Growing Cactus indoors in India
Naturally found in the deserts and wildly grown, these plants have their reason to be in your homes. They are pretty and flower sparingly. The Beauty of a cactus is appreciated by a few but for those who know its value, it’s one of the most beautiful plants to own. Though the cactus could take a prolonged period of neglect and requires little to no care, they are often the victims of indoor plant owners. Taking care of cactuses is tricky and this makes cactuses one of the most challenging plants to own, especially for indoor gardeners.
In the wild, there are more than 2000 varieties under 139 genera. They are known to be as little as an inch to over 78 feet in height. Though the cactuses grown indoors are small, some do tend to grow big and accommodate a large area. Often these are relocated to the ground or moved to areas where they can grow bigger.
Indoor cactuses are rarely pruned. They are not trimmed, trained, or cut. These cactuses grow at their own pace and usually grow very slowly. Most cactuses grow only 1-3 centimeters a year with a few exceptions which may grow up to 15 centimeters a year. Cactuses grown indoors are slow in growth and will not grow more than 2-3 centimeters a year.
The slow growth is one of the key reasons for indoor gardeners liking these plants. A plant once in place can live in the same area for years without being moved, if provided with sufficient light and occasional water. Unlike most indoor plants, there is no need for trimming or pruning. The water requirements are as little as once a week or during winters once or twice the entire season.
While cactuses are easy to care for, they are also one of the easiest to kill. Overwatering is the primary reason for the death of cactus plants indoors, followed by low light conditions. Cactuses mgrowroww naturally in deserts where water is scarce and the soil is well drained throughout the year. The light conditions are harsh. When these plants are moved indoors, they must adjust to a completely different environment. While relatively low light is tolerated, overwatering is a usual problem with root rot that follow. Well-drained soil with complete dry soil for a week before each watering will help cactuses survive indoors, though this should not be taken as a thumb rule. Cactus differ in requirements of water and sunlight and each variety has its preference water requirement. Soil too plays a major role in growing cactuses indoors.
When indoors, cactuses require certain conditions. Unlike its natural growing environment, indoors are usually less lit and conditions are often a bit more humid. While providing the required amount of light for the survival of cactuses may involve the purchase of grow lights in rooms that are relatively low in light, they can often survive in window sills, especially if the windows are west or east facing and provide bright indirect light throughout the day.
Indoor Cactus Care
Cactus requires little to no care indoors. Leave it in a brightly lit area, preferably with indirect light and good ventilation. Light is key for good cactus growth. Also, ensure that there is no direct sun to the plant. While it’s perfect for cactuses growing outdoors to be in direct sun, potted plants will have a smaller root system and find it hard to survive in pots when exposed to direct light. The plants should also be placed where there is proper aeration. Airflow ensures that the humidity level is balanced for the plants. Cactuses prefer dry air, but with indoor conditions, base humidity must be maintained for human comfort. To keep the balance for plants, a good airflow is important. While cactuses do survive winters indoors, they will require better lighting conditions, especially during the winter season, where daylight is much lesser. Water the plants once during summer and wait till the soil is completely dry. Leave the soil dry for a week before watering again. Sometimes, this may take 10 days between watering and sometimes up to 2 weeks. The watering schedule depends on the pot size in most cases. Smaller pots can be watered weekly while larger pots will require longer gaps between watering schedules.
How cactuses Grow
Cactuses grow only an inch or more every year, often from the tip. Depending on the variety of the cactus, they may branch out and often produce branches only once in a few years. This is convenient for indoor growers, especially those who enjoy having tabletop plants. Slow growth and very few branches make cactuses one of the preferred plants for table tops.
When indoors, Cactuses love areas that are airy and bright. While they may survive in partial shade, they are not very good in dark areas and will die slowly. Keep your plants directly near a light source. The front of a computer monitor is a great source for lights but only if you work on the computer for more than 5-6 hours a day. If there is no light source, it’s recommended to invest in a grow light. Grow lights may be a bit expensive or cheap depending on the variety. For a single plant, you may be able to get one for 300-400 Rs on Amazon. For more plants or a commercial set, investing in a bigger grow light is recommended and may cost a few thousand.
Caring for cactuses
Caring for cactuses is easy and often requires that you neglect the plant once it’s in place and has established itself. Too much care for a cactus is one way to kill it. People often overwater the plants which is the cause of 90% of death in cactuses. Unlike indoor plants (the common ones), the cactus is not a typical indoor plant and requires that its soil be dry most of the time. Water the plants sparingly and when watering, ensure that the soil is fully drenched. But then, leave it to dry. Once dry, keep it that way for a week. Overwatering will cause root rot and the plant will die faster than you would realize. Saving a plant from overwatering, would be quite hard as most beginners would realize the plant needs to help a bit too late.
- Light. : while indoor, plants can only get so much light that’s available indoors. A bright window or a bright light is probably the only source you can get for your plants. It’s enough in most cases. If you are getting bright indirect light for more than 6-8 hours a day, your cactus will live. Do not worry about it. But if you are going to place your cactus in a room with less than enough light, a bathroom, or a storage area, it may not be the ideal place for it. Also ensure that cactuses indoors, are not placed in direct sunlight like the window where the temperature could get hot during the noons and evenings. Plants in pots will often turn dry faster than you predict and though your cactuses love dry soil, too dry for too long will only deter plant growth and often result in poor plant health and death.
- Temperature: 25 to 35 degrees is a perfect condition for cactuses. If you place a cactus in an air-conditioned room, chances are that the temperature is between 18 and 23, which may be ok for a while but not always. Try to get the plant away from air-conditioned rooms. A normal temperature or a room with no air conditioning is perfect for cactuses. If you have a regular ceiling fan, that’s great to keep the airflow and also the temperature at the right levels during the summer months. For the Indian climate, cactuses can be grown almost anywhere indoors.
- Soil & Growing media: The growing media is the next most important thing when it comes to growing succulents and cactuses. The soil should drain well and not allow water to stay at all. coarse sand, small pebbles, and perlite mixed with very little organic matter are considered a great soil mix for succulents. Most succulent and cactus growers prefer river sand mixed with small pebbles as a growing medium. The soil drains well and does not retain water for more than a few hours. The equal amount of pebbles ensures that the water is well drained and very little water stays in the pot. The downside to having no organic matter in the soil is that the plants do not get any nutrition from the soil In such cases, nutrition is added with the water in soluble form.
- Watering & Misting: The question is always about how much water. For beginners, it may be a challenge to get your cactuses to grow and often stay alive. Watering more could lead to rot and the death of the plant. Too less and chances are that the cactuses will look pale and dry. A healthy cactus plant requires the right amount of water and in most cases will come with experience. Chances are you will kill a few plants before you get the feel for watering your cactuses. The best method to water cactuses is to be on the dry side rather than the wet side. For beginners, misting is often the right way to go, though this does affect the plant’s look. Spots will form where water deposits and the plants may not look as beautiful as you would expect them to be. Nevertheless, you will find your plants alive for a longer period. When you are confident, water the plants once and let the pot dry completely. Once dry, keep it that way for a week. Don’t worry, your plants will live. Also, invest in a moisture meter to ensure that you have the soil conditions dry and don’t water it too often. They cost less than a few hundred rupees online.
- Humidity: Cactuses require low humidity. With indoor conditions, the humidity is usually on the higher side as compared to the requirements. With high humidity, the plants will take longer to dry out at the root level and chances of fungal diseases increase, resulting in problems like root rot. Maintaining a low humidity level is key for healthy cactus plants. The best way to provide the right humidity level indoors is to increase airflow near the plants. If the plant is near a ceiling fan or any source of airflow, it’s a great place for the plant to be, provided there is sufficient light too.
- Fertilizer & Nutrition: Nutrition for plants is like food for humans. Though plants may seem to be alive for as long as there is the right amount of water, the need for nutrition is high too. Depending on the plants, the quantity and quality of nutrition vary. Cactuses in general are not very hungry plants. They can do a lot with little. But living indoors already adds stress to cactuses. There is a limited source of light and they are usually in a pot when indoors with poor root systems. This makes nutrition very essential for all indoor plants, cactuses included. There is a range of cactus feeds and fertilizers available in the market. Liquid fertilizers are more preferred for potted plants as it does not add mass to the pot. Mix a bit with the water once a week and the cactuses will have all the nutrition and fertilizers it needs. If your potting mix does have organic matter, the need for liquid fertilizers is less but still required.
- Potting and repotting: The size of the pot is usually dependent on the size of the plant. Too big or too small pots are not recommended for cactuses. A pot should just be able to support the size of the plant. A plant that is 4-5 inches tall should have a diameter of 3 inches to 4 inches. A pot too small or too big will create problems. Smaller pots will restrict the root growth of the cactuses and larger pots will retain more water than required for a longer period which is not right for cactuses.
- Pruning & Training: Pruning and training are rarely practiced for cactuses. This makes cactuses one of the easiest plants to care for, especially for beginners. The plants grow only up to an inch and a half every year and rarely more than 2 inches. To add to the slow growth, there is no need for pruning ever. If you prune the plants, you will see that they leave a scar where they are cut, which does not look good. If the plants outgrow the pot, repot them. If they outgrow the location you place them, discard them and get a new plant. Pruning is rarely practiced when it comes to cactus
- Air Circulation: Indoor weather is more humid than required for cactuses and succulents. While water and light can be controlled, humidity is a bit more tricky to handle. With higher humidity, chances of pests and diseases in cactuses are common. Fungal diseases and root-related problems apart from diseases in leaves and stems are all a possibility with high humidity in areas where cactuses are grown. What’s the easy way to reduce humidity? It’s easy. Add better ventilation to the rooms where you place your cactuses. A fan may do the trick as long as it’s not placed right on the cactuses. Air circulation does not mean that it has to be right in the area of the plant or on top of it. Place them near the plants. A feeling of air movement is all it takes to reduce humidity near the plants.
- Dormancy: Dormancy is common in all cactuses and sometimes in a range of plants. These are times when the plants go into rest mode. They don’t grow and they sometimes do feel like they are dying. Some plants, especially which have leaves shed them all during dormancy. This is not to be mistaken as the end of the plant. Do not discard your cactuses just because you feel like its dying. During dormancy of cactuses, they are entirely different plants. They need no water. They don’t need nutrition and will take the basic sunlight they get. The growth is completely stopped and sometimes may look a bit weak or shriveled. The dormancy period in cactuses depends on the variety. Cactuses usually stop growing during summer, with a few exceptions and start during mid-fall and continue growing throughout the rainy season. Plants like the kalanchoe have a different cycle of dormancy and you need to know the cactus to understand the dormancy period of each of them.
- Propagation: Propagation of cactuses is usually done through seeds. But commercial propagation is possible from stem cuttings of various varieties. This ensures the right variety of plants and also keeps up with good health apart from the fact that they grow much faster. Seed growth is slower and is common naturally but stem propagation is one of the most common forms of propagation of cactuses.
- Encourage blooming: Yes cactuses do bloom and have pretty flowers. Some cactuses also fruit and are edible while others are nonedible and also poisonous. For indoor plants, cactuses rarely bloom if ever they do. Some cactuses do bloom with the proper lighting and water application and fertilizers. This may be a tricky thing to accomplish, especially for beginner gardeners indoors. Nevertheless, it’s possible