When Should You Really Water Your Succulents

When you should water you succulents?

Everyone praises succulents as being really easy to care for, so it’s kind of embarrassing when one dies on you.

Don’t worry, you (probably) don’t have a brown thumb. There are a few misconceptions about how to care for succulents well. You really only have to straighten out one thing to become a succulent maven – watering.

How often to water succulents?

Here’s a little-known secret for succulent care – the amount that you water succulents isn’t nearly as important as how often you water them.

It makes sense if you consider why succulents are so sensitive to water.

Since most succulents and cacti are native to dry, desert-y conditions, they have adaptations to prevent water loss. That thick waxy sheen on the leaves is called a “cuticle” and it prevents water from evaporating out of the leaves. Succulents even have a special version of photosynthesis (called CAM photosynthesis) where they only open their pores at night to minimize water loss.

These plants are really good at retaining water. So good, in fact, that they can accidentally drown themselves. Plants actually breathe mostly through their roots, believe it or not. If those roots are wet, they can’t breathe.

Succulent roots have evolved to act like every drop of water might be the last. They cling jealously to all the water they can find in their soil. Unfortunately, if the soil is constantly wet, it leads to root rot – a deadly illness for most plants (and succulents are particularly susceptible).

The number one killer of succulents is overwatering. But not in the sense that they get too much water – rather, they get watered too often. It’s absolutely crucial that the soil is given time to dry out between waterings.

So how often do you actually water a succulent or cactus? A good rule of thumb is to water once every 10 days. You should still check to be sure that the soil is dry (and has been for a couple days) before you water again.

How much to water succulents?

Now we know when to water our succulents and cacti, but not how much.

To figure this out, we go back to the desert these plants came from. It does actually rain in the desert, contrary to common belief. However, that only happens a couple times a year. And in the desert the saying “When it rains, it pours.” is very accurate. The sky just dumps buckets of water. Succulents like to be watered this way too, albeit a bit more often. Forget about the eyedroppers and spray bottles. Put those ‘succers’ under the faucet and drench them. You should water until the water begins to run out of the bottom of the pot. That’s how you know you’ve soaked the soil all the way through.

And that part is important – you want to ensure that all of the soil is completely wetted. If you use only a little water, it doesn’t penetrate more than the top couple of inches of soil. That forces the succulent to grow roots upwards instead of downwards. That leads to weak roots, poor stability, and an ineffective anchor for the succulent. A recipe for disaster.

Proper succulent watering technique

When you should water your succulents

While throwing your succulent in the sink is certainly a viable method, you can practice some more applied techniques for an even better effect.

We already mentioned that all the soil in the pot needs to be drenched. That’s still true. If possible, though, you should try to avoid getting water on the leaves. This opens the door to a few problems:

Mold and mildew can form in the crevices of a plant (like where the leaves meet the stem). It also provides a nice habitat for pests, who generally prefer moist environments. We recommend using a succulent watering bottle with bend watering mouth for easy control during the watering process! We really like this one by Mkono

2. Plants can’t drink through their leaves. That’s what roots are for. Any water on a leaf is being wasted.

3. Occasionally plants, even succulents, suffer from sunburn. When you leave a liquid like water on leaves while the succulent is exposed to bright sunlight, there’s a chance that the water will act like a magnifying glass and burn the leaf.

So, if you have few enough plants (or just really enjoy watering), you should water each succulent individually by pouring water at the base of the stem. Make sure to get the rest of the pot as well. If you are new to plants, we highly recommend this planting & watering tool kit.

Avoid overwatering

Water isn’t the only factor in the watering equation, actually. Soil plays a big part.

One of the qualities of soil is how much water it retains. Soil mixtures that have a lot of organic matter (stuff like peat moss, coconut coir, etc.) tend to hold a lot of water. Mixtures that mostly have minerals or inorganic matter (such as perlite or sand) don’t absorb water.

Succulents and cacti require quick-draining soil. You want the soil to dry out as quickly as possible after it’s watered. Ideally in the same day. That’s why watering in the morning is ideal – it has the whole day to evaporate.

So, grab some soil specific to succulents and cacti next time you’re out. Your plants will thank you. A quick DIY solution is to just buy a bag of perlite and mix it half and half with any other kind of soil. It’s not perfect, but it will dramatically increase drainage.

If you do not have any local places to pick up some quick-draining soil, we highly recommend this quick-draining soil from Superfly Bonsai on Amazon.

Note also that many succulents you buy (especially from big box stores) actually have a poor soil mix when they’re sold to you. You’ll probably want to repot them as soon as you’re able.

And speaking of pots – the second most important factor in preventing overwatering is having adequate drainage. That means use pots with a drainage hole. That means that teacups and terrariums aren’t optimal containers for succulents and cacti.

Without proper drainage at the bottom of a pot, water tends to pool and the roots stay wet for longer. That’s dangerous. And, no, gravel in the bottom of a pot does not constitute drainage. The water is still there. It doesn’t go anywhere.

We’re not saying you can never put them in those cutesy containers. (By the way, if you’re having trouble finding inspiration for planting succulents check out our 12 minimalistic ways to plant succulents). Just know that they might not survive it for very long or be very happy for the duration. So much for that Pinterest photo shoot you had planned, eh?

ALSO READ:

When you should water your succulents and how often

Tips for succulent watering

  • Different plants have different needs. Sometimes wildly so. Kalanchoe, for example, are pretty thirsty succulents. They begin to wilt after a week without water. The famous “butt plants”, Lithops, can only be watered three or four times a year or they promptly die. (psst: if you are looking for Lithops Seeds, we recommend these by Micro Landscape Design)
  • Always err on the side of underwatering. Succulents and cacti are literally designed to be thirsty sometimes. They can almost always bounce back from lack of water… but recovering from too much water is a dicey prospect at best.
  • If you have a community pot (a pot with multiple species of plants), water to the lowest common denominator. That means that you should water only when the “driest” plants start to get thirsty. We are following the same advice as above – it’s better for succulents to be thirsty for a while rather than overwatering.

Thanks for reading!

We hope you got some pointers on how to keep your succulent family healthy! Also, don’t forget you can receive 2 FREE Audio books of your choice from our sponsor at Audible.com. We’ve got 2 books we listen to about propagation and watering succulents, what are you thinking of listening too?

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If you enjoyed reading our blog about When You Should Water Your Succulents, be sure to check out our other blogs. Personally I think you’ll enjoy this one: 6 Best Indoor Succulents.

If you learned something, please consider buying us a succulent for our office.

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Enjoyed learning about When You Should Water Your Succulents? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about The Correct Way to Water Succulents. 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.

Succulents vs Cacti— What’s the Difference?

What's the difference between succulents and cacti?

We’ve all heard the phrase all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.”

It’s often used to explain the difference between cacti and succulents. But that simple saying doesn’t tell the whole story or help you classify your own plants. If you’re wondering whether or not one of your succulents is a cactus or you’d just like to learn the differences between these two awesome types of plants, then read on!

Succulents vs cacti article succulent city
@earthwindandcactus

“Succulent” isn’t a scientific term, but “cactus” is

You may be surprised to hear this, but “succulent” isn’t a real scientific classification or plant family. It’s just a nickname for plants that have certain characteristics, like drought tolerance and thick, fleshy leaves.

Most succulents don’t belong to the same plant family, so they’re a very genetically, visually, and geographically diverse group of plants. The term “succulent” encompasses everything from the tropical Zebra Plant that’s 5 inches tall to the towering Joshua Tree that lives in the desert and can grow to be a massive 40 feet tall.

Cacti are considered succulents because they have many adaptations that make them drought-tolerant, like shallow roots that soak up rainfall quickly and waxy, fleshy stems that store water. But cacti are pretty different from other succulents for a few different reasons.

For one, “cactus” is a scientific term. The word “cactus” describes a much smaller group of related plants. Unlike succulents, all cacti are part of one family, the Cactaceae family. They share similar genes and are almost all native to the same region, the Americas.

Cacti have a number of physical characteristics that further distinguish them from other succulents. Most cacti don’t have leaves, while the vast majority of succulents do. Cacti evolved this way in order to retain more moisture. Leaves cause plants to lose a lot of water through tiny openings on their surface called stomata. Cacti are better able to survive in harsh desert environments because they don’t have traditional leaves.

Cacti also bear fruit and have a special structure that other succulents don’t. They are called areoles. A perfect example is the Star Cactus – Astrophytum Asterias

All Cacti Have Areoles

Because cacti are genetically related, they all share one defining characteristic—areoles. Areoles are round, white bumps on the bodies of cacti that look like cotton balls. Their main purpose is to fend off critters who like to eat cacti for their water content, which is why you’ll often see spines and prickles growing from them.

Sometimes flowers sprout from areoles as well.

Any plant that doesn’t have areoles is only a succulent, so look for these small, white bumps when you’re trying to tell the difference between these two plants.

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Succulents vs cacti
@thedaintygarden

Don’t be fooled by succulents that look like cacti

Some succulents are confused for cacti on a regular basis. Aloe and Haworthia are commonly mistaken for cacti because of their spiky, spiny leaves. Agave is also on this list because its leaves have sharp tips that look similar to the spines on a cactus.

The trickiest succulents to distinguish from cacti, though, are Euphorbia. Many species of Euphorbia have long, cylindrical stems with lots of prickles. If you saw the Sullu Spurge or Canary Island Spurge in person, you’d probably think they were cacti, and rightfully so! One of the only things that differentiate these Euphorbia from cacti is their lack of areoles.

Why do some succulents and cacti look the same?

Some succulents and cacti look nearly identical because they share characteristics such as a cylindrical shape and spines. How can Euphorbia and cacti look so much alike if they’re not genetically related?

The answer is convergent evolution. Convergent evolution is a type of evolution that causes genetically unrelated plants and animals to develop similar traits. This usually happens to plants and animals that live in environments with comparable conditions.

Cacti are native to deserts throughout the Americas. Quite a few succulents besides cacti call deserts their home, too. This means that a portion of other succulents face the same environmental challenges that cacti do, like arid climates and thirsty predators. Those succulents have developed the same adaptations as cacti in order to cope with their environments, such as cylindrical shapes that give them extra room to store water and spines that ward off predators.

Some succulents and cacti look so similar that it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart. So don’t sweat it if you mistakenly call a prickly succulent a cactus. It happens to the best of us!

What's the difference between succulents and cacti
@stinetea

We hope that this article has taught you a thing or two about the differences between succulent plants and cacti and armed you with the information you need to distinguish them. If you discovered that one of your spiky succulents isn’t a cactus after all, let us know in the comments below!

Be sure to let your friend know that succulents and cacti aren’t the same thing. Happy planting! Share our post with your friends!

If you’d like this read you’re going to love our full in-depth ebooks! With so many of our succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it with you here! With our very detailed ebooks, you’ll get more information than these short articles, some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read.

What Does it Mean if Someone Gives You a Cactus?

What does it mean when someone gives you a cactus

Everybody knows that flowers have symbolic meaning. Red roses, for example, symbolize romantic love, while yellow roses symbolize friendship. Even though they’re the same type of flower, they impart two very different meanings because of their color difference!

That’s why it’s important to know what kind of message a plant (or cactus) sends before you give it to someone. Could you imagine screwing up by giving your significant other or secret crush yellow roses on Valentine’s Day? Yikes! (Talk about the friend zone).

Just like flowers, cacti and succulents have their own symbolic meaning that you should know about. Today we’re going to share with you what it means if someone gives you a cactus, and what you’re saying to your loved ones when you give them this prickly succulent!

What does it mean when someone gives you a cactus
@trzecie_pietro

They Think You’re Strong

Cacti are strong, enduring, and tough. They’ve survived and found a way to grow in barren desert wastelands that get very little rain. Isn’t that amazing?

That’s why the cactus has come to represent endurance, tenacity and strength in the face of adversity—they survive even when it seems impossible.

If someone gives you cacti plants, they think you’re a resilient fighter. They’ve seen everything that you’ve gone through and they think that you’re a tough, strong survivor. 

Someone who can bounce back from the toughest of times.

If you’re currently going through a tough time, someone may give you a cactus to let you know that you got this! Sometimes we all forget our inner strength and feel a little defeated. But hopefully, that cactus on your shelf will serve as a reminder that you can handle whatever life throws at you!

They Care About You

Native American cultures believe that the cactus represents warmth, protection, and motherly love.

Because cacti plants can survive in harsh conditions, they’ve become a symbol of unconditional, maternal love. A mother’s love is strong and enduring just like a cactus!

Cacti plants further symbolize maternal love and care because they have medicinal qualities. Native Americans used their pulp and juice to treat wounds and digestive ailments. That’s the reason why they’ve become associated with motherly protection and TLC.

So if someone gives this plant to you, it means that they love you and care about you. What a beautiful gift! If they give you plants in these LOVE succulent and cacti planters, they get bonus points!

Giving a cactus to someone
@copiapoa_collector

They Want to Protect You

Someone who gives you a cactus also wants to protect you. In Feng Shui, if you put this succulent on your terrace or windowsill, it is believed that it will protect you from negative energy and misfortune. Any bad juju that enters your home will be bounced right back out by the spikes of this cactus! Sounds like a good plant to have on hand, right?

Just remember NOT to put your new cactus near the entrance of your home—if you do, it will actually have the opposite effect and attract negativity! According to Feng Shui and it’s theory behind good energy.

If you’d like to read more about plant Feng Shui and how it can help or hurt your home’s energy balance, check out this great read, Easy Ways to Create a Home that FEELS as Good as it Looks.

They May be Attracted to You

In the West, cacti symbolize strength in the face of adversity and maternal love. Whereas receiving a flowering cactus from someone in Japan is actually a sign that they’re attracted to you!

Assigning meaning to flowers is an ancient art in Japan called Hanakotoba. Hanakotoba isn’t as popular today, but it used to be taken pretty seriously. Presenting flowers to someone wasn’t something you did lightly. Every flower had meaning and sent a clear, wordless message.

In this tradition of Hanakotoba, the cactus is associated with lust, so if you give it to somebody, you’re essentially giving them a love letter!

Most people don’t know that cacti signal attraction, though, so don’t read into it and feel embarrassed if you receive a cactus from a good friend!

ALSO READ:

What does it mean when giving a cactus
@cactus_y_mas

Now that you know what giving a cactus to someone means, will you still give them as gifts?

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the differences of succulents and cacti too, there’s a lot of opinions about what makes them different but we think we nailed it down to a science.

If you’d like this read you’re going to love our full in-depth ebooks! With so many of our succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it with you here! With our very detailed ebooks, you’ll get more information than these short articles, some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read.

Thanks for reading with us, if you have any questions at all maybe one of our members can help answer if for you at Succulent City Plant Lounge.

8 Best Indoor Cacti You Need to Have

Best indoor cacti

Mini succulents and other conventional houseplants are in for a big competition. Cacti décor designs are springing up from every corner of the internet and boy, don’t they just look gorgeous!

Taming these desert survivors may seem hard, but not to cacti connoisseurs. Nothing beats the unique rustic look exuded by cacti. With their spiny texture and varied shapes, you’d be forgiven to think they’re living sculptures.

And no, they don’t need to be watched closely. Cacti actually thrive on neglect. (Yes, deprive them and they’ll still grow). Love them too much and you’ll soon be burying lots of them.

This is good news to beginner gardeners, busy plant lovers or brown thumbs who are looking for some bragging rights. Whichever category you fall into, cacti got you covered, talk about independence! If you’re a brown thumb, be sure to join our Succulent Plant Lounge, a lot of the members here converse and help each other out, it’s a great community to be in for succulents.

Sold on getting one of these alien-looking plants for your living room? Picking just any variety for your indoor needs may not be a good idea. Certain cacti varieties are just not meant to be tamed. Be that as it may, there are cacti species that thrive indoors and may even reward you with spectacular blooms.

Ready to explore? Let’s do this!

Bishop’s Cap— Astrophytum Myriostigma

Bishop’s Cap Astrophytum Myriostigma
@lilliocactus

Native to the Chihuahuan desert of Mexico, the Bishop’s Cap cacti is the most popular species in the genus Astrophytum. Its appearance resembles a star-shaped globe with equally divided segments. This hardy plant is usually green in color while young but as it matures, it’s covered by a grayish coating of fine scales to protect it from sunburn.

Tiny spines are lined on the ribs that separate the plant’s segments giving it a distinctive look. Take good care of it and it’ll give you brilliant yellow blooms during spring. Feeding it some fertilizer from time to time will do just that, any highly rated fertilizer for cacti like this will work just fine.

These dainty flowers appear at the center top of the plant where the ridges that separate the different segments converge.

Also known as the Monk’s Hood, taking care of the Bishop’s Cap is an easy ride. They can thrive in light shade but require sunlight for at least three hours a day. They can do well in a window sill on a south or west-facing window. Subject them to plenty of sun if you want to see the blooms.

We think a great window sill planter like this modern white one will look wonderful with the Bishop’s Cap cactus.

Astrophytum myriostigma prefers quick-draining soil so avoid your regular gardening mix. Water infrequently as too much water will lead to an early grave. You may feed them diluted fertilizer once a month during their growing season. Propagation is mainly done through seeds.

Barrel Cactus— Ferrocactus Species

Barrel Cactus Ferrocactus Species
@cactusmagazine

Arrayed with ferocious spines, this quirky cactus makes a perfect complement to your existing interiorscape. As the name suggests, the barrel cactus is spherical with long spines on its ribs. The spikes act as protection to the juicy, edible pulp located on the inside.

The barrel cactus has a long life span and may live for a couple of decades. Its size varies depending on the species. Some are squat while others may be as tall as 10 feet. (Now that’s one tall and spiky plant!)

This cactus is a true sun lover and prefers full sun for a few hours a day. Setting it beside a large uncovered window will ensure it gets plenty of sun for optimum growth. Water sparingly, and do so after the soil has completely dried out. Use commercial cacti mix to prevent damp soil-related problems like root rot and fungi.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to handle the barrel cactus with your bare hands, don’t. Be safe with cut resistant gloves so that the sharp spines won’t make a dent in your flesh.

Old Lady Cactus— Mammilaria Hahniana

Old Lady Cactus Mammilaria Hahniana
@succulents_4ever

Native to the Guanajuato state of Mexico, this cactus is tall growing reaching a height of 10 inches. Mammilaria hahniana is commonly referred to as the old lady cactus due to its white hair covering on the entire plant. The white hairs and spine also serve to protect the plant from the intense sun.

The old lady cactus blooms in spring and summer producing attractive purple flowers that may even grow in a ring on the plant’s apex.

Use well-draining cacti mix while potting this plant as they hate sitting in damp soil. Water once a week during the hot season and once a month during winter. Mammilaria hahniana will readily bloom in bright sunlight.

Learn more about this succulent here!

Angel Wings Cactus— Opuntia Albispina

Angel Wings Cactus Opuntia Albispina
@succulentsforhaiti

Also known as bunny ears, the angel wings cactus is a desert denizen, highly adapted to small amounts of water and extensive heat. It has a striking appearance with its flat pads endowed with glochids –a fancy term for the white prickles you see on its surface.

Unlike most cacti, it lacks spines as these are replaced with clusters of hair on the surface of the pads. Careful though, these glochids can still injure you so take care while handling it.

Opuntia albispina is a summer bloomer producing creamy yellow flowers with globular edible fruits that are purple in color. Provide it with lots of light, quick-draining soil, and infrequent watering and you’ll have one happy angel wing cactus.

Christmas Cactus— Schlumbergera Bridgessii

Christmas Cactus— Schlumbergera Bridgessii
@smartplantapp

Well, if you can’t pronounce the complex scientific name, don’t worry. You can also call it the thanksgiving cactus. Unlike most cacti, the Christmas cactus is spineless, characterized by its serrated green leaves.

This Brazilian cactus blooms in winter, producing showy tubular flowers in shades of purple, pink, red, and pink.

Keep your Christmas cactus in shaded light with a few hours in direct bright sunlight. Exposing this attractive indoor cactus in the hot sun will lead to sunburn. This plant is native to the tropical forests of Brazil and so it needs more water than other cacti. Thus, water frequently during its growing seasons but be careful to let the water drain out. If you’re wondering, propagation is also possible via cuttings.

Learn more about the beautiful Christmas cactus here.

Saguaro Cactus— Carnegiea Gigantean

Saguaro Cactus— Carnegiea Gigantean
@usmcwayne

Native to the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, the Saguaro cactus is a slow-growing and long-lived plant that can live up to two centuries. Its scientific name, Carnegiea Gigantean means gigantic candle. And quite rightly so! This cactus can grow up to 40 feet in height.

Saguaros are barrel-shaped with water storing capacity in the external pleats. It is hard on blooming and may take over 35 years for flowers to appear.

Carnegiea prefers bright sunlight. Water only once a month and cut back on watering during winter and other cool seasons. Let the soil be grainy and quickly draining for optimum growth.

Rat Tail Cactus— Aporocactus Flagelliformis

Rat Tail Cactus— Aporocactus Flagelliformis
@ropeandroot

Can you throw a guess of the native home of this beauty? That’s right! The magnificent Mexico –home to almost all cacti.

If rats annoy you, well hopefully not this quirky rat tail cactus. With its trailing stems covered with fine spines, it’s definitely the perfect plant to set up on a hanging basket. The rat tail cactus thrives on bright sunlight and if everything goes well, they may bloom in spring bringing forth spectacular pink flowers.

Water as you would any cactus, making sure not to overwater the plant. A well-draining commercial cacti mix is recommended to prevent root rot. You can share the rat tail cactus with friends through cuttings. More the merrier! If you have some to give away, why not lend some to our members at Succulent Plant Lounge?

Be sure to check out “The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know

Star Cactus— Astrophytum Asteria

Star Cactus Astrophytum Asteria
@lert_cactus

It’s a short, plump and round plant with approximately eight ribs each arrayed with woolly areoles. Also known as the sand dollar cactus or sea urchin cactus, Astrophytum asteria is generally green in color covered with decorative white dots.

When conditions are right, the star cactus blooms during spring, producing alluring yellow flowers having orange shades at the center. The fruits are pink, gray, or reddish, with woolly hair covering them.

Taking care of Astrophytum asteria is quite a breeze. Use grainy cacti mix that’s well-draining and water them twice a month. Ensure the soil dries out completely before in between watering. These sun lovers prefer bright light so get them the south or west-facing window for healthy growth.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide of this fantastic cactus, check this out!

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Have enough of the cacti yet? If you get any particular cactus please let us know and if you want us to write a full in-depth article on how to take care of one of these cacti, don’t be afraid to comment it below.

Succulent City is here to help!

Did you enjoy reading this article? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about All the Types of Succulents for Indoor & Outdoor. 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.

What Is The Purpose of Thorns on The Cactus Plant?

What is the Purpose of Thorns on a Cactus Plant?

Cacti are beautiful plants. I mean that’s why you have a few of them around, right? We’re guilty of it for sure…

But with this good look, comes the grueling task of having to deal with the thorns, or rather spines as they’re usually referred to in botanical circles. Yes, they may add to the beauty of these plants (with a variety of colors and sizes). But what if they were a bit, say, tender?

Well, if the spines existed for the sole purpose of sitting around your home just maybe that would have been possible. But we all know where they were really meant to be – out there in mostly dry environments braving the harshest of conditions.

And these spines play a huge role in this coping. They’re an adaptation that has ensured the survival of cacti out there in places where a majority of floral is non-existent.

These thorns range from the long and blatantly don’t-mess-with-us types to the small, fine and yet vicious glochids. Despite this, their functions are more or less the same.

Purpose of Thorns on Cactus Plant

Let’s get to it!

Shade by day insulation by night

A thing with desert temperatures is that they’re always swinging to the extremes – day and night.

During the day, temperatures are sky high with the shining sun. As the day wears off and the sun disappears in the opposite direction, a downward spiral in readings kicks in resulting in very cold nights.

Now, these aren’t very nice fluctuations for any living thing out there. And that’s where thorns save the day for cacti.

Their numerous number on some species adds up to form a considerable amount of cover for the plant. So, during the day, the cactus plant is safe from the scalding hot sun (and the accompanying high temperatures). During the night when temperatures are bottom low, the cactus plant is kept warm by a thin layer of air – attributable to the thorns.

Protection from predators

A known fact: there is very little vegetation in the desert. But you know what?

Still, there is a considerable number of herbivores that need food in the same desert. They need vegetation to keep going. And water, of course.

Cacti would have been great sources for both of the above. Only that they would have been extinct by now, maybe. Most of these animals wouldn’t dare touch the cacti. So, definitely they have their thorns to thank for that.

Well, it’s true that some desert animals still have a way around the spines and do manage to get a bite (pack rats, bighorn sheep, desert tortoise etc). But it’s also true that the sharp thorns have kept away lots of others from munching the cactuses out of existence. I mean seriously, would you ever want to munch on something like a cactus, talk about very painful dental visit.

Diffusing Light

Cacti are light-loving by nature. Each part has to get plenty of it for the plants to grow accordingly.

But sometimes this is not possible largely due to the style of growth of some. For instance, shrubby ones. Light is going to reach just a few stems. Well, that’s if the cactus plant was just a smooth-stemmed structure. But bless the thorns –they split up light, evenly distributing it around the whole plant.

Water traps

In fog-prevalent deserts, thorns are quite instrumental in quenching the plant. They trap enough of this fog to turn it into water droplets that later find their way down around the base of the plant.

With the shallow root system common in cacti, the water is quickly absorbed by the plant. And the cacti live on.

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Air traps

As mentioned above, thorns trap air around cacti that is pivotal in the survival of the plant two major ways. Insulation is one. The other is water preservation.

The thin film of air reduces the rate of evaporation of water from the plant. As a result, very little of this water is lost to the atmosphere. In a desert setting, this is a huge deal.

Propagation

Certainly not all. Especially not the large ones.

Glochids are the ones that serve this purpose perfectly in some cacti plants like Cholla.

The glochids are tiny, numerous and get easily (and firmly) attached to a passing body due to their barbed shafts. That way, segments of the plant are carried from the parent to some other place where they form new plants upon being dropped.


Wrapping Things Up

That’s how these thorns have helped cacti survive in the wild. The thorns could be pointless now, you know, with all the care these plants get as houseplants. But their prickly parts are not going away anytime soon.

Who knows, maybe they will as they spend more time in pots. But, that will definitely take a lot of years.

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