We love cacti! These tropical plants are unmatched in giving a southern flair to your decor. Plus, these plants are pretty easy to care for, which makes them a great choice for all types of gardeners, including beginners.
Cactus or succulent?
Cacti are indeed succulents, but not all succulents are cacti… Confusing, isn’t it? Succulents have thick, fleshy leaves that store water to withstand the heat and dryness of their country of origin. What distinguishes cacti from other succulents are the thorns: cacti prick – more or less – while succulents do not. There are however some exceptions, but it is generally what allows us to differentiate them.
Cacti are hardy plants, ideal for travelers or those who sometimes forget to water. They still need a minimum of care to be healthy and you will soon be forgiven for your little mistakes.
Place your cacti near a south or east facing window, ideally in full light in the morning, but in indirect sun in the afternoon. Turn your pot occasionally so that your plant grows straight and all sides get good light.
During the summer, you can take your cacti outside in the sun. Take the time to acclimatize them well so that they do not suffer a shock when they come out. This way, they will enjoy the nice weather while bringing life to your yard.
The watering of cacti is without doubt the most important point of their maintenance. You must know how to find the right dosage for each period of the year in order not to risk drowning your plant. Remember: cacti are adapted to the very arid conditions of the desert. They will always suffer more from an excess than a lack of water. Cacti are in growth from March to October and this is when their needs are greatest. In winter, they need a break. We still water them, but less often. Some even need to stop watering completely for a few weeks, ask your local garden centre.
There are no precise rules for watering frequency. Several factors influence the watering needs of a plant, cactus or other: the size and type of pot, the sunlight, the humidity of the room, etc. Generally:
- Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings.
- Use room temperature water and water early in the morning when the sun is shining to prevent root rot.
The best way to water your cacti, if the pots have drainage holes of course, is by basking. Place your pots in a few inches of water, in a tub or at the sink, and make sure they don’t tip over. As soon as the surface of the soil is wet, remove your cacti and let them drain completely before putting them back in.
If you choose to water from the top, it’s simply a matter of giving a quarter of the volume of the pot in water. Don’t forget to discard any excess water that has accumulated in the saucer and never leave your cacti soaking in water.
During the plant’s growing season, March through October, is the time to provide good nutrients to your cactus. It is recommended to apply half the manufacturer’s recommended dose of an all-purpose fertilizer three times during the growing season.
Cacti need a very well drained soil to grow healthily. Stagnant water and lack of aeration can be fatal for cacti. It is therefore necessary to cultivate cacti in a specialized potting soil for cacti and succulents or in an adapted mix. Cacti do not grow very fast. They can therefore be repotted every two or three years. Ideally, cacti are repotted in the spring, at the beginning of their growing season, but it can be done at any time.
Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the previous one. If your cactus has a columnar, tall habit, adding gravel to the bottom of the pot can help stabilize it. Use a pot with at least one drainage hole in the bottom so excess water can drain away. If you choose a plastic pot, it is important to know that this material retains more water than clay pots: adjust your watering.
- Handle your plant with great care. Not only is it fragile, but it stings! Use kitchen tongs, newspaper or a clean cloth to avoid stinging yourself.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot, avoiding pulling on the stem, and gently remove excess soil from the root ball. Then trim off any soft, brown or dry roots before placing your plant back in a new pot filled with cactus and succulent potting soil.
- Unlike other plants, you should not water immediately after planting. You should wait until the roots have had time to heal before giving it water, two to three weeks. Also avoid placing your freshly repotted plant in full sun for a few weeks.
Stimulate the flowering of cacti
Many cacti flower and to initiate this flowering, the plant must first go into dormancy. For this, it needs a small thermal shock. It is necessary to place the cactus in a dark and cool room, around 10 ºC, for a few weeks. Watering should be stopped completely during the dormant period. In spring, when you place your cactus in the light and warmth of your window, it will bloom beautifully. Don’t worry, you are not mistreating your plant, it is made to withstand extreme weather conditions where temperatures can drop several degrees below zero at night and rise quickly the next day and where it is not uncommon to see no rain for several weeks.
Cacti are wonderful plants to discover and add to your decor. There are hundreds of varieties, each more interesting than the last. For more tips and advice on the care of your plants, subscribe to our newsletter!