Vendor Spotlight: Cactus George
One of the best things about sourcing as much local product as we can find is forming friendships with the people who supply us with all of the goodness that we pass onto you. One of those people is George Hermann. To us, though, he’s Cacti George.
George supplies us with most of our succulents and he is, without a doubt, our preferred vendor for cacti and succulents. He drops them off himself and every day that he graces us with his spectacular personality and his lovingly potted desert dwellers is a good day at the shop.
As we plan ahead to the colder months, we had the idea of featuring his products in the shop. Let’s capture one last bit of summer while the days are still long and share some summery plants to stock up on to keep us company over the winter. So we ordered a bunch of really really great plants from him. And then when he showed up with them, we begged him to let us pick his brain about his plants and his hobbies. And HE LET US!
George’s greenhouses are located in Perkasie, about 40 miles outside of Philadelphia. He’s got 8000 square feet of growing space between his two greenhouses and he employs 6 people.
Though he’s from the area, his growing business started in Arizona. He moved the operation back to PA to get out of the Southwest heat, but keeps the heat pumped for his plants that loved it. He does a lot of his growing by propagation on-site, which gives him control with regards to plant size and pest control– and it shows in the quality of his product! He told us that 90% of his plants are grown on site. When you purchase one of George’s plant from us, from start to finish the supply chain is hyperlocal. And we really, really like that.
His passion for plants doesn’t stop at succulents– in fact, his focus used to be Bonsai. He even taught a Bonsai course at UPenn. He said he’s out of the Bonsai game at the moment but hopes to get back into it, though he does find the humor in pivoting from one of the most high maintenance plants to one of the most low maintenance.
We asked George what his favorite plant was, and he was stumped. He told us that it’s like picking his favorite of his 5 grandchildren– each one is different and he loves them all! He did mention, however, that he thinks the Saguaro (suh-wah-roe) cactus is the ultimate cactus. They grow 10 feet before they push out their trademark branches. How long does it take for them to grow 10 feet? 100 years. A Saguaro that has the branches is closer to 250 years old and they are often home to golden eagles and owls, a respite from the harsh climate of the desert.
George was kind enough to give us advice on cacti care and he boiled it down to two things– light and fertilizer. Here’s his expert advice on the subjects:
- Some expect cacti/succulents to grow in lower light like other houseplants, but for the most part, they need lots of light
- Cacti/succulents do their growing in the summer, so make sure they are getting plenty of sunlight during growing periods
- In the winter, cacti/succulents are dormant. Cacti especially can tolerate lower light in the winter, starting around October, without negatively affecting the plants
- Cooler temperatures and lower light in the winter will slow growth
- Succulents can also tolerate lower light in the winter, but should be placed back in a bright location at the first sign of stretching to maintain better growth
- Like other plants, cacti/succulents like to be fed!
- Consistent fertilization will help succulents maintain their lower leaves – otherwise they will pull nutrients from lower leaves to feed the top leaves, and the lower leaves will turn yellow and drop (He did mention that yellow leaves can also be a sign of overwatering, too).
- Never use time release fertilizer because you can’t “turn it off,” which can result in overfertilizing – always use water soluble fertilizer so you can control the fertilization. 20-20-20 is his preferred formula.
- Fertilize full strength in summer, half strength in winter
Just for fun, we asked George what his favorite music is. He told us Sting, who he has been listening to for 30 year, and Dave Matthews Band, which he’s been a fan of for about 5 years. We forgot to ask him if he plays them for his greenhouse plants, but we can only assume the answer yes.
Thank you, George, for taking the time to talk plants with us! We love you!