PLANT SMILES | GROW LAUGHTER | HARVEST LOVE
Although we classify most cactus as desert plants, they hail from diverse habitats from all across the globe; each genus and species thrive best in personalized environmental conditions.
Due to these differing needs, we highly recommend you do some research into the name of your prickly buddy to get an idea of how you can best love your chosen species.
That being said, Cactus Vision has some general tips you can apply to most cacti species to help you remain a “cacti lover” opposed to a “cacti killer”. Follow the below guidelines, and you'll do great as a plant parent.
Before you select a prickly friend for your home, you first need to consider the best position for him/her to sit and whether this will be indoors or outdoors. Too much or too little sun or water can be fatal to your cactus; so just like Goldilocks, your cactus needs a home that is “just right”.
INDOOR AND OUTDOOR GENERAL CARE
The first consideration for your cacti is always sunlight. Place your cacti close to your sunniest window, North-East (or North-West) facing windows are usually best in Australia. Although we don't recommended all cacti species for indoors, most will live happily in a location where they receives 3+ hours direct sunlight through a window on a typical sunny day. That being said, some cacti (such as golden barrels, some Euphorbia's and Cereus P.) can handle a bright room, close to a window that receives no direct sunlight.
Although it is difficult to have “too much light” indoors, you could consider rotating your buddie from time to time to discourage sun bleach marks forming on the light facing side of your cactus. Rotating your cacti indoors also encourages even growth.
Cacti need full spectrum light to survive, if you have low-light areas indoors and feel committed to a cactus friend, we recommend setting up an inexpensive and inconspicuous, full spectrum, lighting system. This will set you back no more than $100 and in some cases, these grow lights can even be fitted to your average (edison fixture) lamp!
The general rule of thumb is waiting for the soil to ALMOST dry out between waters in warmer months.
Watering cacti indoors is based strictly on how much natural light your plant receives. Bright areas could mean watering as frequently as your outdoor cacti. If your cactus isn't getting much direct sun, watering monthly, even in warmer months is safer than watering too frequently. If your cactus is given too much water yet doesn’t have enough light for growth, the plant will struggle to absorb its drink, which can cause root rot (thus death). Watering needs also depend on the season; water indoor cacti that receive 3+ hours of direct sunlight through a window approximately once a fortnight through Spring – early Autumn and every 5-6 weeks through late Autumn - Winter. Provide enough water until it begins to drain out the bottom. If your cacti are getting a splendid amount of full sun through the warmer months, you could even water as frequently as once a week to help promote growth.
Cacti appreciate ventilation to minimize the risk of bacterial infections. Ventilation also discourages bugs such as scale and mealy bug from sticking to your plant. CV advises that you open a window or door occasionally to encourage good air flow. Air conditioners can be used in a large room with cacti however CV recommends that you try to avoid drastic temperature changes so that you don’t confuse the plants’ seasonal cycle. We don’t advise positioning your cacti within a meter radius of either a heater or air conditioning unit.
Fertilising your cacti fosters healthy, strong growth & good flowering. The key is using a slow release fertilizer, low in nitrogen. Only feed your plants when they are actively growing; not through winter. Although you can get away with not feeding your smaller cacti, larger and fast growing varieties truly benefit from cacti feed. Check out our online store for recommended products.
For outdoor locations, we suggest positioning POTTED cacti where they’ll receive half day direct sunlight, either morning or afternoon; opposed to full day direct sunlight. This will ensure they don’t dehydrate over summer (causing sun burn), by doing this you will not need to water your cacti too diligently. That being said, full day direct sunlight for your potted cacti is manageable as long as you ensure it is in a generously sized pot and watered frequently (as soon as the soil has almost dried out) in the heat of summer.
If your cactus is in the ground or a raised garden bed, direct sun all day is rarely an issue. But be sure to water frequently in summer to avoid scorching your plants that sit in the sun all day long. Although they love direct sun, most species of cacti can also grow happily in bright shaded outdoor areas as the UV is strong enough to support growth.
The general rule of thumb is waiting for the soil to ALMOST dry out between waters in warmer months.
Outdoor Cactus love water in times of growth (Spring - early Autumn), If your plant receives all day sun, water as frequently as twice a week through summer to promote growth. However watering once a week/fortnight is usually acceptable during these seasons for outdoor cacti. We tend to suggest watering once a fortnight to most customers.
When it comes to Late Autumn - Winter, Cacti like to hibernate through these colder months (thus you will see little growth). Keep watering to an absolute minimum; once every 5-6 weeks, until it begins to warm up again. If the plant is not under cover during winter, check up on it from time to time to ensure it has adequate drainage. Over winter, it is worth moving some cacti species away from the wet areas when possible, as some plants prefer a drier cold seasons than others.
Cacti (like humans) can get sun burnt. If you know a heatwave is coming – ensure your cactus is adequately watered, in some regions you may need to slap on some shade for your cacti to avoid long lasting burn scars. Only shade your cacti with breathable materials, such as a shade cloth or flyscreen. During this time, avoid transplanting, repotting or changing your plants usual position/rotation.
If your cactus is suddenly moved from the shade into a high sunlit position, your plant can become sun burnt – even without a heatwave. Sun damage can happen within hours and can be irreversible. If you have just purchased your cacti, introduce it into a sunny area slowly as the transition period (hardening off) can take up to three weeks for your cacti to adjust.
When it comes to Cacti and frost, most plants can tolerate the cold, but they generally don’t like it. Once temperatures get below zero you should take certain precautions to ensure your cactus is either tolerant or protected. Cactus can be up to 94% water, which means sustained temperatures below zero can literally freeze them. If sub zero temperatures last for more than a few hours your cacti may freeze, and when they thaw out turn into a not-so-delicious slushie. Protect your plants by bringing them inside, build a greenhouse or simply throw a hessian potato sack over them to keep your cacti warm over night. Although frost can be an issue, some cacti are frost tolerant and can adapt to such environments.
Fertilising your cactus fosters healthy, strong growth & seasonal flowering. The key is using a slow release fertilizer, low in nitrogen. Only feed your plants when they are actively growing; not through winter. Although you can get away with not feeding your medium sized cacti, larger and fast growing varieties truly benefit from cacti feed. Check out our online store for recommended products.
POINTERS FOR YOUR POINTY PLANTS
The frequency of watering can be dependent on pot size. Cacti in smaller pots will dry out faster than bigger pots, be mindful of this if your cactus is in full day sun, close to a heater/fan or in a windy area.
Always drench the soil around your cacti when watering, but be mindful not to water too frequently; do not water when the soil is still moist.
Ensure pots have drainage holes and don't let your cactus pot sit in a plate of water for prolonged periods.
To avoid killing your cactus from over watering, use a moisture meter; when the soil reads "dry" it is safe to water again.
Splitting of the skin can reflect under watering or over watering. If you see this in your plant please review your watering regiment or consider a larger pot for your plant.
The best time to water is early in the morning or late afternoon. Attempt to water the soil around the skin, not the skin of the plants.
Elongated/stretching cacti tell us they require more sunlight.
Rotating your cactus is OK, but be mindful. Introduce your plant to sunnier locations with care.
Sunburn signs to watch for are lightening of the skin, scarring and discoloration. If your cactus is wrinkly or shrunken these are also early signs of dehydration. When any of these symptoms occur you will need to water more often and either move your plant to a less sunny location, upscale the pot size or provide a shade for your plant.
Hairier cacti prefer more sunlight, these species are not suggested for indoors unless the space is VERY sunny.
Furthermore, Cactus Vision does not recommend prickly pears species for indoor placement unless the space is flooded with direct sunlight.
Healthy plants are less prone to pest infestations, provide adequate sunlight & fertilize annually (or as per instructions).
The most common bugs that prove to be a nuisances to cacti are mealy bug, red spider mite, fungus gnats, and scale. You may never encounter any problems, but in case you do, we're here to help!
The good news is that these 4 pestie threats can be treated easily when caught early. If you notice white dots that scratch off with your nail, small sticky webs or little red spiders on you plant, use both a topical and a systemic treatment. If you do not treat adequately, infestations can return. Where possible, isolate your sick plant from the heard. It would also pay to treat close-by plants with a systemic treatment as a precautionary measure to avoid bugs spreading.