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Cacti & Succulents

Cacti & Succulents

Most cacti and succulents come from dry areas such as steppes and desert. High temperatures and low rainfall force plants to collect and store water to survive long dry periods. They are very difficult to kill, and if properly potted require little maintenance to survive indoors. They are very adaptable houseplants and will thrive in a range of indoor conditions. Additionally some cacti and succulents bear extraordinarily beautiful flowers.

Cacti and succulents need warm temperatures and bright conditions for growth and flowering. Prolonged periods of low temperatures can lead to fungal diseases and stuned growth so they should be placed in the warmest and sunniest part of the house.

Cacti and succulents need bright conditions and are among the few plants that can thrive on a south facing windowsill all year round. In the middle of the summer, however, light through a window may result in scorching so check regularly and move around if you notice any scorching from too much light. East or west facing windows can be good enough, too.

In their natural environment cacti and succulents absorb nutrients and water from dew or mist so they will benefit from regular misting with water or especially Houseplant Myst which provides nutrients at the same time.  The best time to mist a cactus or succulent is in the morning. Avoid misting in cold weather during the winter.

Although they can withstand long periods of drought, cacti and succulents will need regular watering especially during the growing season. Allow for the top part of the growing medium to dry between watering but not too much as this will inhibit growth. Water from the top of the pot. Regular watering is especially important during flowering to prevent premature drying of the flowers.  

Cacti and succulents will respond to regular feeding which will promote healthy growth and flowering. Use a fertiliser specifically formulated for cacti and succulents such as Cactus & Succulent Focus at the recommended rate with every other watering.

Most cacti and succulents will flower once a year - in response to high temperatures and bright conditions (Christmas cactus is an exception and will flower in response to short days and lower temperatures). Unfortunately, the house environment is not warm and bright enough to enable some species to flower.

Cacti and succulents need repotting every 12–18 months or if the condition of the old soil is poor. For best results plants should be repotted early in the year just before the new spring growth starts, but they can be repotted at any time in the summer. If not repotting, it is a good practice to replace the top part of the growing medium (without removing any roots) with fresh medium every year.

When repotting cacti or succulents is it important to use a pot with an adequate number of drainage holes and a free-draining growing medium specifically for cacti and succulents such as Cactus & Succulent Focus Repotting Mix which contains a large proportion of sand, grit and soil. 


Rework the new repotting mix so it regains its texture. Carefully ease the plant from the old container, using a pair of gloves or a large piece of cloth if the cactus has spines. Loosen the root ball, breaking away any loose soil. Remove all the soil that you easily can. Cut away any dead roots. Add a layer of moist new repotting mix to the bottom of the new container. Hold the plant in place and work the mix well in between the roots.

Add repotting mix until it fills the container to just below the rim. Water well from the top until there is runoff. Keep in the shade for three weeks to allow new roots to grow. Start feeding with a specialist fertiliser such as Cactus & Succulent Focus six weeks after repotting – this will encourage healthy growth and flowering.

Shrivelled Stem or Leaves

Check the growing medium. If it is too dry the cause is very likely to be under watering. Water immediately and adjust the frequency of future waterings.

White ‘Threads’ on The Leaves and/or White Fluffy Insects In The Plant Crevices

These are most likely mealybugs. Remove with a cotton bud dipped in methylated spirit and wipe the leaves or stem clean regularly to prevent an infestation (assuming there are no spines in the way). Additionally, spray with SB Plant Invigorator as per the instructions on the label. After the first signs spray at least four times every four days to kill off any remaining insects.

Brown or Mushy Parts

This is most likely due to excess water. Cacti and succulents need to dry between waterings and to receive plenty of sun light. Too much water makes the tissue soft and easily attacked by fungi (most commonly Botrytis cinerea).

If the rot is at the bottom there may be little that can be done to save the plant but if the roots are not damaged you could simply slice off the infection, use sulphur powder as a fungicide, and replant after a couple of days.

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