Misinformation on Cactus Care is about as plentiful as there are Cactus varieties (and there are thousands). This week's blog post will hopefully clear up a few things.
For clarity sake, we'll be referring to what we often call 'Desert Cacti' for this post. Think traditional Cacti here - lots of spines or hairs growing from barrel, pillar or paddle-shaped plants.
Treat these prickly bastards right and they'll reward you with some of the most beautiful blooms (although often short-lived) in the Kingdom Plantae.
And while the rumours are true - they are exceptionally low maintenance - you just need to follow a few simple rules to make sure your cacti will thrive.
1. Water Me, Dammit!
Despite what you may have heard, cactus need water. They are still a plant, after all. They've evolved to survive for long periods at a time without water, but if you want your cacti to grow, then regular watering is a must. Watering should only occur while your cacti is actively growing and/or blooming. This is primarily over Spring and Summer.
The trick is, and this is where so many of us go wrong, is that you should only water when the potting mix is completely dry. Cacti have adapted to draw up the water the need quickly, so they don't like sitting in wet or moist soil. If you have your cacti in a bright, sunny and warm spot, you will probably find you're watering roughly once a week - but always check the soil first.
In Winter, cut that watering right out. No need as the cactus will go into dormancy.
2. Sun, Sun, Sun
Desert cacti love the sun. They come from an environment with little-to-no shade, and its up to you to replicate that to the best of your abilities. While this might limit you to some degree (no cacti that dark bathroom, for example), the good news is most indoor plants don't want any direct sun, so cacti are a great option for those super warm, super bright spots in the house.
If you can't provide direct sunlight, place your cactus in as bright a space as possible. When you first move your cactus into direct sunlight, keep an eye on it for the first few weeks. Some cacti can burn if they ahaven't been exposed to a lot of direct light previously, so you may need to provide it in smaller doses to begin with.
3. Pick your Potting Mix
Special plants need special mixes. Cactus plants are used to a quite different soil than the rest of your indoor plant fam. Think about purchasing a specialised Cacti Mix. It should be sandier than other mixes and retain very little water.
The good news is once they've been potted up in the right mix, you won't need to repot for a long time. Cacti are very slow growers. When you do need to pot up, arm yourself with some thick gloves, or even a pair of kitchen tongs.
4. Feed me!
This is a little contrversial, as many people have reported issues when feeding their cacti. But often this is a case of over-fertilising. Cacti will benefit from fertiliser as much as any other plant. If you're unable to source a dedicated cactus fertiliser, you can use a good liquid fertiliser at quarter strength, once a month. Only feed while the plants are actively growing and/or blooming.