How to care for cacti and succulents

Cacti and succulents are now a very common houseplant. They come in a vast range of shapes and sizes from the petite to the grand. Cacti and succulents fall into the same group because they both have characteristics meaning they can survive in arid environments.

The native habitat for most cacti and succulents is a desert. Therefore, they will grow best in lots of light, good drainage, high temperatures and low moisture. However, there are some cacti and succulents, such as Schlumbergera, which have a native environment of a rainforest so prefer semi-shade and humid conditions.

To care for a cacti and succulent, it is best to try to recreate their natural habitat. Here are the main things that you need to consider when caring for your cacti and succulents.

Light, temperature and ventilation

Cacti and succulents thrive with good light sources, and it is best to place cacti and succulents in a bright place. A south facing position will provide good sunlight. However, be careful to not put them in direct sunlight because the intense light can make the plants turn a yellow colour. The optimum light depends on the variety of cacti and succulent that you are growing. For example, forest-growing epiphytes, such as Rhipsalis, need semi-shade, but an Echeveria needs bright light.

During the autumn and winter months, it is best for the plants to be kept cool at night with temperatures of around 8°C to 10°C. In the spring and summer the plants need good ventilation, but will survive in high temperatures.


A free-draining compost, such as Westland cacti and succulent potting mix is a good compost to use as it has added girt and sand for optimum drainage. It also contains the right level of nutrients for your cacti and succulents.

Watering and feeding

There is a common misconception that cacti and succulents only require a small amount of water. Even though they have water-storing characteristics in their leaves and stems which allow them to survive in dry habitats, they will certainly not thrive with little water. Watering is an essential part to how well your cacti or succulent grows. Overwatering will stunt growth, but under-watering causes shrivelling.

Tepid rainwater should be used for watering, rather than tap water. This is because the minerals in tap water build up in the soil and can cause deposits on the leaves. Minerals also disrupt the flow of essential nutrients to the plant.

Spring and summer

In the growing season, the plants should be watered at least once a week. When watering, the soil should be given a good soaking, allowing excess water to drain away. Allow the compost to dry out slightly between each watering.

Feed your plants once a month using Westland Cacti and Succulent Feed which is a good formula to use. It helps them to produce healthy growth with more disease tolerance and better flowering. Simply use the dosing chamber to get a 5ml dose of the feed and add to 1 litre of water.

Autumn and winter

This is the time where the plants enter a rest period. Watering should be reduced so that the potting mix dries out between the watering. The regularity of watering is dependent on the environment they are in and the variety of succulent. Winter-flowering cacti needs to be in the warmth and have regular watering at this time, but desert-dwellers can be left un-watered. You do not need to feed cacti or succulents during this period.


If your cacti or succulent is pot-bound, then the best time to re-pot is in the spring. To re-pot:

  • Firstly water the plant and allow to drain before removing carefully from the pot, using folded paper to protect your hands against the spikes.
  • Clear away the old soil from the roots with a thin stick, such as a chopstick, so that you do not damage the roots.
  • Put a layer of potting mix in the new pot, which is slightly bigger in diameter, and sit the plant on it.
  • Fill the rest of the pot with the potting mix and firm down.
  • Do not water for a few days to prevent rotting of damaged roots.

Keeping these conditions gives the best care for your cacti or succulent. Most importantly, remember when it comes to the caring for your plant is that you are trying to recreate its natural habitat!

How to look after a cactus plant

Vast and diverse, it is not easy to provide general caring tips for the cactus and succulent group. Instead, we must begin by identifying your species. From small and delicate to larger and more striking, there is a cactus to suit every home. The most commonly known identifier of cactus plants, is their ability to store water for long periods of time. Cactus are known to many as one of few plants that can survive in the dry environments of dessert land. What people don’t know is that it isn’t as simple to look after a cactus as you think.

Identifying Your Cactus

All types of cacti are succulents, however the defining factor of cacti are there areoles, which are not found in succulents. It is important to identify the specific species of cactus you are planning on keeping. For example, while many succulents grow in low moisture, high temperature, sunny climates, as seen in wild west films accompanied by cowboys and tumble weeds, some succulents actually grow in the rainforest (such as Epiphyllum). Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the native environment in which your succulent thrives, to provide the best possible growing conditions and achieve the best results.

Different Cactus Types

  • Aporocactus Flagelliformis – Rat’s Tail
  • Cereus Peruvianus – Peruvian Apple
  • Opuntia Microdasys – Bunny Ears
  • Schlumbergera Bridgesii – Christmas
  • Hatiora Gaertneri – Easter Cactus
  • Disocactus Ackermannii – Orchid
  • Echinocactus Grusonii – Golden Barrel Cactus

Creating The Ideal Environment For Cactus

Once you have identified your cactus type, you need to create the right environment for it. You are looking for an open and free draining pot, this will prevent waterlogging and best recreate the ideal habitat for your succulent. Cactis and succulents can be stored on a window sill all year round in the most part, however certain species such as Rhipsalis need to be positioned in a semi-shade environment, so ensure that you adhere to the requirements of your cactus. In terms of temperature, it is ideal to have a minimum of 8-10°C (46-50°F) at night time.

Looking After Your Cactus

The appropriate ways to care for your houseplant varies depending on the time of year. From April, water weekly and allow excess to drain away. In winter however, watering can be reduced. The key is to allow the compost to dry out between watering sessions, this applies all year round. If possible, water using tepid rainwater as the minerals in tap water can build up and cause deposits, damaging the leaves of succulents.

Some species of dessert-cacti can be left without water between November and February, so do your research to ensure you water correctly. During this time, winter-flowering succulents will need to be kept warm and be watered regularly, followed by a resting period in the summer. In the summer months try to provide adequate ventilation for your succulent(s). Finally, in terms of feeding, do so once a month throughout April to September using a relevant succulent feeding product.

Pruning Cacti

Depending on the specie of houseplant that you have, pruning can help you make the most out of your cacti. Not always a necessary process, but when needed pruning can help maintain a fresh shape and look to your cactus. The occasional tidy can neaten outgrown specimens and thin over crowded areas. To further look after your cactus, the occasional dust can help keep the houseplant looking fresh, use a clean dust cloth when necessary.

Potential Cactus Problems

There are a number of things to look out for when growing cacti and actions you can take to limit potential problems. Here are the most common:

Cactus Planting Conditions

As emphasised throughout this article, the conditions in which you grow and care for your cactus greatly affect their health. Watering especially deserves particular attention, for example, too heavy watering can cause stunted growth and cause blistering. While, not watering enough can result in limited growth and shrivelling.

As well as temperature and watering routines, humidity and brightness should also be monitored to prevent potential problems. In situations where humidity is too high or the area is too bright, Cactus Corky Scab can be a result. Signs such as brown patches are an indicator, these then gradually shrink and form a scab. To prevent further scabbing, subtly reduce the humidity and light – however do not do so abruptly as this can cause undesirable affects.

Cactus Pests & Diseases

White patches may indicate Mealybug, while bronzed patches may be indicative of glass house red spider mite. Scale insects can be spotted on sighting of patching visible on the stems and leaves. Rot is a common problems amongst the succulent family, with diseases such as Erwinia, fusarium and botrytis often causing infection in under or over watered plants. Another cause can be cold temperatures. If you suspect your cactus may have contracted one of these common diseases, treat with a fungicide as soon as possible.

Cactus Care

Almost everyone knows that a cactus can go a long time between drinks, but there are a number of plants in other families — crassula, euphorbia, and lily — that can do the same thing. But, what is a cactus and how do you care for it?

Cactus Image Gallery


Cacti are a type of plant called succulents. They’ve learned how to compete for survival all over the world.

Cacti from desert areas, like the Mammillaria and Echinocactus, are plump and spiny while those that originally grew in jungle areas are flat or thin and spineless like the Rhipsalis and Schlumbergera.

There are even cacti with leaves. For instance, the Pereskia, when full grown, looks a bit like an orange or grapefruit tree. Other succulents come from a number of families.

The agave, milkweed, lily, and crassula have many members. These plants, with or without spines, all have compact growth habits and lots of character.

This character has caused us to bring them into our homes. In this article, we’ll talk about how to care for cactus plants.

Light Requirements of Cactus Plants will help you break the myth that cacti need lots of sunlight. Learn which cactus plants require hours of natural light and which ones can thrive indoors.

Water and Humidity Requirements of Cactus Plants is a great resource to find out just how wet your plants need to be.

Temperature Requirements of Cactus Plants will teach you everything you need to know about the tolerance level of cacti.

Fertilizing Cacti will help you determine whether or not you should fertilize your cactus plants.

Preventing Cacti Pests and Diseases will alert you to what pests and diseases are most harmful to your plant and how to deal with them.

Potting Cactus Plants will teach you how to correctly pot your plant, how to remove a stuck plant from its pot, and how to handle spiny plants.

Propagating Cacti will explain how to successfully propagate, divide, cut, graft, and grow your plant from seeds.

Arranging Cactus Plants is a great resource for learning how to arrange different types of cactus plants.

Putting a cactus near the sunny window is a no-brainer, but what if your view is of a sunless brick wall? Learn about the light requirements of cactus plants in the next section.

Succulent Soil

What’s the Best Soilless Mix
for Your Succulent Plants?

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The best soil for succulents is well drained – the quickest way to kill succulent plants is to put them in rich soil, with manure or other organic matter, which holds moisture.

Succulents do not appreciate the kinds of conditions that jungle plants love; moist, nutrient rich compost based soil.

Garden soil on its own, even the very best vegetable garden soil with lots of additional organic matter, is not suitable for succulents in any kind of container or pot; succulent soil should be a lean soil, with little to no organic matter or excess nutrients, and extremely sharp drainage.

This rules out garden soil, as for most garden plants, you actually want moisture retention; for succulents – especially if they’re grown in containers – this will be the death of them as it will cause root rot.

However, just because they don’t like too much organic matter it doesn’t mean you can’t add some compost to the soil, just don’t overdo it. 10-20% by volume is plenty.

Caution; do not use manure because it’s too strong – use that for making compost tea or to put on the vegetable garden. Instead, make compost from kitchen scraps or vegetation like leaves to use in your succulent soil.

I do use a small amount of composted and aged steer manure for succulents in garden plant pots, especially those with just a small soil reservoir.

A soilless mix means you can tailor it to your succulent plants needs by changing the ratio of sand, aggregate and other components.

Fine sand or silt will clog the pores of the soil, so rinse or sieve out dust before you mix the different ingredients.

Hardy succulents grown in ground prefer to have grit and even some rocks to cling to. Their roots will travel quite a distance to seek out moisture, but they can’t have any standing water – especially late in the fall if you live in areas where it freezes.

A mulch of stones, lava rock or even a few decorative larger rocks will give the roots somewhere to find a tiny bit of water, even when it’s super hot and dry everywhere else.

Their favorite rocks? Anything with a porous appearance, like this sedimentary rock local to my area will work.

Soilless Potting Mix Recipes for Hardy Succulents

For Sempervivum and other hardy succulents potted into containers use some type of commercial bagged potting mix such as Miracle Gro, Sunshine Mix #4, or comparable brand with equal parts Turface, pumice and chicken grit. Pumice isn’t that easy to find, but it’s absolutely the best.

Keep in mind that the Sunshine mixes contain water holding polymers, which hold a lot of moisture, so in most cases, your hardy succulents won’t need much additional watering.

A word of caution with mixes that contain a water retaining polymer: this breaks down under freezing conditions, turning it into a sodden, slimy mess. Use these types of soil mixes outdoors with caution.

I suggest smaller pots for Sempervivum especially, and the addition of pumice or small sized lava rock for additional drainage.

After planting top dress with the chicken grit or other mulch like lava rock, crushed granite or pumice.

With Sempervivum as well as other hardy succulents such as Jovibarba, Orostachys and Rosularia avoid too much fertilizer as this can cause them to grow too fast.

They come from alpine areas, growing in gritty soil with little organic matter, in a climate that is warm and dry through the short summer growing season and snowy in the winter.

Sempervivum ‘D.S.2.’ growing happily in really shallow soil. Gritty and well drained, these plants thrive in soil that has little organic matter, except for what collects around the crown of the plants blown by the wind, dropped by animals, and the main nutrients are derived from the underlying rocks leached by rain and snow.

Here’s a succulent soil recipe:

  • 1 part Miracle Gro Potting Mix
  • 1 part Turface
  • 1 part chicken grit
  • 1 part fir bark (smaller particles)

The turface usually won’t need to be sieved unless it has a lot of fine dust which could clog up the pores in the soil when wet.

For a trial, pot some Sempervivum in:

  • 1 part turface
  • 1 part granite grit
  • 1 part fir bark (smaller particles)

Plant others in:

  • 5 parts fir bark
  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part perlite
  • a little Dolomite lime

In a month or so of growing, compare the plants top growth and also the root structure and see which one does best in your growing conditions.

Some climates are quite wet in the fall and winter, which requires an extremely well drained soil mix.

Pumice or crushed lava rock mixed into a commercial type soilless mix will give you excellent drainage, and ‘tooth’ or something for the roots to grip.

As alpine plants, many hardy succulents have the ability to cling to any small particles to hold them in place – they’re well adapted to steep terrain and cliff faces.

It’s worth experimenting a bit to find which soil mix your succulents like best for your particular climate.

When you think about where succulent plants originate, very few of them have evolved near trees. So they wouldn’t necessarily be happy with leaf mold, compost or bark products because these would hold too much moisture.

The secret is to test, test and then test some more to see what kind of soil works best for the particular plants you’re growing, and your climate and conditions.

Soil for Tender Succulents

Tender succulents require a slightly different type of soil, especially if you plan on bringing them in for the winter.

The last thing you need is to bring in all kinds of pests, which are sometimes attracted to soils high ratios of organic matter.

Good drainage is usually the one thing missing from most house plant soilless mixes, which are sometimes the only type of soil available. Mix this type of soil half and half with some kind of grit, like turkey grit, or pumice – perlite is another option, but sometimes it’s so light that it tends to float right out of the mix.

I use Sunshine Mix #4, and sometimes mix it with a small amount of steer manure, for outside during the summer.

This is generally pasteurized, so won’t bring in the same kind of pests as compost or other manure based soils. I have had the issue of moss or algae growing on the surface, but this is usually an indication of either too much moisture, or not enough drainage. Mulch that soil! Use turkey grit or lava rock to shade the soil, and eliminate moss.

Look for soilless mix specifically for cactus plants; this has the excellent drainage necessary for all types of succulents.

Looking for soil that you can order online? Try these products from Amazon;

I recommend certain things when you buy soil; no matter where you get it, look for soil with extra drainage, or buy the ingredients separately. I’ve listed some great options from Amazon below;
Don’t need lots of soil? This product is a smaller sized bag, making it perfect to try without breaking the bank; Hoffman 10410 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, 10 Quarts
Soil is important but so is mulch; use my favorite lava rock to top the soil with to hold it in place when you water, or mix some right in to the soil to provide more drainage and the tiny air pockets that succulent plants love; Hoffman 14452 Volcanic Lava Rock, 2 Quarts
Add a cupful of worm castings to each batch of soil, or sprinkle on a tiny amount (a teaspoon full) to give long lasting slow release feeding; Unco Industries Wiggle Worm Soil Builder Earthworm Castings Organic Fertilizer, 15-Pound
Mix this type of soil half-and-half with some kind of additional drainage; pumice, turkey grit or decomposed granite, or large sand; Black Gold 1302040 4-Quart All Organic Potting Soil
My all time favorite soil that I recommend for growing succulents in – this sterile media has a water holding polymer, making it easy to re-wet; Sunshine Growing Mix With Mycorrhizae

Want your succulents to survive the winter? Learn how to bring them indoors and be happy and healthy with this free e-course; Fill in your name and email address on the form below to enroll!

How to grow succulents

Succulent plants offer something very special to the garden. The fleshy, evergreen leaves are often glaucous and as a group they add another completely different texture to a garden scene.


Discover how to grow succulent alpines in a pot.

Under the banner of ‘succulent’ plants are many different genera. Popular succulents include sedums, sempervivums, agaves and aeoniums. All are grown for their foliage rather than their flowers. Succulents are ideal for the container garden. Plants can be hardy or tender, but all enjoy a sunny spot and can cope with drought.

Succulent plants offer something very special to the garden. Sempervivum ‘Gay Jester’

Where to plant succulents

Succulents will thrive in a sunny spot in very well-drained soil. Their fleshy leaves are designed to store water, so they’re able to cope with periods of drought. Most prefer a very slightly acidic soil.

Succulents will struggle to grow in poorly drained, heavy soils. A cold and wet winter will often see the loss of many. It’s for this reason that they’re ideally suited to containers. When grown in pots, in autumn plants can simply be moved to a light, frost-free place until spring where watering can be controlled.

Agaves are stunning, but the larger types like Agave americana are best planted away from paths as the spiked leaves are very dangerous – especially to children, as they’re often then at eye level. When growing succulents as houseplants they’re content on a south or south-east facing windowsill.

Sempervivum ‘Rita Jane’

How to plant succulents

Before planting into garden soil, improve the drainage by adding in horticultural grit. Avoid planting too deeply as fleshy leaves will rot if in contact with a wet soil.

When planting in containers go for unglazed terracotta pots with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom and add grit to the compost. Terracotta pots will warm up quickly in the sun, which suits these plants. The majority of succulents have fibrous roots so can be planted in fairly shallow pots. Don’t overpot plants – they can cope in quite small containers. However, top heavy plant displays are in danger of blowing over so choose a heavy container in this case.

Opt for a soil-based compost when planting large agaves as these plants need a heavier compost to anchor their roots. Wear gloves when handling spiked agaves as the leaves are incredibly sharp. Watch your eyes.

Propagating succulents

Propagating succulents

Many of the smaller, rosette-forming succulents such as alpine sedums and sempervivums readily produce small baby plants (offsets). These can simply be snipped off the plant and potted on. Discover how to take cutttings from cacti and succulents.

Succulents: problem solving

Vine weevils are a common problem when growing succulents in containers. It’s thought that by growing in a soil-based compost, rather than peat, the problem may be reduced. Adult vine weevils are grey/black beetles and can be seen feasting on the foliage in spring and summer. They remove notches out of leaves. It’s the grubs that work underground in autumn that cause the most damage, however. They’ll eat the roots and in some cases this will result in the death of the plant.

Repot in autumn and remove as much soil as you can. If you spot the grubs, either throw out very badly infested plants or quarantine them. Use a biological control in autumn, such as an application of nemotodes. Treat again in spring if necessary.

Caring for succulents

In summer, water succulents in containers no more than once a week. A good watering less often is more beneficial than a little-and-often technique. In autumn and winter, reduce the watering dramatically and place container grown, tender plants in a light and frost-free place. If this isn’t possible, move them under the shelter of the eaves of the house and cover with a protective garden fleece.

Repot potted specimens once a year in spring. You won’t necessarily need to pot them into a larger container but fresh compost will be appreciated. Succulents are not greedy plants but a light scattering of fish, blood and bone when potting on is often beneficial when growing large specimens.

Succulents don’t require pruning. If foliage is damaged or dead, carefully peel it from the plant or cut off with secateurs.

Aloe vera’s healing properties

Aloe vera is highly prized for its healing powers. Inside the leaves is a gel that’s used to sooth sunburn. Many medicinal products are made from this succulent house plant. Often grown on the kitchen windowsill so that it’s on hand to treat minor burns.

Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’

Succulent varieties to try

  • Agave americana ‘Mediopicta’ – a stemless, tender perennial. A large rosette of sharply pointed variegated leaves. Plants flower after about 30 years and then die. Mature height 1m
  • Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ (pictured) – maroon rosettes of evergreen foliage. Tender perennial with a shrubby habit. Yellow flowers in spring. Reaches a height of 1m after many years
  • Echeveria secunda var. glauca – ‘Compton Carousel’ – red and yellow flowers in summer over rosettes of two-toned foliage. Height 15cm
  • Hylotelephium ‘Purple Emperor’ – hardy perennial able to cope in a sunny, well-drained border all year round. Dark maroon foliage and pink clusters of summer flowers. Cut back stems the ground in autumn. Height 40cm
  • Aloe vera – tender perennial grown as a houseplant. A stemless plant with green leaves. Reaches 60cm
  • Sempervivium ‘ Gay Jester’ – a pretty, hardy perennial, bearing medium-sized rosettes of red spoon-shaped leaves, which lighten to mid-green at the tips. Short spikes of pink flowers appear in summer. Looks fantastic in pots, between rocks, or in cracks in paving.


Discover many more succulent varieties to grow here

Hi everyone. I hope you’re keeping really really well and that you’re having an amazing day today.

The Best Succulent Soil Compost

Now in this video I want to tell you how you can make cactus compost and it’s so easy to make you be amazed at how easy it is. Now all it is is three ingredients which are the first one which is John Innes, compost no. 2 or no. 3, and in this case I’m using John Innes no. 2.

The second ingredient is horticultural grit. Make sure that the grit is no larger than three to four millimeter. So it’s very small like this.

And then the last ingredient is sand – horticultural sand. Make sure that you use your proper garden horticultural sand and not builders or sand from the beach which contains salts. So there you go; just three simple ingredients.

I’m gonna show you now with the mixes and what you need to do. It’s so easy you’ll be amazed at how simple it is.

So there you go. Now this is what it involves. What it is is three equal parts of each one. It’s an equal part of each. So it’s one equal part of sand, one equal part of grits, and one equal part of John Innes compost. Now I’m using this size bowl because today I’ve only got a couple of small cacti I need to pot up but obviously if you’ve got a large cactus or a number of cacti and you need to make a large number of cactus compost then all you need to do is use a much bigger bowl. You can use a bucket size. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a teacup size or use a bath full. Then just make sure these three exact equal measures; so three parts equal measures of the sand, the grit, and the compost. It really is that simple.

So in this case I’ve ready put the grit in there both the compost and – that’s an equal measure of the John Innes compost. Mix that into the grits. That’s that one done. And then the sand – the horticultural sand – equal measure again – straight into there like that and then all you have to do is mix it all in your hands.

Get a really really good mix. Fantastic. It’s a lot like making a cake – ha ha – it’s like making a cake. And you have a really really good mix like that, and there you go. That’s it. It’s really, really, really mixed. Also just to let you know as well in this case that the sand and the grits have both been fully wash beforehand, but make sure that you give it a wash first. That’s great. There you go.

It really is that simple and of course you can make as much as you want or as little as you want. Just make sure those equal parts of the sand the grit and the compost and there you go.

So if you liked this video we’re hoping this is use full for you. Please give it a big thumbs up for me and please share and subscribe. Also I want to give this opportunity to send you loads of love and happiness from Ireland as always. And until next time – bye. I won’t kiss because my hands are muddy

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This page is image-intensive. Please allow time for thumbnails to load. Run your cursor over images to reveal the names of the succulent plants. Click on an image of a succulent plant to embiggen it. More information can be obtained by following the linked Genus or Family headers. This catalogue can also be seen as a lower-bandwidth text list of illustrations
All images are © copyright R.J. Hodgkiss or of the original authors where cited. Please do not link directly to any images on this site or use images without permission. Image locations will be changed frequently.

Family: Agavaceae

Advertisement Family: Aizoaceae (Mesembryanthemaceae) – Vygies, Ice Plants, Living Stones
Family: Aloaceae
Bulbinella (non-succulent)
Family: Amaranthaceae – Pigweed Family
Allenrolfea – halophyte shrubs
Beta – Beets
Salicornia – halophytes
Sarcocornia – halophytes
Suaeda – halophytes
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Family: Anacardiaceae – Cashew Family
Family: Apiaceae Syn. Umbelliferae – Carrot and Parsley Family
Family: Apocynaceae
Family: Apocynaceae Sub-family: Asclepiadaceae
Larryleachia (Trichocaulon)
Orbea / Stapelia
Cynanchum (Sarcostemma)
Family: Apocynaceae
Family: Araceae – Aroid Family
Family: Arecaceae – Palm Trees – woody xerophytes
Chamaerops – monotypic genus
Jubaea – monotypic genus
Nypa – monotypic genus
Family: Asteraceae – Daisies, Sunflowers
Family: Balsaminaceae – Balsams, Jewelweeds, Busy Lizzies
Family: Begoniaceae – Begonias
Family: Brassicaceae – Cabbages & Mustards
Family: Bromeliaceae – Bromeliads
Family: Burseraceae – Torchwood Trees
Go to Family: Cactaceae (Cacti) – separate thumbnail gallery
Family: Campanulaceae
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Family: Commelinaceae
Family: Crassulaceae – Stonecrops, Plakkies
Sedum – incl. Hylotelephium, Phedimus, Rhodiola
Family: Cucurbitaceae – Gourds
Family: Didiereaceae
Family: Dioscoreaceae – Wild Yams
Family: Doryanthaceae – Spear Lily Family
Doryanthes – Spear Lillies
Family: Dracaenaceae – Dragon’s Blood Trees
Cordyline – Cabbage Palms
Dracaena – Dragon’s Blood Trees
Sansevieria – Mother in Laws’ Tongues
Family: Euphorbiaceae – Spurges
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminaceae) – Bean Family
Family: Fouquieriaceae – Ocotillos
Family: Geraniaceae – Geranium Family
Family: Gesneriaceae – Gesneriad Family
Family: Hyacinthaceae – Bluebell Family
Family: Icacinaceae
Family: Lamiaceae
Moraceae – Figs & Mulberries
Family: Nolinaceae – Beargrasses
Family: Orchidaceae
Family: Oxalidaceae – Oxalis Family
Family: Passifloraceae – Passion Flowers
Family: Pedaliaceae – Sesame Family
Family: Piperaceae – Peppers
Family: Portulacaceae – Purslanes
Family: Rubiaceae – Madderworts, Coffee Family, Ant Plants
Family: Ruscaceae
Family: Saxifragaceae – Saxifrages
Family: Urticaceae – Nettles
Family: Vitaceae – Grape Vines
Family: Xanthorrhoeoideae
Family: Zygophyllaceae

This page is © copyright R.J. Hodgkiss 2019. Last update: 15/05/2019
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Echeveria is native to the semi-desert regions of Central America. It is the most popular species of succulent, adored for their gorgeous rosettes. Click the button below to view all the different types of Echeveria.

This hybrid variety is the result of crossbreeding Graptopetalum x Sedum. To view all types of Graptosedum click the button below.

This genus holds 19 different species, including the commonly known “Ghost Plant.” Graptopetalum is Native to Mexico and Arizona. Most of the succulents in this species are rosette shaped.

Senecio quite literally translates to “old man.” This genus is a member of the Daisy family and the largest genera of flowering plants. Some of the favorite trailing succulents are in this group, such as String of Beads (Senecio Rowleyanus), String of Bananas (Senecio Radicans), & String of Dolphins (Senecio Peregrinus).

Crassula is a genus of succulent plants containing about 200 accepted species, including the popular Jade Plant. They are members of the stonecrop family and are native to many parts of the globe. Click the button below to view the many succulents in the Crassula Genus.

Kalanchoe, or kal-un-KOH-ee, or kal-un-kee, also written Kalanchöe or Kalanchoë, is a genus of about 125 species of tropical, succulent flowering plants in the family Crassulaceae. Many people refer to this genus as “Windows Thrill.” It is native to Madagascar and South Africa.

Feel like an easy DIY project this weekend? What about making a cactus or succulent bowl? Hard to kill these little fellas, they are cheap to buy and look great all clumped together. Now when I say “hard to kill” I mean it’s not impossible and I have killed my fair share of succulents, but there is a trick… On my Instagram a lovely lady by the name of @thatgirlinthatdress gave us all this advice and it’s probably the best advice I’ve received in regards to succulents:

“…most succulents require full sun – 4-8 hours of outdoor sunlight. This is quite different to the amount of light they would receive next to a window and even less if they are more than 30cms from the window. Most likely it developed root rot as the amount of water it was receiving was far too much for the amount of photosynthesising it was doing. I keep mine outside in full sun (sunrise to 1/2pm, where as all day sun is literally no shelter all day) and water them once a fortnight if they are lucky…”

Ah yes! Good advice. So they are not really designed to survive inside long term are they? Unless you are happy to pop them outside often, maybe they are best displayed on outdoor tables, or at the entry or in a corner on your back verandah? I have had great success with succulents and cacti outside, so there they shall stay.

So let’s take a look at a few succulent and cactus bowls…

What you’ll need:

  • A variety of succulents/cacti
  • Rocks in the bottom
  • Good soil
  • A bowl or pot (the rocks are good if you don’t have holes in the bottom of your pot for drainage, but I recommend you do drill holes if you can!)

So there you go! Lots of cool looking centerpiece ideas. Or I love the HUGE pots on the ground filled with succulents. I have some pots filled with succulents at home, but they need a few gaps filled and a freshen up so that may be an Easter holiday project.

If you want some indoor plant ideas that will survive I wrote this one here.

♥ KC.

My secret planting weapon keeps my paws spine free!

I was born and raised a New England girl. You know, mountain laurel, lilac, peony and sugar maple country. Not a cactus growing outside for thousands of miles around. My few years of living in Tucson, Arizona really made me appreciate them. And now that I’m a Cali girl (SoCal to be exact), they just make plain sense in our current drought. Here’s how to make a cactus dish garden and the secret planting weapon I use.

I bought this pretty Talavera bowl for a video I did for on how to plant a desktop dish garden – you’ll find the link for this at the end in case you’re interested. I finally took it apart a few months ago and decided with what’s going on with our current water (or lack there of) situation, that cacti were the way to go. They’re not a soft and fuzzy look but I find them fascinating. Plus, less watering, less maintenance with no pruning required had me at hello!

Up above, the cacti line up. Left to right you’ll see Peruvian Old Lady Cactus, Moon Cactus, Echinocereus subinermis and a Purple Split Rock. The little rounded cacti in the front are cuttings I took from my own plant.

The soil I use is an organic succulent and cactus mix from California Cactus Center. The ingredients are a company secret but I will tell you than it’s vey light and drains fast, just what those cacti love. I put a piece of coffee filter over the drain hole to keep the mix from falling out and then filled the bowl 2/3 of the way full. I sprinkled in a handful of worm castings because they’re a great amendment and a taylor-made way to give your little spiny plants a boost. Cacti have small root balls by the way. I started to place the plants and then moved them around until I find the arrangement that suits me, on that given day anyway.

I dump in some of the mix in between the cacti babies as I go to hold them in place. Just be aware that the mix is light and the cacti can be a little top heavy so some tippage might occur. I managed to coerce them into staying with my mystical horticultural powers. No actually, my secret planting weapon plus the mini trowel work wonderful for this as well as for positioning the plants at the desired angle. You’ll see both of these wonder tools in action in the video at the end.

Ta-Da, the moment has arrived for revealing my secret cactus planting weapon. Yes my friends, cheap silver tongs aren’t just for pasta anymore. You can easily take your cacti out of the pots and get artsy fartsy with them without getting your precious paws fulls of spines. They’re not good for planting those huge Saguaros, but for this kind of project, they’re brilliant. $1.09 wisely spent.

Here’s the cactus dish garden almost finished. I didn’t water it for the first 5-7 days post planting and then gave it a thorough drink so that the water drained out. I let it sit for a couple of months and gave it another good watering so that the mix settles down. I sprinkled on another layer of worm castings and then topped it off with a little more mix. It looks good but there was one more step to do in this cactus dish garden project.

Yup, this is the crowning glory which takes it from “oh, that’s nice” to masterpiece. It’s the colored rock that I seem to be addicted to and have in many colors and sizes. I use it for many of my container plantings, especially those which aren’t flowery, to add a little bada bing, bada boom. I love how this rock so accents the bowl and makes this planting just pop. It’s doubly true being that cacti grow slowly and don’t flower too often or for too long.

Speaking of flowers, here’s one of the four buds that appeared on my little Echinocereus soon after planting it. The bud is bigger than the plant!

Here’s the lovely flower after it opened. It only lasted for a few days but this planter sits on the bistro table on the patio right outside my office so I got to enjoy all of its short lived live. It’s amazing how the flowers are so soft on such prickly plants.

I wanted to show you one of my other little cactus gardens. The opening on this is very small but I really like the pumice rock planter. Light as can be!

So how do you care for your cactus dish garden after planting you ask? Two things: give it as much light as possible and ignore it. In other words, water it about every one to three months indoors depending on how warm and dry your home is. They mush out really fast with too much water. Mine live outdoors and the care is practically the same.

Cactus dish gardens are not for everyone but I sure love mine. One grows in part sun and the others grow in full sun. Talk about undemanding container plantings – they get the gold seal! How do you feel about cacti? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Watch the video below & you’ll see me at my work table making this cactus dish garden:

You can see how I made over my succulent bowl HERE

Cactus and Succulent Care for Beginners

OK, so you just returned from the store with your first cactus plant, or perhaps you bought one of those funny looking little plants with a tag sticking in the pot that says “Assorted Succulents.” You might be asking yourself, “how do I take care of this thing?”

The first thing to realize is that the words “cacti” and “succulent” are general terms. Cacti belong to a specific family of plants, but the species within that family come from some very different habitats. Many cacti, such as those in the genus Ferocactus, are in fact true desert dwellers. Others, such as those in the genus Echinopsis, live in the grasslands of South America, those in the genus Oreocereus live in the high Andes mountains, and those in the genus Epiphyllum live in jungles and don’t even live in the ground, but upon other plants.

When talking about succulents, it gets even crazier. The term “succulent” is completely non-scientific, and basically can refer to any plant with fleshy parts (leaves, stems, or roots), usually which are adapted for storing moisture in times of drought. These plants come from all over the world and live in all different habitats.

Why do you need to know all of this? Well, the more you know about your “Assorted Succulent” or “African Zipper Plant,” the more chance you have of being successful growing it. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has a local cactus and succulent club, visit one of their meetings, bring your plant, and be prepared to find out all kinds of things about it, like what its real name is, where plants of its type grow in the wild, and what growing conditions it likes.

If you aren’t so lucky to have a local cactus and succulent club close by, or are just too eager to get started caring for your new baby, all is not lost. There are some general rules that can be applied to those plants we call cacti and other succulents. Read on….

Watering and Fertilizing

Many people think that cacti and succulents require a small amount of water every once in a while. While its true that these plants are tough, and can usually survive under such circumstances, most certainly will not thrive.

During their growing season, these plants like regular watering and fertilizing. For most, the period of growth is from Spring into Fall. Many plants rest (stop putting on growth) from late Fall to early Spring, when temperatures are cool and daylight length is short, and during mid-Summer, when temperatures are at their peak.

How often to water and fertilize: While growing, cacti and succulents should be watered at least once a week. Some people water more often than this. During each watering, give the soil a good soaking, so that water runs out of the ‘drainage holes’ of the pots. During the growing season, a balanced fertilizer, which has been diluted to 1/4 strength, can be added to the water for each watering. (A balanced fertilizer is one that has roughly equal proportions of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. A 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength is ideal.)

When the weather cools and day-length shortens, plants enter a rest period. During that time, increase the interval between watering, and let the potting mixture dry out between watering. Some people say that during dormancy, cacti and succulents should be given just enough water so that they show no sign of shriveling. Use some common sense here. If your plants are kept indoors on a window sill in a heated room during the Winter, they will need more water than if they were over-wintered out-of-doors. In any case, do not fertilize your plants during dormancy.

There are exceptions to the above guidelines, as some cacti and, especially some succulents, are Winter growers. Again, your local cacti and succulent club can help you determine the particular growing habits of your plants.

A word about water: Tap water often can be alkaline and/or hard, meaning it contains high concentrations of dissolved minerals. Such minerals can build up in the plant’s ‘soil’ over time, causing harm. This is one good reason why your plants should periodically be ‘repotted.’ Buildup of such minerals can also cause unsightly deposits to form, especially on unglazed clay pots. Never water your plants with water that has been through a softening system that uses salt as a recharging agent, as these systems simply replace the “hardness” in the water with sodium ions.

Rain water is preferable to tap water, if you can manage to collect and store it.


Most cacti and succulents like bright light, but not all can tolerate intense, direct sunlight, especially in conjunction with high temperatures. The intensity of the light that a plant will thrive in depends on the species. A plant that is grown in optimal light conditions will “look normal” (unstressed), and is more likely to flower than one grown in sub-optimal lighting conditions. (Keep in mind that succulents, and especially cacti, have very differing ages at which they will flower. For example, even if you give your Giant Saguaro seedling (Carnegia gigantia) conditions that are optimal in every way, you will likely not see it flower in your lifetime.)

While optimal lighting conditions depend on species, there are some general signs that indicate your plant is getting either too much or too little light:

Too much light: When your plant is getting too much light, it can appear “off color,” taking on a “bleached out” look, or turning yellow or even orangish. Keep in mind that these signs can also indicate other stresses, such as disease or too much water, so use common sense when making your diagnosis.

If your plant is moved suddenly into very bright sunlight conditions, or if the weather suddenly turns hot with abundant sunshine, your plant can scorch. This can happen very rapidly and can scar the plant for the rest of its life, so be on alert for when such a condition might occur, and take precautions to prevent scorching.

Too little light: If your plant is receiving too little light, it might etiolate and/or appear to really reach for the light source. (Etiolation is the condition where a plant becomes “drawn,” for example, a cactus plant that is normally round begins to look as if it is being stretched out from the growing point at its center). Your plant will suffer if left in such light conditions for very long. When transitioning such a plant to stronger light, keep in mind that it will be especially prone to scorching, so make the transition slowly.

Note that in most cases, it is quite normal for a plant to slowly grow toward the light. What you want to avoid is the condition where it is really reaching for the light. For example, if your columnar cactus is bent toward the window at 90°, it’s trying to tell you something.

For a potted plant that slowly grows toward the light over time, you can rotate its pot to cause it to grow in a more balanced fashion. Remember, if you do this, that the side of the plant that had not been exposed to direct sunlight for a long time might scorch if you make the transition too quickly. Be careful!

Pots and Potting

Pots come in all kinds of styles, and are made of various materials.

Pot materials: The materials used most often for pots are plastic and clay/ceramic (either glazed or unglazed). Cacti and succulents can be grown successfully in pots made of either material, and choosing one over the other is usually a matter of personal preference.

Plastic pots are lighter, usually cheaper, take up less room compared to clay or ceramic pot with the same inside dimensions, and are easy to keep clean. Plants kept in plastic pots also tend to require less watering compared, especially, to those kept in unglazed clay pots.

The extra weight of clay and ceramic pots provide stability for tall or top-heavy plants. Many people also feel that a good clay or ceramic pot just plain looks better than a plastic pot. Remember that if you water with hard water, a buildup of minerals on the outside of unglazed clay pots can cause unsightly deposits to form.

Regardless of the material the pot is made of, it must allow good drainage. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to grow a cactus or succulent successfully in a pot that lacks drainage holes. If you find a pot that is perfect in every respect except for its lack of drainage holes, drill them yourself.

Styles of pots: If you know the species of cactus or other succulent you have, you can make a better choice as to what style of pot to keep it in. For example, many species of cacti have fibrous roots that remain close to the surface of the soil. Such a plant has no use for a narrow, deep pot; a shallow pot with a relatively large diameter would suit it much better. Many cacti and succulents, while appearing quite modest above the soil line, have a massive, deep, tuberous root system below the soil, and require a pot suited to that root system.

Some people like to use bonsai pots for their plants. These pots are often very attractive, and a specimen planted and skillfully staged in such a pot can be a real attention-grabber. If you have limited space, be aware that bonsai pots tend to take up a relatively large amount of space, and their price can be a real attention-grabber also.

Soil: Cactus and succulent potting mixes are sometimes available commercially, but many people like to create their own special mix for their plants. There are some basic characteristics that a potting mix for cacti and succulents should possess. Perhaps the most important characteristic is that the soil should drain very well. The best way to achieve this is by adding horticultural-grade sand and grit to the compost component of the soil. Many believe that a good starting ratio for the mix’s components are one-third compost, one-third horticultural-grade sand, and one-third grit.

For the compost component, a growing number of hobbyists believe that a peat-based compost should not be used, as it seems to contribute to pest problems like ‘root mealy bug’ and ‘fungus gnat’, and doesn’t contribute much in the way of nutrients to the plant. Many people start with a good grade commercial potting mix for the compost component, and some sift it through a screen to remove such “undesirables” as the small pieces of wood and twigs that can sometimes be found in such mixes.

All sand is not created equal. The sand component should be horticultural grade, relatively coarse, and sharp. Never use non-horticultural grade sand, such as fill sand, as this is usually not washed, and can contain, among other things, salt.

For the grit component, most people agree that horticultural pumice is the best. It is also not widely available, and can be expensive if you can find it. Some other materials that can be used include pearlite, porous gravel, and lava fines. People often have good luck using fired clay products for the grit component. These products include certain cat litters and products that are used to absorb oil spills. If using one of the clay products, you must ensure that it is a fired clay that does not break down and turn to mush when it gets wet. Check the labeling, and to be sure, test it out by putting some in a jar of water for some time to see if it breaks down. Mush in your potting mix will do your plants no good.

Like everything else discussed so far, there are no hard and fast rules for potting mixes, so you’ll need to experiment with ratios. The above ratio of components represents a good starting point.

Repotting: Ideally, your plants should be repotted every year so that you can provide them with fresh soil, inspect and address problems with their root systems, and move them to bigger pots if necessary.

“Every year; yeah right,” you’re probably saying. You’re not alone in saying that. For best health, however, your plants really should at least be repotted when they start telling you they’re not happy in their current “digs.” If your plant looks out of proportion with its pot, is pushing its way up out of the pot, has roots that are growing out through the pot’s drainage holes, or is spitting the pot, guess what….

To re-pot, invert the pot and gently tap it to loosen the soil and roots from the pot. If the plant is really root-bound, you might need to resort to breaking the pot to get the plant out.

Next, clear away the old soil from the roots. Be careful when doing this, as you want to minimize damage to the roots. A thin stick, such as a chopstick, helps in this regard. Using the stick, gently tease out the roots and remove old mix. This is a good time also to inspect the mix for ‘pests’. If any roots appear dead and dried out, they can be pruned off. Note that some people use a sharp stream of water, as from a hose, to wash the mix from the roots, rather than use the stick method.

Repot the plant into the new pot, which should be a little larger than the old one, and in pleasing proportion with the plant. First, cover the drainage holes with clay pot shards or screening (your pot does have drainage holes, right?), then place the plant in the pot with fairly dry, fresh mix. You might want to apply a top dressing, such as crushed granite, but this isn’t necessary. Now, don’t water the plant right away. Instead, allow the plant to rest out of direct sunlight for a week or two before watering it. This allows any roots that were damaged to heal, as unhealed wet roots are very susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections.

Old Wife’s Tale debunked: Remember your grandmother told you to always add a layer of pebbles to the bottom of a pot when repotting, to improve drainage? Your grandma might have made the best cherry cobbler in the world, but forget this advice about pebbles. The potting mix in your pots should extend all the way down to the bottom.

A word about handling your plants: Cacti and succulents grow in some extremely hostile environments, and as such have evolved some very inventive ways of defending themselves. They will not hesitate to use those defense mechanisms when you attempt to repot or otherwise handle them.

Unless you’re REALLY tough, you’re probably wondering how in the world you are going to get a grip on your spiny cactus while you repot it. Some good “tools” that can be used include newspaper or paper towels that have been wadded up, or blocks of foam.

Beware that not all spines are created equal. Some can be especially nasty. For example, that group of cacti known as opuntias – commonly referred to as “prickly pears” – have spines that, at the microscopic level, are barbed and very easily break off and remain lodged in the skin. Opuntias also have fine spines called “glochids” which, in extreme cases, have gotten into people’s eyes and caused problems. Some other types of cacti, as some mammillarias, have hooked spines which easily grab fast to skin and clothing.

Still, other succulents are known for having poisonous or irritating sap. Plants in the genus Euphorbia are especially known for this. Be careful around them.


Cacti and succulents are, no doubt, tough plants. They are, however, not without their problems. Aphids, snails, slugs, thrips, and nematodes are among some of the guests that can leave their mark on your collection. Below is a discussion of some of the more common pests to cacti and other succulents.

Mealy Bugs: No discussion of basic cacti and succulent care would be complete without a discussion of pests, and no discussion of pests would be complete without a discussion of our little friend, the mealybug. Mealybugs, or “mealies” as the are often referred to, are tiny insects about 0.1 inch (3mm) in length, which shroud themselves in a oval-shaped, cottony covering. It is the presence of these cottony masses, en masse, on your plants which signal the fact that you’ve been invaded by mealies. Mealybugs live their entire adult lives within their cottony fortresses, happily dining on plant sap. A plant infested with mealybugs will stop growing, weaken, and often eventually succumbs to rot.

Their cottony coverings protect them from predators AND contact pesticides. Minor infestations can be handled by dabbing the offending individuals with a cotton swab that has been dipped in rubbing alcohol. The alcohol dissolves the covering, leaving them defenseless. Systemic insecticides are often used to control widespread mealybug attacks.

Being ever resourceful, mealybugs can also attack the roots of your plants, in which case they are called “root mealies.” If you don’t see any visible pests on a plant that appears sickly, root mealies might be to blame. To eliminate, unpot the plant, and if you find any unwanted guests, wash off as much soil and critters as possible, soak the roots in a systemic insecticide, and repot.

Spider Mites: Spider mites are really, really tiny critters which are all but invisible to the unaided eye. These pests are often found in their whitish webs, which are often spun close to the plant’s surface. They dine on plant sap. Infected plants often develop yellowish spots which later turn rusty brown, scarring the plant. Weakened plants are susceptible to secondary infections, be they viral, bacterial, or fungal.

Spider mites hate being wet. Of course, so do most cacti and succulents. Overhead watering and misting is often listed as a preventative and a cure for spider mite problems.

Mites are not insects, so insecticides often have little effect on them. The use of a miticide, however, is recommended for widespread problems.

Scale: Scale are pinhead-size insects that appear as raised tan or brown spots resembling marine limpet shells. The shells are actually hard coverings that protect the insects underneath. Like many other insect pests, they dine on the plant’s sap. Outbreaks of scale can be treated similarly to mealybug infestations.

Fungus Gnats: Fungus gnats are often a nuisance rather than a problem. When present, they are small black flies that can often be seen on and around the surface of the soil. In some cases, mostly when seedlings are involved, their larvae can cause damage and plant loss. Many hobbyists report that fungus gnats are more common in peat-based soils.

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If you are looking for a low maintenance houseplant and a cactus has caught your eye, you are in for an absolute treat. Cactus plants make fantastic houseplants and are generally easy to care for. The one thing that can be challenging with cactus care is knowing how often to water cactus plants, as it is so easy to be over-enthusiastic with the watering can.

How often to water a cactus? Most cactus should be watered once the soil has completely dried out. Don’t water on a schedule, but monitor the condition of the plant and dryness of the potting mix to know when to water a cactus. Factors such as size of cactus, size of pot, temperature, humidity and season will all affect how often to water cactus plants.

Understanding the water requirements of your cactus is important. Cacti are succulents and are designed to store water in their roots and stems, to help them survive periods of drought. While each cactus has different water requirements, there are a number of techniques you can use to make sure you always know when to water your cactus.

How Often To Water Cactus Plants Indoors

Most people have the misconception that cacti only need a few sips of water here and there, and while it is true that they are drought-resistant, they most definitely need a regular supply of water.

In fact, they thrive when they are watered sufficiently. Cacti tend to do best when they are watered thoroughly, and then left until the potting media has dried fully before being watered again.

There are many factors which can affect how quickly the potting media will dry out, and as a result, how often to water your cactus plants.

Here are 9 of the top factors that influence how often to water cactus plants.

1. Size Of Cactus

You might assume that the larger a cactus is, that the more frequently it will need watered. However, younger, smaller cacti typically have higher growth rates and will require and use more water in relation to their size.

Larger cacti also have a a smaller surface area to volume ratio, which will decrease evaporation of water from the surface of the cactus. Typically, you will need to provide substantially more water to a larger cactus when you do water it, but you may find that smaller, faster growing cacti, planted in smaller pots actually require closer attention and more frequent watering.

2. Size Of Pot Affects How Often To Water A Cactus

Large pots contain more potting medium and it takes longer for a cactus to absorb the water in the potting medium, or for the water to drain or evaporate.

Larger pots also have smaller surface area to volume ratios. As a result, a cactus planted in a large pot may only need watered every 4-6 weeks or more, whilst a cactus planted in a very small pot may need to be watered once a week or less.

Most cacti do better in smaller pots, as they don’t like sitting in water for too long. It can be really difficult to avoid root rot if you have a cactus planted in an oversized pot, so if you are having problems, repot your cactus into a pot that is just large enough for the cactus and no more

3. Type Of Pot And Drainage

For cacti, the best strategy is to provide a lot of water and then have the excess drain rapidly and the potting media dry quite quickly. Plastic pots will trap moisture, increasing the time it takes for the potting media to dry out.

Terracotta pots are porous and the water in the potting media will slowly pass through the walls of the pot and evaporate into the air, dramatically reducing the time it take for the potting media to dry out.

Similarly, pots with plenty of drainage holes are much better, as these allow the excess water in the potting media to drain out of the pot rapidly. Trying to grow cacti in pots without holes is generally a miserable experience. It can be done, but is much more likely to lead to root and stem rot. I speak from bitter experience!

4. Type Of Potting Media

For success with growing cacti, you should ensure the potting medium is fast draining. Any commercial cactus mix will do, or a DIY combination of potting soil, coarse sand and perlite will do a great job. A well draining mix will allow excess water to drain easily and allow the soil to dry quickly. Obviously, this will mean you will need to water more frequently, but your cactus will thank you for it.

5. Ambient Temperature And Airflow Impact How Often To Water Cactus Plants

Warmer temperatures lead to increased evaporation from your cactus and from the soil surface. Higher temperatures also usually mean the plant will be actively growing and will be using more water.

During the cooler winter months, when your cactus isn’t growing much, you may only have to water the plant every 4-6 weeks, but during hot summer months, with the plant putting on growth, you may need to monitor the dryness of the potting mix every few days.

The great thing about cacti is they will tolerate being underwatered really well. So if you’re a bit slow with the watering can, the cacti won’t suffer too much, but being over-enthusiastic is where all the problems start.

In addition to temperature, increased airflow increases evaporation. Bear this in mind, particularly if you move your cactus outside in the summer, where ventilation will be much higher and water requirements will increase significantly.

6. Humidity Impacts How Often To Water Cacti

Evaporation levels will be higher is arid conditions. Wet potting mix will dry much faster as the air will have plenty of capacity to take up more water.

Keeping an eye on the humidity levels is generally a good idea when caring for most indoor plants and can help you to predict water requirements. Cacti do much better in arid conditions, but even in a humid interior, as long as you monitor soil dryness, you can still have great success.

7. Light Conditions

Direct sunlight will increase the rate of evaporation and the speed at which your cactus soil dries out. If kept in a south facing window, you will need to water your cactus much more frequently, compared to a cooler north facing room.

8. The Species Affects How Often To Water A Cactus

Every plant has its own watering requirements and it is much the same with cacti. The type of cactus that you choose to grow at home will determine will impact how often you need to water it. Some Cacti like a bit more water than others and you should refer to the specific species for advice about how often to water your cactus.

9. The Time Of Year Will Affect Water Requirements Of Cactus Plants

During summer and the active growing season, Cacti need frequent watering. Cacti typically need less water during the colder, dormant months of winter. You can cut back watering by at least half or even more during this time.

I’ve got another article which goes really well with this one about how much water to give your cactus when you water it. It’s really helpful to know about how cacti respond to water in their natural environment and this can help you to get watering right every time.

How To Tell If Your Cactus Potting Mix Is Dry

There is a fairly easy way to determine when your Cactus needs water, regardless of the season. As a general rule of thumb, the soil should completely dry out between watering.

But how to check the soil at the bottom of the pot for dryness?

There are a few options.

  • Poke a finger into one of the drainage holes at the bottom to feel for moisture.
  • Push a stick or skewer gently into the potting mix to the bottom. Leave it for a few seconds before removing it. If the stick looks or feels damp, you know to leave it a while longer before watering.
  • Use your finger to poke into the top few inches of potting mix. If the soil feels dry right the way down, you can add water. If the soil is wet and clings to your finger, you can wait a while longer for it to dry out some more.

How To Water Cactus Plants Indoors

Once houseplant owners know that their Cactus needs watering, they are often unsure about how much water the plant requires.

When you water your cactus, make sure that you give it a decent soaking until the water runs out of the drainage holes. Only do this once – you do not want to flush the soil. You can use a weak fertilizer to feed your cacti during the growing season.

Mix a fertilizer that has equal amounts of Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous to ¼ of the recommended strength and add it to your watering can during growing season watering. There is no need to fertilize your cactus during the rest/dormant phase.

When the rest period or dormant period comes around, you can lengthen the time between each watering as the plant needs less water and nutrients when it is not actively growing. During this time do not overwater the plant. Only give the plant enough water to prevent it from shriveling up.

How To Tell When To Water Cactus – Signs Of An Under-Watered Cactus

A thirsty cactus (one that is under watered) will show signs of distress in the following ways:

  • The Cactus will usually pucker or shrivel as it uses up the water reserves that are stored within it.
  • The Cactus will start to discolor. This is usually evident as the Cactus turns brown or the natural darkness or brightness of the color fades.
  • The Cactus will start to become dry or calloused as it runs out of moisture.

Many people panic when they see their cactus houseplant displaying these symptoms. Luckily, under watering a cactus is far less harmful that over watering it.

If your cactus is showing signs of under watering, you can rectify the problem by thoroughly watering the cactus as soon as possible. The plant should plump up fairly quickly with the color returning to normal over a short space of time. Under watered Cacti bounce back faster and easier than over watered Cacti.

I’ve got a really helpful article which goes into more detail about how to identify when indoor plants need watered. I truly believe that the only way to get better at caring for houseplants is to learn to spot the signs they are giving you, and getting it right is so rewarding.

How To Tell When To Water Cactus – Signs Of An Over-Watered Cactus

Over watering a Cactus is much more damaging than under watering. In most cases it should be fairly obvious that the cactus has been over watered.

If your Cactus is mushy and puckered, it is a sign of over watering. When the Cactus absorbs too much water, it quite literally runs out storage space and this can cause the cell walls to rupture which results in a mushy feeling when you gently press or squeeze the plant. This is the most important difference between an over watered and under watered cactus: the mushiness.

An over watered Cactus will usually present the following symptoms:

  • The Cactus stems and leaves will start changing color. Usually black or brown.
  • The base of the Cactus will start turning brown or black.
  • The Cactus will become mushy and start leaking.
  • The Cactus will start to appear as if it is rotting or decaying.

As with most plants, the reason for these symptoms is usually root rot. Cacti have very sensitive root systems that are susceptible to root rot. When the roots rot, the plant is unable to absorb sufficient water and nutrients and get it to the rest of the plant. As a result, the plant starts to change color and sometimes leaves become soft, wilt, and even fall off.

When root rot sets in, it is not always immediately evident. While your plant may look normal on the outside for some time, one day you may discover that the stem towards the lower end of the plant is black and going somewhat slimy. This is really bad news!

Interestingly, sometimes an overwatered cactus can sometimes show signs of underwatering due to the death of the roots caused by root rot. Overwatered roots will die, preventing water from being transported to the rest of the plant, so much of the plant can in fact be dehydrated.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Cactus Has Root Rot

You will need to inspect the roots. Remove the Cactus from the pot or container and take a close look at the roots. They should be white in color. If the roots are black, brown, or mushy, they have root rot.

If there are still some healthy-looking white roots, the plant can be saved. You will need to use clean shears to cut the contaminated roots off the plant. Make sure that you clean the shears after cutting the root rot off, to avoid spreading disease to other plants.

You can replant the Cactus in dry, well draining potting mix and let it settle for about a week before watering. Make sure that you discard the contaminated soil and use fresh soil when you replant your Cactus.

A serious case of cactus rot

Common Mistakes When Deciding When To Water Cacti

When getting a new Cactus as a house plant, there are a few mistakes that you need to avoid. Below are a few common mistakes that people make when it comes to watering an indoor Cactus:

  • Over Watering Or Under Watering

This is usually due to lack of know-how. Knowing what type of Cactus you have will help you to better understand its water requirements. Watering the plant too frequently will lead to root rot while watering too infrequently will result in the plant drying up, puckering and dying. The trick is to get a careful balance.

  • Overlooking The Nutritional Needs Of The Cactus

It is a common misconception that a Cactus requires no added fertilizer to thrive. This is probably because the plant is considered hardy and drought resistant.

Adding a bit of diluted fertilizer to your water can be the trick to growing healthy Cacti. Of course, don’t overdo it. Only add diluted liquid fertilizer to your watering can during the growing season and make sure that it is mixed to only a quarter of the recommended strength on the bottle.

Too much fertilizer can burn the plant or result in build-up in the soil which can damage the root system and result in leaves turning brown/yellow and falling off.

  • Using The Wrong Container

Cacti need containers with sufficient drainage holes so that no water can trap in the bottom and lead to root rot. While you can plant a Cactus in a container with no drainage holes, you will need to be extra careful with how much and how frequently you water.

The best choice is a container that breathes easily such as a terracotta container. For the ultimate convenience, choose a pot that already has drainage holes that do not become clogged with Cactus mix.

  • Using The Wrong Growing Medium

Cacti need growing medium that drains quickly. People often overlook this because they believe that the Cactus is the hardiest plant of all and can grow in almost any conditions.

If you use the incorrect potting soil, you could find your Cactus suffering from root rot. Buy a succulent or Cactus potting mix or make your own for the best results.

  • Using The Wrong Water Source

While some tap water sources are just fine, other sources have high quantities of dissolved minerals and chemicals such as fluoride, chlorine and chloramines that can affect the health of your cactus.

If your cactus is struggling and you can’t work out what is wrong, it may be good to try collected rainwater or distilled water to help your cactus thrive.

Last Word

Learning when to water cactus can take a bit of trial and error. Watching the Cactus for signs of distress is an important part of being a Cactus houseplant lover. The most important thing to remember is to monitor your cactus and the potting mix to know when to water a cactus and don’t water on a schedule. Once you develop the techniques to identify when your cactus needs watered, you wont look back and your cacti will be thriving.

Succulent and Cactus Plant Care

Succulents and cacti are low maintenance, water wise plants that store water in their leaves, stems or roots, creating a plump or succulent appearance. They are often found in hot, arid climates such as the desert and have adapted to tolerate long periods of drought. There are many varieties of succulents and cacti that come from all over the world. For best results each plant has individual needs, but there are general rules for succulent and cactus plant care.

Water – If your container has drainage holes, water thoroughly once a week during active growth period. If your container does not have drainage holes, water sparingly to moisten soil but be sure water does not pool up at the bottom of container which can cause rotting. Allow soil to dry between waterings.

Light – Place plant in a brightly lit south facing window indoors or an area with bright, indirect light outdoors. Some plants can tolerate full sun, but must be gradually acclimated to prevent sunburn. If the light source is inadequate, etiolation will occur and your plant will become leggy as it stretches out towards a light source.

Soil – Succulents and cacti like soil that is well aerated and fast draining. Perlite or pumice mixed with soil work well for this, or you can pick up cactus/succulent mix from your local nursery.


Lithop Care (living rock) – Take special care not to overwater lithops, or they will rot. Water during fall (when you see flower buds appear) and spring (after leaf shedding has occurred) thoroughly (until water runs through drainage holes) and let soil dry between waterings. Refrain from watering at all during winter and summer, save for very sparse sprinklings once a month. Keep your lithop in a bright, south facing window. For more information visit

Nutrition – Fertilize during growing season with a 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength each watering.

Colors – In general greener succulents are more tolerant to low light environments. If your space does not have a good light source, stay away from succulents with blue, purple, pink and white tones.

Propagating – Succulents have many methods for reproduction and can propagate from cuttings, leaf cuttings and producing pups and seeds.

Artificial lighting – Succulents do best in natural light, but if this not available (during winter months or depending on your geographical location), you can supplement their light source with artificial grow lights. There are many options for energy efficient artificial lighting available.

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