How Often to Water Cactus Plants?

Is your cactus looking droopy or feeling squishy to touch? It might be suffering from either too much or too little water. To keep your cacti looking healthy, you need to know how often to water cactus plants.

To help you avoid killing your cacti with the wrong watering cycle, this post walks you through the 101 of how to water a cactus. Your spiked friends will thank you and you’ll have more fun watching them grow.

Let’s get started!

How much water does a cactus need?

Before we look into how often to water your cacti, let’s think about a few fundamentals first.

First things first: Where do cacti come from?

In their natural habitat, most cactus plants live in dry, hot, and arid environments. They’ve evolved so that they can cope with burning heat during the day and survive freezing cold temperatures in the night.

Needless to say, cacti do best with plenty of sunlight. As a general rule of thumb: the thicker and meatier the stem, the more sunlight your cactus can take. That’s because round, orb-like cacti have less surface and more space for storing water. They’re holding on to whatever water they get and letting as little of it as possible evaporate.

If you think of the desert, it’s not exactly the rainiest of regions, right? And when it rains, the water drains through the sandy soil fast.

To capture as much water as possible, most cacti have shallow roots. They are spread like a net right below the ground surface.

Tip: If your house has a high air humidity, your cactus needs less frequent watering. Make sure there’s plenty of air circulation, too. Cacti love fresh air in their natural habitat!

How often to water cactus plants?

The most important point to remember is this:

If you want to kill your cactus, the best way to do it is to water it daily.

Most cactus plants need weekly watering during active growth periods. This growing season is typically between spring and fall, depending on the plant.

When the plant enters a rest period in the fall, you can increase the interval between watering. With shorter days and cooler weather, cacti should be given just enough water so that they don’t show signs of shriveling.

How to water your cactus?

The best way to water a cactus is to let the soil dry completely before watering again. When the soil feels dry to the touch, you can water your cactus again. If the soil is still moist, giving the plant more water will cause its roots to rot.

When you water your cactus, make sure the soil is thoroughly damp. Use soil that drains well and breathes. You can mix pumice or perlite with plant soil to make it airy. The quick solution is to use a cactus/succulent mix off the rack.

Since each plant is unique, the best way to find out the perfect interval is getting to know your cactus. I find it helpful to take notes so I don’t lose track of the details. Especially since I have dozens of cacti in my house!

Help! My cactus got too much water! What should I do?

If your cactus is getting too much water, its roots will start to rot. And when the rotting starts, it’s often too late to save your cactus.

But hey, we’re talking about your dear friend here, so this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best to save it, right?

The best way to save your plant is to repot it carefully. That’s the only way you can make sure the roots can breathe again. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Cactus gloves (or newspaper)
  2. Brush
  3. Household disinfectant spray
  4. Bypass pruners
  5. Terracotta pot

Needless to say, you should be careful with the spines. Use cactus gloves or several layers of newspaper to protect your hands.

Tip: Another sign of overwatering are splits on the surface like on a ripe tomato. Reduce the watering to once a month or even once every other month.

How to save your indoor cactus from root rot:

First, gently knock or remove the soil around the rootball. Brush away any remaining dirt so that you can see how the roots are doing.

Trim out any root sections that are brown, black, or smelly. Use a set of bypass pruners that you’ve disinfected with a thick coat of household disinfectant spray or alcohol.

Let the cactus rest for 1-7 days with its roots exposed. Any pruning cuts need to scab over before you replant your green beauty again.

How to repot your salvaged cactus plant:

When it’s time to repot your cactus, make sure you use a terracotta pot. It’s better for balancing out humidity in the soil in between waterings.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Fill the pot about two-thirds full with a good cactus soil mix.
  2. Place the cactus gently in the pot and carefully fan its brittle roots across the soil’s surface.
  3. Finish off by filling the pot loosely with enough soil to bring it to the same level it was in the previous pot. The stem of your plant has to be above the soil surface completely.

You can water the plant again in about 2 weeks when the soil is completely dry. Give your cactus enough water to soak up, so that the terra cotta pot is visibly darker. But don’t overdo it, use some common sense here. We don’t want to end up right where we started.

Saving your cactus from root rot takes a few moments but it’s worth it! Seeing your plant recover feels so rewarding!

Summing it up: How often to water cactus plants indoors

Watering a cactus indoors can be a bit tricky if you’re new to cacti. Although different types of cactus plants need individual care, most of them prefer infrequent but thorough watering.

It’s easier to find the right watering cycle and routine when you use the right kinds of pots and soil. Cacti prefer pots that breathe and soil that drains well. After that, it’s all about getting to know your plant. Step by step, you’ll discover the best balance between watering and letting the soil dry.

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

Let me know how your cacti are doing in the comments below!

Happy planting!

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