When one says the word cactus, a thorny bush in a desert comes to mind. Cacti look very unusual and stand out distinctly among other plants. Cacti are grown for ornamental purposes or to form a protective border. Cactus grow in deserts and need very little water. These are the main reasons which make growing and maintaining cactus plants a fairly easy job. Here are the standards that one needs to maintain when caring for cacti.
Light: Light is one of the basic requirements for plants. If you want your cactus to flower, then provide it with filtered light. To achieve this, keep the plant inside the house, near a window through which a lot of light streams in. The amount for light needed differs in different cacti, for example, Christmas cactus needs bright sunlight. So, do a little background research for information on cacti that you have in your garden or home. If you want to set up artificial lighting, use 1 watt incandescent bulb and 10 watt fluorescent light. Provide the plant with approximately 16 hours of artificial light.
Water: In the growing season of the cacti, keep the soil moist and not dry. The growing season of cacti can be spring, summer, or fall. If you have a cactus, as a houseplant, then water it once a month only. For potted cacti, here is one of the best tips to find out the perfect watering time. Take a wooden pencil and insert it deep inside the pot. Take out the pencil. If there is damp soil sticking to it, then do not water the plant. Only when you find the soil dry, water the plant. By practicing this method for some time, you will get an estimate of the watering period for the plant.
Fertilizer: Buy plant food, such as a mixture of nitrates from a nursery. You can feed the plant thrice a year, that is during the spring, summer, and fall. If your plant has grown considerably big, since the first time you fertilized it, then all the nutrients in the soil must be replenished. So, either repot or change the soil. Before using a fertilizer, research the individual cactus's fertilizer needs. Succulents plants mostly don't need any fertilizers, as they are very tough.
Potting: Store small cacti in clay dishes. After the cactus grow to a medium size, move them to pots. The size of the pot should be a bit larger than that of the root ball. It needs soil that remains moist but not wet. Always use a light soil mixture for cactus. Prepare a light soil mixture, using 2 parts of commercial soil and 1 part gravel and add perlite or any other soil amendment for good drainage. Sterilize this soil mix in an oven at 180º F for 30 minutes. When moving plants with thorns, make sure you wrap the thorny areas with paper to avoid any injuries.
Temperature Requirements: Most cacti need a dry environment. They can tolerate temperatures between 45 to 80º F. The area where they are kept should be well-ventilated. Maintain a dry and low humid air around the plants.
Pest Removal: Cacti can get infected by pests very easily. For pest-control, change the soil of the plant on a regular basis. Buy a commercial soil mix and sterilize it in the oven. If there is a lot of pest damage, use a pesticide spray on the cactus. Rotting is another health problem. Over-watering and manhandling leads to rots. So, follow proper watering regime and avoid wounding of the plant.
Arrangement of the Cacti: You can arrange different shrubs and bushes of cacti in a group. Form a group with different types of cactus. Hang the pots which contain medium or small-shaped plants. Also, arrange them in such a way that they receive adequate light. By arranging them in this way, you can do container gardening easily.
Maintaining a cactus is a fairly easy job, and they are best suited for busy people. They make great as houseplants as they don't require much watering and make your home look beautiful. There are several species of cactus and succulents from which you can choose. So, buy some of these and create a beautiful garden.