Back in the day, if you wanted to look sharp, a spiky houseplant would be pride of place on your windowsill. Preferably a cactus collection of different shapes and sizes, housed in terracotta pots.
Fast forward to today and they’re bang on trend. Along with fashion designers going ‘cactyle’ and planting a cacti image on luxurious fabrics, t-shirts and accessories, interior designers are printing them on everyday objects and they’re popping up everywhere.
Ironically, cacti take time to bloom and if you’re looking for a pop of colour, timing is everything.
Part of the succulent family, these drought resistant plants store water in their specialised stems, while succulents store water in their stems and leaves. So all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
Here’s the lowdown on these spiny specimens:
Which type of cactus should I buy?
They come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. Some stand up straight in a tree like form (saguaro) and others crawl along. There are more than 1,750 species, but your local garden centre or supermarket will have narrowed it down to round, short and squat styles that are great for beginners.
Cacti are low maintenance
Their spiritual home is the desert, so if you’re looking for a plant that doesn’t need much water, cacti are easy to care for. From now until March they should be kept dry and watered to a minimum to encourage a period of ‘rest’ during the cooler months. Come spring and summer, they can be watered once a week.
Place in a sunny widow
They love the sun and most cacti can be placed in a bright window all year round. If this isn’t possible, or you’re short on space, try to place them in the sunlight intermittently.
Choose the right soil
Cacti need free draining soil to recreate their natural habitat. A multi-purpose, peat free soil with plenty of grit added will create a happy home for your prickly plant.
Cacti are flowering plants but they need to be mature to bloom. If you’re after exotic looking flowers, try to buy one that’s blooming so you know it’s flowered before. Some cacti can take 20 years to flower and will need plenty of light, such as a south facing windowsill, and should be watered about once a month in winter to recreate their natural seasonal pattern with a ‘resting’ period to mimic the dry season.