potted dwellings? Thankfully for those of us with dirt to spare, succulents are generally as flexible as they are fleshy (not to discount factors such as frost and excessive heat).

That flexibility, though — as much as succulent lovers appreciate the artful possibilities it affords — can have gardeners struggling to make choices. Because we’d rather you be outside getting your fingernails dirty than indoors furiously scribbling pros-and-cons lists, we’ve cobbled together a handful of considerations.

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