Succulent Insight: How Fast Do Cacti Grow?

Most succulents are slow growers, but cacti may be the slowest! Most species of cacti grow slowly—even the ones that get huge like saguaros. It can take a saguaro up to ten years to become just an inch tall. That’s a long time for such little growth! 

So if you’ve had your cactus for a few years and you’ve barely seen it grow, don’t worry—that’s completely normal! You’re not a bad plant parent, and you’re not taking care of your cactus wrong. Even cacti that are well taken care of will only grow about an inch taller each year unless you have one of the rare few species that grow quickly. 

If you want to know why your cactus is such a slow grower and what you might be able to do to support its growth, then keep reading! 

How Fast Do Cacti Grow
Cactus growing in a black pot @cactusmagazine

Why Cacti Grow Slowly 

Soil and climatic conditions

For cacti, slow growth is a matter of survival. In the desert, water and nutrients are incredibly scarce. It barely rains, and the soil is dry and almost infertile. Plants need water and nutrients from the ground to carry out photosynthesis, so the fact that cacti get so little of both means they can’t grow very much. 

Cacti have also adapted to focus their limited resources on survival rather than sprouting lots of new growth. They conserve water and resources so that they can survive through long periods of drought and extreme heat. 

Check out “The Rounded Ball Cactus— Parodia Magnifica” for a fun look at an amazing type of cacti you can take home with you.

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How Fast Do Cacti Grow
Cactus growing outdoors @mallachtsplants

Lack of leaves

Another reason why cacti grow so slowly is that they don’t have leaves. Plants transpire through their leaves. About 99% of the water absorbed by a plant’s roots evaporates through its leaves. So if cacti had leaves, they definitely wouldn’t be able to grow in the desert! 

One downside of not having leaves is that it limits their ability to soak up the sun and convert it into food through photosynthesis. Plants with big, broad leaves have more green tissue, which means they have more chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the chemical that makes plant tissue green, and it’s also a vital part of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll can soak up energy from the sun and convert it into glucose, which primarily plants’ food. Plants are then able to utilize that glucose for energy and growth. 

Because cacti only have stems and not leaves, they have less green tissue and less chlorophyll than other plants. This limits their ability to soak up the sun and convert it into food that they can use to grow. Cacti have spines and sometimes wool on their stems that shade them from the sun, which likely limits their ability to soak up the sun even more. No wonder they grow so slowly! 

How Fast Do Cacti Grow
Aerial view of cacti growing in pots @plantadictos

Stomata in cacti

Another adaptation that slows down their growth is their stomata. Stomata are the pores found on the surface of all plants that allow them to take in carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is needed to carry out photosynthesis, so for a plant to grow quickly, it needs to take in a fair bit of carbon dioxide.

Whenever plants open up their stomata to take in carbon dioxide, though, some of the water in their leaves evaporates. Cacti couldn’t survive in the desert if they lost lots of water through their stomata, so they’ve adapted to have fewer stomata than other plants. Because they have fewer stomata, they can’t take in as much carbon dioxide, further limiting their ability to carry out photosynthesis. 

All the adaptations that make cacti cool, distinctive plants are the reason why they can’t grow as fast as other plants. Bummer, right?

How Fast Do Cacti Grow
cacti mounted on a wall @planter_me

Can I Make My Cactus Grow Faster? 

We bet that you get a little impatient waiting for your cactus to grow—we certainly do! We’ve spent a lot of time researching how to make cacti grow faster. And unfortunately, we’ve learned that there’s not a whole lot that you can do to speed up your plant’s growth without potentially harming it. 

Can fertilizer help?

If you give your cactus extra fertilizer or water to try to speed up its growth, it can develop several defects. Giving your cactus too much water could actually cause its skin to split. Cacti have adapted to soak up as much water as possible whenever it rains and store it in their cells. They’ll try to soak up all the water you give them, even if their cells aren’t big enough to fit all of it. This can cause their skin to split as their cells and tissues bulge from all the extra water, which will create an unsightly scar when it heals. 

Be sure you also check out “5 Dangers Of Overwatering A Cactus” to see all possible dangers of too much watering.

Cacti also don’t respond well if you give them extra fertilizer. Their new growth will often be deformed, which ruins their appearance. This especially happens with columnar cacti. Their new growth is much more significant and more circular than the growth below it, so it looks like a big round ball is sitting on top of your cute, skinny cactus! They also become very top-heavy and can even fall over if they get this way, so you don’t want to overfeed your columnar cacti to speed up their growth. 

What about watering?

You should only water your cacti about once every two weeks when the soil is completely dry. They don’t need much fertilizer either—feeding them once or twice during their growing season will probably be enough given the fact that they’re used to infertile desert soil. But you can safely fertilize your cactus about once every month or two during its active growing season without harming it. Just don’t start fertilizing it every week!

Check out our guide “How Often To Water Cactus” for all things watering when it comes to taking care of your cactus plant.

How Fast Do Cacti Grow
Thorny cactus plant @sibosunkaktusukulenti

Which Species of Cacti Grow the Fastest? 

If you love to see your plant babies grow as we do, then you might want to get a species of cacti that are known for growing faster than the rest. We’ve heard from other succulent gardeners that Cereus and Trichocereus cacti species are particularly fast growers. 

Pilosocereus cacti, a beautiful genus of blue cacti, are also known for being pretty fast growers. Go check out the article we just wrote about them to learn more! 

It’s a bit of a bummer that most cacti grow slowly, but trust us—their growth is worth waiting for! 

Also, be sure to check out “Totem Pole Cactus (Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus)” for another type of cactus to get you excited over.

How Fast Do Cacti Grow
Potted cactus plant @succulent.pro

We hope that this article has answered all your questions about how fast cacti grow. But if not, feel free to leave your questions below or ask them in our awesome community of succulent lovers, the Succulent City Plant Lounge

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on “Essential Tools for Planting the Best Succulents” or even “The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers”  today!

Happy Planting! 🌵

All You Need to Know About Echinopsis Cactus- Succulent Lovers

Echinopsis cactus is for the prickly cacti lovers.

This article goes deep down to each detail of the Echinopsis genus and its over 100 species. It is a guide to everything that you need to understand about one of the largest species of cacti plants.

All You Need to Know About Echinopsis
For Echinopsis Lovers @bitkidunyasix_

Introducing The Echinopsis Cactus

This amazing Echinopsis cactus plant has its origin in South America. The plant is sometimes referred to as the hedgehog cactus, Easter lily cactus, or sea urchin cactus. By now you might have understood that the Echinopsis genus is spiky or prickly appearance gives it the nicknames. It is a plant that is densely covered with spines.

The Echinopsis represents a genus that is one of the biggest with 128 species. The genus is home to plants species of different sizes. There are large-sized plant species and small-sized species too.

What is common in all of these plants is the beautiful flowers present in each. The giant flowers (4-6 inches in size) are often multicolored with a beautiful blend. The colors and types of flowers can vary from the original Echinopsis thanks to the extensive hybridizing done on the plants.

Did you know that unlike most cacti that produce a single flush of flowers annually, Echinopsis plants produce blooms of flowers as long as the temperatures during the day hit 21-degree Celsius?

Already interested in more kinds of cacti? Check out “9 Rare Cacti that’s Hard to Find” for more finds.

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All You Need to Know About Echinopsis
Introducing Echinopsis Cactus @bitkidunyasix_

Where to Grow The Echinopsis Cactus

If you are interested in growing an Echinopsis cactus in your yard, worry less if you experience temperatures of over 21C/70F. If you’re not interested in the flowers, you can still grow them in any environment.

The high temperatures are only good for the continuity of flowering throughout the year.

During cold winters the plants go dormant. However, you may need to take them inside when the bite of the cold is too much to avoid their succulent water-filled bodies from freezing also. Check out “Summer & Winter Succulents: What’s the Difference?” for a full guide to understanding different succulents during different seasons.

Ask most growers of the beautiful hedgehog cactus, and they will tell you the cold season is vital for a great blooming during the summer.

Just like any other plant, avoid soaking the roots in water-filled soil. If you keep your cactus plant in a pot, ensure that they are shed from direct rains.

For more succulent options during the warm weather, check out “10 Beautiful Flowering Succulents You Need for the Summer“.

All You Need to Know About Echinopsis
They are Great for Your Outdoor and Indoors @mafamilledecactus

Soils & Potting

Cactus species need well-drained soils. High water retention for far too long is a great enemy of the plant’s roots that will end up rotting, in turn, killing your plant.  You can loosen up your potting mix by using perlites and pebbles. It is advisable to add a top sand layer at the base of the plant. You will create abrasiveness that much supports pup formation.

When going for your favorite pot, consider its ability to drain any excess water. The containers can be of any size since the roots of an Echinopsis plant are shallow.

In any case, you are wondering whether Echinopsis species thrive in the ground, the answer is yes. But wait, won’t you like to move your plant around? What if its winter and your plant freezes? Potting solves all these issues.

Watering

What season is it?

Summers are hot, and the plants are growing and blooming. What this means is that the sea urchin cactus will enjoy more water when blooming or growing. During winter and fall, the species is dormant or semi-dormant. They will be better off with little watering to keep them going until the next summer.

The factors affecting the frequency of watering vary from the type of soil used, weather, pot size and design.  To ensure you hit the nail on the head, stick a pencil into your pot and see how much water sticks to its surface. It is always watering time when the pencil surface comes out with little or no water.

The Echinopsis cactus is from the highland mountains of South America. The plants will enjoy more water than they will enjoy a dry pot. Flood the whole container till all the soil is caught up with the water.

Don’t miss your chance to get our ebook on “The Correct Way to Water Succulents” for a full tutorial to taking care of your cacti at home.

All You Need to Know About Echinopsis
They Came from The Highland Mountain @tara_desert

Exposure to Sunlight

Too much of anything is poisonous. Not even the prolonged hot and light-filled days can be spared; they can quickly realize a sunburnt plant.

So, how long should my hedgehog cactus plants be exposed to the sun?

The sun is great for growing plants and the flowering periods. Maximizing on the amount of sunlight that your species will be enjoying will make them more productive. To evade the sunburns, watch out for discoloration on the surface of the plant. If you notice the same, take action and reduce the exposure to the sun.

Separating Pups From The Mother

One of the funniest experiences of the sea urchin cactus is seeing flowers more prominent than the plant itself.

What About Pups?

Some of the Echinopsis species are generous with pups while some find it hard to yield so many of them. Here are some neatly arranged tips for you to follow when pupping.

  1. Separate the pups only when it is the growing times with temperatures above 21-degree Celsius.
  2. Let the pups grow one inch or more in size before separating them.
  3. Pups with wounds (site for attachment to the mother) will require to heal before replanting. Expose the sores to dry under the sun for 7-10 days — no watering during the healing time.
  4. Plant your pups in the same soil mix as the mother.
  5. When finally in the soil, water generously as the baby pups have little or no roots for water absorption.
All You Need to Know About Echinopsis
Types of Echinopsis Species @kaewcactus

Enjoyed learning about the Echinopsis Cactus? If so, you’ll really enjoy our ebook about “Rare Succulents You Wish You Knew About“. With this ebook you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents. 

Happy planting! 🌵

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