Cacti are some of the most exciting and exotic houseplants there are. Most of the species of cacti are easy to grow, even for the beginning grower. Cacti can be bought at your local home improvement center or gardening store all year round, although the summer is the best time to get them. You will also need to purchase a few things along with your
Pot. First, get a pot to plant it in. When you purchase the cactus, it has been in the pot that it comes in for a long time and will most likely need to be repotted. Select a pot only a little larger than the cactus’ current pot because one that is too big will cause over watering. Also make sure that there are holes for water to drain out of the pot, because without these the cactus will rot and die.
Soil. Next you will need soil for your cactus. The best kind is cactus soil, made specifically for cacti, which you can find at home improvement centers and gardening stores. The most suitable soil type for use in a cacti potting mix is one that does not contain peat. If you cannot get cactus soil, then you can make your own with one part potting soil and one part sand. Adding a little gravel to the mixture will also aid in drainage.
Repotting. When repotting your cactus, break the old pot if possible
and remove the pieces. Digging the cactus out of the pot can cause root damage and should be avoided. Put some of the fresh cactus soil into the bottom of the pot and place the cactus on top. Then fill in the sides with more soil.
The cactus should not be heavily watered or placed in direct sunlight for about a week after repotting to allow it to adjust to it’s new ‘home’. After the initial repotting, the cactus should only be transferred to another pot when absolutely necessary.
After the repotting is over, caring for your cactus is a breeze. The most important thing to remember is that cacti have two seasons, the active growing season during the spring and summer and the dormant season during the fall and winter, when they go into hibernation so to speak.
Granite stone, pea gravel, fine gravel, perlite, soil and the final potting mixture.
Watering. During the active growth season cacti need to be watered
more often than during the dormant season. There is no set watering specifications for cacti, as it depends on the pot, the soil, the climate and several other factors. The best way to learn how much water your cactus needs and how often is to observe it. When watering the cactus, add water until there is only about a half inch of dry soil on the surface.
Be sure that the drainage holes in the pot are not blocked so the water can run out. Do not water the cactus again until the soil is completely dry. The easiest way to check the soil moisture is to carefully stick a pencil or a similar object to the bottom of the soil and check for any damp soil clinging to it. During the dormant season, the plant should be watered no more than every few weeks.
Fertilizer. From spring to fall, you should only fertilize your cactus once every two to three months. A low nitrogen fertilizer works best, like 5-10-10. You can also use a time release fertilizer, but they only need to be used once in the spring.
Light. Cacti need bright light and inside, southern facing windows are best. If the cactus does not receive enough light, artificial light should also be supplemented.
Temperature. Cacti can tolerate heat up 90-100°F during their active growth season. During the dormant season, cacti do best in temperatures from 45-55°F, which they would encounter in their natural habitats. Studies have also proven that low temperatures during the dormant season encourage flower growth.
Problems. Over watering is the biggest problem which faces cactus
owners, but can be easily be avoided with proper care. Over watering can cause root and stem rot. Unfortunately, once a cactus’ roots or stems start to rot, there is nothing you can do to save it.
Relatively few pests bother cacti but there are a few, such as aphids, red spider mites and mealy bugs. When you purchase a cactus, make sure it is free of insects before bringing it home. If your cacti at home have insects, treat them with an insecticide.
As you now see, growing cacti can be fun easy. Just follow the rules and especially remember, DON’T OVER WATER!