The Stickler’s Guide to Growing a Cactus Indoors

The Stickler’s Guide to Growing a Cactus Indoors

Looking for an easy-to-grow indoor plant that requires little watering? Do you like the desert southwest look of succulents? You’re in luck- a small cactus plant is particularly suited to most indoor, low humidity conditions. See below for tips and tricks for growing a cactus indoors.

Cacti is a type of succulent, native to North America. Several varieties can be grown as houseplants and each are different in size, shape and color. A few of the most popular are:

Star cactus look very similar to sea urchin.

Star Cactus 

Also known as sea urchin cactus, this globe-shaped succulent is spineless. Its chubby body looks similar to a sand dollar.

Old man cactus are easy to grow

Old Man Cactus

This white-haired, fuzzy cactus certainly has its own unique character. Reminiscent of grandfather’s beard, the deftly-named Old Man cactus grows long, white hairs over its surface.

The Christmas cactus has beautiful blooms.

Christmas Cactus

This winter flowering houseplant is a popular holiday gift. Christmas cactus is also easy to propagate. Just cut a Y-shaped section from the tip of a healthy stem.

Agave plants are simple and easy succulents to grow.

Agave Plant

A long-leafed succulent, agave grows into an attractive rosette shape, and produces cup-shaped blooms. Some agave varieties die after blooming, but produce offshoots to live on.

Grow your cactus indoors with our guide.

Bunny Ears Cactus

Perfect for beginning growers, the cute bunny ears cactus is an easy care variety. Thick, green pads grow in ear-like pairs, and are covered in fuzzy, short bristles that resemble rabbit fur.

Where to Find Cactus for Growing Indoors

Gardening centers, florists, and the outdoor department of home improvement stores are the best places to purchase cactus and succulents. Thinking about digging up your own cactus? Some agave and cacti species are protected under state native plant laws, so check before you dig.

Lighting Requirements

To grow a cactus indoors you’ll need plenty of sunlight. The best exposure is in a south-facing window, but light from and east or west window can work as well. Furthermore, make sure the plant receives light for a good portion of the day. However, if you don’t have enough light, a fluorescent grow light will work. Hang the grow light a minimum of 6 inches above the plant to prevent scorching the leaves.

You can set cacti outdoors, on a covered deck or patio, in summer. Although, you’ll need to monitor the amount of water they receive.

Proper Watering

Many indoor cacti have met an untimely death from over-watering. If the weather is cloudy or may become cloudy, don’t water. Your watering schedule will vary depending on the time of year. Cacti actively grow in spring and summer, but are dormant; resting in winter. Here’s how to water your cactus indoors according to the season:

Spring, Summer Watering:

Water the plant well, allowing excess water to drain. Cacti do not like to sit in water, so make sure your plant pot has several drainage holes. Adding a layer of pebbles at the bottom will prevent soil from clogging up the drainage holes. Water again when the top 1/2 inch of soil is dry. If your pot is on a saucer, make sure to drain water from the saucer to prevent plant rot.

Fall, Winter Watering:

Water very little, at a maximum rate of once every 2 weeks. Apply only enough water to dampen the soil near the roots.

Fertilizing Your Cactus

Use a liquid fertilizer to feed your plant several times during the growing season. A complete, balanced fertilizer will work well, or purchase a plant food especially formulated for succulents.

Ideal Growing Temperature

During the spring and summer, the optimum room temperature is 70 to 75 degrees (F) during the day, and 60 degrees (F) at night. During the fall and winter dormant period, reduce temperatures to 45 to 55 degrees (F). If your room is warmer, place your cactus close to the window but not touching. The room temperature will be 5 to 10 degrees cooler next to the window.

Re-potting Your Cactus

If your cacti grows too large for its container, re-pot it.  Use a soil blend especially formulated for succulents or make your own by mixing:

  • One part coarse sand
  • One part loam, and
  • One part peat moss

Lastly, delay watering for a couple of weeks after re-potting to prevent root rot.

Moving Your Cacti to A Different Spot

Wear protective gloves when moving your cactus indoors to a different location. In addition, if you happen to brush your hand against the plant and get stuck by a spine, use a piece of adhesive tape to gently pull it out.

(Photo Courtesy of: opacity)

Learn more about plants that thrive indoors, here.

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Caring for your indoor cactus is easy when following these 6 essential tips!
Keep your cactus thriving with these 6 clever care tips!
A small cactus is perfect to grow indoors! Learn about the best tips to keep your cactus in good shape indoors.