How to Care for Your Cactus

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Lawn & Garden

Understanding the Water and Humidity Needs of Cacti

Contrary to popular belief, cacti need water to thrive. However, not all cacti require the same amount of water and humidity.

It is crucial to research the specific water and humidity needs of your cactus or succulent to ensure its longevity and good health.

When watering your cacti, it is important to do a thorough job. Think of it like a cloudburst in the desert, then allow the plant to go without water for a long period until its next drink.

In the winter, most cacti become dormant, and watering them should be restricted. African succulents, on the other hand, often go into dormancy in the summer, so watering should be limited during this period. Water combined with cold or dormancy can be disastrous for the plants.

When the plants are actively growing, they need frequent watering to keep them moderately moist and warm, which promotes growth.

Despite their desert origins, cacti can tolerate dry air very well. However, the air in most houses and apartments tends to be drier than that in the deserts, especially during winter.

When it comes to watering methods, we generally refer to “drench and let dry,” “moist,” and “wet.” Here’s what they mean:

  • Drench and Let Dry: Soak the plant thoroughly by submerging the pot in tepid water. Wait until all the bubbles have stopped, then allow the plant to dry until the soil surface is dry to the touch. This method is suitable for plants with thick roots.
  • Moist: Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy or too dry.
  • Wet: Keep the soil wet at all times.

While cacti are commonly known for their ability to survive in desert heat, there are several varieties that can thrive outdoors all year round in Canada and Alaska. In the next section, we’ll discuss the temperature requirements for cacti and succulents.

Want to learn more about gardening and houseplants? Check out these resources:

  • Cactus Plants
  • Gardening
  • House Plants


1. What are the basic requirements for cactus care?

Cactus care requires a well-draining soil, plenty of sunlight, and minimal watering. Most cacti prefer temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also important to avoid overwatering, as cacti are adapted to drought conditions and can easily rot if their soil is too moist.

2. How often should I water my cactus?

The frequency of watering will depend on the specific type of cactus and the environmental conditions. As a general rule, cacti should be watered only when the soil is completely dry. This may range from once a week to once a month, depending on the plant and the climate.

3. What type of soil is best for cacti?

Cacti require a well-draining soil mix that is composed of sand, perlite, and peat moss. This type of soil will allow excess water to drain away from the roots and prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged, which can lead to root rot.

4. How much sunlight do cacti need?

Cacti require plenty of sunlight to thrive. In general, cacti should be placed in a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. However, some species may require more or less sunlight depending on their natural habitat.

5. Can cacti be grown indoors?

Yes, many species of cactus can be grown indoors as long as they receive adequate sunlight and are planted in a well-draining soil mix. Indoor cacti may require supplemental lighting to ensure they receive enough sunlight.

6. How do I fertilize my cactus?

Cacti should be fertilized during their active growing season, which is typically spring and summer. A balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can be used, applied at half strength every two to four weeks.

7. What pests and diseases should I watch for?

Cacti are generally resistant to pests and diseases, but they can occasionally be affected by mealybugs, spider mites, or fungal infections. Regular inspection of the plant can help identify any problems early on.

8. How do I propagate my cactus?

Cacti can be propagated through stem cuttings or by separating offsets from the parent plant. The cuttings should be allowed to dry for a few days before being planted in a well-draining soil mix. It may take several weeks for the cutting to root and begin to grow.

9. Can cacti be pruned?

Yes, cacti can be pruned to control their size and shape. This should be done during their dormant period, which is typically in the fall or winter. Sharp, clean pruning shears should be used to make smooth cuts, and any wounds should be allowed to dry before the plant is repotted.

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