Cactus care - how to take care of cactus plants?
Cactus are charming house plants that are easy to care for. They do not require much and yet they can really spruce up your living room, kitchen, or even bedroom. These usually small, spiky plants brighten up your home and do not need a lot of attention. For instance, people who travel a lot or who live in apartments will enjoy these cactus plants with their whole heart.
Cactus is one of the most care-free, easy to please houseplants. In fact, in the wild, they are found in desert climates and can survive considerable drought. They can even go multiple weeks between waterings.
While you may think of cactus as being a small, round, spiky plant, they actually come in many shapes and sizes. However, the most common characteristic that almost all of them share are sharp spines covering the whole body of the plant. Also, the root system of cactus is shallow and fine, which makes it difficult to repot them. Though they can go many weeks without water, a cactus needs plenty of sunshine to truly thrive.
How to take care of cactus
Cactus plants are easy to care for, making them excellent houseplants for beginners and travelers. Though they are fairly care-free, there are still some important things you should take into account when caring for your cactus plants.
All succulents, cactus included, need regular watering in order to help them grow during the active season. This usually happens in the spring and summer months. Whether you prefer to keep them in your house or outdoors, you should ensure that they get a good soak every time you water them. This should be done to the point that it drains out of the holes in the bottom of your container or pot.
Despite this, you should still check the species-specific needs. For instance, jungle or forest cactus need to be watered more often than regular desert cactus. This is because forest cactus, for instance, loves to keep its roots moist.
So, in short and to keep it simple, no matter what kind of cactus you own, you should make sure not to drown it in too much water. Otherwise, it may develop root rot which prevents the cactus from growing. In addition, it can cause the leaves to wilt and lead the plant to die. This can be prevented by ensuring that the soil dries completely between waterings.
During autumn and winter, cactus undergo their dormant period. During these times, make sure to cut back on the watering routine. In the winter or autumn, you should only water your cactus once a week or whenever it seems to start shriveling. This helps you to prevent root rot.
When it comes to water types, you can either use natural rain or tap water. Also, if you want to, you can buy specialized natural water. Just make sure to not use water that has passed through a softener.
As a general rule, your cactus should get at least 4-6 hours of bright light per day. However, there are some species, like the forest cacti or Christmas Cactus that cannot tolerate direct, intense sunlight especially when the temperature becomes too intense. So, these cactus plants you should keep protected from the direct sunlight in the afternoon.
If your cactus starts to appear off-color or bleached, or if it is turning yellow or orange, you should immediately move the plant to a different location. This is their way of telling that they are getting too much sunlight.
The indoor cacti likes to get a lot of sunlight and fresh air. This helps it to flower and thrive. A good place for an indoor cacti is, for instance, a brightly lit windowsill. Should you start seeing them beginning to bend toward the light, move the plant to a brighter spot where it gets more direct sunlight.
Choose the right soil
You should remember that the soil you use for your cactus should be well-draining. You can either buy special soil for cactus plants from your local store, or you can mix your own blend. Simply add some sand and grit to compost to make it grainy and not too compacted.
In order to test if you have the perfect soil, you should see how long it takes for the water to seep out of the holes of the container. Ideal time is about a minute. If it takes longer, re-pot the cactus and add more grit and sand. On the other hand, if the water drains too fast, add some more compost.
In order for your cactus to grow and flower beautifully, you need to feed your cactus. The best feed is low-nitrogen fertilizer or special cactus blend. This should be done every few weeks throughout the spring and summer months, as the cactus is actively growing. If you are unsure about the kind of fertilizer you should get for your plant, ask your local plant store associates.
Re-potting your cactus
You should repot your cactus at least once a year. This gives them fresh soil and at the same time, you can check their roots to ensure that they are healthy.
To repot your cactus, simply flip over the current pot and tap it lightly to loosen up the soil and roots. The next step is to get the roots out of the old soil. You can do this by carefully teasing it out with the help of a thin stick (for instance, a chopstick).
After you are done removing the old soil from the roots of the cactus, you can plant your cactus in its new pot and soil. Ensure that the new pot is bigger than the old one to make sure that the roots have room to grow. The next step is to add some fresh dry mix and to allow some time for the roots to heal. This is just in case you did any damage to them when you moved the cactus from the old pot to the new one.
Pests are a big concern - look out for these buggers
Though cactus plants are very easy to take care of and generally care-free, they can suffer from bacterial and fungal diseases that are caused by overwatering. Also, every now and then, you may encounter pests, such as mealybugs. It is important (though sometimes hard) to control these pests, as they may hurt your cactus and end up damaging it.
Mealybugs and scale
Mealybugs and scale are the two most common insects that tend to get past the cactus spines and they can, in fact, cause a lot of damage and end up killing the cactus.
Usually, mealybugs are in clusters and they have a white, waxy, cottony appearance. In addition, they are not very easy to spot as they tend to hide in certain parts of the cactus. In many cases, they are found on the underside of the leaves and hidden joint areas.
Mostly, they attack the leaves and stems, while some attack the roots and will suck the root juices. This causes the cactus to rot as they get bacterial infections.
Scale insects, on the other hand, are dome-shaped. They also attack the leaves and stems, just like mealybugs.
If you see webbing and some small brown dots on your cactus plant, they might be the doing of spider mites. They are very small and usually noticeable only if you tap the affected area with a piece of paper: this is because they resemble dust. So, look for webbing and small brown dots if you think your cactus might be suffering from spider mites.
Fungus gnats are pests that resemble mosquitoes. Usually, you will see them hovering around the soil. As the larva lives in the soil of your plant, it ends up feeding on the organic matter and thus depriving the cactus from its much needed nutrients. If you have only just started and have cactus seeds, fungus gnats might cause the cactus not growing.
How to manage these pests
Cactus plants may not need a lot of attention otherwise, but you should pay attention to possible pests. They can be quite hard to spot sometimes, and they can cause big damage to the plant. So, be on the lookout. Managing the possible pests is what cactus owners need to watch out for.
Practice measures to prevent pests
It is important to nurture your cactus plants, as it contributes to its health. Make sure that your plant gets the correct amount of water, a lot of bright sunlight, and proper drainage. When your cactus plant thrives, there is a lower chance of it being attacked by pests.
Control the new cacti plants
If you have an old infected cactus that is near your new plant, there is a big risk of those pests from the old one transferring to the new one. You should quarantine your plants until you are sure that they do not have any pests. Also, if needed, you might even need to discard your old cactus to ensure the proper growth of your new one.
Use cotton swabs to deal with mealybugs
If you have noticed that your cactus is infested with mealybugs, use cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to remove the mealybugs and scale insects.
Spraying the cactus with water-diluted alcohol solution might ruin the plant’s epidermis. So, test the solution on a small area before you spray the entire cactus. Also, this solution should help you to get rid of unnoticeable pests, too.
Washing off spider mites
Spider mites can be washed off with water. Just make sure to be careful not to overwater the plant and wash the plant very carefully.
Using insecticidal soap
In addition, insecticidal soap may help you to get rid of the pests. Although, you should note that it may damage the cactus as they have waxy leaves and stems that can be damaged by the soap. Read the label before using the soap to make sure your cactus will not suffer from it.
If you use insecticides, you should use them sparingly. Remember to always read the product labels and make sure it is safe to use on your plant. Also, some of these products are oil-based: this means that the oil will remain on the plant and exposure to sunlight can make your cactus tan. You can avoid this by limiting the sunlight exposure in a dull place, until the pesticide works. Then, you can return your cactus to its normal place.
Observation is key
When it comes to taking care of your plants, cactus or others, you have to keep an eye on them and observe. By checking in on your plant, you will find out if it needs any changes to the environment or the way it is being cared for.
For instance, if you see the cactus growing towards sunlight, you will know it needs more sun. On the other hand, if it is starting to look faded, you will need to limit its exposure to the sun. Also, if the cactus seems to wither, it needs more water.
Another important element is to keep an eye out for possible pests. Keep any infected plants away from your healthy ones and make sure to treat them correctly, should any pests try and damage your plant.
By observing your plant, you will quickly notice how it is doing. It is important to provide it with proper care, love, and attention to ensure it will bloom and grow. Remember, that you can always ask for help from plant professionals, should you need any advice on how to care for your cactus.