How Much Water Does a Cactus Need?

Watering a cactus can sometimes be a bit difficult. They have somewhat different needs than the more common houseplants with big, beautiful green leaves. To help your cacti grow to be beautiful indoor plants, you should learn to water them properly. But how much water does a cactus need then?

Even though cactus plants can sometimes be somewhat needy, they’re most often just misunderstood. When a cactus shows signs of being out of shape, most of us tend to give them more water.

However, that’s the wrong solution in most cases. Overwatering your cactus is the best way to kill it faster than you think.

To help you take proper care of your cactus plants, in this post I’ll walk you through how to water your cactus. We’ll look at a handful of key factors that help you understand how much water your cactus really needs.

Let’s get started!

Cactus plants and water 101:

Although most of us think of cacti as plants that can survive without water in the desert, they do need regular watering to flourish.

What makes cacti so unique is their natural habitat: the desert. Cactus plants have adapted to the dry and hot climates like no other plant on this planet. Their leaves have evolved into spines to minimize humidity loss through evaporation.

Nevertheless, cacti need the right amount of water just like any other plant. Let’s go through four important points you can use to figure out how much water your cactus needs:

1: Air humidity

One pretty fascinating fact about cacti is that they can pull moisture from the air when they need it.

In the desert habitat where most cacti come from, the air can be very humid during the night. That’s when the plants open up their “pores” and absorb water from the air around them. After all, if they did so during the day, they’d lose water because of the hot temperatures.

If your house has high air humidity, you’ll need to water your plant less frequently. When you place your cactus in the kitchen or bathroom, they can use the moisture to survive longer until the next watering.

2: Sunlight

Sunlight is like food for houseplants. They can’t live without it! And the more light they get, the faster they grow.

With that said, if your cactus lives in a sunny spot, it will need more water. That’s because more sunlight means your plant is using more carbon dioxide for photosynthesis to produce oxygen. This process requires water to help your cactus grow.

But be careful with direct sunlight – most indoor cactus plants prefer indirect light. If your cactus is getting too much sunlight, it can start looking yellow, bleached, or a bit orange even. That means you should move it to a window with less harsh light.

3: Seasonality and growth periods

Every cactus plant has a natural cycle of growth and dormancy periods.

Usually the growing season is from spring to fall. When the days get longer and warmer, cacti need more water and nutrients to grow. Water your cacti weekly during the growing season. When the soil feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water the plant until the soil is thoroughly damp.

Just remember to use proper cactus soil that drains well and breathes. Regular houseplant soil isn’t a good choice for growing cactus plants. It’s too dense and your cactus will most probably suffer from rotting roots before long.

During the dormancy period in the winter, water your cactus less frequently. Again, each plant has their unique needs. The best way to know if your cactus needs water is to touch the soil. If it’s dry to the touch (below the surface!), it’s time for a watering.

Tip: Water your cactus early in the morning if possible. That way any excess water on the spines and the surface can dry off during the day.

4: Temperature

Needless to say, warmer temperatures mean that your cactus is losing more water through evaporation. The plant does this to cool off, just like you and me when we’re sweating on a hot summer day.

The thing with having a cactus indoors is that the temperature is constant throughout the year. There are no cool winters and hot summers in your living room. But depending where you place your plants, you should keep an eye on the temperature.

In fact, it’s a good idea to encourage your cactus to enter dormancy in winter. It helps the plant to recover from the growing season to recoup its energy. Also, your cactus is more likely to blossom later on if you allow it to “hibernate” in the winter.

You can help your cactus enter dormancy by:

  • Moving it to a cooler spot (ideally between 45 and 55°F or 7 and 13°C)
  • Watering it less frequently (once a month)
  • Cutting back on the fertilizer (stop using fertilizer in the fall)

Summing it up: How much water does a cactus need

I hope you found a few helpful tips for watering your cactus plants in this article. The trick with cacti is that they have different needs compared to the more common houseplants coming from tropical regions.

When you’re trying to figure out how much water does a cactus need, start with the four key points we discussed above. They are the key to understanding how much water your cactus needs to grow.

The most important thing with helping your cacti look healthy and grow strong is to use the right kind of soil. Make sure you don’t use regular houseplant soil since it’s too dense. Instead, go for a good cactus mixture that’s airy and can breathe well.

If you know someone who’s getting started with cactus plants, don’t forget to share this article with them! They’ll be thankful for these tips, too!

Let me know how it goes in the comments below! What are your top tips on how to take care of a cactus indoors?

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