Cacti are the most whimsical of all plants. There are two types of cacti- those inhabiting desert regions and those living in the jungles.
In order for a plant to be a cactus, it must be perennial, meaning it must live year after year. This trait provides comfort to the owners and a sense of growing along. A companionship of sorts.
Aesthetic appeal of Indoor Cactus Plants
For a beautiful desert look to your kitchen, living room or bedroom, place it on sunny window sills or tables next to windows.
For good house decoration, you can grow cacti in terrariums. Such terrariums used to grow cacti and succulents are called desertariums.
You can also grow them in small rectangular or glass bowl-shaped aquariums. Make sure to use well-draining porous soil. Soil, gravel, charcoal can be added. If you wish to hide the soil layer, simply paint the outer surface of the glass with aluminum paint.
You can also place cacti in glazed pots for beautiful appearance but make sure to drill a hole below the glazed pot for good drainage.
They are an inexpensive way of jazzing up the room with good decor.
Health benefits of Indoor Cactus Plants
Cacti help in removing our respiratory waste (carbon dioxide) by absorbing it. They convert it into carbohydrates for their nutrition and supply us with fresh oxygen to breath.
Cactus plants are known to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night. It is very helpful in improving sleeping quality and supplementing oxygen.
Studies on plants have proved that keeping plants indoors helps feel relaxed, motivated, focussed and peaceful. A study at the royal college of agriculture, England found that student demonstrated 70% greater attentiveness when taught in rooms containing plants
Research by NASA has revealed that houseplants can remove up to 84 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. Increase the quantity of cactus in your home for a toxin-free environment. Cacti are known to be very effective in eliminating bacteria.
Keeping a few cacti plants in your room will also keep respiratory diseases at bay. This is because as a part of photosynthesis and respiratory process, they release moisture vapor, increasing humidity of the air. It is a known fact that plants release 97% of the water they take in. If we talk about pollution, cacti are very helpful at reducing radiation.
Plants are known to help with loneliness and depression. Caring for a living thing gives us purpose and is rewarding.
Cactus being affordable, simple to transport and carry can be given as a gift for health.
For good health are fresh oxygen, use 15-18 plants in 6-8 inch diameter pot for an 1800 square foot house.
How to care for Indoor Cactus Plants?
Many people find it difficult to manage cactus plants throughout the year. Plant lovers, especially those who are highly successful with other house plants, will usually run into a streak of bad luck trying to grow cactus. The error, of course, lies in the grower.
The reason is that cactus plants require care just the opposite of that generally given to. There is usually a misconception that cacti need no attention whatsoever. In real life, even among cactus plants, different cultural methods must be applied.
For example, consider a cactus that thrive under the hot sun and in poor soil where rainfall is scanty. Such plants become miserable under humid conditions and when given plenty of water.
Now consider the forest cacti that shuns the fierce rays of the tropical sun and welcomes filtered light and water. How will it react to a desert-dry environment and sparing water?
Remember, in order to be successful with any kind of plant, one must know the conditions of its natural habitat.
Water Requirement of Cactus
Cacti that are very thick-stemmed and very spiny usually come from adverse condition areas. They have the ability to take up and store within their stems, the moisture which comes their way in intervals. They are excellent for hot and dry conditions of the living room. They require water sparingly.
On the other hand, flat, thin stemmed and slenderly branched cacti give hint that they require a richer soil and more humid surroundings.
The best time to water is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is not too strong. If watering is performed between 10 am and 4 pm, plants may suffer sunburn and can even get cooked. This is for plants which are kept on a sunny window sill or sunny porch. Drops of water adhering to the crown, the thorn will act as a magnifying lens for the sun rays during that period.
These plants must be watered daily as they get a good dose of the sun. Make sure the drainage of these plants is good.
Cacti given no moisture in warmer, drier surroundings of living rooms will become dry, dirty, paler in color and often withered.
Rule of thumb is to keep the soil a little moist rather than too dry. Remember to water sparingly and more frequently.
Generally, it is necessary to water once in seven to ten days. You can place a saucer with water below the vase or pot or put water from above. If using the former technique, do not let it remain in the water for more than five minutes. When watering from above, do not get any moisture on the plants. Cleaning of the stem should be done on sunny days and preferably with the help of syringes. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Resting period and Active season period
All plants under natural conditions are subject to a resting period. The winter period is also called a resting period wherein the growth of the plant is suspended.
In milder climates where there are no winters, it is the rainless season which furnishes resting period.
What we can do to ease the cactus into the resting period is to keep it outdoors starting autumn (October or November depending on your area). The cool autumn nights will benefit the plant as the lower night temperatures will promote the hardening and ripening of stems. It is advisable to leave the cactus outdoors until frost.
After that, bring it indoors and the cactus will continue to grow. It will not immediately start to rest. Watering should not be totally withdrawn but reduced to gradually bring it into the dormant state.
The best places to winter cacti are cool cellars, verandas, lighted halls or any other compartments that are frost-free, comparatively dry, well ventilated and plenty of light.
The active season for most cacti begins around March depending on the area. In places like Chicago, winter dormancy carries on for 3-4 more weeks.
On warm days, it is a good idea to keep cacti out temporarily in the sun to absorb warm rays and fresh air. If you do not have a balcony, porch or a window sill, opening up your windows is the next best thing to allow fresh air and sun to reach cacti.
This is done to prepare cacti to withstand intense heat later on in the season. Keep it out for a few hours or open the windows for a few hours and then close them.
Moving them in and out is a bothersome task, the cacti will repay you for this deed and you will be able to enjoy them for much longer.
There are exceptions to every rule. Certain cactus varieties like holidays blooming varieties are dormant in summer and grow and flower in winter.
When to change the pot?
A cactus need not be shifted unless it has outgrown its pot. Shifting or transplanting, if necessary, is to be done at the end of the dormant season, when new growth is beginning. Some species can remain in the same pot for several years as long as a little fertilizer is applied during the growing season.
If the cactus standstill for a long time, take it out of the pot and examine the roots. Too often the roots have dried up or rotten away and the plant remains dormant even in the growing season. Time to repot with fresh well-draining soil.
Soil and fertilizer
Cactus require well-draining soil. There is a special cactus mix soil available in the market. Sandy, porous, pebbles, it is all about the drainage. The soil should have plenty of aeration and excellent drainage.
A good fertilizer helps a cactus to make a normal, mature and flowering growth. Inspect the cactus plant weekly beginning in early spring for signs of new growth, new leaflets, new needles or increase in size. Begin fertilizing when new growth begins. Apply a low nitrogen fertilizer like 5-10-10 blend. Follow the instructions and use half the instructed amount to see how it suits. Repeat the 5-10-10 NPK every eight weeks during spring and summer. It will amount to three applications.
A 1-7-6 cactus blend fertilizer can also be used. You have to apply it every two weeks during the growing season. Cactus does not need any nutrients in fall and winter where they enter a semi-dormant state.
For those cactus varieties which are dormant in summer and grow in winters like holiday blooming varieties, reverse the fertilization schedule. Feed them in winters and not in summer.
Remember never to overfeed cactus or they will get indigestion. It is best to give light applications a little more often than a heavier application at one go.
A cactus collection can be kept clean without much effort from the owners part by using insecticides from time to time and keeping an eye out for mealybugs, scale insects, aphids, thrips, red spiders, ants, etc. Use a strong spray of water to knock them off.
Some common diseases of the cactus are root rot ( wilted and discolored appearance), black spot ( caused by fungus entering wounds on a cactus stem. Green moss or algae can develop in the pot due to too much fertilizer or too much moisture in the container.
Now that you have got an idea about the benefits and caring techniques of indoor cactus, go ahead and buy this “next to best friend” gift for yourself and your loved ones.
There are many cactus clubs scattered throughout the United States. Cactus fans in the United States, wishing to join any particular group are referred to the following clubs. There are memberships, trips, tours, recent updates and researches on cacti.
- Cactus and Succulent Society of America Inc.
- The amateur cactus society of Chester
- Arizona cactus and native flora society
- Cactus and succulent society of California
- Denver cactus and succulent society
- Des Moines cactus and succulent society
- The Detroit cactus and succulent society
- El Paso cactus and rock club
- The epiphyllum Society of America
- Freeport cactus club
- Henry shaw cactus society
These are a few examples. There are many more options. Just go to your search engine and you can find the right one for your area.
Wishing you all happiness and fun with cacti. Take care!
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