What is a Cactus Plant?

What is a Cactus?

The cactus is a very popular plant, no questions about that, right?

Among the more than 10,000 succulent species out there, cacti steal the show with just how every plant enthusiast is on the prowl on grabbing at least one of them. They surely reign supreme not just in the succulents’ circles but the whole houseplants empire.

You have one sitting around, right? Definitely. I know we do.

So, it’s only prudent that you at least have a little bit of more information about your plant. Here it is.

What is a Cactus?
cactus on cactus on cactus @olivra.cactusucculents

Why is it Named “Cactus”?

Cactus is a Latin-inspired word from the ancient Greek life. Back then, kaktos was the word used to refer to a spiky plant that was prevalent in Sicily.

But as time will have it, the name gradually became a reference to the present day plants we know, most which are desert dwellers in the wild.

Cactus in the Botany World

In scientific terms, cactus belongs to the family— Cactaceae. This family is a vast collection under which there are more than 120 genera and an upwards of 1,700 species.

Though the majority here grow in arid and semiarid areas, a select few cacti thrive in tropical regions with far much better conditions for lush growth.

Here’s an article depicting the difference between cacti and succulents.

What is a Cactus?
stand tall @thornlesscactus_

Origin of Cactus

Cacti are largely endemic to the American continents. The whole regions from north to south are home to dozens of known cactus plants.

The northern limit stretches all the way to Western Canada. In the south, the cacti cover extends to Chile, British Columbia, Alberta Argentina and Patagonia.

Mexico takes the lion’s share, as the country native to the most species of cacti.

The only cactus without its roots in these regions is the Rhipsalis Baccifera, which has been found to be a native of parts of East Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka.

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What is a Cactus?
pickles? Or cacti? @houseplantcanvas

General Characteristics of Cacti

Most cacti are adapted to thrive in conditions of little water. The following are the physical attributes that make this possible. Of course, there are exceptions which form just a small part of the cactus type.

If you need some additional help on when to water your succulents, we have the perfect article for you!

What is a Cactus?
bright and sunny @houstonpetals

Short Growing Season and Long Periods of Dormancy

Water availability (rather lack of it) is a strong contributor to this. The growing seasons coincide with periods of rain, which are obviously short-lived. Consequently, the plants have to use this limited time (and the additional vital resource) to develop.

Growth is put on hold as soon the rains are over to preserve as much water as possible.

When it’s time to repot your cactus, check out this article!

A Shallow Root System

This is very important in the desert ecosystem, where rains are far apart. The roots are found near the surface and spread out over a large area so that any water droplets are immediately sucked up and stored.

What is a Cactus?
careful where you walk… @natizxy

Highly Modified Leaves in the Form of Spines

Most cacti are devoid of leaves. Instead, they possess spikes that serve a number purposes

  • They deter desert herbivores from feeding on them
  • Reduce loss of water from the stem by being hindrances to free flow of air around the plant.

The spikes also serve as distinctive features of different cacti plants. By looking at them, you can be able to tell which plant it is that you’re handling. That’s by observing properties like color, number, shape, size and hardness.

Just in case you may be a little clumsy (like some us here), here’s a useful pair of tweezers that have help us pull out a cactus thorn… or two.

What is a Cactus?
too cute to eat @marj.jpg

Store Water in Their Stems

Succulents typically store water in their leaves. But for cacti, their reduced leaves come up short on size.

So, the stem is the part equipped for this function. The presence of spikes and a waxy cuticle greatly reduces the amount that is lost in the air.

The stem is also a food factory for the plant.

Here’s a more in-depth conversation about what adaptations a cactus has. Check it out! And here’s a useful watering bottle for when your cacti become thirsty!

What is a Cactus?
an army of cacti @theboskycompany

Specialized Branches in the Form of Areoles

Areoles are a feature specific to cacti. They are small hairy structures found on the stems.

From the areoles, spikes and flowers emerge. Areoles on the lower parts of the stem become inactive after a few years leaving those at the terminals to keep up with their function.

What is a Cactus?
photogenic cactus @viverolafelicidad

More Than Just Ornamental Plants— Uses of Cacti

Of course cacti are grown for the main reason of raising the aesthetic appeal of a place – be it a home or an office. Or as a hobby.

Here’s a few planters we love tat would look great in your house! Check out this one with a bamboo archway, these cute minimalistic ceramic pots, or even this festive cactus pot!

The large number of species really does provide more than enough options in terms of color, shape and size. But then this same number is a gateway to more cacti benefits. Have a look.

And if you’re curious… Here’s our interpretation of what it means if someone gifts you a cactus!

What is a Cactus?
it’s a cactus… inside of a cactus! @uurscactuses

Food

Cacti are a known source of food in many regions across the world. Generally, any fleshy fruit from a cactus is a potential savory delight.

Apart from fruits, flowers and pads of some cacti species are edible. The Indian Fig Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) is one of the plants whose fruits and pads can be munched. It is widely recognized for this in Mexico and parts of Africa. Check out this edible Prickly Pear Cactus.

Other cacti grown for food are Carnegiea Gigantea, Stenocereus Queretaoensis, Hylocereus Undatus among others.

Cacti can even become a part of your daily beauty routine, with this antioxidant serum!

Fodder / Forage

Human beings are not the only beneficiaries of the edible nature of some cacti. Livestock too enjoy a mouthful of these desert vegetation. But first, the spines will have to be removed. Manadacaru (Cereus Jamacaru) is the most common cactus for this purpose.

What is a Cactus?
bloomin’ cactus @thetrexgarden

Medicine

The medicinal properties of cacti are just limitless. Among the numerous species, there are a host of them that can be used to combat common illnesses effectively. They are:

  • Night-blooming Cereus whose stems and flowers are processed to manufacture medicine for urinary tract infections
  • Peyote whose extracts play a role in regulating blood pressure and sleep
  • Prickly Pear which is used to treat a range of conditions like indigestion, burned wounds and oedema. Here’s our article devoted to the Prickly Pear!

Other common uses include fencing and making alcoholic drinks (fermenting fruit syrup).

What is a Cactus?
Lime green cactus! @mook_cactus

What do you think? Are you ready to own a cactus (or add 10 more to your already existing collection)?

Let us help you get started! Have you heard of Succulents Box? They offer more than 200 varieties of succulents and cacti, that are organically grown in California, along with monthly subscription boxes of fresh succulents and air plants! Starting at just $5/month, you could be on your way to creating a beautiful succulent garden, all from the comfort of shopping at home! Click this link to learn more about Succulents Box and start your subscription today! 

Want to continue expanding your cacti knowledge? Check out these additional Succulent City articles — How to Check if Your Cactus is Dying, How to Make Your Own Succulent Soil at Home, 9 Rare Cacti That’s Hard to Find, or What is the Purpose of Thorns on a Cactus Plant + many, many more on our website!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to join our ever- growing succulent community on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Calling all succulents/cacti lovers— rookie or veteran! Succulent City has developed a line of 12 ebooks (see here), ranging on topics from indoor & outdoor succulents, essential tools, the best soil to use, and more! We even threw in a complimentary ebook to help get your succulent journey started you just have to insert your email on our front page for this. With our ebooks you’ll be a succulent guru in no time, have fun!

Happy planting! ?

Mysterious Christmas Cactus – Schlumbergera Bridgesii

Mysterious Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera Bridgesii

You have to agree that this is an instant love at first sight for succulent lovers. However, its mystery is what attracts most of its lovers.

From botanists, gardeners, to the typical plant lovers (in this case succulent lovers), the mysterious Christmas cactus is fast becoming a household name. Its magical nature sells the plant as one of the most amazing succulents for home decor.

This is a detailed guide that unravels the mysteries of a real Christmas cactus. What is it like? Its origin, mysteries, how to get the best of it…. Much awaits you (like father Christmas candies) if you only keep on reading. 👇

Mysterious Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera Bridgesii
The Mystery of Christmas Cactus @_mygreenworld

The Origin of Mysterious Christmas Cactus

The best way to unravel any mystery is to understand where it has its roots.

Schlumbergera bridgesii originates from the mighty Amazonian rain forests of Brazil. The holiday bloomer hails from the Zygocactus genus or Schlumbergera according to its name. The genus is home to only six species of which the bridgesii is one of them.

Thus absolute beauty was discovered in the mid-1800s by a scientist called Charles Lemaire. The plant has its name from the famous cacti collector from France, Frederic Schlumberger.

How Mysterious is The Christmas Cactus?

In its native home in Brazil, the plant is christened “Flor de Maio.” It is where it gains its fame to be a mystery for most of its growers, and it is all about the blooming time.

Most cacti lovers assume that Schlumbergera blooms during Christmas hence its name Christmas cactus. To your surprise, this is never the case. The Schlumbergera genus is made up of holiday bloomers. The most confusing bloom closer or during Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving holidays.

So after all, the Christmas cactus blooms during Christmas. Its siblings from the Schlumbergera family host its mystery.

Mysterious Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera Bridgesii
A Cactus for Your Christmas @_mygreenworld

What Does the Mysterious Christmas Cactus Look Like?

To completely unravel the mystery, we need to understand the plant’s physical appearance. In the end, you will find that it is a beautiful house plant from its looks.

The hardest hurdle to getting the real color of any holiday bloomer is the amount of propagation that it undergoes. The six bloomers take several colors ranging from magenta, pink, to white, and even some are bicolor. It is unfair to mention that the plant is one of the easiest to propagate.

The Christmas cactus is leafless with flat, segmented and slightly spiked stems. You will find its beautiful flowers that are red, pink or white in most cases emanating from an areola on its stem.

To quickly tell the Christmas cactus from the rest of the holiday bloomers, take a closer look at its stems. They are less spiked.

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Blooming the Christmas Cactus

Well, there is more mystery to unraveled than what you already know about this fantastic cactus so far so good.

What Comes into Your Mind When You Hear of ‘Cactus’?

As most of us would have never imagined, the Christmas cactus has its origin in the Amazon, think of the biggest rivers, and the highest rainfall amounts. In short, no desert-like climates where you find the thorned cactus.

Mysterious Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera Bridgesii
Bloom Your Christmas Cactus @hnevvv

Does this Affect How it Blooms? How do You Care For it for Those Scintillating Flowers to Burst Out?

  • Christmas is winter time(well, not everywhere on earth). Winter is cold and so does the Christmas cactus hate hot environments. Avoid exposing it to hot air or direct sunlight. Its beautiful foliage can quickly turn into an eyesore.
  • Keep the plant exposed to bright light (probably next to your window). However, remember not directly under the sun. You can get it near the north or west-facing window or easier done, get a light-diffusing semi-transparent curtain. drain
  • Unlike other cacti, maintain a humid environment for this zygocactus mystery. The optimum humidity levels range between 50-60%.
  • The Christmas cactus is a long-living plant which makes it a great gift to be passed from generation to generation. Do not commit a crime of killing this beauty by letting its roots swimming in too much water. They can easily rot. Go for pots and soils that drain the water optimally.
  • Fertilizers work magic when it comes to growing indoor bloomers. Consider applying some fertilizer to a 2-3 week old plant. The process can also be done up to four times annually with breaks smashed four weeks before its blooming period.
  • Water your plant at least weakly during winter and 2-3 times a week when its a hot and dry summer season. Check the soil water retention(with your hand) any time before watering and only water if the top layer is dry.
Mysterious Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera Bridgesii
Beautiful Cacti Species @oneofthejessies

Can you confess your love for housing succulents? They are all juicy and beautiful to look at while adding more life to your interiors. But wait until you have your Christmas cactus. Christmas will never be Christmas again until you see the blossoms of a succulent queen.

Thank you for reading! Be sure to check out similar articles on the cacti species like “5 Dangers Of Overwatering A Cactus” or even “The Beautiful Blue Cacti—Pilosocereus“.

BE SURE TO ALSO READ:

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.

Happy Planting! 🌵

The Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii)

Blooming Beauty Moon Cactus Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii

Moon cactus, also known as Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii or Hibotan cactus, is native to desert habitats in various parts of South America; Argentina to be precise. It belongs to the Gymnocalycium genus of globular cacti. These cacti are succulent plants that are very colorful but lack the necessary chlorophyll to produce plant sugars through photosynthesis. This makes the plants to be grafted onto a species that provides plenty of chlorophyll upon which the moon cactus can sustain itself for several years.

The blooming beauty of Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii plants is seen in its vibrant bright colors of brilliant orange, hot pink and an almost neon yellow. The lack of chlorophyll causes this color difference. They are small plants, generally a half-inch across. This makes it common for them to make lovely window boxes or southern exposure houseplants and be sold as gift plants.

Blooming Beauty Moon Cactus Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii
The Beauty of Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii @flowers.cactus

Moon Cactus Has The Following Characteristics:

  1. This plant grows as a globular mass, reaching about two inches in size.
  2.  It tends to produce offsets that grow around the base of the globe where the sides of the globular shape feature seams with prickly quills.
  3. It has a thick base that makes the perfect host for the moon cactus.
  4. Moon cactus is typically grafted to another cactus-like Hylocereus undatus commonly known as the dragon fruit cactus.
  5. This plant may produce flowers from the sides giving it a blooming beauty but does not produce a scent.

Just like other plants, some factors determine the growth of the moon cactus as seen below.

Light

Moon cactus does well in bright but indirect sunlight. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can be harmful to the plant. A covered porch that has some shade or an area where direct sunlight is blocked is the best environment for a moon cactus to grow. If the plant is indoors, set it near a window to give it plenty of sunlight. Note that, if the plant does not get enough bright light, the color starts to fade.

Temperature

Gymnocalycium mihanovichii grows well at average room temperature throughout the year. For your cactus to survive through a winter freeze, bring it indoors or in the garage where the temperature drops below 40 degrees. Alternatively, you can cover them up with a light blanket or sheet to shield them from cold weather. When exposed to hard elements during a hard winter, the moon cactus will freeze.

Water

Just like other succulent plants, moon cactus requires water. Water it regularly throughout the spring and summer months. During the winter months, water less frequently. Ensure the soil is dry before watering the plant. Make use of unglazed pots with numerous drainage holes to prevent standing water at the base of the pot, which further prevents the roots from rotting. Putting a thin layer of gravel at the bottom of your container before adding the moon cactus plant is advisable as it aids in water drainage.

For a more in-depth coverage of your cacti’s water needs check out: “How Often To Water A Cactus: Essential Guide”.

Soil

Moon cactus grows well in the regular commercial soil with good drainage. You can opt to use a mixture of pumice or perlite and regular potting soil. Though, we highly recommend this succulent and cacti soil from Hoffman. Our plants here at the office rated it with 5 stars! 

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Try making your own succulent soil at home by checking out “How to Make Your own Succulent Soil at Home“.

Blooming Beauty Moon Cactus Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii
Growth of Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii @plantvalley.shop

Glooming Maintenance & Propagation of Moon Cactus

To maintain the globular shape of the moon cactus, cut off the side shoots. When propagating, use the side shoots or the offsets growing from the plant. Use host plants for the side shoots like the Hylocereus undatus which offers a perfect base for them. Select host plants of the same thickness, height, and diameter.

Prepare the host plant before collecting the side shoots. Cutting at a slant, cut the top of the host plant, then carefully cut the side shoots from the mother plant. Press the two cut pieces together, setting the side shoot on the host plant. Press firmly but not too tight. Don’t allow the cuts of the host plant and the side shoots to dry before finishing the grafting process. To hold the two pieces together, secure the side shoots with a rubber band.

After several weeks, the side shoot should have started growing off the host plant. Remove the rubber band and follow the moon cactus care tips.

Be sure to check out our in-depth ebook on all things propagating. Don’t miss out on “The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully” today!

Blooming Beauty Moon Cactus Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii
Maintenance & Propagation @little_gavin_cactus

Advantages of The Moon Cactus

Due to its fun appearance, it is made an excellent choice for any cactus or succulent garden. It is also seen great in window sills where it grows in a small pot.

The Shortcomings of The Moon Cactus

The major problem faced by the moon cactus is being infested with mealybugs and scales. You can deal with these infestations by use of tweezers, or cotton wool dipped in alcohol. If this does not curb the situation, use an insecticide as your last resort.

The other common problem is root rot which results from overwatering. Always be careful when watering your moon cactus. Want more info on root rot? Check out our piece “What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?” for more helpful info.

Blooming Beauty Moon Cactus Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii
The Moon Cactus @suzy2510

Despite these challenges, the moon cactus plant is easy to get, fun to own, and a colorful little plant to add to your collection. Besides, it has relatively low maintenance requirements.

Thank you for reading! Be sure to check out more pieces on the cacti species like “The Beautiful Blue Cacti—Pilosocereus” or even “Why Succulent Plants Are So Popular“.

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 “All the Types of Succulents for Indoor & Outdoor” or even “Rare Succulents You Wish You Knew About” today! 

Happy Planting! 🌵

 

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Beautiful Easter Cactus – Hatiora Gaertneri

Beautiful Easter Cactus

Easter cactus which is also known as spring cactus is related to Christmas cactus. It is a species of the epiphytic plant in the Rhipsalidiae tribe, which is within the subfamily, Cactaceae. It is named so since it blossoms during the Easter holidays in the northern hemisphere. The beautiful succulent makes a lovely houseplant. Hatiora Gaertneri grows on trees or rocks only. When growing, it requires a regular amount of water for it to survive.

Beautiful Easter Cactus
Easter Cactus @brcuyanikvolkan

How to grow Hatiora Gaertneri

As a newbie gardener, you may wonder where to start for you to have this wonderful plant in your garden. Below are the guidelines on what to do and the conditions required to grow Hatiora Gaertneri.

Light

Hatiora Gaertneri does well in bright natural light. Don’t expose it to direct sunlight as this will burn the fleshy leaves of a spring cactus. When growing them outdoors, ensure they are under a bright shade. On the contrary, you can opt to grow them indoors and let the light penetrate through the open windows.

Water

Despite being in the cactus family, they differ from the desert cactus. They are epiphytic cacti, growing on other plants and rocks, not in soil. This gives them the need to breathe. Water your plant with plenty of water and let it drain thoroughly out of the pot. Before another watering session, make sure the plant has gone dry to avoid the roots rotting out due to constantly moist. The watering process is exercised until the plant blooms. At this particular period of blooming, water your plant more often since you don’t want it to go completely dry at this time.

To learn more, check out “How Often To Water a Cactus: Essential Guide”.

Soil

Hatiora Gaertneri requires rocky soil to grow well due to its nature of growth being on trees and rocks. You will need a mixture of soil to tree bark, perlite, or pumice in the ratio of 1:1. The use of pumice is the best. This soil should be neutral and well-drained. We highly recommend this soil by Hoffman! Our office plants love it!

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Temperature

Hatiora Gaertneri is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures. They do best in warmer temperatures. Ensure that you keep them away from any heaters and any cold drafts. To set the plants blooms, ensure the evening temperature is cool. This could be between 45-55 degrees. If you are in template climates, growing them outdoors is advisable.

Humidity

The Easter cactus requires a humid environment for it to survive. To stimulate the needed moisture, mist the plant daily with a sprayer, even during the resting period. Alternatively, you can place the plant on a saucer filled with pebbles and a little water. The air around the plant will be moistened through evaporation.

Fertilizing

Hatiora Gaertneri requires fertilization, preferably every 14 days. Use a balanced fertilizer and dilute it to half strength. Do not fertilize the plant during the resting period. You can also top-dress the plant with an organic granular fertilizer. They always respond with abundant growth during summertime when fed regularly despite them being moderate feeders. If you want a professional recommendation without the hassle of research, this batch by GrowBetter really does help our babies grow better!

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Great slow-release for indoor & outdoor cacti and succulents. Can be pre-mixed with potting soils or top-dressed. OMRI Listed.


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If you want a more in-depth look at succulent fertilizers, check out “5 Safest Fertilizers For Succulents”.

Propagation

Propagate any segment that is at least 3 inches long. This is done in late spring. Allow the cut surface to dry before being placed in slightly moist soil. For More tips and tricks on propagating succulents and cacti check out: “5 Tips for Propagating Succulents”.

Repotting

Once the flowering has finished, you can repot your plants. It is always important to use a well-drained potting mix with good air porosity preferably the ones used for any succulent or cactus.

Beautiful Easter Cactus
Cacti Family @jana_hylocereus

Getting the Hatiora Gaertneri to bloom

Having followed and maintained the points above, you should have a healthy green cactus. For you to accomplish flowers, you will be required to have a special set of conditions. The first thing to do is to stop feeding them. Secondly, move the plant to a place where it will have 12-14 hours of darkness. Ensure the temperatures are 10 degrees Celsius for the best bud set. Thirdly, water the plant sparingly from October to November. By the time it hits December, moves the plant to somewhere warmer with 16-18 degrees Celsius range. The plant will be ready to flower from February to March.

Challenges faced when growing Hatiora Gaertneri

Despite having followed the procedures for its growth, they are met by some challenges, one of being infested by insects.  Scale and mealybugs are the common insects that attack this plant. It usually occurs if the plant is indoors. To curb this, you can wipe the stems down with some alcohol. This will remove the insects and the honeydew they excrete- which can attract fungal spores and the dust that has accumulated. 

If the infestation becomes severe, take your plant outdoor and use insecticide made for succulent plants to treat it. Always follow the directions on the package for application.

Another great problem with this Easter cactus is the root and stem rot caused by a wet, heavy potting mix. To avoid this, you can use the special cactus soil available for use with succulents and cactus. Consider growing your plant in a clay pot which will provide a quicker dry down of the potting mix and better soil aeration. Also, the Easter cactus will fail to flower in the following year, if it is fertilized in the 30 days following blooming.

ALSO READ:

Beautiful Easter Cactus
Hatiora Gaertneri @leaf_as_we_know_it

The next time you are interested in adding some springtime color to your home, be guaranteed to witness it by having this plant in your garden or in that corner of your house. It is easy to grow and brings that bliss in your home. Make your next Easter colorful with Hatiora Gaertneri.

Thank you for reading! 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.

Happy Planting! 🌵

Succulent Insight: How Fast Do Cacti Grow?

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.

ALSO READ:

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 our article “5 Dangers Of Overwatering A Cactus” to see all the 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! 🌵

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