Whether desert cactus or rainforest succulent: cacti are hungry artists and can store large amounts of water in their trunks or tubers. Here’s how to water your cacti properly.
Many people buy cacti because they are extremely easy to care for and do not depend on a continuous water supply. Nevertheless, when watering cacti, care mistakes often occur that lead to the death of the plants. Most gardeners know that cacti need little water, but they don’t realize how little.
Cacti belong to the group of succulents, so they are particularly good at storing water and can do without fluid for a long period of time. But not all cacti come from the same environment. In addition to the classic desert cacti, some species grow in dry mountainous areas or even in the rainforest. Thus, the origin of the respective cactus species provides information about its water requirements.
How do you water cacti correctly?
Although it is common knowledge that cacti are rarely watered, it is interesting that most of the specimens do not die because of insufficient supply, but are downright drowned. In their Mexican homeland, the succulents are used to rare but penetrating downpours. You should imitate this form of water supply at home if you want to water your cacti properly. So water your cactus very infrequently (about once a month), but then water it thoroughly.
For this, the planter in which the cactus is located must ensure good water drainage so that no waterlogging occurs because permanently wet feet are the death of every cactus. Water your cactus once so much that the potting soil is completely saturated and then pour away any excess water. Then the cactus is dried again and left alone until the substrate is completely dry again. Only then (preferably three to five days later – exercise your patience!) Can you use the watering can again?
Cacti are watered rarely, but penetratingly
Don’t water cacti, just dip them
Those who water their cactus frequently but little can have difficulties in correctly assessing the moisture of the soil and the water requirements of the cactus. Therefore, it is better to dip cacti similar to orchids instead of watering, if the plant pot allows it. For the damming method, place the cactus together with the plant pot in a tall bowl or bucket with room-temperature water and leave it in it until the substrate is completely soaked. Then take the cactus out again, drain it well, and put it back in the planter. For the next few weeks, the cactus lives from the water it has soaked up and no further care is necessary. Before diving again, the substrate should be completely dry.
The right substrate helps with watering
As already mentioned, there are many different representatives with different origins and different needs among the approximately 1,800 species of cacti. Cacti from the temperate climate zone need more water and nutrients than, for example, a cactus from the desert. To meet these requirements, it is advisable to pay attention to the right substrate when buying and planting a cactus. While cacti that are hungry for water and nutrients usually stand in humus potting soil with rather low mineral content, desert cacti should be placed in a mixture of sand and lava rubble. The individual substrate components have different permeability and water storage power, which are adapted to the needs of the plants. The right substrate will help prevent the cactus from getting wet feet.
Small cacti are very easy to dive, large ones are more difficult
The right irrigation water for cacti
Cacti are not only modest in terms of the amount of water, but they also have no special requirements for irrigation water. Ordinary tap water with a pH between 5.5 and 7 can be used to water cacti without any problems. Even if cacti are rarely sensitive to lime, it is good to let the water stand in the watering can so that the lime settles in very hard water and the irrigation water can reach room temperature. If you have the opportunity, you can pamper your cacti with rainwater or decalcified tap water.
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How do you water cacti in winter?
In winter, indoor cacti also take a break from growing. The room temperatures in the interior remain constant, but the light yield is much lower in the Central European winter, to which the plants respond by stopping growth. You should therefore water your cactus even less between September and March than during the summer months. The succulent plant’s water consumption is now at a minimum. Desert cacti do not need any water at all in winter. A little more has to be poured if the cactus is directly in front of or above a heater because the warm air from the heater dries out the plant. At the beginning of the new growing season in spring, the cactus is showered over once to stimulate growth. Then slowly increase the amount of irrigation water as required by the plant.
Even with hardy cacti that are planted out, waterlogging must not occur in winter
The only thing that really kills a sturdy cactus in the right place is waterlogging. If the roots are permanently in a moist environment, they rot and can no longer absorb nutrients or water – the cactus dies. Therefore, make sure that excess water can drain off well after watering the cactus and regularly check the moisture of the substrate on new cacti to assess their water requirements. Most cacti can do without any further watering after a strong watering over a long period of time (six weeks to several months). The larger the cactus, the longer it will tolerate drought. A vacation replacement to water your cacti is therefore not necessary.