Cactus - Care tips
In the eyes of many people, the cactus is the plant for those with two left hands when it comes to plant care. Yet this plant is really more than that. So we are happy to tell you more about this cool plant species.
Information about the Cactus
The cactus belongs to the plant family Cactaceae. The Cactaceae family includes many species of flowering plants with succulent (water bearing) stems. The presence of a structure called areole distinguishes the Cactus from all other plants. From areoles arise flowers, new branches and spines.
The Cactus can have many different types of spines. Some are soft and feathery to protect the plant from intense sunlight, while others are tough and sharp for protection. The Cactus can be one of the few sources of water in arid regions, so spines prevent animals from reaching their water supply. To prevent water loss, the plants are covered with a waxy substance called cuticles. Another way to save water is to open stomata at night, rather than during the day like most plants. Stomata are microscopic pores on the plant through which carbon dioxide enters for photosynthesis.
Almost all genera of the Cactus originated in America and have spread from Canada to Chile. Today, they are found in many parts of the world, especially in Australia, South Africa and the Mediterranean countries.
Cactuses are sometimes regarded as desert plants, but many species occur in a variety of habitats. Cactuses are slow growers and can become very old. The Saguaro Cactus, for example, can live up to 175 years. What many people may not believe at first, is that cactuses are also flowering plants. Plants that also produce seeds. They may flower every year, but in response to heavy rainfall they will produce an abundance of flowers. The flowers vary in appearance and scent to attract specific pollinators, such as insects and bats.
Fun fact: the root systems of most cactuses spread out close to the surface to absorb as much rainwater as possible. Some species are so good at storing water so they can live in drought for several years.
Types of Cactus
Cactuses populations are generally stable. However, some species are declining because they are taken from the wild to be used as ornamental plants in landscaped areas.
Many cactuses vary in size depending on their species. The smallest cactus species is Blossfeldia liliputana, a plant that is less than 2.5 centimetres in diameter when fully grown. A cute mini Cactus! The tallest cactus, the Mexican Giant Cactus, can reach a height of up to 18 metres!
We would like to name a few cactus species that are also good for growing indoors. The first is the Opunta albispina cactus, also known as angel wing cactus or rabbit ear cactus, a member of the cactus family with evenly distributed clusters of hairs instead of sharp spines.
The second cactus you can keep in the house is the Rhipsalis. The Rhipsalis is also known as the coral cactus or mistletoe cactus. The plant belongs to the cactus family and is native to Africa, some islands in the Indian Ocean and South and Central America. Instead of growing in deserts, the plant grows in the tropics. Because of this, its care is slightly different than the care of the ‘normal’ cactus. This is a Cactus species with a lot of diversity, this diversity is mainly found in the stems. These vary from thin and long to broad and ribbed to curly and round.
The third cactus we do not want to keep from you is the Euphorbia Trigona Cactus and is one of those easy cactus specimens that make any grower feel like an expert. Also known as the cathedral plant, this cactus can grow quite tall with the right care. Small green leaves grow on the ridged stems between the spines, and if you plant it in well-drained soil and water it twice a month, it can live for decades.
Last but not least, Epiphyllum Anguliger, also called the saw cactus or lady of the night. The plant is called a saw cactus because of the special zigzag growth of its leaves. The Epiphyllum is a succulent that is often sold as a hanging plant.
Care tips for the Cactus
Cactus care is super easy. However, it is nice to know exactly what you should or can do. With the right information on growth requirements, we will help you keep your Cactus happy and beautiful.
Light and location for the Cactus
Give your Cactus enough light, but not too much. You want it to be just right for your prickly plant. Cactuses enjoy the attention they can get from the sun and thrive in direct light. Put them in the warmest, sunniest corner of your home. They also like to go outside if you have a sunny terrace or garden. Bring them back inside when the temperature starts to drop again.
While Cactuses should get up to eight hours of sunlight a day, it's also important to be careful not to overexpose them. Cactuses can also burn. Although they love the sun, they can turn yellow or brown, and if that starts to happen, move the cactus to cool down. We also advise you to keep your cactus away from air conditioners or draughty windows, because they like a warm, dry climate.
Ensure that the right soil mix is used when potting your cactus. Cactuses prefer soil that includes more sand or something similar in order to drain water and keep the plant dry between drinks and prevent root rot. For example, our Succulent potting mix kit is perfect!
Cactuses are known to be able to survive without much watering. However, this does not mean that they do not need watering at all. Check the soil every few weeks. If the first 2 to 3 centimetres of soil are dry, it is time to give the plant some water. In well-drained soil, your cactus will only need watering every 10 to 14 days during the summer months. If you see wrinkles on your cactus, especially at the base of your plant, your plant is very dry and a soak is in order. It may seem counterintuitive to give a cactus a big gulp of water, but you will be amazed how your cactus absorbs the water and becomes full again. In winter, you only need to water your cactus about once every two months. They usually go dormant in the winter and do not grow at all or very little.
As with the soil, it is important to use fertilisers made especially for cactuses, to ensure that they are not over- or underfed and receive optimum nutrition. You can also use fertilisers indicated for succulents. We recommend fertilising once in spring and once in summer. Cactuses are not big eaters, so it is not necessary to fertilise more often than that.
Propagate a Cactus
Propagation by means of stem cuttings is probably the most common and easiest way. Many cactuses can be successfully propagated by means of stem cuttings. Cuttings are taken from an existing plant, after which they are left to dry. The cuttings will eventually take root from the cut end and start growing as a new plant.
The second way which is possible is by growing side shoots or offshoots and removing them from the 'mother plant'. Not all cactuses produce offshoots, but when they do, it is advisable to try it this way. Offshoots can be carefully removed and placed in a suitable potting soil to start a new plant. Removing offshoots from the mother plant helps to redirect energy to the growth of the main plant.
Most common pest on Cactuses
Although most problems with cactuses grown as houseplants are bacterial or fungal diseases caused by overwatering, they also occur occasionally with insect pests. The most common pests are scale insects, mealybugs and root lesions. Less common pests are spider mites. Controlling these pests are difficult because they are small and hide in places that are difficult to see, because they cover themselves with a cotton-like or hard layer or because they have developed resistance to insecticides. Do you suspect that your Cactus is suffering from something? Visit our PLNTS doctor page.
Are Cactuses poisonous for pets or children?
Most cactus species are safe for humans and animals. The best way to know if your specific cactus is poisonous is to determine the species. There are a few species that may pose a danger, so do your research carefully.
Of course, most Cactuses have thorns that can sting quite badly in the first place. Cactus thorns are not necessarily poisonous to humans or animals. However, a spike can penetrate deep into the skin and even into the collagen and muscles. It is also crucial to note that a prickle can also have bacteria and fungi on its surface that can cause infections. So just be careful!
Buy your new Cactus at PLNTS.com
At PLNTS.com you can buy a new Cactus online, for example the Euphorbia Trigona Cactus.
Whether you want your plants to be big right from the start or to grow from tiny baby PLNTS to full grown PLNTS - we've got you covered!