Cacti are lovely houseplants that add style and texture to a space and are notorious for being easy to maintain. Cactus are stunning without flowers, but getting a cactus to bloom adds even more appeal and visual interest. Here is what you need to know to make cactus bloom.
Types of Cactus
Cacti are generally divided into two main types: desert and forest or tropical. Desert cacti often have spins or sharp needles and thrive in dry environments. Forest cacti do not have sharp spines and hail from rainforests. Both desert and forest cactus bloom, and while there are similarities, the process is different. This article is dedicated to making desert cactus bloom.
There are thousands of species of desert cactus, and the process of getting desert cactus to bloom is generally the same from one species to another. With that said, there may be some subtle differences between different varieties. These tips are general for all desert cacti, but you may want to do more research for your specific plant.
Desert cacti have different flowering requirements. Some species only bloom when mature, which can mean a few years or many decades. Other cacti only bloom under ideal conditions, which may be hard to replicate indoors. Bunny Ears Cactus is a great example of a plant that easily blooms outdoors but rarely sets flowers indoors. The Bunny Ears Cactus makes a wonderful houseplant, but if you want a cactus houseplant that blooms, this isn’t the one for you.
You can provide excellent cacti care, and your houseplant may not bloom, so learn more about your specific plant to understand what to expect. Examples of desert cacti that make wonderful houseplants and are capable of blooming indoors include:
- Bishop’s Cap Cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma)
- Blue Columnar Cactus (Pilosocereus pachycladus)
- Fairy Castle Cactus (Acanthocereus tetragonus)
- Feather Cactus (Mammillaria plumosa)
- Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
- Ladyfinger Cactus (Mammillaria elongata)
- Old Lady Cactus (Mammillaria hahniana)
- Star Cactus (Astrophytum asterias)
Cacti Bloom Cycle
Cactus flowers range from red, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and white. Some cacti push out a single bloom, while others will have several flowers at once. The flowers can last for days or weeks, depending on the cultivar. Most desert cactus bloom once in the spring. The plants may bloom again with proper care.
Steps to Make Cactus Bloom
The big secret to getting a cactus to bloom is letting the plant go dormant. Cacti need to be fully rested before they can bloom. The length of dormancy varies from one species to another, but it can last anywhere from two to four months.
You can help your cactus bloom by ensuring the plant receives excellent care year-round, but prioritize the conditions and care during the winter when the plant is dormant. It’s easy to overlook a dormant plant because there isn’t much going on, but this time is pivotal to ensuring a cactus blooms.
Light Needs for Cactus
Sunlight is vital for all plants but particularly important to cactus. Most cactus need medium to bright indirect sunlight all year. Ensure the plant receives at least five hours of daylight during the winter. Near a south- or west-facing window is an excellent spot to provide the light these plants need. Bring in a grow light if there is not enough natural light.
How to Water Cactus for Blooming
Cacti do not have high water needs, but dormant plants need even less water. Actively growing cacti need water when the soil is completely dry, which is generally every one to two weeks. Scale back on watering during the winter to prepare the cactus for flowering. Water dormant cacti every three to four weeks.
Best Temperature to Help Cactus Bloom
The air temperature is part of what triggers a cactus to enter a dormancy period. Actively growing cacti like warm temperatures of 70° F or higher. Dormant cacti like cooler, but not cold, temperatures. Temperatures between 55° and 65° F are ideal for dormant cacti. Move the plant to a porch or patio if you live in an area with mild winters. The best option in areas with cold winter weather is to keep the plant indoors but locate it away from heating vents.
When to Fertilize Cactus
Cactus plants are not heavy feeders, but fertilizing during the growing season supports new growth, and healthy plants are more apt to bloom. Fertilize cacti a few times throughout the year, generally at the start of the growing season and again partway through. Do not fertilize dormant cactus plants.
Enjoy Plant Cactus Blooms
Desert cacti are some of the most easy-care houseplants, making them a solid choice for new plant owners or anyone not interested in a serious commitment. Take your skills to the next level and encourage your cactus to bloom. The most important part of encouraging cacti to bloom is to let the plant have a dormant period.