Cactus & Succulent Care Guide
Hi everyone! I am often asked about the basic care for cacti and succulents so I've put together this care guide. Obviously every species is unique so please do your own research to see if it has special requirements, but this should cover the great majority of cacti & succulents you'll come across. If you need further advice feel free to send me an email!
Basic Soil Mix
Every grower has their own favorite mix, but the common thread is fast drainage. My personal mix is 2/3 Pumice or Perlite and 1/3 Potting Soil. Store bought “cactus mix” is a misnomer and should be mixed at around 50/50 with Pumice or Perlite.
You will have to determine the best light conditions by watching your plants. Strong light is needed by most for best form and blooms. Plants should receive filtered light or morning sun and afternoon shade. Few, if any, small cacti & succulents can handle hot afternoon sun. Begin in filtered light and move into the sun gradually as you watch for sunburn and excess pot heat that can cause root damage. Few succulents do well in heavy shade light. If you grow your plants indoors you need to put them very close to a bright window.
Remember that cacti and succulents evolved in nature to be very water thrifty plants. They still need water, but generally less frequently than most ordinary house plants. When you water, it is best to soak the soil mix thoroughly. Don't water again until the mix is almost dry. Water less frequently and allow the soil to become drier when the plant is resting or dormant. You need to determine for yourself when your plants need water, but as a rough guide I water around once per week in the summer and every 3 weeks in the winter.
When the plant is actively growing, a diluted, balanced or low nitrogen fertilizer can be used each time you water. Most any general plant fertilizer used at 1/4 to 1/2 strength should give good results. Fertilize once a month in the warmer months, withhold it during the winter.
Mealy bugs, (spine, body and root types), spider mites and scale are the usual pests. Rubbing alcohol and insecticidal soap are relatively non-toxic ways to control pests. If something stronger is required consult your local garden supply shop for appropriate pesticides and use strictly according to instructions.
I'm often asked about the gray gravel that covers the soil in many of my images. It is called top dressing and is for decorative purposes and not part of the soil mix. A gravel top dressing is attractive and functional. It improves water penetration and helps to prevent stem rot and algae growth. It also keeps lighter particles, such as pumice, from floating over the top of the pot. You can use any sort of gravel that looks good to you. Add just enough to cover the soil.