Growing Cactus indoors

One of the most common jokes I hear friends say between themselves while they are in the plant store is how one of them can’t even keep a cactus alive. We all tend to think of cactus as these extremely tough plants that are almost impossible to kill. However, any plant taken out of his natural environment and placed into a persons care is vulnerable. So, let’s look at that. Most cactus are desert dwelling plants. This means that they have needed to adapt to retaining water effectively and find ways to protect themselves from being eaten by thirsty creatures. Cactus, for the most part, differ from succulents because they have spines. Succulents do not have spines and generally cannot live in quite as harsh environments as cacti. Having said that, not ALL cactus have spines, and not all cactus live in the desert. They are treated completely different than the Desert variety.

Cactus provide the shade for many smaller animals as well as protection from predators. They do not grow in shade. They grow out in the full glory of the hot desert and are beat down upon by the sun., almost all day, everyday. They require little water and in fact, are very highly adapted to pulling moisture out of the air. So what does all this mean to you?

Desert Cactus need full sun. Place them in the sunniest window you have. Try to withhold the water. Remember, it seldom rains in the desert, but when it does, it usually comes down in torrents, drenching everything in its path often causing flash floods. So, although you only want to water 4 to 6 times a year, make sure you water deep, soaking the soil to ensure your plant can once again replenish its reserves. During these waterings, you can gently fertilize to help encourage flowering. Keep in mind that barrel cactus hold more moisture than opunti varieties (bunny ears or prickly pear plants). As a general rule, plants that are smaller, and thinner, will need slightly more waterings. Water them every 6 weeks in the summer and less often during the winter months.

Do not confuse these cactus with the tropical cactus such as Schlumbergera. You’ll know them as Christmas or Easter Cactus. These cactus call the tropical rainforests home and need significantly more water than their desert counterparts. These guys prefer indirect sun and will burn if placed in full sun. Water them when the first inch of soil is dry to the touch.

If you perfect the watering of a cactus, they will reward you with some of the most beautiful flowers in the world. A nice way to say thank you!