After recently sharing how to create mini marbled painted pots, I wanted to follow that post up with a little something about caring for the cacti inside them. After all, there’s little point in having a pretty pot if the plant inside is left to fend for itself! Now, most houseplants are pretty easy to care for: water once a week and you’re golden! But unlike the more common houseplants out there a cactus seems like a prickly (pardon the pun 😉 ) puzzle to solve. It looks different and certainly responds differently to watering, sunlight and common potting soils.
If you are a newbie to cacti and want a quick primer on how to care for cactus houseplants, here are some easy tips to get you started.
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Since several varieties of cacti originate from dessert areas, many believe that providing a bit of water every once in a while will do the trick. Not so! Although cacti are hardy plants and will certainly survive, they may not necessarily thrive this way.
A general rule of thumb is to water your cacti every 3-5 weeks depending on the time of year. Cacti grow best when they are allowed to fully dry out between waterings. During a cactus’ regular growing season, from spring to fall, a three-week interval is a good rule of thumb. From late fall to early spring, when the cactus ‘rests’ or goes dormant, use a five-week interval as your guide.
Here is what to look out for:
Under-watering: Crispy, shedding bits.
Over-watering: Limp and lighter than normal colour.
You probably guessed it, but cacti generally require full and direct sunlight. Keep in mind, however, that the type of cacti you bring home may require less time in the sun than others.
Here is what you should look for:
Too much sunlight: ‘Bleached out’ or turning yellow, orange or brown. Anything that changes it from the colour that you had when you originally took your cactus home is a good way to tell if things have taken a negative turn.
Too little sunlight: ‘Reaching out’ excessively towards the sun (i.e., seeking more sunlight because it is not getting enough). All plants do that to some extent, but keep an eye on over-extension.
3. POTTING SOIL
This may come as a surprise, but there are actually special potting soils for cacti.
Most mixes contain more rocky bits to allow for faster drainage, which is especially good for cacti.
If you’d prefer to use up the soil you have at home first, then simply add ‘grit’ to the soil (i.e., those rocky bits that will ensure good drainage). These include such materials as perlite, porous gravel or even those bits of chipped clay from those broken pots you may still have kicking around somewhere in the garage ;)
Caring for cacti houseplants need not be intimidating. With some extra care they can truly thrive in your home. For more indepth beginner guides to caring for cactus houseplants, check out these articles & books:
- Care of Your Cactus by Aggie Horticulture
- Cactus Care by How Stuff Works
- Cacti and Succulent Care by Houseplant Care Guides
- Mini-Cactus Plants by Home Guides
- How To Care for Cactus House Plants from Garden Guides by Garden Guides
I hope these guidelines have helped remove the intimidation factor out of purchasing your first cacti for your home. Like most guidelines, the care of your cacti will differ depending on such things as your climate, the temperature in your home, and type of cacti purchased, to name just a few. Experiment and see what works. And, if you buy yours from a florist or garden center, speak to the experts on the ground!
Happy planting 🙂