An unkempt cactus suffers just like any other unkempt green plant – you just don’t see it that quickly. These are the most important basic rules for caring for cacti.
Cacti are popular indoor and office plants because they require little maintenance and still look extremely neat. In reality, the succulents from Central and South America are not as undemanding as they seem at first glance. Don’t be fooled by the slow metabolism of most cacti – a severely neglected cactus is not necessarily well, it just dies very slowly. So that your cactus is spared this fate and it feels comfortable in its place for a long time and develops well, you should heed our expert tips for cactus care.
The right location
It is often assumed that cacti should always be as sunny as possible. But that is not always correct. Most varieties need a lot of light and warmth, but some species cannot stand the blazing midday sun on a window sill or terrace. Find a place for your cactus where it gets many hours of light a day without the risk of the plant burning, for example on an east or west window. As a rule of thumb, the brighter the cactus, the more sun it can withstand. For example, the woolly hairy species of Mammillaria or Cephalocereus cacti as well as densely thorny variants can tolerate significantly more sun than dark green leaf cacti such as Easter or Christmas cactus or various Pereskiopsis species. Avoid drafts when caring for cactus on-site, especially in winter.
Every cactus needs the right pot for its size
Pouring with measure
Cacti are succulents that can store water in their trunks and tubers for a long time. For cactus care, this means that the watering intervals should be rather generous. Daily sips of water, which are particularly common in the office, are not the right watering method when caring for cacti. Pour penetratingly or better immerse your cactus in water with little lime content until the substrate is completely moistened. Then stop watering until the soil is completely dry. In summer this takes one to two weeks, in spring and autumn it can be four weeks or longer. Make sure that there is no waterlogging in the pot, as this will definitely kill the cactus.
As a rule, cacti are watered too much rather than too little! A sure instinct is required here
Do you have to fertilize cacti?
As epiphytes or mountain and desert plants, cacti are usually found in a rather poor substrate. In a small plant pot, the few nutrients it contains are used up very quickly. So it is quite important to fertilize the cactus regularly, especially if you want to make a cactus bloom. Use commercially available cactus fertilizers for fertilization. Liquid green plant fertilizer can also be used for balanced cactus care, but this may not be administered in more than half the dose. Add a small dose to the irrigation water every four weeks during the spring and summer growing season. From September onwards there will be no more fertilization.
Potting and repotting the cactus
Repotting a cactus is not easy, but it is part of cactus care. The larger the specimen, the more complicated it becomes. However, since cacti grow like all other potted plants and use up their plant substrate overtime or the soil condenses and salty over the years, cacti should also be repotted regularly. This is the case after about three to four years, when the cactus has become too big for its pot and threatens to tip over or when the roots are already growing out of the drainage holes in the pot.
For particularly prickly candidates, it is advisable to wear special cactus gloves when potting or repotting (most thorns pierce through gardening gloves). Small cacti can be carefully lifted with wooden barbecue tongs, larger cacti can also be grabbed with two polystyrene sheets on the right and left, but be very careful not to break the thorns. Use the substrate for your cactus that comes closest to its natural location – depending on the type of cactus, this can be a humus or mineral soil.
Cacti need to be repotted regularly. It is best to wear sturdy gloves
What care do cacti need in winter?
Whether and how you have to hibernate your cactus properly and care for it during this time depends on the species in question. Some cactus species need a cool break, which does not necessarily have to take place in winter to set flowers, for example, the Christmas cactus (rest period in August) and all Mammillaria and Rebutia species (rest period between October and February at 5 to 15 degrees Celsius). However, many other cacti overwinter warm and bright, which means they can stay in their location all year round.
Please note, however, that the lower light output limits the growth of the plants in winter and that they, therefore, need much less or no water (provided they are not on a heater) and no fertilizer. When caring for cacti that are above a radiator or on the underfloor heating, it is advisable to place an insulating wooden or cork trivet under the pot in winter. This prevents the heating air from drying out the root ball excessively and the cactus from resting instead of resting due to the increased water requirement.