How to Care for the Cactus Plant
Everyone knows and loves cacti! These desert-dwelling members of the subgroup succulents come in a lot of shapes, sizes, and colors. If you don’t like the looks of one, there are hundreds of other options to choose from. Cactuses have adapted to store lots of water in their stems, and have spine clusters, rather than leaves, for protection. These spines also come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from borderline invisible to thick, sharp, and spikey!. Either way, they are usually painful to touch, so handle them with care.
Most cacti come from hot, dry, desert environments, and thrive in home environments as close to a desert as they can get. Your cactus would love to live in front of a bright, warm window in rocky, well draining soil. These drought-tolerant plants are slow-growers, but might produce some brightly colored flowers if they get enough sunlight!
Just like in the wild, cactuses need a lot of sun. Give them as much direct light as you possibly can. If you so choose, your cactus might like to be outside during the summer because of the heat and full sun. When the weather starts to cool, move them back inside.
Most cacti naturally live in very arid climates where it could be weeks between rain. Because of this, cactuses store water in their stems. When your cactus’ soil has dried out 100%, you should water the soil thoroughly until water drains from the drainage hole in the pot. Too frequent waterings will cause the cactus to rot from the roots, upwards.
It is not recommended for humans or pets to consume cacti, with or without spines.
It is a PetFriendly.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
How do you propagate a cactus?
It can be difficult to propagate cactuses. Cactus species like the Prickly Pear Cactus that have big segmented paddles can be cut for propagation rather easily, but globular cacti like the Golden Barrel Cactus do not propagate via cutting. Instead, once they have reached a mature enough age, they put new pups out that can be severed at the root and potted as new plants. Some cactuses grow by producing more paddles but some just grow in size rather than shape.
Cactuses with paddles, pups, and/or segments (like the Christmas, Spring, and Thanksgiving Cactus) can be propagated if given the right care. Simply separate a paddle/pup from the parent cactus and gently plant it into some soil. Let pups grow in their parent pot a little before separating to give it the best shot at a happy, successful life! It will grow roots eventually, just remember that cactuses are slow growers, so you’ve got to be extra patient! Newly planted pups or paddles need to be kept slightly more moist than their mature counterparts to help them develop stronger root systems.
How do you repot a cactus?
Cactus root systems are usually shallow and sparse, and can be very fragile. Be very careful when repotting, and only repot if necessary as to not disturb the sensitive root system.
If you need to repot, make sure you have thick gardening gloves and/or gardening tools so that you don’t have to touch the cactus spines with your bare hands. If you are repotting a very large cactus, wrapping the cactus in an old blanket will help protect both the plant, and yourself from damage. Gently loosen the soil around the plant to get it out, then transfer it into a different well-draining container. Make sure to bury the cactus at the same depth at which it was previously buried.
My cactus is rotting! How do I save it?
Worry not, if your cactus has root rot, you can still save it part of the plant!
If you have a cactus that has paddles, separate some of the paddles that have not rotted from then mother plant. Plant these paddles in soil to make a whole new plant.
If you have a taller, round cactus with no pup offshoots, grab a clean knife. Make a clean cut right above where the rot is. The root system and rotten base are goners, but you can still save the top half. Allow for this half to callus over before placing it in dirt, overnight is plenty of time.
Even using these methods, sometimes the new propagations may not survive, and you may need to look into replacing your plant altogether.
How do you get cactus spines out of your skin?
Different species have different spines. If you can see a spine in your skin and/or feel where it is, grab a pair of tweezers and treat it like a splinter.
Some cactuses have extremely skinny, invisible, tiny spines that will stick to almost anything. When you get these spines in your skin, it can be hard to tweeze them out. Some other methods of removal include tape and glue. Lay the tape down against the area you feel cactus spines, and quickly pull it upwards, similarly to removing a band-aid with speed. To use the glue method, spread some Elmers glue onto the area you feel spines. Wait for it to dry, and then quickly pull the dried glue layer away from your skin in the same fashion you would the tape method mentioned above. If you can’t get spines out on your own or pain persists even after the spines have been removed, please seek medical attention.