The Beauty of Cacti

Anyone that knows me will know all too well that I love cacti. They are one of my favourite plants and I am on a mission to help people realise just how good they are as a house plant. Hopefully I can encourage more of you to consider having some around your own home!

I started collecting cacti when I was about five years old. It is a passion that has carried on right to this day. They really captured my imagination. I love all their spikes and just how unusual they look. I used to imagine how any animal could even think of trying to eat them and how desperate they would need to be to even try!

The original plant that started my collection is still alive and well in my house. At its height my collection grew to include about 200 others. I really caught the bug for cacti at ten when I brought one of my prize specimens to a cactus show in Dublin and won first prize and a silver spoon from the Royal Horticultural Society. I remember trying to get my large spiky cactus onto a train in Waterford and on a Dublin Bus coach to Rathgar without causing a prickly situation with any passengers trying to squeeze by!

Not just spikes, flowers too!

My favourite ones are really the flowering, small and easy to grow plants such as Mammilaria and Rebutia. These are so easy to grow and will reliably flower every year in early summer. When they flower they are submerged in a blanket of vibrant colour. 

Rebutia in flower. Photo credit: Eliver22, Pixabay
Mammilaria in flower

Every cactus is a succulent but not all succulents are cacti

Succulents are plants that hold water in their leaves. They usually prefer warm temperatures and that, and the fact they don’t need too much attention, makes them particularly suitable as house plants. Sansevieria is one of the most popular of these. Sometimes called Snake Plants, their more commonly known as Mother-in-law’s tongue. Now I would never offer a reason for these names but I will let your imagination run wild.  Mother-in-law’s tongue thrives on neglet and sits well in any room of the house.

Watering cacti

Cacti like to be watered from mid-March to the end of September and not at all for the rest of the year. When you do water them you need to really drench them and then leave them to dry out completely before the next watering.  I find that once every fortnight usually suffices.  I also give them a feed with tomato food once a month in spring and summer. This will keep them in good flowering condition.

Repotting your cactus

It is important to monitor your cacti and they should be re-potted once a year into a slightly larger container with good drainage holes. I find terracotta pots not only work very well but look great too.  Free-draining compost that is roughly one third gravelly sand and two thirds potting compost will allow the excess water to drain away quickly and allows water to be absorbed after dry periods. You can make up your own or use special cactus compost.

As you would imagine they need a good bright position to grow in. However they don’t always appreciate being cooked in a conservatory on a hot day when you are away. Good ventilation is needed to keep the temperatures down.

Cacti are a fuss-free plant that more people should grow in their homes. And as long as you treat them right, just like you would treat your mother-in-law, you will not run into any prickly situations.