How To Take Care Of A Cactus? Complete Guide For Beginners

How To Take Care Of A Cactus

Recently became a parent to a gorgeous cactus? Looking for guidance on how to take care of a cactus? We can help.

Taking care of a cactus requires effort, patience, and time just like any other indoor houseplant. Just providing them with sufficient light, water, and air will not help them grow and bloom beautifully. You will need to practically befriend the plant and try to figure out what it needs.

So, you will have to pay attention to its space, the soil, the fertilization, and whether its leaves are turning pale or yellow. In short, you will have to treat it like your pet and cater to its every need. Only then can your cactus stay happy and healthy.

Stay till the end to discover everything about taking good care of your new cactus friend.

How to Take Care of a Cactus Indoors?

When it comes to taking care of a cactus, a lot of things should be kept in mind. Here are some things that matter-

1. Choosing the ideal pot size and material for cactus

A question that I come across a lot is; how to take care of a mini cactus? It’s the same as normal cactus and should be grown in a pot big and wide enough for it to grow without any hindrance.

Choosing the ideal pot size and material for cactus

So, when you’re choosing a pot for your succulent, make sure it’s 5-10% bigger than the cactus size. Keep an ideal 2 inches of space on all its sides to provide it with sufficient room to develop.

Apart from the pot size, the potting material also plays a role in its growth. You cannot choose simply anything to keep your precious succulents in. Since your cacti are going to live in this pot, it needs to be breathable and lightweight.

The best material for a cactus pot is terracotta, as it is porous and capable of absorbing heat smoothly. You can also try ceramic and plastic pots for your cactus, but make sure they are equipped with drainage holes.

2. Proper watering for cactus

Just like any other indoor houseplant, cacti need adequate watering for flourishing. The watering frequency of cacti varies from one species to another. Some species require less water, while some require more.

Proper watering for cactus

So, it is important to research and find out as much as you can about your cactus species to cater to its needs well.

Another thing you should consider while watering your plant is the pot size. Larger pots can preserve more water, so you can water it less frequently.

But pots that are way bigger than the plant can also lead to the rotting of the roots in a short time. This is why plant experts recommend using small to medium-sized pots for better plant care.

3. Proper lighting for cacti

How much light do cacti usually need for growth and survival?

Proper lighting for cacti

To know the answer to this question, you need to understand the types of lights that work with plants. Some plants work well with direct sunlight, while others work with bright light, indirect sunlight, and even artificial light.

With cacti, bright light, indirect light, and artificial light can be safe and effective. However, with direct sunlight, there’s always a risk of sunburn.

Most cactus species require 10-12 hours of light, but they can thrive well with 6 hours of light as well. Avoid anything beyond 12 hours of light per day to your cactus to prevent burns and damage.

You can also use artificial lighting for your succulents, preferably fluorescent light bulbs. However, refrain from using incandescent bulbs as they are not an ideal fit for cacti.

4. Maintaining Proper Temperature and humidity for cactus

 It is important to provide your cactus with adequate temperature and ventilation for perfect growth.

Maintaining Proper Temperature and humidity for cactus

Indoor cacti prefer temperatures of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, but some species have also been proven to thrive under 80 degrees. They also prefer low humidity and cannot do well in very hot and humid conditions.

So, maintain this temperature and humidity in the living space where you’re growing your cacti.

Place your cacti away from air conditioning or heating vents. Provide them with a spacious spot where they can get sufficient warmth and aeration.

5. Proper soil and potting for cactus

Choosing soil that works for your succulents can make a huge difference in their growth. So, what is the best potting soil for your prickly pets?

Proper soil and potting for cactus

Instead of using a single soil base, it is preferable to take a mixture of different matter and use them as your cactus soil mix.

You can find pre-made cactus soil mixes easily available in gardening stores or nurseries. However, you can also make your own mix using perlite, pumice, different types of grit, coconut coir, etc.

 Use pots with drainage holes to protect your roots from being overwatered. Also, repot your plants once you see the roots reaching the holes at the base of the pots.

6. Fertilizing cacti and maintaining their overall health

You can provide your cacti with optimal health care by using different types of fertilizers that can work well for your succulent.

Fertilizing cacti and maintaining their overall health

The ideal time to fertilize your cactus is once every 2-3 weeks. However, you can increase the frequency of using fertilizers depending on what your cactus needs.

So, how do you fertilize your cactus to achieve peak growth?

Both slow-release and liquid fertilizers are great for your succulent friends. These fertilizers work well with cactus roots and usually come with a balanced ratio of nutrients.

To obtain the best results, try moistening the soil and then introduce the fertilizers.

7. Identifying common pests that can affect cacti

Taking care of a cactus also includes protecting it from different pests that can harm the plant. The most common pests that can attack your cacti are woolly aphids, spider mites, and scale insects.

Identifying common pests that can affect cacti

Mealybugs can also make it to the list and can severely damage the plant if not identified and handled early.

Once these bugs find a favorable condition, they will start growing inside your cactus stems and eventually cause the plant to turn yellow and shrivel.

So, it is important to separate the affected stem with the help of tweezers and then apply a generous amount of systemic insecticides.

How Big Will My Cactus Get?

When you’re a beginner in indoor plant care, it can be a curious thing to wonder how fast your cactus will grow.

How Big Will My Cactus Get

Most varieties of cactus plants have slow growth. Plants that grow from seed get a few centimeters high during their early years, but it can vary from one species to another.

They usually don’t get very big, and the maximum height they can reach is 12-15 centimeters a year.

The reason behind the slow growth of cacti is their impeccable adaptation ability.

Since cacti have been accustomed to thriving in dry, harsh, and barren lands, they have an excellent ability to survive. So, these plants have targeted survival more than their growth.

Besides, it also has fewer leaves and branches, which slow down the process of photosynthesis and ultimately halt its growth.

However, you can help the plant grow better by maintaining a consistent temperature around it and providing it with a good water-soluble liquid fertilizer.

How Do I Know If My Cactus Is Sick or Not?

The most important concern a plant parent has is to find out if their plant is sick. So, how can you tell if there’s something wrong with your cactus?

How Do I Know If My Cactus Is Sick or Not

The first thing you will notice in your plant if it’s sick is discoloration. Most cacti do not have leaves or branches, but if they do, then that’s where the discoloration begins.

Soon, the stems and the base of the plant will become discolored, preferably a yellowish-green color. So, make sure you keep an eye on the color of your plant.

Another way to find out if your cactus is sick is when you start noticing a funny smell coming from it. Cacti particularly do not have a sweet smell, but if the smell that you’re getting from it is foul, then it’s bad news.

Can I Put My Cactus Outside in the Summer?

Yeah, sure, you can, but the process can be tricky. So, you need to deal with it carefully.

Can I Put My Cactus Outside in the Summer

Cacti are used to certain temperatures and lighting conditions. Anything that goes overboard could be detrimental to the plant.

However, one remarkable quality of cacti is that they can adapt quickly to a new change as they have outstanding survival skills.

So, when you’re planning to put your cacti outdoors in the summer, place them in a spot where the sunlight is not very bright.

Keep it in this spot for a few days, preferably a week, so that it can get adjusted to the outdoor environment. You can later move it to a spot with more sunlight.

Plant experts recommend transferring your cacti outdoors during the early or middle spring seasons. Keep in mind that excessively hot and humid weather can cause sunburn and damage the plant.

Conclusion

Wrapping up the discussion, it can be said that taking care of a cactus can actually be more fun and amusing than it seems.

Once you start loving your new succulent friend, you will find yourself caring for it a lot better than before. So, take the time from your schedule today and get ready to water your new cactus plant!

References:

  • https://extension.umn.edu/houseplants/cacti-and-succulents
  • https://chemung.cce.cornell.edu/resources/care-of-non-hardy-cacti-and-succulents

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