their incredible variety of body shapes, spination, and beautiful
flowers, cacti are intriguing.
Cacti make perfect potted specimens for a bright windowsill
position, or outdoors. They are the perfect accompaniment to
other succulents for landscaping, creating a dramatic and unique
people find that what starts as a small cactus collection
on a windowsill soon turns into a lifelong hobby, or dare
The myriad forms and varieties make it easy to become 'hooked
come from diverse habitats and hence have a range of requirements,
but can be cultivated successfully by following a few general
guidleines, as follows:
Most cacti require a bright position with at least some direct
sun, but will do best in a very sunny position.
Cacti can be grown in a shadier position, for example, a windowsill
which receives reduced light. In this case plants require
much less fertiliser and much less water than when grown in
a sunnier position.
Some cacti that are better suited to a low light position:
Mamillaria "Arizona Snowcap", Gymnocalycium species
(G. baldianum, G. mihanovichii), Aporocactus species (Rats'
Tail Cactus), Rhipsalis species.
It should be noted that plants grown shaded might not flower.
Cacti can handle a full range of temperatures from below freezing,
up to around 50°C.
The extremes require careful handling, cacti preferring a
range of 10-30°C.
In very hot conditions, shading and ventilation is required.
In very cold conditions cacti should be kept dry.
In the garden, where plants can't be kept dry, adequate air
flow around plants and good drainage is important.
Cacti generally require generous watering during their growing
season, which is, for most cacti, the warmer months.
During the cold months cacti can be kept dry for the 3-6 months
of winter. Some cacti require a light sprinkling of water
during this period and will continue to grow slowly (e.g.
many columnar cacti and epiphytes). Other cacti go quite dormant
and will shrivel significantly and should be given no water.
cacti are watered, during the growing period, they require
a good soaking of the growing medium, as is the case for all
Between waterings soil should become almost dry.(This allows
the roots to breathe). This 'almost dry' state of the soil
can be identified by the plant body beginning to shrink, or
become soft or wrinkles showing on the skin. A well watered
plant is firm and the skin is often shiny. In contrast, an
under watered plant is soft to the touch, shrivelled in appearance,
and the skin dull in tone.
can be done by overhead sprinkling, i.e. automatic watering
sprinklers, hand hosing, or using a watering can. Bottom watering
from flood trays or saucers, where water is soaked up through
the soil from the base of the pot, is also fine.
Whichever way you water, soak the soil thoroughly.
Repotting and Fertilising.
Cacti in habitat grow in all kinds of soils. The most important
thing to know is that these soils all drain well, and cacti
from all over the Americas will grow in any potting medium,
in cultivation, as long as it is open and free draining.
For example, a good cactus mix is any basic potting mix with
an extra 1/3 to ½ coarse sharp sand added. Or, alternatively;
1/3 composted pine bark (e.g. basic potting mix), 1/3 sandy
loam, and 1/3 coarse, sharp sand. Many variations to this
are also feasible.
of fertilising your cactus can be varied:
1. Slow release fertilisers added to the potting medium.
2. Liquid fertilisers applied through watering during the
growing season. (Of course, when plants aren't growing water
and fertilisers won't be absorbed).
3. Top dressing annually with organic fertilisers such as
manure or blood and bone. (This is particularly appropriate
for a garden situation).
people think that cacti don't need fertiliser, but many plants
are heavy feeders. Look for signs of plant yellowing, slower
than expected growth, or if you know a plant hasn't been fertilised
for 1-2 years, it is either time to fertilise or repot it.
most cacti require repotting every 1-2 years, we recommend
fertilising is done when plants are repotted. This is as simple
as mixing a slow release fertiliser into the potting medium.
repotting a cactus you can either pot it on or repot it.
Potting on is usually done with younger plants or rapidly
growing plants that have outgrown their pots. Repotting is
appropriate for full grown, older plants or plants that have
become diseased, or even plants that refuse to grow for whatever
Potting on involves removal of the old pot without disturbing
the root ball, placing it in a larger pot and simply filling
up with new soil.
Repotting involves removal of most or all of the soil from
the roots and replacing the plant in the same sized pot, or
larger if needed.