Cactus Care

How to care for cacti, including what pots and soils to use, how to transplant cacti, water, light, temperature and food requirements for a cactus.

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

new cactus.

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. 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.

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 degrees Fahrenheit during

their active growth season. During the dormant season,

cacti do best in temperatures from 45-55 degrees, 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.

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