Cactus plants look great indoors, handle low amounts of water, and generally stand up to the rigors of modern life. In fact, cactus plants can be some of the most forgiving of all indoor plants. But even though these plants have a reputation as being low maintenance, it is good to get familiar with cactus plant care.
Want to know how to take care of a cactus plant? Here’s what you’ll need to know.
What Soil Works Best for Cactus Plants?
Cacti naturally grow in the desert, so they do best with sandy, rocky, or porous soil with excellent drainage. So, give it plenty of well-draining soil to not remain too moist—like its natural surroundings in the wild.
“Cactus soil” is different from the soil mix you use with most other houseplants. Regular potting mix holds too much moisture and can cause cactus plants to suffer from root rot. Instead, you can buy a premade cactus potting mix or make your own from a bit of potting soil, peat moss, pumice, sand, and coir.
To help with drainage, pot your cactus in a terra cotta pot. Terra cotta pots are more breathable and allow excess water to evaporate.
How Much Sun Does a Cactus Plant Need?
Cactus plants are desert plants, so they need more sunlight than the average houseplant. They love direct sunlight. Generally, the recommendation is to ensure your cactus gets about 8 hours of good sunlight per day.
Place your cactus near a southern or western-facing window so the cactus plant can get plenty of direct, natural sunlight throughout the day. A windowsill is ideal for a cactus to get plenty of bright light.
What Temperature Works Best for Cactus Plants?
Many people let their cactus plants grow outdoors in direct sunlight during warm summer months and take them inside when the temperatures drop.
Temperatures between 70- and 95-degrees Fahrenheit tend to work best for cactus plants. They can withstand hotter temperatures in the summer and as low as 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
Do Cactus Plants Enjoy Humidity?
Cacti don’t like humidity. They do best in dry climates. Keep your cactus in a dry part of the home. Avoid placing it in a bathroom or near a sink. Never mist your cactus plant.
How Often Should You Water a Cactus Plant?
One way to avoid overwatering your cactus plant is to place it outside under direct sunlight and let the natural rain provide all the watering that cactus plants need. If you keep your cactus in a terra cotta pot outdoors, you may not need to water it at all. After all, they handle low-rain conditions in the desert.
But this requires outdoor use. What if you want to keep your cactus indoors? Good cactus care indoors means paying careful attention to the amount of water you give it.
Cactus plants don’t need water that often. Always check that the soil is dry before watering. A little bit of water (less than half a cup) every week or two is enough during the summer and every month during the winter. Since they are drought-tolerant, they’ll also be OK if you travel or forget to water them occasionally—but don’t forget to water them for too long!
What Size Do Cactus Plants Grow to Typically?
Different varieties of cacti grow to be of different sizes. But most cactus plants grow very slowly, at a rate of only a few centimeters per year! So, your cactus will not get much bigger than the size you bought it at for years to come.
Most Common Bugs
It is possible to have issues with scale, mealy bugs, gnats, or aphids with this plant, but generally speaking, it doesn’t have bug issues.
To get rid of common pests like mealybugs, use a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol or insecticidal soap. Gently spray the plant with the solution using a spray bottle or apply it to the affected areas with a Q-tip.
Most Common Diseases
Most diseases that afflict the cactus plant are associated with overwatering. Too much moisture in the pot can cause root rot or fungus to grow. Overwatering can also cause the cactus to form rough brown patches, called corking or corky scab.
If your cactus shows signs of droopiness, wilting, rot, or scab, don’t panic yet! Stop watering the plant and let it dry out in the sun for a bit to see if it gets better.
How Do You Propagate Cactus Plants?
Many cactus varieties grow “pups” or new baby plants like other succulents. You can cut off the pup and repot it, and it will grow into a new plant.
You can propagate new cactus plants from broken pieces or stem cuttings. Set aside the cutting in a dry place for a few days until a callus forms over the fresh end, and then place it in a pot. The new plant should begin to take root in 4–6 weeks.
How Often Should You Repot Cactus Plants?
Since cacti grow so slowly, they do not need repotting as often as other houseplants. Generally, they need repotting every four years. However, if you notice that the roots are sticking out of the bottom of the container, you should repot it sooner.
Is a Cactus Good or Bad Luck?
There’s a concept in feng shui that a cactus might represent bad luck or introduce an element of bad energy to the home. However, we’re not going to tell you what kind of energy a cactus will bring to your home. That’s up to you, your beliefs, and your concept of what makes for good interior decorating. What a cactus does to your home depends on you and your energy to the cactus.
Conclusion — How to Take Care of a Cactus Plant
If you take good care of your cactus, you’ll be amazed at how long a cactus can last. So, what makes for good plant care with a cactus?
Of course, there are many types of cacti, so you’ll want to know as much as you can about your variety. But in general, they all love good drainage, plenty of sunlight, and a dry environment. So, follow these care instructions for your cactus, and you’ll have a healthy cactus in your home for years to come.