Getting a cactus to bloom is no easy feat. It can take a lot of time, effort, and, sometimes, feeling like you want to pull your hair out because it seems like it just won’t bloom no matter what you do. Trust me, I’ve been there.
But after several attempts to get my cacti to bloom, I have finally figured it out! And now I want to help you avoid those feelings of pulling your hair out with this ultimate guide on getting your cactus to flower that tells you everything you need to know from shopping and caring for your blossoming cactus.
It’s a well-known fact that it can be hard to get an indoor cactus to bloom. This is mostly due to the fact that the cactus isn’t in its native, ideal environment.
Cacti are meant to thrive in desert environments with intense sun and heat and with very little water, so that is naturally the conditions cacti would bloom under.
Our homes are usually not that hot or dry however, there are different things we can do to help a cactus to begin to bloom. Let’s start with the basics of cactus blooms.
What kinds of cacti bloom?
Cacti are a flowering plant, so any cactus is capable of blooming if it is mature and healthy. But a lot of things have to be in place in order for a mature cactus to bloom. The kinds of cacti are known for their ability to easily bloom:
- Garnet or (Dwarf cacti)
- Pincushion cactus
- Spiny cacti
- Christmas cactus (Zygocactus)
- Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis)
- Bolivian (Lobivia cacti)
- Hedgehog cactus varieties
What does cactus blooms depend on?
Age, care and dormancy. As mentioned before, it can take a long time for a cactus to blooms. Sometimes, it can even take up to 30 years for a cactus to mature!
Although, even a mature cactus won’t bloom unless it gets the proper care and lives in the right environment. And, even if it has all these things, cacti experience a dormant period during the winter that will keep it from blooming.
How can I make sure my cactus has all these things?
For starters, when shopping for a cactus, buy one that is already blooming. That way, you know that it is mature and capable of blooming. Then, follow all the basic care requirements cacti have, such as light and water, and make sure to always stay vigilant and cater your care to the different seasons.
How long does it take a cactus to bloom?
As mentioned before, it can take up to 30 years for a cactus to bloom, so make sure you buy one that already has a bloom on it or that has bloomed in the past.
However, just because it has bloomed once doesn’t mean it will bloom again in a certain period of time. The time it takes a cactus to bloom depends on the level of care you give it and the quality of the environment it is in.
Cacti need tons of light, just as if they were still in the desert. The best place to put your cactus in your home is a south-facing window, where it will get the most direct sunlight. If you choose to put your cactus in a different location, make sure it can still get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
You also have the option of using an artificial grow light to help your cactus along if you don’t think it is getting enough light. An artificial grow light might also become very helpful during the winter.
While a cactus is a very low maintenance plant, it doesn’t mean you can just sit it down and forget about it. You should be checking your cactus frequently, especially after you first introduce to its new home, so you can ensure it is acclimating properly.
Your cactus will give you signs if something is not right, especially if it is getting too little or too much light. If your cactus is not getting enough light, you might notice some slight discoloration on its leaves or stems or even the cactus stretching to reach the sunlight. If this happens, just slowly move it further into the sunlight or supplement it with an artificial grow light when the sunlight disappears.
It’s also possible for your cactus to receive too much direct sunlight. Too much sunlight can cause your cactus to burn. If this happens, you will notice sunburn across the skin of the cactus as dark, rough, and maybe even calloused areas.
Too much sun can also cause a cactus to become discolored and faded. If your cactus is receiving too much sunlight, simply move it away from the window where the sunlight is less direct and less intense.
Keeping an eye on your cactus is also important when it comes to water. Cacti don’t need much water at all. Being from the desert, they store water in their stems and leaves for those long, hot dry periods they are so used to in the desert.
To know when it is time to water your cactus, feel the top of the soil. If it is dry, wet the plant thoroughly. If it is still damp, you can wait a while before watering it.
Generally speaking, your cactus shouldn’t need watering more than once a week.
The main problem cactus owners run into is with water. Even if you only water your cactus once a week, or less, if your cactus does not have enough drainage, the roots will sit in water and be prone to root rot, doing permanent damage to your plant. If this begins to happen, you will notice the leaves and stems of your cactus becoming soft and limp.
To avoid root rot, not only should you avoid overwatering your cactus, but you should also take certain precautions when you go to pot your cactus.
Choose a pot for your cactus that has a drainage hole and line the bottom of the pot with a layer of pebbles for the best drainage possible.
Also, be sure to use specialty cactus potting soil instead of regular potting soil because regular potting soil holds too much water. Using it could lead to root rot, as well.
Since cacti are hearty plants, they don’t really require the use of fertilizer. With proper water and light, all cacti will thrive. However, if you want to give your cactus an extra boost and make sure it has valuable nutrients for blooming, giving it a dose of fertilizer wouldn’t hurt.
Choose a specialty cactus fertilizer or a regular fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous. If you fertilize your cactus, do it doing the growing season, spring and summer. You will only need to fertilize your cactus once or twice a year.
Just remember that more fertilizer does not equal more or faster blooms. Fertilizer just ensures your cactus is getting enough of the food and nutrients it needs.
Blooming!! What Now?
Once you have gotten your cactus to bloom, the work isn’t over! Take care of a flowering cactus the way you took care of it before it began to bloom. The blooms mean you are doing something right and the cactus is thriving!
Don’t alter your care just because you see blooms. Continue to water it on your regular schedule and do not move it to a different location. A cactus that is in bloom is no different than the cactus before it bloomed.
About the Blooms
Cacti bloom by producing flowers anywhere from the leaves or areole, or along the ribs or warts of the cactus. The flowers on a cactus are just like any other flower with petals, stigmas, stamens, and all other parts of a flower. In fact, it can even be pollinated by or used for pollination by bees and other insects.
What are cactus blooms like?
Different cacti produce different kinds of blooms. Some blooms are small, others are large or brightly colored. The type of blooms you will see depends on the cactus you buy.
How long do the blooms last?
The length of the blooming time also depends on the type of cactus you buy. Some blooms will be gone within 24 hours. Others could last 1-2 weeks.
When does a cactus bloom?
Different cacti bloom at different times of the year. Some cacti bloom in the spring after resting up all winter long. Others bloom in the heat of summer after they have stored up a significant amount of water.
Some cacti, such as the holiday cacti, bloom during the holidays they are named for. And a few cacti even bloom at night.
The Dormant Period
Cacti will naturally experience a dormant period starting as early as the fall and lasting throughout the winter as they are expecting a drop in temperature and daylight hours.
During this time, their growth will slow down or even halt for the season. The dormant period is also a time where your cactus won’t bloom (unless it’s a Christmas cactus).
Your cactus will need less light and even less water during the winter. This may happen naturally in the area they are located, or you could move the plant to an area where it only gets three to four hours of sunlight a day. The soil will dry out even slower in the winter meaning that it will take longer between necessary waterings.
This only means to stay extra vigilant to ensure not to let water stand. As long as you took the necessary precautions as far as soil and drainage, and do not water the plant until the soil is completely dry, you should not run into any issues like root rot.
Just make sure to remember to slowly transition the cactus back to its regular location and watering frequency when things start to warm up in the spring.
Even after you’ve gone through all these steps, you may find that your cactus still hasn’t bloom If you find yourself asking, “why is my cactus not flowering?” then it’s time to troubleshoot.
Every cactus is different and unique, so just one change that makes one cactus bloom might not make your cactus bloom.
When you try to troubleshoot your cactus blooms, it’s important to try one thing at a time so you know exactly what works and what doesn’t. It may take some time, but it will be well worth it when you see those beautiful blooms!
Every cactus needs plenty of light, but different kinds of cacti have different preferences. If your cactus is thriving in the light that it is in but still not blooming, try playing with the lighting it is in.
Put it in a window with even more sun or move the plant a few feet away from the window. Or, try using an artificial grow light. Try turning the pot regularly for even growth. If you find that light is not the problem, then move on to the next area.
Just like light, water is essential to a happy, healthy cactus, but just a little. The first place to start when troubleshooting the watering of your cactus is to evaluate how frequent you water it. Are you watering your cactus on a schedule? Or are you waiting until the cactus tells you it is ready for water? Make sure that you test the soil before you water it.
If you water it when the soil is dry but it still isn’t blooming, try testing the soil deeper in the pot. It may still be damp deep down. To test this, stick a pencil in the side of the pot. If it comes out clean, it is completely dry and you can water it. If dirt sticks to the pencil, it is too damp so withhold from watering it until later.
Time of Year
Always keep the time of year in mind. If it is fall or winter, you are more than likely not going to see a bloom on your cactus any time soon (unless it is a Christmas cactus). Be patient and wait until the prime growing season when it starts in the spring.
You will have a better chance to see it bloom in the prime growing season than any other season, especially compared to its dormant period. Monitor it closely to see the small buds starting to pop up!
The important thing to remember when it comes to encouraging blooms on your cactus is that your cactus needs to be in tip-top shape in order to bloom.
If it is not getting the proper amounts of water and sun, you will be less likely to see it bloom. As long as your cactus is happy and thriving, it will eventually bloom. Monitor it closely to know what it needs. Also, give it plenty of time and patience!
There is no special technique that gets your cactus to bloom. Just care for it properly all year round if you want to see it bloom during the prime growing season.
Since all cacti have the potential to bloom, it doesn’t matter what kind you have as long as you have seen a bloom on it before. That way, you know it’s mature enough to bloom.
With the perfect amount of sun and water, your cactus will have everything it needs to bloom when it is ready. Some other things that can help it along include fertilizer and drainage.
Play around with all the different elements of caring for a cactus to find the right formula for your particular cactus. Every cactus is different, so don’t get discouraged if something works for someone else’s cactus but not your own.
It will take a lot of experimentation and daily monitoring for you to find what works for you.
Most importantly, don’t forget, you can do it! Getting a cactus to bloom may be difficult and take a lot of time, but it is not impossible! You can do anything you set your mind to and if you want to see your cactus bloom, it will happen. When you are dedicated to providing great care for your cactus, it will happen. Just like everything else, a little time and patience are all that you need.