Does A Cactus Need Sun? Shine Your Cactus with the Following Tips

Cacti come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and tend to grow best in lots of light, high temperatures, low moisture, and good drainage.

Cacti and other succulents are among the most common houseplants. But, away from the home conditions, these plants have learned to compete for survival all over the world. Most of them are desert plants that have learned how to survive the scorching sun and sporadic rainfall. 

So, does a Cactus plant need sun? Cactus love to be near the window two blossom. You need to ensure that you give your cacti and other succulents the brightest window you can afford in your home. A south facing position will provide good sunlight, and the optimum light depends on the variety of cacti that you are growing.

Cacti come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and tend to grow best in lots of light, high temperatures, low moisture, and good drainage.

However, not all cacti grow in deserts. Some of them, such as the Schlumbergera grow in the rainforest conditions of North and South America and prefer semi-shade and humid conditions.

So, do cacti plants need lots of sunlight to blossom in your home? In this simple guide, we help you debunk the common myth that cacti need lots of sunshine to thrive.

Furthermore, we shall teach you how to take care of your cactus plant by understanding its light requirements and how to ensure that it gets the right amount of light throughout the year.

Read on to find out everything that you need to know.

Do Cacti Plants Need Sunlight?

Generally, succulents, including cacti, love sunlight, and it is always a good idea to position your cacti in a relatively bright place. Although some cacti species such as Rhipsalis and Hitora can tolerate lower light levels, no cactus loves to sit in the dark rooms of your house or on your dark office desk.

Finding a bright spot in your home is the first step in establishing whether you can take care of cacti or not.

Cacti plants can behave quite strangely if they don’t get sufficient sunlight. In most cases, you will notice discoloration in your cactus plants if they need more light. The deep green cacti will slowly fade to pale green while the purple, yellow, or bright pink cacti will revert to plain green.

Insufficient light will also affect the overall growth habit of your cacti. What was once a short, dark, and healthy cactus plant may start to grow tall and pale as it tries to reach for more light.

This will soon lead to strange growth patterns that may cause new growth to be much smaller than the rest of the plant or sometimes, new branches will come out that are quite long and tendril-like.

The unusual growth pattern in cacti is often referred to as etiolation and can only be avoided if you move your plant to a place where it will receive sufficient sunlight.

A fruit bearing cactus.
Succulents, including cacti, love sunlight

How Much Light to Give Cactus

Light is a funny thing since it is hard to measure it. If we were talking about water requirements, we could say that you need to pour one or two cups of water on the plant once or twice in a day, but it is not like you can give your cactus plant 7 lbs of light every day.

It simply can’t happen that way. So, how can we measure the amount of light to give to your cacti?

Well, the best approximation that we can use is to measure the duration. How long should your cactus plant be exposed to light each day? And to make things more precise, you need to understand how much of what kind of light keeping in mind that there is natural and artificial sunlight.

Fortunately, we are here to simplify things for you and ensure that you take good care of your cacti. So, let us start with the basics.

Cacti and other succulents need to have between 10-14 hours of light a day. Don’t expose your cactus plant to more than 14 hours of light in a day. On average, 12 hours of light a day is enough to keep your plant happy.

Remember the fact that your plant needs rest too and exposing it to more than 14 hours of light a day won’t help it in any way. In fact, cacti plants need darkness to take in carbon dioxide that will be used in the process of photosynthesis during the day.

 Know Your Angles

One of the most critical things that you are supposed to do before you even go for that cactus plant is to understand which way your house faces.

If your house faces north or south, that is great because you get all that southern exposure. However, if your home faces east or west, it is going to be a little bit trickier since the east-west sunlight isn’t as bright or as hot compared to the north-south sunlight.

If you are lucky to have a north or south facing house, make sure that you study the sunlight for several days to determine how many hours of sunlight you get in a day.

This will guide you on which type of cacti to go for and what to avoid. Some cacti such as the blue cactus usually require several hours of unrelenting hot sunlight to thrive.

If your house is facing east or west- meaning that you get a less amount of sunlight- go for the darker species of cactus plants since the darker the cactus plant, the less light it needs to survive.

Different kinds of cactus near the window exposed to sunlight.
First, understand which way your house faces

Direct vs Indirect Sunlight

One of the most critical aspects of light you need to consider while taking care of your cacti plants is the intensity of sunlight.

Cacti, like us humans, prefer to bask in direct sunlight rather than indirect sunlight. However, too much direct sun can cause serious damage to your cacti and even lead to death.

Direct sunlight refers to the rays that are directly hitting the plant and is quite strong. Therefore, you need to ensure that your cacti plants get enough direct sunlight but not too much of it.

On the other hand, indirect sunlight refers to filtered, scattered light that is not directly hitting the plant. These rays are weaker than direct sunlight and may barely be enough for your cacti to thrive in.

Therefore, if you are keeping your cacti indoors all the time, ensure that it gets enough indirect sunlight from a nearby window or balcony.

Seasonal Light Differences

The other crucial aspect of light that you need to keep in mind while taking care of your cacti plants is that light levels and intensities differ from season to season.

Summer days can be quite long, and the light intensity is also strong. Therefore, the most critical factor in your summer months is sun exposure. But, you must strive to understand how much sunlight your plant is getting every day as well as the temperature and humidity.

Although they survive in deserts, cacti and other succulents can get scorched and dried out quickly if the sun rays are too intense. You need to be cautious while moving your plant from shade to full sunlight.

Sometimes, the plant can’t withstand the sudden change in the intensity of light and will die even if you think that you have done the right thing to help it. When introducing your cactus plants to new climate or light intensities, make sure that the process is gradual.

Cactus in a pot near the window.
You need to take a lot of precaution during the cold months.

During winter, the days are shorter with less intense light. If your cacti become a little bit dormant in winter, don’t worry about it.

However, you need to know the right time to keep your plants indoors and take proper precautions when you transfer them outdoors.

If temperatures in your region are going to fall below 500F, then it is time to find a perfect window indoors for your cacti plants.

Most importantly, you need to take a lot of precaution during the cold months, especially if it has rained. Sometimes, the wet soil mixed with the relatively cold temperatures can quickly cause your cacti to die.

Many people prefer rotating their cacti between indoors and outdoors as the seasons change just to make sure that they don’t get hurt.

Sunlight vs. Artificial Light

This is a big topic when it comes to growing cacti, but the truth is that neither sunlight or artificial is better than the other. There are situations when sunlight outshines artificial light and vice versa.

Sunlight is amazing since it right there, and it is also free. You can simply put your cactus plant on your windowsill, water it when you remember, and it will thrive. Sunlight has always been there, and the cactus plant is well equipped to harness it and use it appropriately.

In fact, cacti plants were born to bathe in sunlight, and they have a wide range of colors that enable them to absorb different wavelengths and fascinating adaptations to protect themselves when the sunlight is too scorching.

Cactus exposed to sunlight.
Sunlight is amazing since it right there, and it is also free.

Therefore, you will never go wrong when you choose to expose your cacti plants to lots of sunlight whenever possible. If you are in the northern hemisphere, you will notice that you experience prolonged hours of sunlight and that could be a significant advantage to your plant. 

If your house is facing east or west, you should prioritize placing your plants in windows facing east. The sun rises in the east, and typically, the strongest sunlight is in the first half of the day.

You should also take into account external factors such as buildings or trees that may cast shade on your windows hence limiting the amount of sunlight that your plant receives.

Position your cacti as close to the glass window as possible since every inch closer to the light means more light and a happy plant. Keep the glass clean to minimize the amount of blocked or diffracted light.

While natural sunlight is great, artificial light can also help your cacti to thrive. If the light doesn’t penetrate well into your house or have simply run out of windowsill space, then you have no choice but to embrace artificial light as the primary source of light for your cacti.

Artificial lights are also great for propagating since they are less intense and you can use specific light wavelengths to encourage fruiting or flowering.

But, unlike sunlight, artificial lights aren’t free since you have to buy the bulbs and foot the electricity bill. The different types of artificial light that you can use to make your cacti happy include fluorescent, LED, and incandescent lights.

A cactus near the window exposed to sunlight.
While natural sunlight is great, artificial light can also help your cacti to thrive

How Long Should I Keep the Artificial Light On?

When it comes to artificial lights, you should keep them on for 12-16 hours per day. The intensity and duration of the artificial light should be adjusted as days become shorter or longer to ensure that your cacti plants get enough light during all seasons.

Also, pay close attention to the type of artificial light you choose since it will determine the length of time your cacti should receive light.

For example, incandescent and halogen bulbs don’t need to be kept on for long since they have a low intensity, while LED and fluorescent lights are more powerful; hence, they can stay on longer.

Be Wary of Sunburn

Although most succulents and cacti can handle intense sunlight, extreme temperatures and direct exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn. Common signs of sunburn in cacti include wrinkled leaves/stems, discoloration, and pitting.

It is hard to reverse the damage that has been caused by sunburn. Therefore, you must always be careful when growing cacti outdoors and ensure they don’t get too much direct sunlight.

When transferring your plant outdoors, you must do it gradually and keep an eye on your cacti for any adverse reactions such as sunburn.

Keep in mind that not all cacti have the same ability to resist light intensity. If you are growing a variety of cacti plants, pay close attention to the individual characteristics when it comes to light exposure.

For instance, some cacti, such as the Mammillaria elongata, can handle very intense sunlight, while others, such as the Echinopsis hybrid, prefer filtered light.

Therefore, it is prudent to use a shelter or keep them well-watered to minimize direct contact with intense sunlight and create an ideal microclimate for your cacti.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to taking proper care for your cacti plants, light plays a critical role. Being desert plants, cacti require a significant amount of light to stay healthy throughout the year.

Typically, a cactus plant needs approximately 12 hours of light each day to avoid etiolating.

During summer, sunlight can be a good source of light, but you need to be careful since the increased intensity of the sunlight can cause your plants to die. However, artificial light comes in handy during the cold winter months.

Also, if you are living in an area that doesn’t receive much sunlight, artificial lights are the way to go. Whether you depend on natural sunlight or artificial lights, the most critical thing is to ensure that your cacti receive the right amount of light needed to stay healthy.

Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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