Ghost busters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2005, 12:00am

Given their preference for poor growing conditions and their design versatility, cacti are the perfect plants for busy Hongkongers, according to botanist Kenny Chan Hing-yeung of Greenfingers Florist in Central.

But although they don't need a lot of attention, they can't be ignored completely. These desert dwellers crave direct sunlight, but if that isn't an option, bright artificial light will suffice, Chan says.

'Because these are desert plants, people think they don't need water, but they do - in a balanced way,' says Lily Poon Yu-chun of Alfa House, another flower shop in Central.

This means water them only when the soil is dry, and ensure that the pot allows drainage. 'When it's very humid be sure not to over-water them,' Poon says. 'That will make their roots rot.'

To assist with blooming, give the plant cactus food once a week during the flowering season and once a month the rest of the time.

To highlight the beauty of cacti, Chan suggests creating an indoor garden. 'Get a glass bowl and fill it with sandy soil. Mix cacti of varying heights and shapes with succulents - like jade or aloe vera, which have complementary textures and grow in the same conditions - and put the arrangement in a window with a lot of direct sunlight.'

Whereas indoor cactus gardens, arranged in simple glass containers, are in keeping with understated modern spaces, cacti cascading from baskets, brass pots or pottery basins can add texture and a spot of green to traditional interiors.

Cacti have other traits that make them desirable house- plants for those unwilling to take any chances when it comes to ensuring good fortune. 'They promote good fung shui,' Poon says. 'Put a tall, spiny cactus in a window or corner to make bad luck go away. Or keep a pair outside the front door so that ghosts know they're not welcome.'