Cactus Plants – Care, Watering and Re-Potting

This particular plant group is both vast and varied. Cactus plants can be both small and intricate, and striking and architectural.

With this in mind, there is a succulent to suit everyone.

Cultivation notes

Cactus plants are able to store water in their stems or leaves, which makes them extremely maintenance-free and able to withstand a variety of weather conditions and habitats. All cactus plants are succulents, with the majority of species native to the desert – where dry air, low moisture levels, bright sunshine, and high temperatures are rife.

Certain species also grow in rainforests, where they require both humid conditions and semi-shade.

With this in mind, it’s important to choose the correct cactus plant for the environment you intend to place it in, especially if you wish to cultivate cacti successfully.

How to care for cacti and succulents in the home environment

When selecting compost, choose a variety that is both open and free draining.

This will help avert waterlogging while re-creating a natural habitat for your cactus plant. Compost suitable for growing succulents is readily available online and at garden centers.

Re-potting cactus plants

When re-potting succulents and pot-bound plants, do so in the spring. Place in a new pot that measures only slightly larger in diameter.

These species can be a little on the prickly side, so to avoid damaging the plant or your hands, use thick strips of folded newspaper to transport the plants to their new home. Alternatively, use an oven glove.


Most cactus plants and succulents prefer sunny, bright weather. If planting indoors, place on a window that gets the sun all year round. However, if opting for forest-growing epiphytes, choose somewhere that sits in the semi-shade.

Although these plants are able to withstand high temperatures and strong sunshine, it’s highly recommended they have a period of rest. To enable this, place them in a cooler environment during the winter months, where evening temperatures drop to 8-10°C.

If indoors, don’t worry too much about central heating, just supply them with a little more water than usual to stop them from shriveling.

Watering, feeding, and ventilation

In the spring and summer months, from April onwards, it’s important to water cactus plants and succulents liberally, allowing any excess water to drain away. Instead of keeping the plant constantly moist, allow the soil to dry out between watering.

If growing forest-native epiphytes, place them in a humid environment – an orangery or conservatory is the perfect home for these species. Cactus plants require feeding only once per month during the growing season of April to September.

For best results, use either specialist liquid cacti feed or a liquid houseplant feed. It’s also important to allow them plenty of fresh air during this period.

In the autumn and winter months, care is slightly different. From September onwards, you will need to reduce watering to a minimum, in order to promote a period of rest. At this time, you should also allow the compost to dry out almost completely prior to watering again.

Certain species can be left un-watered from early November up until February, which makes them a great plant for those who often holiday in the winter months. Winter-flowering species on the other hand necessitate warmth and steady watering during this time, followed by a resting period in the summer months.

For best results, use tepid rainwater when watering cactus plants. The minerals in tap water can cause harm to these shrubs as the sediments in tap water can cause build up on the leaves of succulents.


Cactus plants and succulents boast a natural seasonal pattern and if left to this, they will grow to their full potential. This includes a period of rest, (what would be the dry season in their natural habitat), followed by an increase in water (the rainy season).

If you follow this routine, you can expect your succulents to flower. This pattern varies with certain species, which is why it’s imperative you do your research.

Pruning and cleaning

Pruning cactus plants isn’t always necessary and often depends on the habitat and species of the cactus plant in question. Propagation however is a great way to tidy up a more mature plant, while encouraging new growth.

Cleaning is an important part of caring for your cactus plants, especially if indoors.

Dust can easily build upon the leaves, causing them to look unsightly. A soft paintbrush or make-up brush are both great tools to use when it comes to removing dust from the leaves. A damp cloth is another option and one that works well on smooth-leaved succulents.


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Lily Calyx is our in-house flower whisperer, an expert on all things botanical and an enthusiastic orchids collector. She loves discussing the insights of the secret world of flowers, shares her gardening tips and hacks and moons over the latest additions to Serenata Flowers flower range. Ask Lily anything about flowers and we can guarantee she will have the answer.

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