Growing a cactus can be hard, as catci are fickle plants. There are many things that you can do wrong when caring for your cactus that will cause it to become less healthy or die. However, if you follow a few simple guidelines, you’ll be surprised at how fast your cactus grows, and it can be very rewarding to watch that four inch clipping turn into a foot tall cactus.
Soil: One of the most important aspects of growing cacti is the soil you plant them in, cacti need a lot of nutrients from their soil to remain healthy, but since they come from desert environments normally, the soil is different than potting soil you’d use for flowers or other plants. Cacti like to have nutrient rich but rocky soil, using things like rocks, pumice, sand, peat, pearlite, potting soil, coir, and gravel. Various mixes can work, but a mix should include about 20% topsoil or potting soil, 20% some kind of nutrient rich material such as coir, and the rest should be something bigger and rockier so that water can drain easily and the mixture can be airy. For this 60% gravel, pumice, pearlite, and even sand work wonderfully.
Water: One of the main ways people kill cacti is through over watering. Cacti come from the desert or sometimes from the jungles. A lot of times, cacti grow in environments where water is scarce for long periods of time, and they have adapted to grow like this. If you water your cactus every day, it will die. Cacti need to be watered about once every two weeks for best growth. It seems like that is not enough, but it is more than enough, cacti are made to suck up every bit of moisture and use it for a long time. An overwatered cactus quickly rots. The other aspect of watering a cactus is, when you do water it, don’t skimp! Cacti often grow in environments with infrequent but heavy rains. To recreate this, but your cactus under a water faucet and wait until there is a puddle in the bowl. Do this once every two weeks, and your cactus will flourish.
Light: Light is very important for a cactuses growth. Obviously cactuses often grow in very hot climates with a lot of direct sunlight. This is what they need when you’re growing them as well. Put them in an area where they can get hours of direct sunlight every day. A cactus has to be established, with a good root system before it is advisable to put them in the light all day, but once they do have a good root system, direct sunlight all day works great. Before they are established, if they are just new clippings, very new, or very small, give them about half a day of sunlight until they grow a good root system.
With these three things in mind, your cacti will grow quickly, and will be healthy for many many years. There are different fertilizers made for cacti, and sometimes these help, but never overdo it. These should be given to a cactus only during the summer months, and never very often. If you don’t want to use a fertilizer, you don’t have to. A lot of times non-fertilized cacti will grow a little slower, but the new growth will be healthier and look better. Most important to any healthy cactus are these three things: the soil, the lighting, and the water.