Pencil cacti are among the most popular succulents for indoor gardening, but they have some special needs that make them different from other common houseplants. For one thing, pencil cacti can grow up to 3 feet tall when given enough room and require at least six hours a day of sun exposure. In addition, these plants should be kept in temperatures between 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the wintertime to 80 degrees during the summer months (or 20-30 degrees Celsius). Apart from watering, the most important aspect of pencil cactus care is light.
So, does pencil cactus need full sun? Yes, pencil cactus does need full sun to be happy. This succulent prefers an area that gets about six hours of direct summer light per day. However, it doesn’t mean that pencil cactus can survive any amount of sunlight. When the sun is too hot, you should provide your plant with a partial shade to avoid sunburns. A sunburned pencil cactus will turn yellow, and it may be difficult to restore its original color without pruning.
This blog post discusses everything you need to know about pencil cacti and exposure to sunlight to help you cultivate healthy and happy plants. Read on to learn more.
How Much Light Do Pencil Cacti Need to Survive?
Generally, pencil cactus prefers to grow under relatively high levels of sunlight. They thrive when exposed to at least six hours of direct sunlight.
If you are growing your pencil cactus indoors, consider positioning it on a south or west-facing window where it can absorb the maximum amount of sunlight.
To ensure even growth, turn the growing pot once every month so that all sides of the pencil cactus get enough light. During summer, the cactus will grow beautiful yellow foliage that turns into glowing red in the fall and winter.
Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight doesn’t affect their watering needs because they can thrive without water for prolonged periods.
They only require a little bit of water as they are used to growing in dry areas. In fact, many people love growing them as houseplants because they can survive with minimal care.
The most important thing you need to know is that pencil cactus cannot survive under low light conditions. If it runs low on light, the plant will start stretching towards the direction of light, causing a negative impact on its health.
If you live in an area that doesn’t receive plenty of sunlight, you may be forced to install artificial grow lights to keep your pencil cactus happy. If you are using artificial grow lights, ensure you leave them on for at least twelve hours a day.
Can Pencil Cactus Get Sunburned?
While most of us think of the pencil cactus as a highly resistible succulent that only thrives in scorching desert environments, you need to keep in mind that there is a limit to everything.
So, even if you try to mimic the conditions in the plant’s natural habitat, you should know the limits. In fact, some pencil cactus species can only be found in tropical regions that receive plenty of rainfall and don’t experience scorching sunlight.
Unless you are well-versed in cacti, you may not be aware of the pencil cactus species you have in your home and the climatic conditions it would ordinarily thrive in.
So, can a pencil cactus be sunburned? The simple answer is yes. When you start to notice intense yellowing of your succulent’s epidermis, it is a sign that your cactus isn’t happy with its current growing conditions.
Most probably, it is a case of the plant being overexposed to too much direct sunlight. Remember we mentioned that the plant only needs about six hours of direct sunlight to stay happy. So, if you expose it to more than six hours of direct sunlight, it will start struggling to survive.
Another reason your pencil cactus may be getting sun scorch or sunburn is a sudden change in growth conditions.
Typically, most of these succulents are grown in greenhouses where conditions are kept relatively constant. The amount of light, heat, and moisture remain consistent for a long time.
When you purchase the cactus and bring it home, there is a change in these conditions. When you plant it in a sunny spot, it may experience shock since it isn’t used to direct sunlight or sudden changes in temperature.
The result is a sunburned pencil cactus that will show signs of yellowing first before the rest of the stem starts to turn white and soft, indicating the eventual death of the succulent.
What Does Sunburn Look Like on a Pencil Cactus?
When you overexpose your pencil cactus to direct sunlight, it will start to look a bit sunburned. The edges of the cactus will turn brown or red, and the tips of the spines may start to disappear. If the sunburn is bad enough, the entire plant may die.
Sometimes, the sunburn can be too severe, causing the top layer of the stem to peel off and reveal the layers underneath it. This type of sunburn can sometimes appear white if there are no living cells below anymore.
The sunburn usually affects all parts of the pencil cactus, including the spines. However, the spines are usually the last thing to die, so they may still be green even if the rest of the cactus is brown or red.
If you think your pencil cactus is sunburned, you can try to give it some shade. You can also water it more often to help it recover.
Can a Pencil Cactus Recover from Sunburn?
A sunburned pencil cactus can successfully recover and start to grow back normally, but it may take some time.
The first thing you need to do is transfer it to a place where it is no longer exposed directly to sunlight. If you are growing it indoors, move it to another room but if you are growing it outdoors, look for ways of providing it with partial shade.
The primary purpose is to protect it from the excessive sunlight that caused the damage. If the cactus has already sustained severe visible burns, don’t try to remove them with a knife because when the plant heals, it may cover the wounds.
Once you have moved the cactus to a place with relatively bright but indirect light, check the humidity of your potting mix since it may need watering.
To do this, carefully insert a thin wooded stick into the soil and remove it. If you notice that a lot of spoil has adhered to the stick, then you don’t need to water your pencil cactus.
However, if the stick comes out without any soil and feels dry, be sure to water your pencil cactus because it is dehydrated.
How Should You Acclimatize a Pencil Cactus to the Sun?
There comes a time when you have to move your indoor pencil cacti plant outdoors, especially during spring and summer. Unfortunately, if you are not careful with how you do it, the result can be catastrophic.
Moving your indoor pencil cactus outdoors requires a lot of patience. It is highly recommended to start the process in spring or fall when the sun rays are not so intense.
A good way of acclimatizing them is by exposing them to the sun for just one hour in the morning or late afternoon then increasing that time by one hour each week.
Observe your plant keenly for any abnormal reaction. For instance, if you increase the time from one hour to two hours and start to notice signs of sunburn, be sure to slow down.
You can move from one to one and a half while monitoring how the plant reacts to the changes. You are free to experiment, but don’t be in a hurry. Keep in mind that one bad decision can burn your plant to death.
What Can You Do to Prevent Your Pencil Cactus from Getting Sunburned?
Avoid overexposing your pencil cactus to direct and intense sunlight to prevent sunburn. If you live in an area that receives scorching sunlight, be sure to provide your cactus with some form of shade or keep it in a safe spot during midday hours when the sun is at its hottest.
Good air circulation around the plant can also play a critical role in preventing sunburn. Avoid keeping the succulents too close to each other when you group them.
When you water your pencil cactus, do so early in the morning or late evening when it is relatively cooler. This plays a critical role in keeping moisture on the plant and preventing it from drying out too quickly.
You should also avoid sprinkling water directly on your plant’s leaves, as they can get sunburned by this action alone.
Feel free to add extra succulent soil to the container to help keep your plant tall and spread out. This helps it to grow a thick and protective bark.
A pencil cactus needs some direct sunlight each day to stay healthy. However, if it gets too much sun, it can get sunburned.
Sunburn on a pencil cactus looks like dried, brown leaves. If you catch the sunburn early enough, you may be able to save your plant.
To prevent your pencil cactus from getting sunburned, gradually increase its exposure to direct sunlight over time.