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Cactus on Yellow Wall

Cacti Care Guide

This page is a general guide to cacti care mainly aimed at desert varieties, we always recommend researching your cacti for ideal growing conditions.

Potting Cacti

Man Digging

Cacti do not like to be in a pot that is too big. One just slightly bigger than the plant itself is ideal, repotting when the plant reaches the rim into one that is again just slightly bigger. If your cacti has not reached the size of your current pot within 2-3 years its recommend to repot in the same pot with new growing media. Generally speaking, using a gritty porous growing media is ideal. We recommend at least a 3-substance mix containing - peat free soil, horticultural sand and to help increase drainage 1 further media like potting grit, gravel, perlite or pumice. This will allow water to travel through your growing media better helping prevent rot and other damp issues. This will also assist in healthy root growth. We recommend mixing this in a 3-part soil, 3-part sand, 2-part grit or other media will get you the consistency you will need for majority of cacti however its always recommended to research your specific genus for ideal growing media.

Cacti like to be kept in a light, airy position all year round. To keep it looking healthy, a cactus plant should have sun light falling on it for a good part of the day ideally, 8 – 12 hours per day. If keeping indoors, a south facing window is perfect for most types. If all you have is a north facing window or else where in your home which never gets sun you can try installing a plant light. Keeping them outside in the summer months will help your Cactus plant thrive.  Certain Cacti can be kept outside in the winter months however they must have completely dry growing media to prevent rotting and frost damage. Further to this you will need to give other cacti further protection within a green house, or you may be required to bring them into an indoor space to protect them from the elements. Always research the type of cacti you have for ideal weather and lighting conditions to promote better growth and prevent disease and other issues.

Lighting For Cacti

Image by Ivana Cajina

Watering Cacti

Image by Severin Candrian

If possible fresh rain water is better than tap water if you have a choice as this will generally be free from of added chemicals like chlorine that can be harmful to plants. Generally speaking, cacti need a thorough watering in the summer month only watering when they are completely dry again. In the winter months most cacti will need no water at all unless kept inside with high temperatures when a light watering may be required to prevent excess shrivelling. When watering always allow growing media to completely dry out before watering again. Cacti do not like to have their roots soaking in water and this can cause the plant to rot along with other issues. The occasional over-head sprinkle or spray down will help keep your plants dust free and healthy looking. Always research your type of cacti before as there are some rosette types where water can become trapped and cause rotting and certain jungle cacti that should never be allowed to dry out completely.

Many Cacti have big beautiful flowers which only come out at night due to the high daytime temperatures in their natural environment. Cacti will produce more flowers once they have reached their mature size, if they are not over potted and are given periods of rest along with correct amount of lighting and regular feeding at required times. Cacti can reach flowering size at two years old while some take ten years to mature. To produce flowers some cacti, need a cool dry rest period in the winter. With this rest each season along with plenty of sunshine many varieties will happily flower on a windowsill, however most will produce better result in a greenhouse, conservatory or outdoors. Feeding your cacti with a special fertilizer like Cactus Focus during the growing season. We recommend not doing with every watering but every second or third watering.

Cactus Flowers

Image by Rares Cimpean

Cactus Seeds & Cuttings

Seed Delivery

It can be very rewarding to grow your own cacti from seeds or cuttings. There are a number of mixed cacti seeds packets as well as loads of specialists offering seeds for specific species. You can grow them in seed propagation trays or another popular method to growing these at home is the “bag-method”. Using damp sterilized growing media in small plastic pot (clear plastic food containers work great) place the cacti seeds evenly across the surface of the soil. The seeds can be left uncovered and lightly sprayed with water.  Place the container inside a sandwich bag or other clear sealable bag and seal shut. Put in a bright place out of direct sunlight ideally the temperature needs to be 20°C in the day time with cooler nights. This can also all be achieved easily with a heated propagator and timer set up. It can take a few days to a few weeks for germination to happen. The seedlings can be left for the whole growing season until slowly being acclimatized. While growing, look out for any rotting. Effected seedlings must be removed and the bag / propagator needs to be ventilated and dried out temporarily to prevent further issues. Generally, after 1 year is when your seedings will be ready to be separated into appropriate sized pots or spaced out in larger trays.

Another great way to reproduce cacti is from offsets and cuttings, many cacti will produce these they are also knows as pups. You can separate the pup from the main plant. Some will pull away using tweezers and little force. If they do not come away easily its best not break this pup away as this will make it harder for the plant to heal. Instead take a sterile sharp knife and make a clean cut at the base of the pup where it joins the main plant. The cut should be as small as possible. Place the pup on top of dry soil in a warm shaded place and allow cut to heal over and callous. Once callous, place on top of dry soil in a pot applying rooting hormones will help encourage new root growth. Leave for a couple of weeks before lightly watering ensuring there is enough moisture in the pot to encourage humidity that speeds up rooting. Other cacti will grow in the shape of pads these can also to be cut off and will re grow into another plant. This can also be achieved by following the same technique as above.

Cacti have evolved over 1000s of years in some of the most extreme environment and you’ve probably noticed it has developed some spikey defence mechanisms that its all to happy to use if you get to close while watering or repotting. Varying in size from a few millimetres to some as large as 25cm, the spines can cause a range of problems if you do not handle them with care. Some are easier to handle than others, but with most of those spikes being strong enough to puncture skin, some being barbed or hooked, it's not just the big ones you need to look out for.. Small ones can be a lot harder to get out of the skin or in extreme cases get into your eyes and cause serious problems. When handling your cacti, we always recommend using gloves. Strong leather gardening gloves are ideal as they help prevent the spine sticking through the glove. Using newspaper or cardboard around the cacti can help give you and extra layer of protection but can cause spines to break or damage to the plant. When repotting, stick a fork into the soil to help lift the plant out without the need to touch the plant, as this may cause minor root damage you should take care not to repeatedly stab the fork through the roots and to directly near the base of the plant, This allows any damage to easily recover and not cause any issue for your cacti.

Handling Cacti

Cactus
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