Cacti - what are they and where did they come from?
Cacti are very characteristic plants which differ from typical houseplants - not only by their interesting looks, but also properties. They are called stem succulents, which refers to the fact that they accumulate water in their stems. Thanks to this, they can survive for a long time without watering.
According to the available information - cacti appeared first in Venezuela and Colombia. For a long time, most species grew in desert and mountainous regions. Along with time, the popularity of cacti increased - mostly because of their low requirements. Currently, one can find them all over the world.
How to take care of a cactus?
Although a potted cactus doesn’t need a complicated care, one has to provide the basic conditions to it for a proper growth. The soil is one of the most important issues, in this case. We recommend buying a special cactus soil mix - you can get it in any gardening shop. Such product has the following characteristics:
- high humus content,
- high permeability,
- acidity of pH 6.
The amount of light is another crucial issue contributing to the proper growth of a cactus plant. Admittedly, some types of cactus that can grow in low temperatures and shade. But most potted cacti prefer neutral conditions.
A potted cactus plant doesn’t like repotting, so don’t do it too frequently. Interestingly enough, these plants like tighter containers, so even if they seem too small, you should wait before changing them.
Cactus care includes what you do with the plant when it hibernates. During this time, don’t water it. Why? Because it might make it rot. Fortunately, this period is not too long - it begins at the end of autumn and ends in early spring.
Cactus care - what is the correct temperature?
Potted cacti aren’t too fastidious as for the temperature of their environment. While you shouldn’t overheat the interiors they grow in, it also affects your well-being. The optimal room temperature in a house or apartment is 21-22°C (70-71°F).
The only exception, when it comes to temperature, is the resting period of a cactus plant. Some types of cacti need special storing conditions, and they have to be kept in a room where the temperature doesn’t exceed 15°C.
Cactus watering - how to water a potted cactus plant?
Indoor cacti don’t need frequent watering - sometimes it’s once in a few weeks, depending on the conditions at home and the type of the cactus you decide on. It’s important to do it once the soil in the pot is completely dry. That’s what you water the cactus plant thoroughly. We don’t recommend pouring the water directly over the soil. It’s better to pour it to the saucer, and the plant will absorb the liquid.
Is an indoor cactus a popular choice?
Potted cacti have been among the most commonly picked houseplants. Their popularity results from the fact that they don’t have to be watered too often. This makes them perfect plants for absent-minded, busy and young people. Taking care of a cactus is not difficult, either, and you have to fertilize them just once a month - so it doesn’t take a lot of investment.
You might observe a trend of giving a potted cactus as a housewarming gift. Even if the house owner isn’t fond of plants, cacti are an exception.
These aren’t all the reasons why cacti are so popular. The great variety of indoor cactus types is another significant factor. There are so many curious types of cacti, that even the pickiest plant aficionados should find something that will satisfy their taste. The most interesting cacti make perfect interior design elements, enhancing the aesthetics.
Types of cacti - the most popular varieties
Potted cacti are quite a numerous group of different plants that differ in their looks. Some are truly beautiful, some quite unusual. One thing is certain - all are impressive, whether huge or tiny. Take a look at the most popular types of cactus plants.
Old Man Cactus - Cefalocereus
Cefalocereus is better known by its common name - Old Man Cactus. This name is not accidental and directly reflects the looks of the plant. The top of the plant is covered with white, thick growth resembling grey hair of an old person.
This type of cacti originates in Mexico, and although really tall in the wild (they reach over a dozen of meters), in domestic conditions they grow no larger than 1 meter.
An Old Man Cactus needs a bright, sunny spot and temperature around 21-23ºC (70-73ºF). Just like other potted cacti, Cefalocereus shouldn’t be watered too often, while watering must stop during the resting period.
Rat’s Tail cactus - Aporocactus Mallisonii
Rat’s Tail cactus is also known as whip cactus - the scientific name is Aporocactus Mallisonii. It’s undeniably one of the most interesting types, truly unique-looking. Its stems are long, thin and dangle down. Beautiful red flowers appear in between.
The stems of this type of cactus may reach even 120 cm in length. You just need to provide the right conditions to the plant and place it on a high stand to prevent breaking. Interestingly enough, just like other types of cacti, this variety loves sunny spots as well. Nonetheless, don’t place it on a windowsill, as the plant prefers indirect light to full sun.
Holiday cactus - Christmas cactus
Christmas cactus is also known as holiday cactus or Thanksgiving cactus. Its scientific name is Schlumbergera trunctata. It’s often confused with Easter cactus. While the plants are similar, their flowers look different.
Interestingly enough, Christmas cactus has a few varieties. They differ by the flowers colors. One can find holiday cacti with the following colors of flowers:
- red (different shades),
- double colored.
Christmas cactus isn’t characterized by extensive growth. For this reason, it’s a perfect option for those who are looking for small potted plants. The stems don’t grow longer than 30 cm - even if the plant is old.
African milk tree - Euphorbia trigona
African milk tree, also known by the technical name Euphorbia trigona is a fascinating potted cactus. It has a distinct stem build, different from other plants from this group - the stems are tall and resemble a triangle. What’s more, this indoor cactus grows really fast.
African milk tree, apart from its interesting looks, also has different colors. Varieties with purple colored stems look particularly appealing.
Potted cacti like African milk tree have to be handled with care. If a stem gets damaged, liquid will drip out of the plant. It’s called milk and although looking harmless, it’s very dangerous - it might cause serious poisoning.
Mother-in-law’s cushion or golden barrel cactus - Echinocactus grusonii
Golden barrel cactus, bearing the scientific name Echinocactus grusonii, as well as the less technical - mother-in-law’s cushion - is a very characteristic representative of the species. Just by looking at it, you might immediately recognize it’s a cactus. As a big advantage, this type of plant doesn’t grow larger than 100 cm.
Golden barrel cactus as a potted cactus likes very sunny spots and high temperatures. Even 25-26°C is not a problem for it - of course, except from the resting period, when it should be kept in 14-17°C (57.2-62.6°F).
This type of indoor cacti tend to bloom quickly. If provided with good conditions and not overwatered, it will develop yellow cactus flowers.
Bishop’s cap cactus - Astrophytum myriostigma
Bishop’s cap cactus is known by the science as Astrophytum myriostigma. It’s one of the most interesting potted cacti. As an interesting fact, it grows perfectly indoors, as well as outdoors - in cold climates, too. It can endure very high and low temperatures.
What are the origins of its name? It’s thanks to the way the upper part is folded. Unlike other types of cacti, it needs intense watering during the growth period, which might cause rot in other cacti.
📍 How to take care of a cactus plant?
Cactus care isn't very challenging. Make sure to provide a good soil and a bright spot to the plant. The plants don't need frequent watering, and when they rest - they shouldn't be watered at all.
📍 How to water a cactus?
You should water a cactus only when the soil is dry. Don't pour water into the pot, but in the saucer. This way, the cactus takes as much water as needed.
📍 Cactus care - how to do it?
When taking care of a cactus plant, make sure to put it in the right spot with proper temperature. You can feed it once in a while using a special product. Make sure not to repot it too often, as many types of cactus plants don't like it.