If you are looking for a plant that will add a bit of a desert charm to your space and an easy one to take care of, then get yourself a cactus. They do not require much care, which makes it an ideal choice for someone with a busy lifestyle. Plus, they only require some basic maintenance, whether they are grown in an indoor setting or outdoors, as long as you know that you’re doing. But in case you don’t, then we got you covered!
Below are our tips and tricks that will help you care for your new or already owned cactus!
Just like with succulents, cacti need regular watering to help them grow during their active season, which usually happens in the Spring and Summer. So whether you keep them indoors or out, they should be given a good soak each time you water them to the point that it drains out the holes in the bottom of the container.
However, this still depends on what cactus species you have. For example, forest or jungle cacti like Dancing Bones Hatiora needs to be watered more frequently than desert ones like Joseph's Coat Cactus or Opuntia Rufida Minima. The reason behind this is that unlike Desert type cacti, Forest cactus loves their roots to be kept moist.
To make it simple, whether you own a Forest or Desert cactus, you need to make sure not to drown it with too much water, or else root rot may develop, preventing the cactus growth and may also cause the leaves to wilt, which will most likely lead it to die. But this can be prevented by always allowing the top few inches of the soil are dry in between watering.
In Autumn and Winter, cactus go through their dormant period. So during this time, cut back with your watering routine to once a week or whenever you see them start to shrivel to avoid getting root rot caused by overwatering.
For water types, you can either use natural rain or tap water for your cactus. You may also buy specialized natural water that will work great for your plants, just don’t use the type that has passed through a softener.
As a general rule of thumb, it is best to provide cacti with at least 4 to 6 hours of bright sunlight per day to encourage flowering. However, forest cacti like Christmas Cactus can’t tolerate intense, direct sunlight, especially when the temperature becomes too intense, so make sure to keep them protected from the scorching sun in the afternoon.
In case you see that they start to appear off-color, bleached, or are turning yellow or orange, immediately move them to a different location, as this is their way of telling you that they are getting too much light.
For indoor cacti, find a spot where it can still get as much light and fresh air for it to flower and continuously thrive, like a brightly-lit room or a windowsill. If you see them begin to bend toward the light, transfer the plant to a brighter spot where it can get more sunlight.
Your cactus' soil must be well-draining. You can buy a special cactus potting mix at your local store near you or mix your own blend by adding some sand and grit to your compost part of the soil to make it grainy and not super compacted.
To test if you now have the perfect soil mix, you should examine how long it takes for the water to seep out. Ideally, it should not take more than a minute to drain. In case it takes longer to drip out than what it should be, re-pot your cactus and add more grit and sand to your soil blend.
To encourage new growth and flowering, regularly feed your cactus with a low-nitrogen or cactus blend fertilizer every few weeks throughout Spring and Summer, when it is actively growing.
Cactus should be repotted at least once a year to give them fresh soil and to check their roots to ensure that they’re healthy.
To do this, simply flip over the pot and give it a tap to loosen up the soil and roots. Next, get the roots out of the old soil by carefully teasing it out using a thin stick, like a chopstick.
Once you are done removing the old soil from your cactus roots, you can now plant your cactus to its new plant. Make sure to choose a bigger one than the old pot. Then, add some fresh dry mix and allow some time for the roots to heal, in case you damage it during the process before watering.
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Although most problems associated with cacti and succulents grown as houseplants are bacterial or fungal diseases caused by overwatering, they do get the occasional insect pest like mealy bugs, and root mealybugs.
To prevent your plants from being infested by pests, make sure to keep them in a dry, sunny spot with a lot of airflows, and use fast-draining soil to avoid your cactus from sitting in the wet for too long.
In cases that your cactus suddenly got infested by pests, like by Cochineal scale bugs, treat it right away as these small insects can really be a nuisance, as they weaken and kill your cactus by sucking their leaves.
Cochineal is usually found on cactus of the Opuntia genera like Angel Wing or Rufida Minima Cinnamon cactus and can be treated using only a spray of water. To do this, you first need to expose and weaken these bugs by spraying the affected area with water. Then treat it using an insecticidal soap or a mix of 2.5 mL of dish soap to 1 gallon of water. If the problem persists, you will need to trim off the worst pads at the joints and discard them to avoid spreading more.
However, if your cactus is seriously infested, treat it by applying a combination of insecticide, dormant oil spray, and/or insecticidal soap. Malathion and triazide combined with Neem oil or Volck dormant oil spray should do the trick.
But do note that this process should not be done on hot, sunny days, as your cactus is likely to burn from the dormant oil. If the weather is too hot to use dormant oil, use pesticide mixed with dish soap.
See more about Common Pests & Diseases Treatment for Succulents.
Corking is an entirely natural occurrence with cactus and will not cause any harm. This is simply an indication that your plant has lived and grown large enough to require a little extra care. It is a normal part of aging, and unfortunately, it cannot be prevented.
In case you cannot stand the sight of a corking cactus, you have the option to take a cutting and propagate it in a different container to start fresh, and dispose of the old cactus or give it to someone who doesn’t mind a little corking at the base of their plants.
Also, it is important to carefully examine your cactus to make sure that it is indeed corking and not a sign of pests, damage, or disease. Keep in mind that corking is relatively a slow process and begins at the base of the cacti, so if you see sudden changes with your cactus, then it may not be corking after all.
Cacti are really easy to care for, as long as you know their basic needs, and hopefully, this post will help you have a happy and healthy cactus.
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