Cactus plants, or cacti, make excellent house plants. Like succulents, they’re used to hot, dry, sunny conditions – many are native to the desert. Their fleshy, usually leafless stems are designed to store water, so they’re able to cope with long periods of drought. As such they need very little watering and can even rot if given too much. They come in a range of shapes and sizes and – if you’re lucky – they bear delightful, brightly coloured flowers in summer.
Cacti can be grown individually in pots or as part of a long term indoor pot display. They also work well in terrariums. Slow growing, cacti can be grown in the same pot for years.
In summer, water cacti no more than once a week. A good watering less often is better than a little-and-often approach. You shouldn’t need to water cacti at all in the coldest months.
Repot cacti every couple of years, to give them fresh compost – you won’t necessarily need to pot them into a larger pot.
Cactus plants are usually trouble free. If overwatered or not given enough light they can rot at the base. This is usually fatal for the plants.
Cactus varieties to grow
Echinocactus grusonii – golden barrel cactus is globe-shaped but eventually grows tall. Native to Mexico, it bears bright green stems with spiked ribs. Bright yellow flowers appear in summer.
Gymnocalycium paraguayense – a variable cactus with flattened spines. It produces creamy white flowers in spring and summer.
Mammillaria spinosissima – a globe-shaped cactus with bright pink, funnel-shaped flowers. Its central spines are a reddish-brown or yellow.
Rebutia krainziana – a clump-forming barrel cactus, forming dark green stems up to 7cm in diameter, with contrasting small, white areoles and spines. In late spring large, yellow or red flowers develop around the main stem, forming a tight clump.