The ultimate guide to becoming a world-class cactus parent

No one will recognise you with that new green thumb you're about to be sporting
The ultimate guide to becoming a world-class cactus parent

Please join us in a moment of silence for all the houseplants we’ve collectively killed this year.

Let’s be honest: Cacti really aren’t easy to care for, and our collective graveyard of succulents should be evidence enough.

Known as the low-maintenance houseplant, this spiky species is native to desert environments, i.e. everything your home is not. In fact, cacti often struggle to acclimatise to cushy conditions, and thrive in harsher, drier, and sunnier settings. They will just drop dead if you water them one too many times.

So, for all the confused cacti carers or apprehensive potential plant parents out there, we've figured out everything you need to know to make sure your little desert baby is alive and thriving. You're welcome.

When in doubt, let the water run out

Wet roots and soil are truly the kryptonite of cacti. These perennials do better in pots with plenty of drainage holes. Make sure you always drain standing water from the saucer; this makes your plant less susceptible to root rot, damage, and most importantly, death from overwatering.

The only thing they bathe in is the sun

No excuses for plant parents here! The Middle Eastern sun is a dream for cacti, as strong and consistent sunlight exposure is a must for their survival. You should rotate your plant frequently to ensure equal amounts of sun hit each side, otherwise your cactus will begin to lean. It is also suggested to move it away from direct light to allow it to rest and go dormant in the winter.

Rocky situation

Dense soil holds too much water, which can result in root rot. Cacti prefer a rocky, nutrient-rich soil. Make sure to include nutrients such as coconut coir, peat moss, pumice, or vermiculite to allow for a good combination of soil aeration and drainage.

Put down that watering can

This desert dweller hates water – shocking, we know. Rather fortunately, it won’t struggle if you forget to water it once or twice. In fact, it can go three to four weeks without water during autumn/winter time. During spring and summer, ensure you water your succulent once a week in the evening, and when you do, try to mimic the torrential rains cacti experience in their natural habitat. Water with lukewarm water until it saturates the soil and flows through the pot’s drainage holes. Remember: always make sure the column of the plant is dry.

How can you tell if they’re underwatered or overwatered?

During growing season, your cactus should look nice and plump - if it doesn't, chances are it just needs more water. It's normal for cacti to reduce in size during the winter.

Overwatering has two consequences for the humble cactus. It may burst at the seams (though this doesn't necessarily mean the end is in sight as they can heal over time) or its roots could rot (which unfortunately is difficult to combat once it's happened).

How to spot a struggling succulent

Dying cacti often become unstable in their soil and appear to lean to one side – but let’s be honest, we already knew this from all the cacti we’ve killed.

Photos: Instagram and Unsplash