Blog Cactus How To Take Care Of A Cactus

How to Take Care of a Cactus

Looking for info on how to take care of a cactus? We've got you covered! Keep reading to learn our best tips on keeping your cactus healthy.

@Kiersten avatar
Kiersten Rankel
Jan 04, 2022

Whether you’re a novice to the world of plant care or you’re an old hand, cacti are wonderful additions to any home or garden. People love them because they are so easy to care for and maintain. 

Cacti plants are arguably the epitome of ‘low maintenance’ plants. Indoor cactus care really isn’t too different from outdoor cactus care. Good soil, occasional water and sunlight is really all they ask for and thanks to our app, we remove any guesswork and make caretaking your cacti simple and stress-free! 

Beyond our app recommendations, we’ve compiled a few of our best tips on taking tender, loving care of your beloved cactus houseplants. 

Photo by Liz.white.121

Tips for Caring for Your Cactus

Tip 1: Choose the Right Potting Mixture 

A nutritious potting mixture is key to ensuring the safety and health of any plant, be it a cactus or something else. A plant’s soil requirements are all different, depending on the plant type. What they need depends on their native soil they once originated from, and upon their individual growing needs. 

For example, if a plant is native to areas with a lot of rainforests, it makes sense they would require moist potting soil. Whereas a plant that originated from desert areas thrives best in dry soil. Therefore, the potting mixture you choose for your plant should be based on the type of plant you’re nurturing, and it’s unique needs. 

Tropical Soil 

Wondering what soil for Christmas Cactus to use? There are some species of cacti that originate from areas with rainforests and this includes Christmas Cactus. For those cacti, you need to have a potting mix that’s designed specifically for rainforest plants. 

In many cases, tropical cacti hang from trees, which means the water drains out quickly instead of staying in the roots or soil. From this, you can discern that an ideal tropical soil would need to be fast draining. 

Looking for detailed, step-by-step instructions on watering your plants? By using physics and machine learning to predict the water needs of any plant in any environment, the Greg plant care app will help you grow healthy houseplants with confidence. Download the app today!

Arid Soil

On the other hand, cacti that are native to dry areas and climates, do much better when planted in an arid soil. Your arid soil should be a good-draining soil in order to prevent root rot and help support the healthy, normal growth of the cactus. 

How to Make Your Potting Mix

Granted, you can get a variety of potting mixes for desert cacti that are ready-made. However, if you’re a DIY-er, it might be better to make your own potting mix since that allows you to tweak the recipe. 

For a standard potting mixture that works for these different types of cacti––tropical or desert––, start with a base that’s made using peat moss and ground fir bark. Mix it well and water it, allowing the water to absorb before putting it into the pots. 

Tip 2: Water Your Cactus Appropriately 

Water is an essential requirement for every plant, even if it is native to a desert. To make sure you’re taking proper care of your cactus, you need to figure out how much water it needs and make a watering schedule accordingly. Be sure to consult our app if you need help with this! 

Cacti are designed to store as much moisture as possible so they can use it during a dry spell. However, this still means that they need regular watering when there isn’t a drought. Many cacti grow during the hot summer months, which is the precise time of year they need regular watering.

The spare water stored during this time gets used up during the colder months, when they need less frequent watering. Wondering “why is my cactus is turning yellow?

If your cactus starts displaying yellowed edges and tilts to the side, these may be signs of dehydration. Just be careful not to overwater, as it can cause root rot. When in doubt, check our app and get help. 

Photo by Codiejagger

Cacti Size

The size of your cactus will determine its nutritional needs, including water. A smaller plant doesn’t have enough space to hold and utilize a lot of water. However, a larger, older plant won’t have any sudden growth spurts that might require extra energy. Therefore, smaller cacti require more frequent watering, while larger ones don’t. 

Pot Size

Similarly, your pot size also has an effect on how much water a cactus may need. That’s because your pot size puts a limit on how much water it can hold. Make sure not to over water the soil because if the pot isn’t large enough, the water could sit on the roots and cause root rot. 

Meanwhile, larger pots take longer to drain, which could also effect root health. It’s a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You need to find a pot that’s ‘just right’. 

To be the perfect size, it should only be a couple of inches bigger than the cactus, and well-designed to allow for proper drainage and airflow. 

How to Water Appropriately

During the warmer months of spring and summer, you should be able to just water your cactus plant once a week. However, that could be subject to change depending on the type of soil you choose to use. 

During the colder months, you can push it to once every two weeks or so. If you need help, a water gauge to measure the moisture level in the soil can be handy. You can also refer to our app for additional help and advice in caring for your cactus.

Tip 3: Choose the Right Fertilizer

Most of the time, a cactus doesn’t need any additional fertilizer in order to thrive. However, if you do add fertilizer, you’ll need to find one that is specifically designed for cacti. 

The ideal fertilizer for cacti should have a low nitrogen content, yet be high in phosphorus. The fertilizer ratio for cacti is 1 tablespoon to 1 gallon of fertilizer and water. 

The best time to add fertilizer to the soil is during the warmer months. This helps to provide the plant with additional energy for its expected growth spurt. 

Keep an eye on the cactus and only add fertilizer once you begin to see some growth. Also, don’t add fertilizer to a freshly potted plant. Give it some time to settle in first and make itself comfortable.

Tip 4: Ensure Your Cactus Receives Plenty of Sunlight 

Do cacti need sun? Sunlight is crucial for all plants to flourish, because it supports the process of photosynthesis. However, the amount and type of sunlight needed differs from plant to plant, and even from cactus to cactus. 

Cacti that are native to arid deserts prefer a lot of bright sunlight, with some needing up to 4 hours a day of direct sunlight. Meanwhile, tropical cacti that are native to areas with rainforests are used to being in partial shade, protected from direct sunlight. 

That’s not to say they don’t need the sun. Even tropical cacti can benefit from direct sunlight in small doses, especially during their growing season. 

Tip 5: Protect Your Cactus from Disease & Pests 

One of the most commonly seen afflictions in cacti is root rot and infection due to overwatering. However, cacti can also be vulnerable to pest attacks and infestations as well. 

For instance, mealybugs tend to stick to the underside of the leaves and stay hidden to avoid detection. Some types of mealybugs can go straight for the roots and drain all the nutrition from them. Similarly, scale insects are also bugs that attack the leaves and stems of a cactus. 

However, if you see a trail of webbing and brown dots on your succulent, chances are its due to an attack of spider mites. 

To minimize the risk of pest attacks on your succulent, make sure it has access to ample sunlight, that it gets plenty of fresh air, that it’s watered appropriately, and that it has a proper drainage system for the soil. 

Whether you’re a beginner learning how to take care of a cactus or an old hat just looking to refresh your memory, hopefully these tips prove helpful. Cacti plants are extremely low-maintenance plants and make excellent starters for those just beginning to flex their green thumbs and polish their gardening skills.