HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR CACTI (GENERAL GUIDE)
Common Varieties: Old Lady / Star Cactus / Christmas Cactus / Moon Cactus / Prickly Pear / Pincushion Euphorbia
A cactus is a member of the frankly enormous Cactaceae plant family, which includes a whopping 127 genera and over 1750 known species. Known for their funky shapes, spines and drought-resistant adaptations, cacti are enduringly popular as houseplants for those who stress abut their ability to keep a plant alive and kicking. We can’t cover the specific of each cactus here, but luckily there are a few golden rules of cactus care that can help you keep your spiny little friend happy in your home.
Where Does It Come From?
Unsurprisingly, cacti are almost exclusively native to regions where there is at least some risk of seasonal drought. Each species offers a range of interesting adaptations that allow the plant to conserve water and defensive mechanisms that shield it from hungry herbivores. All cacti species (with one notable exception – the rhipsalis) are native to the Americas, growing everywhere from the brush lands of Western Canada, through to the arid plains of Central America, the Chilean Atacama Desert and all the way down to Patagonia in the icy southern cone.
Why Should I Get One?
- The sheer variety of cacti on offer is astounding and they are super fun to mix and match. Cacti generally all respond well to very similar conditions, meaning that it is really easy to arrange them into stunning mixed indoor gardens.
- They are hard to kill. The cardinal sins are overwatering and a lack of light. Other than that, your cactus will be pretty tolerant while you work out the specifics of how to get the most out of your plant.
- With plenty of TLC, cacti will reward you with the most spectacular colourful flowers.
How Big Can It Grow?
The possibilities here are truly endless. Cacti respond quickly to a change in their environment and if kept in a small container, it is easy to keep your cactus as a charming miniature. This is precisely what makes these species so attractive for inclusion in mixed indoor gardens enclosed containers. If allowed a little more space, your cactus will quickly endeavour to fill it, so really the plant can grow as large as you want it to! In the wild in regions such as the salt deserts of Bolivia and the arid puna in northern Argentina, cacti grow to towering heights of well over 10ft tall. The iconic Saguaro Cactus of the American west has been known to grow over 45 feet tall in its old age. Basically, the sky is quite literally the limit here.
Where Should I Keep It?
Cacti generally hail from desert climates so sun and bright light is essential for their happiness. That being said, most cacti species can also burn if the sun is magnified through a window directly onto them. A south facing window seat is usually perfect for a cactus garden, but if you begin to note a yellowing or brown spots on the side facing the outdoors, you might want to move it to somewhere a little dimmer to avoid scorching. Cacti prefer to keep clear of cold air currents and rooms with overly humid conditions.
How Often Should I Water It?
Many assume that their desert habitat means that cacti are happy to be left unwatered for long periods of time. While cacti are well adapted to survive drought, they are still plants and so they do not like it! The issue with watering cacti is less the amount of water offered and much more so the quality of the drainage in the container. If you want your cactus to grow large, reach peak health and even maybe one day treat you to a flower or two, watering regularly is actually vitally important. Once a week, give your cactus a generous watering (ensuring that your container offers the plant adequate drainage) and then wait for the soil to completely dry out before watering again. During the winter months, like many warm-weather plants, cacti tend to go dormant, so you can water a little more sparingly than usual. Cacti also really benefit from fertiliser and we would recommend investing in a specialised cactus-feed that includes all the nutrients your cactus will need to flourish. Fertilise with every watering in the spring and summer and taper the feeding off as the winter months approach.
For plant lovers seeking some of the funkiest shapes the plant world has to offer, cacti are an absolute joy. They are so wonderful for creating miniature mixed gardens that can brighten up almost any room in your home. With the right love, care, and a steady watering hand, these diverse little beauties can quickly become an obsession… trust me!