How to grow and care for indoor cacti (2023)


Cacti need four to six hours of bright sunlight daily. However, some species of desert and forest cacti can burn in direct sunlight. Place your cactus near a sunny window and choose a location that receives bright filtered light in the summer and direct light (such as a south or west facing window) in the winter. You can take your cactus outside in the summer for proper light needs, but only do this when nighttime temperatures rise to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.


Desert cacti grow best in a fast-draining soil mix formulated specifically for cacti. They also grow well in regular pots supplemented with sand, pebbles or perlite to improve drainage and aeration. Woodland cacti also like well-draining soil, but can often grow well in regular pots.


During the spring and summer when your cactus is actively growing and flowering, give it a good drink every ten days to keep the water draining. During the hibernation period, reduce watering to once every four weeks (and every six weeks for some desert species). Soil should be dry to the touch between waterings in summer and mostly dry in winter.

(Video) INDOOR CACTUS CARE / JoyUsGarden

temperature and humidity

Cactus prefers warm temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, the plant prefers a cool down period with temperatures around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In its natural habitat, the desert cactus is used to very cold nights and some species can even survive nights that drop to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. However, any houseplant that has not hardened should be protected from winter drafts. Cactus prefers a humidity level of 40 to 60 percent, which is fairly easy to achieve in most homes. Forest cacti like the air a little more humid than desert varieties. So if you see your succulent wilting, spray it occasionally.


The cactus can survive some of the harshest conditions on Earth. Fertilization tests are welcome but not required. Some gardeners get poor results with standard houseplant fertilizers (probably due to the wrong nutrient ratio), so look for a special organic cactus fertilizer that contains more phosphorus than nitrogen. Fertilize your cactus two to three times a year, during the growing season only, and follow the manufacturer's recommended amounts. Reduce or eliminate fertilizers in winter.

Types of indoor cacti

Several types of cacti—from those with traditional spikes to those that look like other succulents—are suitable for growing indoors. Some popular types to grow indoors are:

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The rabbit ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is native to northern Mexico and has stem-like pads that resemble rabbit ears. This variety needs to be handled with care, as the pads contain yellow glochidia (pointed bristles) that look like cotton but contain several spines. The Bunny Ears cactus has white flowers and can grow two to three feet tall. One of the most popular varieties of houseplant, the Old Lady Cactus (Mammillaria Hahniana) resembles a pincushion, complete with hair and lots of thorns. This strain is round in shape with attractive purple flowers and can grow up to four inches tall and eight inches wide. The Easter Cactus (Rhipsalideae gaertneri) is a woodland cactus with segmented, thornless stems and bright, star-shaped flowers in white, red, and pink. It is one of the easiest cacti to grow indoors and best for beginners. The star cactus (Astrophytum asterias), also known as the sand dollar cactus or sea urchin cactus, is a star-shaped mound and produces yellow flowers. This small variety grows to one to two centimeters in height with two to six centimeters in diameter and is often found in indoor terrarium gardens.


In general, a cactus doesn't need much pruning unless you're trying to control its growth. However, dead or damaged parts can be removed with clean, sharp pruning shears. Gardeners usually only prune their cacti to remove new seedlings (or pups) to propagate new plants. Always wear protective gardening gloves to avoid injury.

Indoor cacti propagation

When your cactus produces offshoots (or pups), you can use them to propagate other plants. Most pups grow at the base of the plant, sharing nutrients and water from the mother plant, while others form along the trunk or on pads. Harvesting and propagating the pups will help keep the mother plant healthy, as well as allow the plant to reproduce. How to Propagate Cactus from Cuttings: Your new cactus should develop strong roots in four to six weeks.

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How to grow indoor cacti from seeds

Desert and forest cacti can be grown from seed, but patience is needed. In addition, you need to purchase cactus seeds, which can only be collected from the plant when it blooms. Some cacti may never flower indoors, so buying packaged seeds from a nursery may be your only option. Most cactus seeds need to be stratified before planting (making them think they've seen winter). To do this, soak the seeds in moistened peat moss and refrigerate until they burst (about four to six weeks). After the layering phase, prepare a pot with cactus soil and plant the seeds as deep as they are wide. Water them lightly, cover the pot with plastic, and place them in a bright spot out of direct sunlight. Most cacti will germinate in about three weeks, and you can remove the plastic cover during the day. In about six months, the seedlings should be ready for their own pots.

Pot and repot the cactus

Cacti are slow growing plants that rarely need to be repotted. In fact, many types of cactus flower best when lightly rooted. Cacti should only be replanted early in the growing season if they need fresh soil or are suffering from rot. To do this, first put on a pair of protective gloves. Then remove the plant from its current pot with a clean trowel to loosen the roots. Fill the bottom of a terracotta or clay pot with a quick-draining cactus soil mix. Add your plant, filling the sides making sure to cover the roots and watering lightly.


An indoor cactus needs extra care during the winter, but that usually means less attention, not more. First, make sure you place your cactus in the sunniest window. Because the winter sun is low in the sky, your cactus can thrive without burning. Then stop fertilizing during this dormancy period and reduce watering to no more than once a month.


Common pests and diseases

All types of cacti can suffer from mealybug, scale, mosquito and mite infestations. Symptoms include wilting leaves, a mold-like coating, and the appearance of beetles on stems or in the soil. In most cases, you can gently wash off the pests with a spray from a sink hose or cotton swabs. Most crop pests have become resistant to insecticides, and using chemical insecticides indoors should be your last resort. Overwatered cacti can suffer from fungal rot, which looks like sunken, dark spots on the stem that eventually become mushy. Bacterial rot can also cause your cactus to ooze a black liquid. If any of these conditions occur, remove the affected areas of the plant and treat with a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution.

How to make indoor cacti bloom

A flowering cactus or succulent is a delight, as most do not bloom indoors. To aid the process, you need to recreate the cactus' natural habitat, which requires warm daytime temperatures and cool nighttime temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If the indoor ambient temperature is warmer, you may need to move your plant to a garage or basement at night (which most home gardeners wouldn't do). To flourish, cacti also need at least four to six hours of sun and just the right amount of water (but not too much!). Perhaps the most important factor for flowers is allowing your cactus to experience a dormant period where sunlight and water are reduced. During this time, some forest cacti bloom (such as the Christmas cactus).

Common problems with indoor cacti

The most common mistake cactus gardeners make is overwatering in the winter. This can cause rot at the base of the plant or at the top, where new growth will appear. When the rot is advanced, it may be necessary to start a new plant from cuttings or discard the entire mother plant. Using non-organic fertilizers can also harm your cactus, as most chemical fertilizers contain heavy metals that will eventually poison the plant. And because cacti don't have protective bark or leaves, physical injuries that cause swelling that leads to infection are common. To avoid this, make sure you keep your plant healthy so it gets excited before it becomes infected.

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How do you take care of a cactus plant indoors? ›

Cacti and succulents thrive with good light sources, and it is best to place cacti and succulents in a bright place. A south facing position will provide good sunlight. However, be careful to not put them in direct sunlight because the intense light can make the plants turn a yellow colour.

How often do you water indoor cactus? ›

Water your cactus only when the soil is completely dry. During the warmer seasons, this could be every 10 to 14 days. Cacti will go dormant starting in the fall and until the end of winter. During their dormancy period, they need less watering, when the soil is completely dry.

Do cacti like to be misted? ›

No, it's never a good idea to spray a cactus with water. They have very low humidity needs, and moisture left sitting on them can cause rot and other diseases.

Where is the best place to put a cactus in the house? ›

Cactus can be grown indoors as long as you place them in a spot where they receive at least 4 to 6 hours of daily sunlight. We recommend putting them in your brightest windowsill, which is often a southeast-facing window and rotating them every day to ensure they are etiolated.

How do I know if my cactus needs water? ›

It's not difficult to check if the soil is dry. The easiest way is to simply stick your finger in the pot. Make sure you go down at least two inches (often times the surface can be dry when the dirt underneath isn't). If it feels wet, damp, or even a little colder than the surface – don't water.

Why is my indoor cactus dying? ›

What causes a cactus to die? Overwatering is the number one cause of cactus death, especially for potted plants. A consistently overwatered cactus plant will starting rotting at the roots, and eventually work its way from the bottom of the cactus up. Signs of overwatering cactus plants are difficult to spot though.

Should you water a cactus with tap water? ›

The best time to water is in the morning. Use rainwater, distilled water, or filtered water if possible to avoid mineral deposit. If you use tap water, leave it out overnight to allow some of the treated chemicals to dissipate into the air.

Can cactus be watered with tap water? ›

Tap water is safe to use, but rainwater and distilled water are better due to their lack of minerals. You can also use a planting tray or even a plastic container. A planting tray comes in handy for watering multiple cacti at once.

How long do indoor cactus live? ›

In the wild cacti can live for hundreds of years. Indoors they may survive for 10 years or more. The trouble with old ones is that every single knock, scratch or blemish they get stays with them, so they tend to look less appealing as they get older.

Do cactus like deep or shallow pots? ›

Most cacti have shallow roots and grow slowly, so choose a shallow container. You don't need a deep pot or a very large one.

Do cactus like coffee grounds? ›

Symptoms of lack of nutrients

Older Christmas cactus plants in particular are very sensitive to this — the leaves may die. You can counteract this with coffee grounds as fertilizer. If the pH value of your soil is too high, you can also achieve a balancing effect with coffee grounds.

Where should you not put a cactus? ›

As sharp objects, they look like thousands of tiny arrows that shoot directed energy into the surrounding space. That is why cactuses should never be placed in a living room, bedroom or the front entrance.

What are the disadvantages of cactus plant? ›

It is believed that the prickly and sharp thorns on the leaves carry negative energies within them. Keeping a cactus at home can bring misfortunes and also cause stress and anxiety within the family, as per vastu.

What are the benefits of having cactus in the house? ›

The plant helps cleans the air and improves breathing. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by all plants, including the cactus, and converted into breathing oxygen. Furthermore, the cactus removes pollutants from the interior air, assisting in improving indoor air quality.

Do you water cactus from the top or bottom? ›

  1. Fill the plant tray with water.
  2. Make sure the soil is in contact with the water on the tray.
  3. Wait for about 10 minutes.
  4. Feel the soil to see if it absorbed enough water —> if the soil is moist throughout, remove any excess water from the tray.
  5. If it's still dry —> add more water to the tray.

Can cactus live indoors without sunlight? ›

Unfortunately, cacti cannot survive without sunlight, much less thrive. They need a regular, daily source of light in order to remain healthy and grow. There are many different types of cacti, and some may do well using only an artificial light, so it's important to do your research before bringing one home.

What is the best way to water cactus? ›

In general, a slow, deep watering is sufficient once per week. This may translate to soaking a container until moisture runs out the drainage holes or using a garden hose set low to steadily drip water to the root zone of the plant for several hours.

What do cactus need to survive? ›

Always read the plant tags for specific details, but for the most part, cacti thrive in full sun and fast-draining soil. Indoors, this means growing near a south- or west-facing window. You can move indoor cactus plants outdoors during the summer when nighttime temperatures are at least 65 degrees F.


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