Cactus care: watering without mistakes

In nature, cacti are forced to survive in extreme conditions, and this well-known fact, alas, does not always benefit them at home. Taking the needs of these ascetics too literally, lovers of indoor plants unknowingly cause them problems.

Yes, the care of cacti is not as common as the needs of violets or, say, calatheas. On the other hand, if you find a common language with them, you will be surprised to find that they are much easier to handle than the other inhabitants of the windowsill.

How to water domestic cacti

Observing from the outside, I have long noted for myself two “camps” of florists who have not yet become familiar with the needs of cacti. The first, believing that in deserts and steppes nature does not allow plants to “unfold”, take care of them like all other flowers. The latter, betting on the ability to survive, altogether forget about watering and other things. Let’s find out why neither one or the other manages to please cacti.

Excessive watering

Most of us are used to watering pelargoniums, dracenas and senpollias every day or every couple of days. This is normal for them, but for cacti it’s fraught with rot. In their natural habitat, the only solution is a slow metabolism: rainfall is rare and rapid growth would require too many resources. In “economy mode”, the cactus is always ready to tolerate until the next rain, because a small reserve of moisture will remain in its stem.

If there is too much water, the plant habitually continues to accumulate it, but the growth rate is too low to use up this moisture. Cracks appear on the stem, and this is a direct pathway to the development of rot. Cactus roots, used to regular “drying out”, suffer from the lack of the usual amount of oxygen and begin to die off. Only if without prolonged watering they wither – the plant drops the ballast that requires nutrition in a difficult period, in this case they just rot.

Insufficient watering

A complete lack of irrigation does not have a positive effect either. Yes, in deserts it sometimes does not rain for months on end, and you can easily leave it for the vacation period. But even a cactus runs out of water in the stem sooner or later. The stem gradually shrinks, until some time it is normal, but the green body just needs a break.

Tip: Allow the soil to dry completely and spend a couple of days without water. Set the watering can aside if you see that the soil is still wet. The easiest way to tell when it’s time to water a cactus is by the weight of the pot or visually by the slightly reduced size of the stem.

Tips for watering cacti

Summer and winter

All plants have a dormancy period, only we are not always aware of it. Cyclamen or gloxinias are easy to spot when they are dormant because they shed their leaves. Other plants simply take a break from flowering. Cacti are no exception: From November to March, when the day gets short, their metabolic rate is reduced to a minimum. During this resting phase it is best to not water most species at all and if possible reduce the temperature to around 13 to 15 degrees. Otherwise, you run the risk of encountering the same problems that excessive watering causes. Also, unrested cacti are unlikely to find the strength to bloom.

In summer, however, watering during the midday heat is particularly dangerous: the pots get hot in the sun and the humid environment can simply boil the roots. So it’s best to replenish the plants in the evening when the heat wave has passed.