How to Care for Cactus & Succulent Plants

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Many types of cactus and succulents do well as potted plants.
Many types of cactus and succulents do well as potted plants. (Image: cactus 2 image by Marc Rigaud from Fotolia.com)

Cacti and succulents are related plants that grow well in hot, dry areas, including the deserts of the American Southwest. Many of these types of plants are well-adapted to various growing conditions and are commonly used as potted plants, both outdoors and inside. Cacti and succulents are generally easy to care for because they don’t need much water. Some varieties form attractive flowers, so you can fertilize them to encourage blooming.

Things You'll Need

  • Cactus potting soil
  • Containers or sandy soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Fan
  • Insecticidal soap

Repot purchased cactus and succulent plants if they are in small nursery pots. Choose pots slightly larger than the plants’ nursery pots and make certain your pots have drainage holes. Use a cactus potting soil, which contains a percentage of sand, giving it good drainage. If you plant your cactus or succulent outdoors, select an area with sandy or gravelly soil, or amend your soil with one of these materials.

Place your cactus or succulent plant near a window indoors where it will receive bright, indirect light. If you choose to keep your plant outdoors, keep it in an area where it will receive partial shade to prevent sunburning. When the plant is larger and adjusts to its new pot, it can tolerate more sun.

Water potted indoor cactus and succulents about once each month, depending on the humidity of your climate: cactus and succulents in humid areas require less watering than those growing in dry regions. Water outdoor plants more frequently; contrary to popular belief, cactus and succulent plants do best in soil that never becomes completely dry.

Fertilize your cactus or succulent with a time-release plant food twice a year. Use a fertilizer that has an N-P-K ratio of 5-10-5. If you dilute this plant food to half strength, you can feed your cactus or succulent three times each year at evenly spaced intervals in spring, summer and fall.

Give your cactus or succulent good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases that sometimes strike these plants. You might consider setting a small fan near your plant and keeping it on a low setting.

Control insects such as weevils, mites, scale and beetles, which rarely attack cactus and succulent plants, by hand picking them or spraying with insecticidal soap.

Tips & Warnings

  • Fertilize flowering cactus and succulents with a fertilizer that has a low nitrogen content to encourage blooming. Follow package instructions for best results.

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