So you went out to get groceries, all the essentials and a little plant baby caught your eye and you literally COULDN’T leave the shop without it. You carefully sandwich it between your food for the week to keep it upright, before transporting it home. Congratulations, you’re now officially a plant mumma! (welcome to da club)
I’ve been collecting cacti and succulents since I was 10, and with a lot of assistance from my mum (bahaha she’s revived so many plants for me) I’ve learned a lot about the best ways to look after your house plants! This week I’m talking cacti. Although they’re a fashion accessory right now, they’re a plant I take quite seriously and have a passion for. I don’t believe in simply letting them sit as a prop, then die only to be replaced by another one- so here are my tips on caring for your cacti- because they deserve to live long and prosper!
HOW TO WATER YOUR CACTUS
A common misconception is to simply perceive that cacti need a little bit of water sporadically. While it’s true they’re pretty tough and come from very dry origins, it doesn’t mean that they will grow very much in this kind of environment. You can’t expect your lil fella to flower and thrive if it’s receiving little water.
On the flip side, one of the number one killers of cacti is over-watering! Cacti have on and off seasons like any other plant, so from September through to April, treat this as their dry season. Water less, allowing the soil to dry out. From April onwards, this is the rainy season, so water more frequently, but allow excess water to drain away- you can do this with a drip tray underneath the pot.
Have a little research about the species you have, but some desert-dwellers can go without water from November all the way through to the end of February.
HOW OFTEN DO I WATER MY CACTUS?
During the wet season (April-September), I water my cacti once a week at least, you could also use rain water to water your cacti, this eradicates those potentially damaging minerals in the tap water. Just make sure you aren’t letting your plants sit in the water!
The dry season allows for larger intervals between watering, I leave a week and a half/two weeks between mine but I would judge it from the soil dryness.
HOW DO I FEED MY CACTUS?
I feed my cacti once a month from April-September to promote growth. Feed with a simple all-purpose plant food following the instructions on the packet of course!
HOW DO I POT MY CACTUS?
The best way to tell when your cactus needs re-potting, is when you can no longer see any soil around the edges of the pot. It won’t die if you don’t re-pot it, but it will become starved of nutrients and growth will cease. Purchase a pot that’s just slightly larger than the original one- don’t over pot. To fill that extra space, you’re going to need a nice, gritty compost placed around the sides- leave a hole in the middle and your little one is ready to move into it’s new home!
Don’t be a prick, or get pricked… wear gloves while transporting it from pot to pot!
WHERE DO I PUT MY CACTUS?
Once you’ve purchased your plant baby, you’ve got to decide where to put him/her. It’s super tempting to put them in an aesthetically pleasing place, but in reality they’ll thrive in a position of generous light all year round. During the winter, central heating isn’t too much of problem, just keep an eye on the water levels- make sure they’re sufficient to prevent shrivelling.
MY CACTUS IS ILL! WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT?
Although they look tough, and generally are tough, cacti can encounter problems. Here are a few common ones, and how to tackle them.
Help, my cactus has brown patches on it
Buff or brown patches on your cactus are caused when conditions are too bright and humid- this is commonly known as ‘cactus corky scab’. How do you fix this? Slowly reduce the exposure of humidity and bright light to prevent more from spreading- don’t abruptly move them however as this can make it worse!
Help, my cactus looks shrivelled
This is probably due to under-watering. This not only limits growth, but gives your plant a misshapen and scared look. Re-introduce to more light, and slowly ease in the watering.
(an example of corky scab- this cactus was getting too much sun on my window ledge)
My cactus isn’t growing
This could be due to a few things- under-watering, over-watering or lack of feeding. Most commonly over-watering is the case, which stunts growth due to oedema- a disorder that places it’s origins in the roots of the plant- they begin taking in more water than the leaves can transpire creating a rupture. Make sure your cacti is NOT standing in water to prevent this.
Help, white patches are appearing on my cactus
This is most likely ‘Mealybug’, and if you see bronzed patches this could be ‘Red Spider Mite’. Treat with a fungicide as soon as possible if you suspect this. These diseases can be difficult to control but I have my fingers crossed for you!
How are your cacti doing? Did you find this post helpful?
NEXT TIME: HOW NOT TO KILL: SUCCULENTS.