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Many types of cactus may be grown as houseplants, each with different sizes, color, shape, and flowering habits. Among the most popular species of cacti are the star cactus, golden barrel, old man, bishop’s cap, bunny ears, rat-tail, pincushion, Turk’s cap, and ball cactus.
Here you will find the 13 best indoor cactus as well as a beginner care guide of how to grow and care your indoor cactus. You will learn about this prickly plant which has become a coveted houseplant for plant lovers, including;
- 13 Best Indoor Cactus for beginners
- How to care for an indoor cactus.
- What kind of pot should I plant my cacti in?
- Do I need to repot my indoor cactus?
- How do you get cacti to flower?
- How to propagate an indoor cactus.
- Is a cactus edible?
True cacti are a type of succulent plants and are native to the Americas.
Most cacti purchased at plant shops, garden centers, florists, and grocery and discount stores prefer a growing space with plenty of full sun. Cacti grown on a window sill facing south usually flourish. The next best exposure is bright light from an east or west window, since it can provide direct sun for part of the day.
Perhaps the main trick to growing cacti is proper watering, and this varies with time of year or rather if the plant is actively growing. Many cacti have been killed from overwatering during the winter months, including mine. If the weather is cloudy, or even predicted to be cloudy, don’t water. If in doubt whether the soil is dry, don’t water.
Best Indoor Cactus for beginners
- Light: Bright light with ample airflow.
- Water: Water thoroughly when soil is dry to touch.
- Soil: Requires porous cactus soil with excellent drainage.
The Easter Lily cactus Echinopsis oxygona is, extremely resistant to cultivation and easily reproduced by offshoots.
The only thing that can kill this plant is cold. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to provide adequate growing conditions in order to obtain abundant blooms.
It has very large fragrant nocturnal flowers and many plant lovers are willing to take care of it all year for one or a few magical nights with exotic charm.
Lophocereus schottii var. monstrosus ‘forma mieckleyanus’ is a slow-growing usually trunkless cactus that forms numerous tall, ascending, columnar stems which branch at the base in a candelabra-like arrangement.
This mostruos mutation has variable, irregularly shaped ribs whit sparse areoles.
This species presents no problems in cultivation and will do well in a sunny spot in a cactus house.
These plants will tolerate extreme sun and heat, but not extended periods of frost.
The Peanut Cactus features flowers that are to 3 inches in diameter, rose-colored, and tinged with purple highlights.
- Light: Bright light.
- Water: Allow soil to dry out between watering.
This fun little cactus is a unique plant that blooms and will eventually form tiny mounds.
This plant will be sent to you in a 3.5” pot to protect the roots from damage. The plant you receive will look very similar to these pictures.
Mammillaria duwei is a small growing but easily flowering species that will make clumps given the best conditions.
Often confused with the Thanksgiving cactus, the Christmas cactus blooms in late winter.
It has vibrant red flowers and is a common holiday gift.
The Christmas cactus does well indoors, in moderate home conditions.
Avoid watering too much because this will cause the roots to rot.
This plant can adapt to low light environments, but blooms excel with more light.
Also known as the crab cactus, the Thanksgiving cactus blooms around the time of the holiday.
It continues to bloom into the winter months, needing cooler temperatures to flourish. This outdoor plant does well in cooler climates, but must be in a region that does not have frost.
Originally from Mexico, the bunny ears cactus is named after its appearance. It has two pads that are bunny ear shaped.
They are covered with glochids or brown prickles and should be handled with care.
The bunny ears cactus grows to two or three feet, making it the perfect house plant. It produces white flowers and purple fruits in the summer if exposed to enough light.
Originating in Mexico, this gorgeous cactus has very short reddish purple spines, and dark lobes.
When it blossoms it creates beautiful bright magenta/purple flowers with a yellow inside.
This is an extremely popular species and easy to grow.
The banded body of this plant is unmistakable, it is an old favorite and very beautiful plant.
The colors of the stem are enhanced in full sun and contrast nicely with the pink flowers.
Astrophytum asterias also known as Sand Dollar Cactus is a summer grower species relatively easy to grow although grows quite slowly.
Espostoa lanata also known as “Peruvian Old Man Cactus” is a slow growing tree shaped cactus branching at the top with age, 1,5 to 7 m tall.
This looking cactus is a densely hairy species, covered by a warm woolly coat and well adapted to high altitudes.
- Light: Shade to indirect, bright light with ample airflow
- Water: Water thoroughly when soil is completely dry to the touch.
- Soil: Plant in porous soil with quick drainage.
These cacti, called the Moon Cactus are extremely bright pink, red, or orange.
It is a gorgeous plant and perfect for a bright, fun and quirky ornamental piece.
Gymnocalycium saglionis is a solitary barrel cactus, rather flattened, often very large, with long spreading and sometimes re curved spines.
They are rich brown and form a pleasing contrast against the grey green body.
This cactus, nicknamed the brain plant, is a beautiful and unique cactus to add to your collection.
The cactus features vertical ripples, long spines, and will bloom large pink flowers. This plant is small growing cactus and easy to take care of, because of its size it makes a great potted plant specimen. It needs good drainage and is great for beginning collectors.
This is a good beginner cactus and easy to grow and flower. It is quite resistant and occasionally gets covered by bright showy blossoms also neglected in a dry windowsill. Requires good drainage and very porous potting mix.
Need regular water in spring to fall but do not water again until dry.
Also, it is a species that is dormant in the winter and require very little water (maybe even none) during the cold months.
Prickly Pear Cacti
The prickly pear cactus is a genus that is very popular in drought-prone areas. Some common variations are the beavertail prickly pear and the Indian fig prickly pear. The prickly pear does well in backyards, but sheds its spines, so may not be for everyone. This cactus produces yellow, red or purple flowers.
After you have chosen the best indoor cactus for your home and garden you need to know how to keep them alive. Keep reading to to learn how to care for your indoor cacti.
How to care for an indoor Cacti
A watering schedule is not a good idea for most plants during active growing season. Watering should be done as needed, not by following a schedule.
During the summer months water after the soil or medium is completely dry, flush water through the media and soak it thoroughly.
Wait for it to dry before the next watering to avoid root rot.
When you grow cacti, for the most part, you are growing desert cacti. There are exceptions of course, Hylocereus sp. for example, but you should treat most cacti like desert plants.
As such, it makes sense to learn a little about the climate your plants come from.
Most cacti live with little water throughout the winter.
Certain species even grow in the Atacama Desert, e.g. Neoporteria taltalensis, which means they get little to no rain for up to years. This is what they’re adapted to and should be what you try to replicate for mature plants.
Cacti require well-drained soil. This means a soil made of a mix of gravel, grit, sand, and perlite; or other chunky material that does not clump together like dirt, or retain moisture for too long.
A good inexpensive and readily available base for your cacti soil is NAPA 8822 Oil Absorber. Crushed pumice, any ‘high-fired’ or ‘calcined’ diatomaceous earth or clay, or Turface is a perfect base.
Cactus are considered high light plants, so they need as much light as you can give them – a south or east window is almost a necessity.
Most if not all cacti prefer bright sunlight, about eight hours of direct sunlight, growing a cacti in a windowsill may cause it to stretch for light and become progressively weaker.
You may supplement your indoor lighting situation with artificial light. If possible it is always best to keep your plant outside, overwintering indoors is fine if you have cold winters.
Just remember they will survive with less light indoors but try and provide them with as much sunlight as possible for them to remain stable over their dormant period inside before returning them outdoors.
Temperature & Humidity
The upper limit really depends on the species but it’s usually around 90-100°F (32-37°C).
The lower limit is almost always around 40-50°F (4-10°C) although some species such as Opuntia Fragilis can go much lower.
Generally cacti are adapted to environments with very poor soil, so fertilization is not needed. In fact, fertilization may actually cause your plant to become weak depending on the species.
The best thing you can do is just re-pot as needed in fresh medium. Using rainwater instead of tap water may provide your cactus with adequate nutrients. You may fertilize Euphorbia succulents (often mistaken for cacti) without a problem.
What kind of pot should I plant my cacti in?
A container with a hole in the bottom to act as a water drain is a must for your cactus.
Without a hole for drainage, you will end up with a pool of water at the bottom of your container. If you plant your cactus in a plastic pot that sits in a decorative pot without drainage holes, remove the inner container while watering. Allow to fully drain (30 minutes) before putting the inner container back in the decorative container.
People love unglazed clay pots because moisture can evaporate out of the sides of the pot. Plastic/glazed ceramics/glass containers don’t breathe, so all excess water has to either drain or evaporate out of the top.
Don’t cover your cactus in a glass jar or store it in a terrarium.
You want the soil to evaporate excess moisture from the top. If you enclose your cactus you will greatly raise the humidity surrounding the plant and prevent evaporation.
Enclosing a cactus in glass may also cause the cactus to get sunburned by the extra heat radiating from the walls of the container.
Do I need to repot my indoor cactus?
Your cacti needs to be re-potted when they become “root bound”, which is to say when their roots need more space than is left in the pot.
Often when a cactus becomes root bound it will not grow or will grow very slowly.
If you notice this you may carefully lift the cactus out of the pot and inspect the roots. If any roots are circling the pot or if there are more roots visible than media, it is time to re-pot.
Re-pot your cactus by carefully lifting it out of its pot and “slip potting” it into a larger pot with fresh medium around the root ball.
How do you get cacti to flower?
Flowers are used by plants to reproduce, not just for show. A majority of plants are angiosperms (flowering plants), including the cactus family.
So, yes. All cactus have the ability to bloom because that is part of their natural life cycle. Of course, they have to be mature and healthy first! And they have to be in the right conditions to bloom as well.
Some cactus bloom only once every few years, others may bloom a couple times a year. Some require the temperature to drop a specific amount in a specific time to trigger blooming. ID and research your cactus to learn more!
Note: there are some type of cactus such as Opuntia fragilis, Cereus tetragonus that rarely bloom.
How to propagate a an indoor cactus
Cacti that grow in the form of pads (Opuntia species) can be propagated by cutting a pad off of the plant, letting the cut off pad dry for a week or two and then placing it on a pot of soil. The cutting will send out roots and you’ll have a new cactus.
Cacti that grow in columnar forms can be propagated by taking a cutting from a stem and rooting that as above.
Cacti that grow in ball shapes or rounded columns often sprout offsets from the main part of the plant. These can be cut off and rooted as above.
Is a cactus edible?
Cacti are edible, especially fruit (best known is prickly pear), though cactus juice can be too much of a good thing in an emergency if overdone.
Just be careful and know which ones you are going to consume. There are many edible and delicious cactus varieties. Others are hallucinogenic. Others will leave you spouting at both ends.