Cactus and Succulent Care for Beginners


OK, so you just returned from the store with your first cactus plant, or perhaps you bought one of those funny looking little plants with a tag sticking in the pot that says "Assorted Succulents." You might be asking yourself, "how do I take care of this thing?"

The first thing to realize is that the words "cacti" and "succulent" are general terms. Cacti belong to a specific family of plants, but the species come from some very different habitats. Many cacti, such as those in the genus Ferocactus, are true desert dwellers. Others, such as those in the genus Echinopsis, live in the grasslands of South America, those in the genus Oreocereus live in the high Andes mountains, and those in the genus Epiphyllum live in jungles and do not even live in the ground, but upon other plants.

When talking about succulents, it gets even crazier. The term "succulent" is completely non-scientific. Basically, it can refer to any plant with fleshy parts (leaves, stems, or roots), usually adapted for storing moisture in times of drought. These plants come from all over the world and live in all different habitats.

Why do you need to know all of this? Well, the more you know about your "Assorted Succulent" or "African Zipper Plant," the more chance you have of being successful growing it. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has a local cactus and succulent club, visit one of their meetings, bring your plant, and be prepared to find out all kinds of things about it, like what its real name is, where plants of its type grow in the wild, and what growing conditions it likes.

If you aren't so lucky to have a local cactus and succulent club close by or are just too eager to get started caring for your new baby, all is not lost. There are some general rules that can be applied to those plants we call cacti and other succulents.

Watering and Fertilizing

Many people think that cacti and succulents require a small amount of water every once in a while. While it's true that these plants are tough, and can usually survive under such circumstances, most certainly will not thrive.

During their growing season, these plants like regular watering and fertilizing. For most, the period of growth is from spring into fall. Many plants rest (stop putting on growth) from late fall to early spring, when temperatures are cool, and daylight length is short, and during mid-summer, when temperatures are at their peak.

How often to water and fertilize: While growing, cacti and succulents should be watered at least once a week. Some people water more often than this. During each watering, give the soil a good soaking, so that water runs out of the 'drainage holes' of the pots. During the growing season, a balanced fertilizer, which has been diluted to 1/4 strength, can be added to the water for each watering. (A balanced fertilizer is one that has roughly equal proportions of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. A 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength is ideal.)

When the weather cools, and day-length shortens, plants enter a rest period. During that time, increase the interval between watering, and let the potting mixture dry out between watering. Some people say that during dormancy, cacti and succulents should be given just enough water so that they show no sign of shriveling. Use some common sense here. If your plants are kept indoors on a window sill in a heated room during the Winter, they will need more water than if they were over-wintered out-of-doors. In any case, do not fertilize your plants during dormancy.

There are exceptions to the above guidelines, as some cacti and, especially some succulents, are winter growers. Again, your local cacti and succulent club can help you determine the particular growing habits of your plants.

A word about water: Tap water often can be alkaline and/or hard, meaning it contains high concentrations of dissolved minerals. Such minerals can build up in the plant's 'soil' over time, causing harm. This is one good reason why your plants should periodically be 'repotted.' The buildup of such minerals can also cause unsightly deposits to form, especially on unglazed clay pots. Never water your plants with water that has been through a softening system that uses salt as a recharging agent, as these systems simply replace the "hardness" in the water with sodium ions.

Rainwater is preferable to tap water if you can manage to collect and store it.

Light

Most cacti and succulents like bright light, but not all can tolerate intense, direct sunlight, especially in conjunction with high temperatures. The intensity of the light that a plant will thrive in depends on the species. A plant grown in optimal light conditions will "look normal" (unstressed), and is more likely to flower than one grown in sub-optimal lighting conditions. (Keep in mind that succulents, and especially cacti, have very differing ages at which they will bloom. For example, even if you give your giant Saguaro seedling (Carnegiea gigantea) conditions optimal in every way, you will likely not see it flower in your lifetime.)

While optimal lighting conditions depend on species, there are some general signs that indicate your plant is getting either too much or too little light:

Too much light: When your plant is getting too much light, it can appear "off-color," taking on a "bleached out" look, or turning yellow or even orangish. Keep in mind that these signs can also indicate other stresses, such as disease or too much water, so use common sense when making your diagnosis.

If your plant is moved suddenly into very bright sunlight conditions, or if the weather suddenly turns hot with abundant sunshine, your plant can scorch. This can happen very rapidly and can scar the plant for the rest of its life, so be on alert for when such a condition might occur, and take precautions to prevent scorching.

Too little light: If your plant is receiving too little light, it might etiolate and/or appear to reach for the light source. (Etiolation is the condition where a plant becomes "drawn," for example, a cactus plant that is normally round begins to look as if it is being stretched out from the growing point at its center). Your plant will suffer if left in such light conditions for very long. When transitioning such a plant to stronger light, keep in mind that it will be especially prone to scorching, so make the transition slowly.

Note that in most cases, it is quite normal for a plant to grow toward the light slowly. What you want to avoid is the condition where it is reaching for the light. For example, if your columnar cactus is bent toward the window at 90°, it's trying to tell you something.

For a potted plant that slowly grows toward the light over time, you can rotate its pot to cause it to grow in a more balanced fashion. Remember, if you do this, that the side of the plant that had not been exposed to direct sunlight for a long time might scorch if you make the transition too quickly. Be careful!

Pots and Potting

Pots come in all kinds of styles and are made of various materials.

Pot materials: The materials used most often for pots are plastic and clay/ceramic (either glazed or unglazed). Cacti and succulents can be grown successfully in pots made of either material, and choosing one over the other is usually a matter of personal preference.

Plastic pots are lighter, usually cheaper, take up less room than clay or ceramic pot with the same inside dimensions, and are easy to keep clean. Plants kept in plastic pots also tend to require less watering than those kept in unglazed clay pots.

The extra weight of clay and ceramic pots provide stability for tall or top-heavy plants. Many people also feel that a good clay or ceramic pot just plain looks better than a plastic pot. Remember that if you water with hard water, a buildup of minerals on the outside of unglazed clay pots can cause unsightly deposits to form.

Regardless of the material the pot is made of, it must allow good drainage. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to grow a cactus or succulent successfully in a pot that lacks drainage holes. If you find a pot that is perfect in every respect except for its lack of drainage holes, drill them yourself.

Styles of pots: If you know the species of cactus or other succulent you have, you can make a better choice as to what style of the pot to keep it in. For example, many cacti species have fibrous roots that remain close to the surface of the soil. Such a plant has no use for a narrow, deep pot; a shallow pot with a relatively large diameter would suit it much better. While appearing quite modest above the soil line, many cacti and succulents have a massive, deep, tuberous root system below the soil, and require a pot suited to that root system.

Some people like to use bonsai pots for their plants. These pots are often very attractive, and a specimen planted and skillfully staged in such a pot can be a real attention-grabber. If you have limited space, be aware that bonsai pots tend to take up a relatively large amount of space, and their price can also be a real attention-grabber.

Soil: Cactus and succulent potting mixes are sometimes available commercially, but many people like to create their own special mix for their plants. There are some basic characteristics that a potting mix for cacti and succulents should possess. Perhaps the most important characteristic is that the soil should drain very well. The best way to achieve this is by adding horticultural-grade sand and grit to the compost component of the soil. Many believe that a good starting ratio for the mix's components is one-third compost, one-third horticultural-grade sand, and one-third grit.

For the compost component, a growing number of hobbyists believe that a peat-based compost should not be used, as it seems to contribute to pest problems like 'root mealybug' and 'fungus gnat,' and doesn't contribute much in the way of nutrients to the plant. Many people start with a good grade commercial potting mix for the compost component, and some sift it through a screen to remove such "undesirables" as the small pieces of wood and twigs that can sometimes be found in such mixes.

All sand is not created equal. The sand component should be horticultural grade, relatively coarse, and sharp. Never use non-horticultural grade sand, such as fill sand, as this is usually not washed, and can contain, among other things, salt.

For the grit component, most people agree that horticultural pumice is the best. It is also not widely available and can be expensive if you can find it. Some other materials that can be used include pearlite, porous gravel, and lava fines. People often have good luck using fired clay products for the grit component. These products include certain cat litters and products that are used to absorb oil spills. If using one of the clay products, you must ensure that it is fired clay that does not break down and turn to mush when it gets wet. Check the labeling, and to be sure, test it out by putting some in a jar of water for some time to see if it breaks down. Mush in your potting mix will do your plants no good.

Like everything else discussed so far, there are no hard and fast rules for potting mixes, so you'll need to experiment with ratios. The above ratio of components represents a good starting point.

Repotting: Ideally, your plants should be repotted every year so that you can provide them with fresh soil, inspect and address problems with their root systems, and move them to bigger pots if necessary.

"Every year; yeah, right," you're probably saying. You're not alone in saying that. However, for best health, your plants really should at least be repotted when they start telling you they're not happy in their current "digs." If your plant looks out of proportion with its pot, is pushing its way up out of the pot, has roots that are growing out through the pot's drainage holes, or is spitting the pot, guess what…

To repot, invert the pot and gently tap it to loosen the soil and roots from the pot. If the plant is root-bound, you might need to resort to breaking the pot to get the plant out.

Next, clear away the old soil from the roots. Be careful when doing this, as you want to minimize damage to the roots. A thin stick, such as a chopstick, helps in this regard. Using the stick, gently tease out the roots and remove the old mix. This is a good time also to inspect the mix for 'pests.' If any roots appear dead and dried out, they can be pruned off. Note that some people use a sharp stream of water, as from a hose, to wash the mix from the roots, rather than use the stick method.

Repot the plant into the new pot, which should be a little larger than the old one, and in pleasing proportion with the plant. First, cover the drainage holes with clay pot shards or screening (your pot does have drainage holes, right?), then place the plant in the pot with a fairly dry, fresh mix. You might want to apply a top dressing, such as crushed granite, but this isn't necessary. Now, don't water the plant right away. Instead, allow the plant to rest out of direct sunlight for a week or two before watering it. This allows any damaged roots to heal, as unhealed wet roots are very susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections.

Old Wife's Tale debunked: Remember your grandmother told you to always add a layer of pebbles to the bottom of a pot when repotting, to improve drainage? Your grandma might have made the best cherry cobbler in the world, but forget this advice about pebbles. The potting mix in your pots should extend down to the bottom.

A word about handling your plants: Cacti and succulents grow in some extremely hostile environments, and as such, have evolved some very inventive ways of defending themselves. They will not hesitate to use those defense mechanisms when you attempt to repot or otherwise handle them.

Unless you're really tough, you're probably wondering how in the world you are going to get a grip on your spiny cactus while you repot it. Some good "tools" that can be used include newspaper or paper towels that have been wadded up or foam blocks.

Beware that not all spines are created equal. Some can be especially nasty. For example, that group of cacti known as Opuntias – commonly referred to as "Prickly Pears" – have spines that, at the microscopic level, are barbed and very easily break off and remain lodged in the skin. Opuntias also have fine spines called "glochids," which, in extreme cases, have gotten into people's eyes and caused problems. Some other cacti, as some Mammillarias, have hooked spines that easily grab fast to skin and clothing.

Still, other succulents are known for having poisonous or irritating sap. Plants in the genus Euphorbia are especially known for this. Be careful around them.

Pests

Cacti and succulents are, no doubt, tough plants. They are, however, not without their problems. Aphids, snails, slugs, thrips, and nematodes are among the guests who can leave their mark on your collection. Below is a discussion of some of the more common pests to cacti and other succulents.

Mealy Bugs: No discussion of basic cacti and succulent care would be complete without a discussion of pests, and no discussion of pests would be complete without a discussion of our little friend, the mealybug. Mealybugs, or "mealies" as they are often referred to, are tiny insects about 0.1 inches (3 mm) in length, which shroud themselves in an oval-shaped, cottony covering. It is the presence of these cottony masses, en masse, on your plants, which signal the fact that you've been invaded by mealies. Mealybugs live their entire adult lives within their cottony fortresses, happily dining on plant sap. A plant infested with mealybugs will stop growing, weaken, and often eventually succumbs to rot.

Their cottony coverings protect them from predators AND contact pesticides. Minor infestations can be handled by dabbing the offending individuals with a cotton swab that has been dipped in rubbing alcohol. The alcohol dissolves the covering, leaving them defenseless. Systemic insecticides are often used to control widespread mealybug attacks.

Being ever resourceful, mealybugs can also attack the roots of your plants, in which case they are called "root mealies." If you don't see any visible pests on a plant that appears sickly, root mealies might be to blame. To eliminate, unpot the plant, and if you find any unwanted guests, wash off as much soil and critters as possible, soak the roots in a systemic insecticide and repot.

Spider Mites: Spider mites are tiny critters that are all but invisible to the unaided eye. These pests are often found in their whitish webs, which are often spun close to the plant's surface. They dine on plant sap. Infected plants often develop yellowish spots, which later turn rusty brown, scarring the plant. Weakened plants are susceptible to secondary infections, be they viral, bacterial, or fungal.

Spider mites hate being wet. Of course, so do most cacti and succulents. Overhead watering and misting is often listed as a preventative and a cure for spider mite problems.

Mites are not insects, so insecticides often have little effect on them. The use of a miticide, however, is recommended for widespread problems.

Scale: Scales are pinhead-sized insects that appear as raised tan or brown spots resembling marine limpet shells. The shells are hard coverings that protect the insects underneath. Like many other insect pests, they dine on the plant's sap. Outbreaks of scale can be treated similarly to mealybug infestations.

Fungus Gnats: Fungus gnats are often a nuisance rather than a problem. When present, they are small black flies that can often be seen on and around the soil's surface. In some cases, mostly when seedlings are involved, their larvae can cause damage and plant loss. Many hobbyists report that fungus gnats are more common in peat-based soils.

Source: csssj.org

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Tips on succulent care for beginners recap

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our 8 tips on succulent care for beginners and have learned some interesting facts about caring for your lovely plants. Succulents are fantastic houseplants for beginners because they are low maintenance and require little attention, however there are some general care tips you need to remember and the topics we discussed are:

  1. Best type of pots for succulents
  2. The best soil for succulents
  3. When do you water succulents
  4. Using the best fertilizer for succulents
  5. Do succulent plants need sun
  6. Pests on succulents
  7. Repotting succulents
  8. Cleaning and general care

I hope that you found this blog helpful and are now fully prepared to become a member of the succulent family! At Succulent Care Guide our aim is to provide informative content on houseplant care. We have all the top tips including how to keep cats away from succulents for all you pet owners out there! We also answer all the most pressing questions such as how fast do succulents grow? and why is my jade plant dropping leaves? You can also learn about specific problems and the fixes such as why is your jade plant dying.

If you have any of your own tips or tricks on succulent care for beginners, then leave a comment. We are always interested in learning new techniques and hearing about what works for you.


Cactus and Succulent Care Tips

With that said, it’s a known fact that the natural habitat of most cactus and succulent is in the desert. Therefore, they thrive in a place where there are lots of suns and good drainage will make them grow fast and big.

But this doesn’t apply to everyone in this plant family. For some species, they prefer less sun and humid conditions while others prefer extremities.

Nevertheless, it is important to properly identify our plants. And, this leads us to the first thing on our care tips list.

Be familiar with your plant.

Most people skip this step but, you see, this is the ideal thing to do after – or even before – having your plant. Most plants that’s available on the store have an identification tag on them.

If there’s none, take your time to have a chat with the seller. Of course, you are more welcome to ask a few questions like beginner recommendations and tips on how to make your plant happy every day.

Image by Isabel Estabrook from Pixabay.

On the other hand, if the cacti you have is given to you as a gift, don’t you want to take a good care of it? Researching about your plant sets you on track.

With today’s technology and freedom of information, it is easier to look up different cacti and succulent species online. There are even apps that help you identify plants just by taking a picture.

When I was just starting my fascination with cacti, it became a habit of mine to search for scientific names and origins of cacti and succulents that I have. Eventually, I stumbled upon LLIFLE, an online plant encyclopedia, and found it really helpful. They even have a separate section for cactus and succulent that help me build this care tips article.

Consequently, you may get a bit overwhelmed with all the information you learned, especially for beginners. Don’t forget to take notes or screenshots for future reference. After grasping enough information about your spiky little friend, it’s time to act.

Know the ‘basics.’

So you’re now a plant parent! Ye

y! What’s next?

After getting familiar with your beloved plant, it’s time to put your knowledge to test. Both flourish in the same conditions and rarely need water. SO here are the BASICS to make your spiky and plump friend a bit happier every day.

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay.

Basic 1: Water

I know, you are very fond of your new plant but PLEASE please stop watering it all the time. This is the most common mistake done by most people.

More specifically, cactus and succulent rarely need the service of your trusted watering can. They store water on their plump bodies so no worries, they can get by even after a week of no watering.

It’s true, these plants are tough. They could survive with little water, but they will not thrive. Well, cacti experience growth during the warmer seasons, so you might need to water them regularly at that time. Once a week is an ideal routine. If days become too hot, twice a week is okay as long as you’ve got your plants on a gritty potting mix and good drainage.

By the time the season’s colder, most of these plants go dormant. They stop growing when temperatures and daylight drop. Increase intervals between watering as your plants go to dormancy. Let the potting mix dry out before watering again.

Watering also relies on your plant’s location. You may need to water it regularly if it is outside in direct sunlight. On the contrary, less watering if it’s inside.

Between waterings, make it a habit to check on your plants. Is the soil dry already? Or is it still wet? Simply push a finger into the soil and you’ll know it. If you don’t wanna get your hands dirty, insert a bbq stick.

Photo by Severin Candrian on Feey

When watering, refrain from using spray bottles. Use a long-necked watering can instead, or anything close to one, and apply water on soil level. It is important for the water to run out of the pot. Cacti and succulents do not like their roots sitting in water for a long time. Remember, keep the water off the body of your plant.

You could also try bottom watering. It is an effective way for most plants who don’t like getting their body and leaves wet, like cacti and succulents. Look for a container large enough to fit the plants that you would like to soak. Fill it halfway, then you may leave it alone. After 10 minutes, check if it absorbed enough water. The surface should be visibly wet. If still dry, you may want to leave it for another 20 minutes. Though make sure to remove any excess water.

Additionally, if you happen to live in a place where there’s a wet season, try to collect rainwater if your plants are indoors. Rainwater is much better for most plants compared to tap water. Your plants will thank you in the long run.

Image by Alina Kuptsova from Pixabay.

Basic 2: Potting Mix and Drainage

These two works together. You need your plant to have a fast-draining potting mix in a pot with a good hole.

Cacti and succulents are commonly available or given to you already potted, while those bought in online stores come in the mail bare-rooted. Either way, make sure that the soil mix you have is suitable for cacti and succulents.

For the plant to thrive and prosper, it would greatly help to mimic its natural environment. In this case, we’re talking about the habitat of cacti and succulents. More specifically the sandy, gravelly soil from where they came from. Some were even native to rocky crevices and cliff-sides. The gritty soil beneath them allows water to dry out easily despite the heavy rains.

In choosing your potting mix, you could opt for the commercial soils available at your nearest hardware. On a comparison by Mountain Crest Gardens, you’ll find that under the same controlled environment, each soil differs.

But you could always make your own. It’s way cheaper especially if you already have resources at your garden. And it’s a fun way to get yourself more involved in your garden.

Photo by Neslihan Gunaydin on Unsplash

When creating your mix, it is important to keep in mind that the soil should drain very well. There’s no fixed recipe for the ‘perfect’ potting mix because it depends on what’s available in your area and what will fit your need. Plus, not all plants are the same.

Nevertheless, following the ratio of mixing 1/3 organic matter and 2/3 mineral materials works like magic. You could use this as a general formula in making your potting mix.

Edits by Laracs Cactus photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Organic Materials: Soil, Compost, Vermicast, Cocopeat, Pine Bark, Rice Hull (Fresh or Carbonized)

Mineral Materials: Pumice, Perlite, Coarse Sand, Gravel, Lava Rock

In choosing your ingredients, prioritize what you have. Be resourceful. Some of this could be readily available in your yard, or maybe your friendly neighbour has some. These are cheap materials and could easily be found in the garden store next to you.

Through this activity, you become more engaged with your plants. You could mix and match, pick one from each or combine this and that. Just always keep in mind that the result should be a fast-draining mix and the total volume should be according to the ratio.

Moreover, choosing the right pots for your cactus can make a difference. Here’s a brief comparison:

  • Terracotta and ceramic pots are both breathable and works well in indoor or outdoor spots. Though they heat-up when placed in direct sun which could dry out your plant.
  • Plastic pots are cheaper and less fragile. But it’s not as breathable compared to terracotta or ceramic.
  • Wood pots/containers are kinda out of the ordinary but beautiful. Bad thing is it’s not long-lasting and may split over time.
  • Glass containers are breathtakingly beautiful, but they mostly lack drainage holes. Plus, it’s a fragile choice.
  • Metal containers are interesting but nope. You’re just giving your plant a slow death. This type either heats up or gets cold easily.

Image by Terco from Pixabay.

Basic 3: Sun(light)

Here comes the sun, doo-dun-doo-doo

And you’re all set, now let’s find a good spot for your plant. If you live in a small space, the spot is ideally next to the window. If it’s a south-facing window, then you hit a jackpot. A south-facing window is the best spot for your indoor plants. But if you have west or east-facing windows, make sure that your plant doesn’t catch the direct light of the midday sun.

Similarly, on outdoors, place your cacti and succulents facing the south orientation. The rule of thumb here is to place your cactus in a bright area but not on direct sunlight. We often thought that our plants need lots and lots of sun, so we take it to a spot where it gets plenty. As a result, intense light turns plants into yellow so unless you want a yellow plant, don’t put it directly under the sun indefinitely.


Succulents For Beginners – Basic Succulent Plant Care Guide

Succulents are a very diverse group of plants that hold a timeless appeal for any gardener, no matter how green their thumb may be. With a nearly infinite number of varieties, succulent growing can keep even the most avid grower and collector interested. And with their low-maintenance needs and readiness to propagate, they’re easy to care for and forgiving of first-time gardeners still getting the hang of things.


Essential cactus care tips for beginners

Most of you will probably choose to purchase a mini cactus as they are cute and can be placed indoors or outside the home. Regardless of the size of the plant you choose to buy, the fundamental cactus growing tips will stay the same.

Choose the best pots for cactus

To begin our cactus care tips for beginners, we’ll start at the beginning, which is choosing the best pots for cactus . You might be as surprised as us when we found out that actually, a lot of thought needs to go into the type of pot you decide to plant your cactus in. Primarily, you’ll want to think about a couple of things material and size. Once you have that sorted, then you can start to think about the aesthetics.

So, what material pot is best for a cactus?

Clay Material

Clay pots are always a winner purely because they drain quickly. Cactuses absorb water, but the water needs to be able to drain so that it doesn’t damage the roots and rot them. Clay pots also make it easy to determine the moisture level of the soil as once the water is absorbed, the pot will turn a darker color. Clay planters are often cheaper than others too and come in a variety of colors to match your home decor.

Wood Material

Wooden planters are perfect if you have an outdoor cactus as they can hold water for long periods of time and don’t weather in bad temperatures. They also look great in gardens. The only negative about a wooden cactus pot is that sometimes they can be prone to rot after a while, which could affect your beautiful cacti. This is easily fixed however by lining your planter with a plastic sheet.

Plastic Material

Convenient, cheap, and readily available, plastic pots are a great material to plant your cactus in. Plastic pots come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes and look fantastic in the home. They are reusable and tend to last longer than clay and wood pots. The only downside is that if left out in the sun, they can become discolored. We advise only using for indoor plants.

Once you have chosen a suitable material, you can then start thinking about size.

What cactus pot size should I get?

Luckily, when you purchase a cactus, there will usually be a sticker on the side telling you how large a planter you need. The reason they have this is that there should be enough room left in the pot for natural growth.

You don’t want a cactus pot size that’s so small it restricts the roots, but you also don’t want one that’s so big you end up overwatering. As a rule of thumb, the pot you choose should have ¼ of an inch between the main body of the cactus and the end of the rim of the pot. Size and depth should also be considered when choosing a cactus pot, you should allow only a small amount of extra space on each side and around 1 – 2 inches at the bottom for growth. A container too big will also make the roots weak and you will start to notice it droop, leading you to ask ‘why has my cactus gone floppy?‘.

Choose the best potting soil for cactus

So you have your planter sorted. Next on our steps of cactus care tips is to choose the best potting soil for your cactus . You are going to need a soil that has excellent drainage, whilst at the same time has all the nutrients it needs.

The best potting soil for cactus will be a blend of porous inorganic material mixed with a lesser amount of fast-drying organic media. The first will ensure drainage, whilst the latter will deliver water and nutrients to the roots when needed. ( view source here ).

A common soil used for drainage is often sand but you can also substitute this for gravel, grit, or granite. For the organic media, we advise coco coir or peat moss.

If you are not quite feeling up to mixing together your own cactus soil, then there are plenty of nutritious, ready mixed cactus soil that you can buy – just look out for the ingredients we have mentioned above and you should be good to go.

It is also vital you get a well-draining soil or else you may be opening yourself up to pests and infestations.

When to water cactus

Onto cactus care tip number 3, and maybe the most misconceived. Many people believe that you can leave your cactus for months without water and this is just not the case. Even though cacti and succulents are designed to soak up water in their stems and leaves, it doesn’t mean that they will thrive off little water. In fact, it is almost certain that they won’t. Underwatering will cause shriveling, whilst over watering will stump growth or kill your cactus. You need to find a happy medium and avoid doing too little or too much.

Spring and summer

During the warmer seasons (spring and summer), you should water your houseplant weekly. Give your potting soil a good soak and allow the extra water to drain away. Ensure that the soil dries out slightly before rewatering, but you don’t want it to be completely crisp dry. Spring is also when most types of cacti will flower, but how often do cactus bloom?

Autumn and winter

During winter and autumn, you’ll want to give your cactus a rest. Make sure that in between watering, you let the soil completely dry out. This can be anywhere between 2 weeks and a month depending on the environment they are in.

Use the best fertilizer for cactus

Cacti don’t require feeding often but when they do, you’ll want to make sure you are using the best fertilizer for cactus . You will want to use a quarter or half-strength fertilizer as strong fertilizers may cause problems. Make sure it is low-nitrogen and water-soluble.

Your cactus will only need fertilizing in the growing months and even then, should be used sparingly. You should only fertilize your plant either just before the growing season or at the very beginning and will only need to do so once. Fertilizing can help if you are wondering how to make cactus grow faster!

A great cactus care tip is to remember that using too much fertilizer can actually cause more damage than harm, so be careful. Use about one teaspoon of your cactus feeding blend and mix with a gallon of water. Start off slow and if you don’t see results you can always add a touch more fertilizer down the line.

Does a cactus need sunlight?

If you’re wondering ‘ does a cactus need sunlight? ’, then the answer is yes! Another crucial cactus growing tip. Seeing as most cacti originate from hot desert countries, you will need to ensure your indoor plant is getting enough sunlight it requires for it to grow and bloom. However, too much sunlight can cause sunburn, which will lead to your cactus turning white. You should be frequently rotating your plant if it is placed near a window.

A south-facing window is usually ideal as this will give the cactus the most sunlight. If a cactus doesn’t get enough light then you may encounter some common cactus problem s. Often the tell-tale signs will be discoloration. A beautiful deep green cactus will start to turn pale green, whilst the purple, yellow and pink cactus will turn back to plain green. You will also notice odd growth patterns that may look smaller than the rest of the plant. This is known as etiolation . If you notice your cactus turning black, then it could be down to temperature trauma too!

If you really want your cactus to thrive, then you should be looking at around 4 – 6 hours of sunlight a day.

Pests on cactus

Occasionally you might find that your houseplant has been infected with pests. The most common types of pests you will find on your cactus are mealybugs and spider mites. Controlling and eliminating these pests from attacks can be difficult as they are small and hide in places that make them hard to see. They will also often have a cotton type covering to protect them.

So, what cactus care tips are there on protecting your plant from pests?

Mealybugs are quick to spread from plant to plant, so once you have noticed them it is important to act quick on eliminating them for good. They like to feast on the new growths of your cacti and you will spot them in all the nooks and crannies of your plant. They have a white substance and are hard to spot. We can’t be 100% sure of what initially attracts mealybugs on cactus but overwatering and over-fertilizing have an effect for sure.

If you are looking for a natural remedy to get rid of mealybugs then try dabbing the white substance and bugs with a cotton bud covered in denatured alcohol. Do this as often as needed to kill all the bugs and you should be checking around once every three weeks.

On the other hand, a great chemical solution is Imidacloprid . This chemical is effective against mealybugs and is lower in toxicity to animals than other options. You should water your cactus once every few months with Imidacloprid during active growth.

Spider Mites

If you have spider mites on cactus , then you will notice that they stunt growth and will damage your cactus by sucking at the plant’s juices. They are tiny little brown insects and from a human eye can look like brown dust. Because they are so small, they are often hard to identify. You will find them in colonies and you will probably notice the small webs they form to protect them from predators before you notice the mite itself.

To get rid of spider mites, you should use a good miticide and follow instructions carefully. If you are looking for a home remedy, then you should try neem oil. As spider mites get underneath the plant, you’ll need to make an effort to do this with the neem oil too.

Repotting Cactus

Although cactuses are low maintenance and don’t need repotting often, it is important that you are aware of when you will need to do so. The most common reason you will need to repot your cactus is for soil replenishment and when you need a bigger pot.

If you’re wondering when to repot cactus, then a great tip is to repot when you see the roots coming out the bottom of its container. Seeing roots means that it is ready for the next size pot. Cactus like to be snug and can live in the same container for years, so ensure you are only going one size up. The best time to repot your cactus is during active growth. If you don’t use fertilizer, then you should be looking at repotting once every 2 years for soil replenishment.

There are so many cactus care tips on how to repot a cactus but one thing to remember for sure is to wear gloves! You don’t want your spike friend to hurt you.

Propagate

Maybe not a care tip as such, but if you own a cactus plant then propagation should definitely be on your mind! Plant propagation is the act of reproducing through cuttings of your cacti. It’s a great way to grow your collection, whilst saving money.

The great thing about cactus is that it is commonly known that propagating is very easy. Propagating cactus is fairly straightforward and there are a number of different methods you can use including division and cuttings.

Division is great if you only want to reproduce a few plants or if the plant itself has become overcrowded. It is essentially where you divide your current plant by the root ball and repot.

Using cuttings is the most common type of propagation as most succulents root easily from its leaves. Cutting is where a piece of root, stem, or leave is taken from the plant and encouraged to grow under favorable conditions. It is important to let the cutting dry out before replanting. This is popular because it is cheap, effective and you will see results fairly quickly.


Watch the video: Care Tips for Succulents and Cactus for Beginners


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