Between writing papers and all-night cramming, your college student might not have time for an encouraging phone call from home during finals but a thoughtful gift of a potted cactus paired with some coupons to a local coffee shop and a heartening note will certainly help get them through hell week. Representing endurance in the language of flowers, cacti come in hundreds of different shapes and sizes and any good florist will have some wild and wacky ones to help put a smile on that tired student’s face.
Many people may not realize that cacti are flowering plants, often producing big, bright blooms that can light up a dark dorm room. The Echinopsis genus has many species with large flowers and funky shapes that do beautifully in a sunny window. For a real show-stopper, however, consider a potted Orchid Cactus, which come in a variety of species and are identified best as Epiphyllum cactus. These lovely succulents are outstanding houseplants that your student can virtually ignore for weeks and will still produce a dazzling, large flower from time to time as he or she moves from apartment to apartment. With a bright sunny window and a good monthly water, these hanging cactus grow quickly through the years and will be a great reminder of just how far they’ve come.
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Some of the coolest cactus in town are the grafted sort, where one cactus has been cut and placed onto another until the two eventually merge. The combinations are miraculous and often humorous, with the most common being the Moon Cactus. These neon-topped grafted cactus have an upright, green base and top that looks like an alien invasion. Some grafted cactus included freakishly fasciated tops that resemble a cockscomb, kind of like a cactus mohawk.
For something a little less radical, but all the more odd, get that student something to stare at other than a book for a few minutes with a Living Stone plant. While not true cacti, these squat little succulents grow in similar conditions and have strange markings on top and a stone-like appearance. New leaves emerge from the center and occasionally a flower as well.
One of the best ways to enjoy the diversity of cacti is in a mixed dish garden. These are often created in shallow pots with 2-3 different cacti planted amongst small rocks and are available at most florists and garden centers year-round.