Cactus Care Guide & Types For Sale

Cactus Care Guide

Regardless if you’re looking to buy your first cactus or your 50th cactus, you might still be looking to understand the types of Cactus that are available and how to care for them properly. 

Type of Cactus Available for Sale

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of caring for and looking at what Cactus is for sale, we need some scientific terms out of the way with. 

Cacti all belong to a specific family of plants, however, the species contained within this family may come from diverse climates, habitats, and locations. 

Cacti don’t just come from the desert, although the Ferocactus genus does.  Many genus originates from the grassy plains of South America, the mountain regions of the Andes or from the Jungles. 

It’s this diversity that makes Cacti such a fun and interesting plant to take care of. 

You might be wondering at this point why you need to know all of this stuff? Simply, the more you know about your cactus, where it originates from and what genus it’s a part of, the easier it’ll be to replicate its ideal environment and make sure it thrives. 

If you’re so inclined, you might even want to consider joining a local succulent and cacti club.  If that isn’t something you’re interested in, then read on and we’ll cover as much as we can in this article. 

How Often To Water Cactus

One of the biggest selling points of a cactus is that it’s a relatively low maintenance houseplant. 

They are for the most part hardy, resilient and easy to care for. 

The biggest challenge might be knowing when to water them and how much to water then.  It’s easy to overindulge them with the watering can, which can lead to issues such as rot. 

So, how often should you water a cactus? As a rule of thumb, most cactus genus should only be watered once their soil has completely dried out. 

Try to avoid adhering to a watering schedule, instead of closely monitor the conditions of the plant and its soil. Feeling the soil with a finger is an easy, inexpensive way of knowing when the cactus might need to be watered. 

There are various factors that influence how often a cactus will need to be watered, including: 

  • Size of the Cactus
  • How much Soil it is in
  • Temperatures of the surroundings
  • How much humidity is in the air
  • What season it is

All Cactus belong to the succulent family and are generally well adapted to storing water in their stems and root systems, which is a trait evolved over time to allow them to thrive even in drought conditions. 

Each genus of cactus will have unique water requirements, but you can use some generalizations and methods to gauge when the optimal time to water your cactus is. 

Cacti will tend to flourish if they are thoroughly water and then left until their soil has completely dried out before watering them again.  This type of watering will most often mimic the water cycle from their natural habitat. 

There are of course many factors that will influence the speed at which the Cactus soil will dry out, which will in turn impact how often you should be watering them. 

To help you better understand the watering requirements of a cactus, we’ve put together 9 helpful tips below.

1. Size Of The Cactus

Logically it would seem to make sense that larger cactus would need to be watered more often.  However, the opposite is often true. Smaller and younger Cacti will have a higher growth rate compared to bigger Cacti.

This growth rate will directly impact how often they need to be watered and how quickly they will consume the water they already have. 

Additionally, larger cacti will have a smaller surface area when compared to volume, which directly impacts evaporation rates. 

In the real world, this means that a larger cactus will need larger volumes of water less frequently.  While smaller and younger Cacti will need less water but more frequently.  

You’ll need to keep a close eye on small cacti that are growing quickly to ensure they have optimal growth conditions. This is especially true if they are planted in very small pots as is often the case with small Cacti.

2. How Pot Size Cactus Water Requirements

This one is dead easy to get your head around.

The bigger the pot, the more soil or potting medium it’ll contain, which means the more water it can absorb.  

The more water that is present will mean the longer it’ll take for the cactus to use it all, or for it to evaporate. 

Just like with large cacti, a large pot will also have a smaller surface area compared to its volume.

This means in practical terms that the same sized cactus in a larger pot will need to be watered less frequently compared to the same cactus in a small pot.  

The difference can be quite substantial. A big pot may only need to be watered every 6 weeks, while a small pot may need to be watered at least once a week.

However, having said all of that, we would advise against putting a Cactus into a large pot.

Most cacti will flourish in small pots, and they don’t do well when they sit in constantly wet soil.

A Cactus that sits in wet soil for 4 weeks at a time is at a much greater risk of root rot.

I would suggest planting your cacti into a pot that is just big enough and no more, even if that means you’ll need to water them more often. 

3. Pot Type and Drainage

As we’ve already alluded to in the article, one of the best ways to see your Cacti watering needs is to provide plenty of water and then allowing the potting media to dry out. 

To that end, different types of pots and potting media can help or hinder this process. 

Plastic pots will tend to act as very efficient water traps, keeping the media wet and increasing the time it takes for the potting media to dry out. This not ideal.

Terracotta pots, on the other hand, are naturally porous, allowing excess water to seep through the sides and bottom of the pot.  These properties work in our favor and make it a great choice for your cactus.

Whatever pot material you have to hand, making sure it has drainage holes is a must.

Drainage holes allow excess water to drain quickly, which goes a long way to preventing issues with overwatering.  

Attempting to grow a cactus in a nonporous container that doesn’t have drainage holes is likely to lead to disaster sooner rather than later. 

Unless you’re incredibly careful and meticulous you will suffer from stem and root rot. 

4. Potting Media

To make your life much easier I would advise using a for purpose commercial cacti media.  These allow the soil to drain quickly and dry out.

If you’d rather go down the DIY route, then a mixture of coarse sand, soil and perlite will also work.

Both of these options will ensure any excess water drains away and the soil can dry in a timely manner.  The downside is you’ll need to water your Cactus fairly regularly. However, your Cactus will be much healthier. 

5. Temperatures and Airflow

The warmer the temperature, the faster any water will evaporate from both the potting media and from the Cacti itself. 

Warmer temperatures will also mean your Cacti will grow faster in most circumstances, and will, therefore, use more water to fuel this growth. 

So it should come as no surprise that during the warmer months you may need to water your Cacti more often.  Keep a close eye on moisture levels and increase or decrease watering as required. 

Once winter sets in and the weather begin to cool down, your Cacti growth will slow, as well as any naturally occurring evaporation.  During these periods, you may find you may only need to water a cactus every 8 weeks. 

It’s better to err on the side of caution if you’re at all unsure.  A cactus will tolerate a dry period quite well, however, they tend to suffer if things are too wet.  

In addition to heat, airflow will greatly expedite evaporation rates.  This might not be a problem if your Cacti are indoors, but if you plan on moving them outdoors during the summer months, you’ll probably find they dry out much faster. 

6. Humidity and Water Evaporation

The dryer the environment, the faster water evaporation will occur.  This is due to the water capacity of the surrounding air.

Air with high water content will be less able to take up more water and evaporation will be slower.  Dry arid air will have low water content and will allow evaporation to happen much faster. 

If you keep an eye on humidity levels you’ll be able to anticipate your Cacti watering needs much better.

Cacti tend to do better in dryer climates, but they can do well in more humid locations, as long as you keep a careful eye on the soil moisture levels. 

7. Lighting

Natural sunlight will cause evaporation to happen much more rapidly and will cause your Cacti soil to dry out that much faster. 

As such, a Cactus placed in a south-facing window will need more watering compared to a cooler north-facing window.

8. Genus or Species of Cactus

Cacti contain a range of genus, with each type having a range of requirements, including how much water they like.

If you want your Cacti to flourish, you should really consider it’s specific requirements and adjust your watering as required. 

9. Seasonal Impact on Watering

At the height of summer, Cacti are in their optimal growth phase, and will, therefore, require more water.

As summer makes way for winter, you can expect to cut the watering requirements by 50% or more, depending on how cold your local climate is. 

How to Spot Dry Cactus Potting Soil

If you’ve read this far, you’ll already know that most Cacti need to be allowed to completely dry out between each watering. 

So, how do you quickly and easily check the soil for moisture while avoiding all those spines? 

You have a range of options.  The best option might depend on the size of the Cactus and / or pot. 

  • Stick a finger into the bottom of the pot drainage hole to check for moisture.
  • Use a think wooden dowel or stick by pushing it into the potting mixture, leave it for a minute and then pull it out.  If it appears to be wet then you need to wait longer.
  • Carefully poke a finger into the top couple of inches of the potting mixture, if it feels damp or if the soil sticks to your fingers then you’ll need to wait longer. 

How Much Water to A Cactus

Once you’ve established that your Cactus needs to be watered, then you might be wondering how much you should be watering them.  

When it comes to watering, you’ll want to give them enough water so that the excess comes out of the bottom of the pot. Once it starts seeping out of the bottom stop as we don’t want to flush the nutrients out the soil.

If it’s growing season then you may want to use a cactus fertilizer to ensure optimal growth. There’s no reason to feed your Cacti during the winter / dormant months. 

In addition to restraining from providing Cacti feed during the winter months, it’s advisable to only water them just enough to prevent them from shrivelling up.

How To Tell If A Cactus Is Underwatered

A cactus that is underwatered will display several telltale signs which make diagnosis fairly straightforward.

  • The Cacti may begin to shrink or fold in on itself as its water reserves begin to be used up.
  • A Cactus may begin to turn brown in places or it’s normally bright green color may fade to a yellowish color. 
  • The Surface of the Cactus may begin to develop rough spots or callouses.

If you spot any of these symptoms, coupled with dry soil, then it’s likely your Cactus is suffering from chronic underwatering. 

The good news is that most of the signs are reversible.  A thorough watering will quickly rehydrate the Cactus and you should begin to see visible signs of improvement within 24 – 48 hours. 

A Cactus that has been underwatered will bounce back far more quickly than a Cactus that has been over watered. Which leads us nicely into the next section. 

How To Tell If A Cactus Is Overwatered

As with underwatering, overwatering a Cactus will cause several symptoms that should be easy to detect once you know what you’re looking for. 

Your Cactus may start to become soft and pucked.  This is a clear sign of the Cactus absorbing too much water.

As a Cactus absorbs too much water it’ll quite literally cause the plant cell walls to breakdown, which results in the spongy feeling. 

If you’re looking for more signs of overwatering, then take a look at the tells below:

  • The Cactus will begin to change color.  Normally to a dark brown or black. This may start at the base of the cactus and work its way up.
  • The Cactus will appear soft and may start weeping clear fluid. 
  • The Cactus may begin to become moldy or to start rotting. 

These symptoms are not necessarily exclusive to Cacti and are in fact true of many species suffering from overwatering or root rot. 

However, Cacti are especially susceptible to overwatering due to their delicate root system. 

Once root rot has set in, you might not see the signs for days or even weeks. Your Cacti may look perfectly healthy, but beneath the surface, there is something seriously wrong.  

Over time you may start to see the root rot spread up the plant resulting in the base of the Cacti turning black. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but an overwatered Cacti may show symptoms that are more closely aligned with underwatering.  This is due to the root system dying off resulting in the plant being able to transport water to where it’s needed, causing it to be dehydrated. 

How To Treat Cactus Root Rot

Root rot can be pretty devasting to your Cactus, but it’s not necessarily a disaster.

The first thing you’ll need to do is remove the cactus from its post and have a closer inspection of the roots.  

If the roots are black, brown and mushy to the touch, then you, unfortunately, have root rot. 

Check to see if there are any white roots remaining, if there are, then your Cactus can be saved.

If white roots are present then cut away the rest of the rotting roots, leaving only the white ones behind.  This may seem drastic but its the only way to save the Cactus.

Once you have a Cactus with only white roots remaining you can transplant it to a new pot with a quick-draining potting mix.  

Let the Cactus settle for around a week before attempting to water is again. 

Is Tap Water OK for Cacti

Depending on where you live in the world, you might find that your tap water is hard, which basically means it has a bunch of dissolved minerals in it.

Over time, these minerals will start to build up inside your kettle, washing machine, dishwasher, clothing iron, etc.  The same thing can happen to the soil of your plants.

This can have a detrimental impact on your Cactus, but how quickly this happens will depend on how hard your water is and how sturdy the Cactus type is.

One way to avoid this is by using rainwater to water your Cactus.  You can even dilute tap water with rainwater using a 50% / 50% mix.

If you live in a location with soft water, then this is something you don’t need to worry about.

Lighting Requirements for Cacti

As you would expect from a plant normally depicted in desert environments, most Cacti species like plenty of light.  However, not all species will do well when the sunlight is direct, intense and also hot.

Different species of Cacti are better suited to a particular environment, some preferring partial shade, while others thrive on hot dry sun. 

A Cacti that is getting its ideal conditions will look healthy and won’t show any signs of stress such as yellowing leaves or suboptimal growth. 

One way to tell if your Cactus is happy is if it flowers.  We should caveat this by saying that not all Cacti flowers annually, and some species take decades to reach full maturity, in which case you’re less than likely to see them flower at all. 

If in doubt, check our the care label for your particular cactus.  You can find this information under our Shop section and just look for the variety of cactus that you own or you’re thinking about buying.

To make things easier we’ve put together some signs to look for so that you can understand if your Cactus is getting too much or too little light.

Too Much Light

If your Cactus is getting too much light, or the light is too intense, it can begin to have a bleaching effect on the color.  Look out for parts of cactus turning yellow or orange. 

Just bear in mind that these color changes can also indicate other issues such as overwatering or disease. So, apply some common sense before taking drastic action. 

If there is a sudden heatwave or a radical change to how much direct light your Cactus is getting, you may find that your Cactus has been scorched.  

This process can happen very quickly and can lead to permanent damage that will remain as a scar or multiple scars for the rest of its life.

Be on the lookout for such conditions that may adversely impact your cactus and take necessary action to prevent them from being permanently damaged. 

Not Enough Light

One common side effect of a Cactus receiving too little is stretching or Etiolation.

A plant with a very pale color, long thin limbs or leaves as well as weak limbs is suffering from a serious lack of light (Etiolation) and may die if enough light is not supplied soon.

Lesser symptoms might manifest as stretching towards the light, a thinner than usual plant or a plant that’s leaning over to one side (towards a window). 

If transitioned into bright conditions that Cactus should make a speedy recovery.  Just be aware that these weakened plants may scorch faster if placed into bright sunlight. 

In many cases, it’s quite normal for a Cactus to begin to lean towards a light source.  This behavior can be combated by occasionally rotating the pot by 90 degrees. 

Best Pots and Potting Media for Cactus

As consumers we’re very much spoilt for choice when it comes to plants, there are so many types, styles, and sizes of pots available to us.

If you’re at all wondering what kind of pot is best for growing a Cactus, then read on, we’ve done the research and come up with some excellent suggestions based on what works.

Pot Materials

Most of the pots you find in your local garden center or online will be plastic or ceramic.  You can grow Cacti in either, and whether you choose one or the other will come down to your preferences and priorities. 

Plastic Pots

  • Cheap to buy usually only cost a few cents per pot
  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Can easily stack and take up much less room compared to ceramic pots with the same internal dimensions
  • Easy to clean and sterilize
  • Water will only drain out of bottom rather than the sides
  • Easy to repot a Cactus into a larger pot if required

Ceramic Ports

  • The increased weight of a ceramic pot creates a stable base for your Cactus
  • Ceramic pots tend to look nicer than plastic pots and can come in a range of finishes (subjective)
  • They provide excellent drainage and are naturally porous if they haven’t been glazed

No matter which pot material you prefer, there’s one thing that is absolutely essential, it must have excellent drainage.

If the pot you choose has no drainage you’re going to have an incredibly challenging time trying to successfully grow a Cactus. I would strongly suggest finding a new pot or drilling plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. 

Styles of Pots

When I say style of pot, I don’t necessarily mean the glaze or artwork on the pot, I’m of course referring to the shape and dimensions. 

It helps to know what kind of Cactus you have as they tend to have different rooting requirements. However, as a general rule, Cacti prefer a shallow yet wide pot. 

This is due to Cacti roots tending to stay near the surface of the soil.  If this is true of the Cactus you’re looking to buy, a deep pot would be a waste.

This is not always the case with Cacti as some species have substantial root systems so it’s worth doing your research before jumping in feet first. 

Potting Media / Soil

If you can get your hands on a commercially available Cactus potting mix, then do so, it’s much easier to buy something premade rather than attempting to make your own.  I personally like this one.

If buying something premade is not for you, then you can certainly make your own, you’ll just need to put in a bit of leg work to get all of the ingredients together. 

All Cactus potting soils must drain quickly, it’s by far the most important feature. See our section on watering for information on why. 

One of the best and easiest ways of achieving sufficient drainage is by mixing sand and grit into the potting mix.  You need to make sure the sand and grit is suitable for plant use i.e. horticultural grade.  

Mix 1/3 sand, 1/3 grit and 1/3 compost together to achieve near ideal drainage conditions for your Cactus. 

Compost

In terms of compost, it’s recommended keeping clear of peat-based varieties.  This is to help avoid common pests that tend to be present in these sorts of composts.  

You may further refine the compost by passing it through a coarse sieve in order to remove undesirable particles such as sticks and bark.

Sand

Not all sand can be used in your Cactus potting mix.  Horticultural sand has been washed, sterilized and is generally of shape and size that aids water drainage.  Building sand or other sand types may contain large amounts of salt which will kill your Cactus in no short order. 

Grit

When it comes to the type of grit to use, I would suggest using horticultural pumice.  However, the downside is that it’s sometimes difficult to get your hands on and can be expensive.  

If pumice isn’t available then perlite, gravel or lava fines can be used as a substitute.  

If all of the above sounds like a hassle you could do without, then there’s no reason not to use a commercially available Cactus potting mix.  It’s easy and not that expensive. 

How and Why to Re-pot a Cactus

Repotting a Cactus is a great way to accommodate for growth and so as to allow you to easily inspect the root system. It’s not something you need to do often, but it is something you’ll need to do at some point. 

When to Re-pot a Cactus Plant 

The easiest way to tell if your Cactus needs to be repotted is if you see roots poking out of the bottom of the pot. 

This is a clear indication that the Cactus is root bound has filled out all available space in its existing pot.  

Cacti can and do live quite comfortably in small pots for many years, but being able to see the roots emerging is a clear sign that it needs more room.  

As Cacti like a snug fit, choose an appropriate pot size for the upgrade, generally wider is better than deeper.  Choosing the next size up in pot size is a safe bet. 

You can expect to repot a Cactus every 2 – 4 years, depending on the type of cactus and how quickly it grows.  A well-fed and carefully looked after Cactus may need to be repotted more often.

Ideally, you’ll want to re-pot your Cactus during the growing season.  

Tools You’ll Need

To re-pot a Cactus you’ll need to invest in a few essentials.  

The biggest challenge when handling Cacti is, of course, their spines, but there’s a couple of ways you can nullify the danger they present.

  1. You can wrap the plant in several sheets of newspaper then secure them in place with tape or twine.  
  2. Use thick reinforced gardening gloves. 
  3. Use kitchen tongs. 
  4. Use a beach towel to wrap the cactus. 

The best method to use will largely depend on the size of Cactus and the size of its spines.  

How To Re-pot a Cactus

  1. Put the cactus on a sturdy surface or ground.
  2. Wrap the cactus in a newspaper or a towel if that’s the method you’re going to use.
  3. Tilt the cactus and pot to a 45-degree angle. 
  4. Use your other hand or feet to gently loosen the bottom of the soil at the bottom of the pot by compressing it slightly. 
  5. Gently pull on the Cactus while loosening the soil and it should slide free.
  6. Place the Cactus into its new home and infill with the Cactus potting mix.
  7. Once rehomed remove the newspaper or towel.
  8. Enjoy your cactus in its new home. 

How to Propagate Cactus Pads

Cactus is the perfect plant for the 21st century.  Not only are they easy to care for and Waterwise, but they can be propagated from just a single pad. If you’d like to learn how, read on. 

Tools

You’re going to need a few essentials to get started:

  • Cactus pads (obviously)
  • A pot
  • Cactus potting soil
  • Kitchen tongs
  • Thick gardening gloves
  • Box cutter or sharp knife

As a quick reminder.  Cacti obviously have spines, so be careful when handling them.  Use tongs, wrap them or use very thick gardening gloves. A Cactus spine is not only painful, but it can also cause infection, which is no fun at all.

Removing Cactus Pads

Before you can root or propagate cactus pads, we’ll need to remove some from the main plant.  

The first thing we need to do it put on our gardening gloves and get our kitchen tongs ready.

Most cactus pads can be easily removed by grabbing it with your kitchen tongs and twisting slightly, it should break off cleanly and easily.  

If the cactus pad is stubbornly attached to the main Cactus and isn’t easily coming away, you can use a sharp knife or box cutter to help do the job.  

Make sure the knife is sterile to avoid infecting the main plant.  

If you need to cut the pad away make sure the cut completely dries before you attempt to root or propagate it. 

Once you’ve successfully removed all the pads you want and they’ve all dried and calloused over at the cut, then we can get down to planting them.

Planting Cactus Pads

Begin by filling small pots with Cactus potting mix.  Choose a pot that is larger than the pad as they will grow quickly once established. 

Once you’ve filled up as many pots as you need, you need only lay the cactus pads on top of the potting soil.  Leave them flat, don’t attempt to prop them up, or stand them up.

The advantage of leaving them flat on top of the soil is that they won’t fall over or fall of the pots.

You don’t need to worry, they will still root and look fantastic once established. When I first started doing this I always placed them upright and inevitably they fell over when moved.  Save yourself the trouble and lay them flat. 

Hurry Up And Wait

Once you’ve laid out all of your cactus pades it’s time to give them water.

Simply water them as you would normally, but with the caveat that I would suggest keeping the soil moist at all times to start with to encourage rooting. 

If you happen to get water on top of the pads then you quickly dislodge it by taping the side of the pot.  Don’t worry to much about a little bit left on top, it’ll quickly evaporate.  

Now you only need to wait for nature to take its course. 

Roots can begin to appear in only a matter of days, but it can also take several weeks. The key is to be patient and wait for nature to do what it does best.  Just make sure to keep the soil moist until roots have formed. 

New roots will grow from the areoles, which is where the spot that spines grow from. 

Roots can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to form. The timeline has a lot to do with the type of Opuntia you’re rooting and how much you’re watering. With propagation, more frequent watering will help roots grow faster.

Cactus pads grow roots from the areole, which is the same location that the spines grow from. 

As a general rule of thumb, the larger and more mature the pad is, the longer it’ll take to form roots. Smaller pads tend to root much faster. 

What Next? 

Once your cactus pads have established a decent root system, the roots are firmly in the potting soil, you can begin to decrease the amount and frequency of watering. 

All Cacti can handle drought conditions very well, in fact, to much water is generally a bad thing and can lead to root rot and other issues. 

As your Cactus cutting matures, you’ll begin to see new pads forming and it may even flower once completely established.  It may take a year or two before you can safely say that the cactus is completely established and no longer cutting. 

How to Grow a Cactus From Seed

Cacti are a little harder to grow from seed compared to cuttings or other plant seeds and will require a patient approach. 

As with fully grown Cacti, Cacti seeds need special Cactus soil which drains very quickly. 

It can take as much as 12 months for a Cactus seed to germinate, which obviously means you’ll need to practice a certain amount of patience throughout this process. But if you wait it out you’ll be rewarded with a Cactus that will last many years.

Grow Cacti From Seed

  1. Prepare your Cactus potting mix.  I strongly recommend buying a premade Cactus potting mix, it’s a lot less hassle than making your own and not especially expensive.  If you’d rather make your own you’ll want to use 1/3 horticultural sand 1/3 grit/pearlite and 1/3 compost. This mix will drain quickly which Cacti prefer.
  1. Fill your seedling cups with your Cactus potting mix.  Add between 1 and 3 cactus seeds to the top. Do not bury the seeds in the soil, instead add a thin layer of horticultural sand on top.
  2. Add the cups to a watering tray and add roughly an inch of water to the tray.  We prefer to water the seeds from the bottom up in order to avoid disturbing the seedlings. Once the seedling cups are moist through, you can move them to a bright warm location.
  3. Cacti seeds need to be kept in moist and humid conditions in order to germinate, so you may wish to invest in a mini greenhouse to keep conditions optimal. 
  4. Now is the time to exercise your patience.  Keep the soil moist but not wet during this time.  It may take up to a year to germinate. Eventually, you should see a tiny Cacti appear.  
  5. Cacti are very slow growing so don’t expect your seedling to pop up overnight and keep it out of direct sunlight for the first year or so.
  6. After a year you may wish to repot the Cactus into a small pot which will see it through the next few years. 

Cactus FAQ

How long do Cacti Live?

Cacti lifespans depend a great deal on the species and the conditions they are living in.

You can expect a well looked after Cacti to live between 10 and 200 years.  But just to reiterate, this is driven largely by the type of Cactus and the conditions it’s living in.  

I’ve never had a Cactus die from old age.  If anything, it’s been my poor or lack of care that has killed them off. 

Should You Use Stones In The Bottom A Cactus Pot? 

You may have heard via word of mouth that it’s a good idea to add a layer of stones to your Cactus pot to help with drainage. This one rumor you can safely ignore.

If you’ve prepared your potting mix correctly it’ll provide more than enough drainage. 

Cactus Pests

Cactus are natural survivors, built to withstand drought conditions and other conditions that would kill lesser plants.  However, they are no immune to pests, and some can cause some serious problems. 

Below we’ll go over the most common Cactus pests and what you can do to combat them. 

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are the bane of many a gardener.  Often referred to as mealies, these tiny pests are able to quite easily kill a Cactus if left untreated.

Mealybugs are so successful in large part because they cover themselves with a cotton-like covering that protects them from predators and contact pesticides. 

Once inside their protective covering Mealybugs will spend their entire adult lives inside this cocoon happily feating away on plant sap until the unfortunate plant succumbs to rot. 

As they are naturally protected from most pesticides, we’re left with two main methods of getting rid of these pests. 

  1. A cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol dabbed on the Mealybug coverings is strong enough to dissolve to the cotton-like substance.  This leaves the Mealbug vulnerable to eradication by other means.
  2. If the infestation is significant, you may need to resort to a systematic insecticide.  This will effectively turn their food source (the plant sap), into a poison. 

If you can’t see any signs of Mealybugs but your plant is still in a weakened state, it’s worth checking the root system for root Mealybugs.

If you happen to find root mealies, then you’ll need to wash away as many as you can and then treat with a systematic insecticide.  

Spider Mites

Spider mites are almost imperceptibly small creatures.  They tend to create whitish webs close to the surface of the cactus.

Like Mealbugs they like to feast on plant sap, leading to a weakened plant.  You may be able to spot yellow or brown spots which are a sign of spider mites. 

As the plant becomes weakened it can easily become infected with something more serious such a fungus or bacteria. 

Unfortunately for us, one of the commonly discussed cures for spider mites is watering the plant often as they hate water.  As Cacti also hate too much water this isn’t always an advisable treatment option. 

The easiest and most effective option is to use a miticide to treat the infection.  Please note, insecticides will rarely work.

Scale

Scale are little insects that almost resemble a marine limpet.  The outside shell protects them from predators and threats while they dine away on the plant’s sap.

Scale can be treated the exact same way as you would treat Mealybugs.  Rubbing alcohol for small infections and systematic insecticide for anything more widespread.

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