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Cactus or Cacti Plants, How To Grow And Care For Yours

Updated on February 4, 2011

Catci Basics

Succulent plants plants that are adapted to arid climates, poor soil, and retain their water supply. They can store water in their leaves, roots and stems. The storage of water often gives succulent plants a more swollen or fleshy appearance than other plants, a characteristic known as succulence.

All cacti are succulent plants. Not all succulent plants are a cactus. Native to the Americas, the cacti are members of the Cactaceae family.

Cacti thrive in diverse regions, from coastal plains to high mountain areas, and from the sub-tropics to the deserts. Having a few cactus plants in your yard or garden is not impossible, but they will require a little more attention in some wet areas.

With over 2500 species, in a variety of sizes and shapes, producing fruit and colorful blooms, you are certain to find one or two that are worthy of your admiration.

The following tips and suggestions apply to those of a desert variety.


Getting The Cactus

Most home improvement or gardening supply centers will have a small selection of small plants. If you are unable to find something suitable nearby, you can purchase seed, or a cutting from another plant.

More on taking a cutting can be found here:

One source on cacti seed online:


Getting The Soil Ready

Desert cacti prefer a nutrient rich, rocky soil with good drainage. These are pear-lite, pumice, potting soil, rocks, sand, peat, and gravel. Your mixture should consist of 60% pumice, 20% peat 20% topsoil. The pumice can be replaced with pear-lite or vermiculite and the peat, replaced with coir. Coir is the fiber or hair from coconut. Peat tends to be rather hard to re-wet and can make your mix impenetrable to water.

Some people use earthworm castings for extra nutrients. Bone-meal is acceptable , so are other light commercial fertilizers.

Cacti will deplete the soil, and often need to be re-potted after 2-3 years. This need makes them well suited to container gardens.

Water And Sun

A good rule of thumb is to water it once a week. In extremely dry conditions, it may need water twice in a week, or only every other week, if there is rainfall.

Stick your finger in the top 1/2 inch of soil. If the soil is dry, go ahead and water. If it's not, wait! . If the stem segments are shriveled and the soil is dry, it is probably in need of water. Over watering can cause the same symptoms. Touch the soil to be sure.

A drowning cacti plant will start to turn yellowish, and become mushy, and rot. This usually happens from the ends first. This rotting will continue even if you stop watering .

( Overwatering the cacti with the garden hose can get a little girl in trouble with her Grandmother.)

Desert Cacti require lots of sunshine.

They are hearty plants requiring little care.

Their blooms will be worth the attention you gave to get them off to a good start.

Interesting Tidbits

The Saguaro Cactus is the official state flower of Arizona. It is also protect by state law as a native plant.  It is listed as Carnegiea Gigantea, under the Cactaceae Cactus Family.  Arizona rates it as highly safeguarded.

Cactus Foods

Cacti In Medicine

Ranchers have turned to cactus to sustain their livestock during droughts.

Studies have shown that the eating ofthe prickly pear pad has been helpful in combating diabetes, aiding in the production of insulin.

It has been found to lower cholesterol levels.

Traditional Mexican healers use the juice of the prickly pear to treat urinary tract infections and relieve inflammation.


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    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      Jackie Lynnley,

      It is ironically funny, that if I plan, and design,

      an array of houseplants, they will die.

      However, if I randomly throw some seeds, out the door,

      a garden appears!

      For me, I now have small flower gardens near the front door and walkway.

      Keep day the " light bulb " will come

      on and you will have mastered it~~

      Thanks for reading my hub!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      My last cactus dies as I speak, I am horrible with them. Thanks for the cutting link, I will just go that way from now on and save money. Get a pinch of everyone elses. Good hub. Thanks for the info.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      Seeker 7,

      Thanks for reading and the vote of confidence.

      My Grandmother, would make a planter out of just

      about anything. Boots, porcelain pots, wagons etc.

      She kept a variety of cacti in an old dishpan, in the kitchen.

      Good luck with your plants!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      It maybe strange, coming from Scotland, but I love Cacti! I can't have them outdoors as it's too cold for them, but I'm thinking about getting a few smaller ones for indoors as I miss the one that I used to have - I had it for about 23 years.

      I really enjoyed this very interesting hub about one of my favourite plants. Many thanks for sharing. Voted up + awesome!

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      Truckstop Sally.......

      My good wishes are with you!!!!

      Thanks so much for reading my hub.

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 6 years ago

      Thanks for your hub! I love succulents. I needed to cut back a few. I am 50-50 for plants that seem to be thriving and those that are suffering. Keeping my fingers crossed I can pull "em thru!

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Gypsy Willow....

      The weather is really acting up across

      the entire country!

      When you have a variety or an assortment,

      it is easy to see the uniqueness among


      Thanks for coming by ~~

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Thanks for the tips. I have just started growing them in California, sadly some of them succumbed to a severe unusual frost this year. I love the weird shapes.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      Thanks for coming by.

      I do hope you found something

      useful. Do you grow cactus

      plants already?

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      Hi There!

      My Grandmother kept them in her garden also. But,

      I never appreciated them until I began living in

      the west, New Mexico and Arizona. People make some

      creative landscapes using cacti. I stored away several


    • katrinasui profile image

      katrinasui 7 years ago

      I love Cactus Plants. Thanks for your tips they are certainly very useful.

    • giselle2323 profile image

      giselle2323 7 years ago from Peterborough, Ontario

      Hello Lovely Lady. Great hub! I love cactus plants. We used to have quite a few when I was growing up. I found even with there sharp points the plants have a peaceful presence to them. Thank you for sharing!

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      When I lived in Gila Bend, the desert floor and near the Mexican border, I met a woman, both of Mexican and Indian hertiage, who taught me a lot about

      the desert, and the prickly pear. It makes a great jam.

      I have sent it 'home' as a gift.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my hub...

      You are welcome here.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      I truly understand growing older and lazy!!!!

      Don't tell, ok?

    • naturegirl7 profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 7 years ago from South Louisiana

      I enjoyed growing cactus plants when I was younger. Now the only one we have is Prickly Pear. It's very humid here in the deep south, but Prickly Pear is care free.

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Great hub, I used to grow cactus and other house plants but the older I got the lazier I got about having them. I always thought the ones that flower are the coolest. Peace!! Tom