Desert Cactus Care

Do you love the way desert cacti look but are afraid that you’ll kill one if it’s in your care? Maybe you’re an over-waterer, or not sure about how much light your cactus will need. Hopefully today I can help you make sure that yours will flourish!

To be quite fair, I feel like these are the easiest plants that I own since I basically do nothing with them. That makes it a little tricky to dish out care advice! I live in zone 6A and have all four seasons, so I can’t keep mine outside all year round. When the nights warm up to over 50° F (or 10° C), I put them outside to enjoy some nice sunshine and rain.


I keep most of my cacti in plastic pots, but a couple are in terra cotta, so the pot type doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t too much larger than the root ball and it has drainage. If you tend to over water, you might want terra cotta because it’s porous and helps with drying out faster. As for potting mix, I use a store bought cactus mix but I add in equal parts orchid bark, perlite, and pumice if I have some on hand. Basically you need a really chunky or gritty, well draining potting mix so the roots won’t be sitting in water for prolonged periods.

Winter Watering

While they enjoy natural rainfall in summer, during the colder months I keep my cacti in front of a south facing window and don’t water them. Seriously, I haven’t ever given them water during the cold months. They basically just sit there and look pretty and require no care at all. It took so much self control to not give them water at first— I’m talking about impressive amounts that I never knew I possessed.

Moving Outside

Once those cold nights warm up to 50° F or 10° C, I take the cacti outside and acclimate them to the strong sun. To do this I put them in the shade under a tree then gradually expose them to more sunlight over the course of a few days. I give them some good quality cactus fertilizer to kick off the season. Since this area gets a decent amount of rain in the warm months, I only ever water them when they are outside if we haven’t had rain in a week or two.

I know I said it before, but it cannot be stressed enough: Always make sure that the container that your cactus is in has drainage holes, especially if it lives outside for any period of time. The quickest way to kill a cactus is by exposing the roots to too much moisture.

So, this may have been the shortest care sheet ever, but having a cactus really is that easy! For more tips and tricks or answers to your cactus questions, check out HPH on Facebook to chat with our global community of plant lovers.