Growing cacti is more difficult than you might think.
We grow many plants such as Alocasia, Anthurium and Aglaonema that grow near the surface of the tropical rainforest, but we also display many pots of cacti (Kaktus) on the living room windowsill, terrace facing the courtyard and in front of the entrance, where they are not directly exposed to the rain.
The general image of the cactus is that it is a plant that does not require much watering because it has a strong life force that grows robustly in the harsh arid regions, but in reality, the roots of the stems tend to turn yellow and become soft to the touch due to excessive watering.
As a human instinct, it is unavoidable that we want to water dry plants and soil, but it is a nuisance for cacti.
Cactus thorns evolved from the leaves to adapt to the harsh environment of arid regions, where they prevent animals from eating them, regulate temperature, make it easier to reproduce, and absorb moisture; photosynthesis, which absorbs light, breaks down water, produces oxygen and carbon dioxide to produce organic matter, takes place on thick stems.
Speaking of cacti, there is an image that they survive in the wilderness of Mexico even though they are exposed to strong direct sunlight in the daytime and frosty air at night. However, if you put them under the strong direct sunlight in the western Bekasi, they will get sunburned in a few hours.
Types of cacti and the right soil to grow them
Cacti are difficult to classify academically because of the large number of species, but if you classify them based on their appearance, they can be divided into some characteristics such as spiny, flat petal-like (Sukulen), living stones (Lithops), and unusual shapes.
A common formulation for cactus cultivation (media tanam) is based on pasir malang from the plateau city of Malang in East Java, mixed with sekam bakar (baked rice husk) and cow dung (pupuk kandang).
For our expensive cactus, we use a mixture of crushed batu apung (pumice stone), vermiculite (soil improvement soil used in agriculture and horticulture) and akadama (red ball soil) which has good ventilation, water retention and fertilizer retention.
Lembang, the center of cactus production
Lembang, on the plateau near Bandung, two and a half hours drive from West Bekasi, along with Bogor to the south of Jakarta and Batu in East Java, is a major source of ornamental plants, taking advantage of the cool plateau climate and fertile soil, and in some mountainous areas, whole villages grow cacti for a living.
I visited a producer's house in Lembang before the PSBB (Large Scale Restriction of Action) was issued in April, and I was told that distribution within Java has been stalled because residential areas and rural villages in Jakarta, concerned about the spread of the new coronavirus, blocked roads at the local level and voluntarily locked down.
The grower's house is located at the back of an alley in a mountain village, but it can be said to be a highly profitable business with low cost of sales because the fixed costs of land and water required for cultivation can be kept down as much as possible.
At the grower's house, you'll see people taking photos of their plants with serious faces, but they are sole proprietors who sell their plants all over Indonesia through Instagram and Tokopedia, and here they have a drop-shipping business model where they just take photos and when they get an order, the grower sends them directly to you.
Some engineers, who lost their jobs in the financial crisis of 1998, turned their hobby of growing cacti into a business and now manage several houses.