If you are looking for a breath of fresh air, and a little desert aesthetic, a small indoor cactus is a perfect addition to your home! They won’t grow to be 50 feet tall like wild cacti, and they are fairly easy to care for once you know what you’re doing. In case you don’t, we have you covered! These are our seven tips to care for your new (or old) indoor cactus!
This is probably the most frequent question that we get. People are always wondering “How much water do I give my cactus?” or they’re concerned they’re using the wrong type of water. Let’s clear it up. Cacti need regular watering to help them grow in the spring and summer. However, overwatering can cause their roots to rot.
For forest cacti, you should let the soil dry completely before watering it. For desert cacti, you should let the top few inches dry before watering. For both, you want to soak the soil when you water it, to the point water drains out the holes in the bottom of the container. If you keep your cactus in a sunny room, you’ll probably need to water every few days. In the winter, you’ll probably water less frequently, maybe once a week or so.
As far as water types go, tap water is okay, but usually has minerals that can collect in the soil over time. Ideally, you should use natural rainwater, but you can buy specialized natural water that will work well for your plant. Just make sure you aren’t using water that’s passed through a softener!
As a general rule of thumb, we always recommend that indoor cacti get around four hours of bright sunlight each day. Keep in mind that if you put it in direct sunlight outside, it will burn. To avoid this, make sure it’s in a brightly-lit room, and it should be able to flower and thrive.
Where to Place Your Cactus
Your top priority when finding the ideal spot for your new cactus should be light. Temperature and humidity are also important factors to consider as well. Most cacti thrive in indoor climates that are warmer in temp and lower in humidity.
If you have a tropical cactus, it will probably want a little bit more moisture in the air to simulate its natural habitat. For tropical cacti, you should place them on a tray with pebbles. Keep these pebbles consistently wet, so the air around the plant is relatively humid.
Choosing Your Soil
You can buy pre-mixed cactus soil, but many people like to mix their own blend to ensure their cactus can thrive. When choosing your soil, drainage should be your top priority. You want a soil that is grainy and not super compacted. To get this composition, you should add some sand and grit to the compost part of the soil.
A good test to make sure that your soil drains well is to test how long it takes for the water to seep out. It shouldn’t take longer than a minute for it to drain ideally. If you’re noticing that water continues to drip out for longer, re-pot your plant and add some more grit and sand to your soil blend.
During the growing season, your cactus will regularly need fertilizer. You want one that is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus to promote blooming. We recommend you use a water-soluble fertilizer at about one-half strength. Mix the fertilizer with a gallon of water and water your cactus until the water flows through the drainage holes on the bottom.
Pests and Diseases
To keep your cactus healthy for years to come, you need to protect it from different pests and diseases. The number one reason that a lot of indoor cacti die is that people overwater them. If you drown your cactus, it could develop root rot which stunts the plant’s growth, can cause the leave to wilt, and your plant will inevitably die.
If you notice that the plant might be on its way out, reduce the water and wait for the soil to optimally dry before watering again.
Here are a few of the most common pests that can wreak havoc on an indoor cactus:
Fungus gnats: These are tiny black flies that hover above the soil surface as the larva remains in the soil. Get a few sticky traps, and you can trap and dispose of these.
Mealybugs and scales: The white mealybugs show up in a group on the undersides of leaves, on leaf spines, or in the soil. Scales have white dome-like shells and thrive on stems and leaves. Take a cotton swab, and you can remove the bugs. Alternatively, if you take the plant outside, you can wash them off.
Spider mites: These spiders leave white webbing all over the plant. They are really small and look like brown dots or even dirt. Simply wash your cactus off, and you can get rid of them.
Repotting Your Cactus
You should try to re-pot your plant at least once a year to give your cactus fresh soil and check their roots to make sure that they’re healthy. To do this, simply invert the pot and give it a tap to loosen up the soil and roots. Next, you’ll have to get the roots out of the soil. Grab a thin stick like a chopstick and gently tease out the roots to remove the old soil mix. Make sure you’re careful with the roots, and also check for any pests while you’re looking at the roots.
Pick a new pot (preferably bigger than the old one) and put the cactus inside. Add some fresh dry mix, and you’re ready to go! Don’t water right away! You want to make sure that the roots have time to heal in case you damaged them during the process. Dry roots heal themselves fairly well, and unhealed roots are more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections from moisture.
Indoor cacti are pretty easy to care for as long as you know what you’re doing. Hopefully, you’ve learned from this post. If you don’t have a cactus yet, what are you waiting for? Head on over to the store and see our awesome selection.