5 Cactus Care Tips to Keep Your Cactus Happy All Year Round 

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When it comes to cactus care, less is more, but too little can have consequences. Since too much care can have consequences on the health of your cactus, it’s important to find the right balance between watering, sunlight, and general health maintenance practices.

It’s also important to recognize that not all cacti require the same level of care. There are desert cacti and there are tropical cacti (also known as forest cacti). These different types of cacti have different sets of requirements for their care.

While desert cacti thrive in a dry environment with lots of sunlight, tropical cacti thrive in a moist environment with medium sunlight.

This article will teach you how to take care of an indoor desert cactus.

5 Tips For Taking Care of Your Cactus

Here are 5 tips for taking good care of your indoor cacti:

1. Water regularly, but don’t overdo it

It’s a common misconception that cacti do not require water. While desert cacti are naturally resilient to droughts, this does not mean they don’t require water at all. It just means that they can survive longer in a very dry environment, thanks to their thick, water-retaining stems. 

That said, cacti should still be watered regularly, but slightly less often than your tropical houseplants. If you’re watering your plants weekly, your cacti can wait a few days longer.

It’s especially important to water your cactus regularly during the growing season, which begins in the spring and ends in the early fall. Your cactus can happily go a month without water in the winter, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on its health.

Since cacti are resilient plants, a visibly dehydrated cactus can easily be rehydrated with a good sip of water.

2. Choose the right potting mix

Choosing the right potting mix is essential to growing a healthy desert cactus. In addition to providing adequate nutrients to your plant, the soil must allow for proper aeration and drainage. Most commonly, cactus potting soil will contain a mix of standard non-fertilized potting soil, pumice or perlite, and some sand.

If you prefer to buy a premade potting mix for cacti, a great choice is the Pro-Mix Premium Cactus Mix which contains a mix of sphagnum peat moss, peat humus, perlite, sand, and limestone. Pro-Mix also adds organic fertilizer and MYCOactive technology that helps stimulate the growth of the cactus.

3. Fertilize, but only during the growing season

Cactus require a mix of essential minerals to thrive. Without fertilization, desert cacti grown indoors can become nutrient deficient. In terms of nutrients, cacti require a mix of minerals that include potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Instead of getting into particular mineral ratios, we recommend simply purchasing a premade Cactus Fertilizer blend. 

Be sure to follow the instructions on the package, as over-fertilizing a cactus can have lethal consequences on its root system. It’s also important to only fertilize your cactus during the growing season that spans from spring to early fall. Fertilizing your cactus in the winter can also be detrimental to its root system.

4. Provide direct sunlight, but not for too long

While cacti love direct sunlight, they are prone to sunburns. A sunburn cactus will develop white patches or begin to brown. While a browning cactus will repair itself when relocated to a less sunny spot, white patches on a cactus are irreversible.

To avoid overexposure to sunlight, expose your cactus to a maximum of 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. This is particularly important if your cactus is placed outdoors, where ultraviolet (UV) rays are more powerful. 

If you’re concerned about your cactus getting sunburned, we recommend rotating it every few weeks. Since cacti grow towards the sun, rotating your cactus will also help it grow more evenly.

5. Replenish your cactus soil every few years

Repotting a cactus is not necessary unless the cactus outgrows its pot, but replenishing its soil every few years is recommended. A cactus’ soil will naturally become depleted over the years. As a cactus grows, it will use up the nutrients in the soil. Fertilizing the cactus will help provide a boost of nutrients, but it won’t perfectly make up for low-quality soil.

That said, it’s important to either rejuvenate your cactus’ soil once in a while or replace it altogether. We recommend mixing a small amount of your cactus’ previous soil into the new soil, to avoid shocking its root system. 

How to know if my cactus is getting enough water?

When it comes to watering your cactus, it’s important not to overdo it. This means you should allow your cactus’ soil to almost completely dry out between watering. A rule of thumb is to water your cactus when its first 2 to 3 inches of soil are dry. Over-watering a cactus can cause root rot.

To avoid root rot, make sure your cactus is planted in a high-quality potting mix that is made for cacti. It’s equally important to make sure your cactus is planted in a pot with adequate drainages, such as a terracotta pot. Non-glazed terracotta is a great pot choice since it’s porous and will absorb excess water. Non-porous materials, such as plastic, glass, or glazed ceramic, should be avoided to prevent root rot.

When should I repot my cactus?

A cactus should ideally be repotted every few years, but not necessarily into a bigger pot. There is a common misconception that repotting a plant will allow it to grow bigger. This is true when a plant is outgrowing its pot, but it’s rarely the case with cacti.

Cacti have a very small root system compared to tropical houseplants, so increasing the size of your cactus pot might have a negative effect. Planting a cactus in an oversized pot can lead to root rot since the roots cannot absorb all the moisture. For that reason, the cactus’ soil will remain moist for too long, causing the cactus’ roots to rot. 

Before repotting your cactus, remove it from its pot to examine its root system. Are its roots protruding from the soil or building up at the bottom of its pot? If not, your cactus is not ready to be repotted into a bigger pot.

What else can I do to care for my cactus?

Here are some tips to ensure that your cactus thrives all year round:

  • Ensure proper air circulation, such as leaving the windows open or leaving a fan on  
  • Put your cactus outside for some fresh air during the summer months 
  • Rotate your cactus regularly to avoid overexposure to sunlight (and a crooked stem)
  • Keep an eye out for pests or bacterial/fungal infections 
  • Use grow lights in the winter 
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