Plant Care | Cactus Garden
Cacti are typically desert-dwelling plants that thrive in dry and hot conditions, but these plants also make excellent indoor houseplants. Cacti are quite low-maintenance, making them an ideal plant for new gardeners and a great housewarming gift. The secrets to growing healthy cacti indoors include providing them with plenty of sunlight, not overwatering, and using the right soil.
Choose a sunny location. Once established, most species of cacti need several hours of direct sunlight every day. A south- or east-facing window will be ideal for most cacti. However, if the cactus starts to look yellowed, bleached, or orangey, it is likely getting too much light, and you should move it to a west-facing window.
Kitchen and bathroom windows are great for cacti, because they can pull additional moisture from the air as needed.
Provide plenty of circulation. Cacti don’t necessarily like drafts or stiff breezes, but they will thrive in areas where there's plenty of fresh air. You can improve the circulation in your home by running ceiling fans, opening vents, and opening windows during warmer weather.
Rotate the pot monthly. Like many plants, a cactus will grow toward the light, and this can cause uneven or distorted growth. Encourage balanced growth by providing the cactus with even light, and rotate the pot a quarter turn every month.
Water the cactus weekly during growing season. Overwatering can kill a cactus, but the plant will need weekly waterings during active growing periods. Growth phases are typically between spring and fall. When the soil feels dry to the touch, water the plant until the soil is thoroughly damp.
Don’t water if the soil is still moist, as this will cause rot and kill the plant.
Fertilize the plant weekly during the growing season. Cacti will also benefit from regular feedings during the spring, summer, and fall months. When you go to water the cactus each week, stir in a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer before watering. Dilute the fertilizer to a quarter of the strength as recommended by the label.
Encourage the cactus to enter dormancy in winter. Fall and winter are typically dormant months for cacti. Dormancy is necessary for most plants to recoup their energy, and the rest period will encourage flower growth later on. You can help the plant enter dormancy by:
- Cutting back watering to once a month
- Stopping the regular feedings
- Moving the cactus to a cooler window (ideally between 45 and 55 °F (7 and 13 °C)
Move the cactus to a darker location if it’s getting bleached. Some cactus varieties do better with indirect sunlight. If your cactus is turning white, yellowing, or spots are turning orange, it likely means the plant is getting too much sun. Move the cactus to a window that gets less direct sun.
Move the plant to a brighter location if it’s reaching or thinning. A cactus that isn't getting enough light may start to grow toward the light, causing distorted or unbalanced growth. Another symptom is a thinning top. Move the cactus to a window that gets more direct sunlight. To prevent scorching, move a cactus to a brighter location gradually, by moving it closer to the light over a period of a few days.
Address common cactus pests. There are a few insects that can be problematic when you're growing cacti, including mealy bugs, scale, and spider mites. To get rid of these pests, rinse or mist the cactus with water to wash away the pests. Insecticides are not often useful at treating these problems.
Mealy bugs can be identified by the fuzzy patches they create on the plants, scale looks like raised brown spots, and spider mites will create whitish webs.
Growth | Repotting
Repot the cactus annually. Pick a well-draining pot that’s one size larger than the current pot. Fill the pot with cactus potting mix. Pick up your cactus, place your hand around the base of the plant, and turn the pot over to remove the cactus. Gently tap the roots to remove old soil, and prune off any dead or dried roots. Place the cactus in the new pot and firm the soil around the base with your hands.
For the first two weeks after transplanting, don’t water the cactus, and keep it in a bright location that’s protected from direct sunlight.