Let’s deal with an important point before we go any further – the plural of cactus can actually be either cacti OR cactus. As it comes from Latin (through Ancient Greek), cacti is what some people think is more correct, but both are listed in dictionaries. If anyone ever tries to correct you when you’re talking about your lovely cacti or cactuses, then you are now fully prepared to respond! Moving on to the actual cactus now, let’s take a look at why these prickly plants could be your perfect plantmate.
Where do cacti come from
Picture a cactus in its natural habitat. What do you see? Most people would answer desert and that isn’t wrong, but actually they can be found across Canada, the US and the southern point of South America such as Patagonia.There are even some types in Africa and the Caribbean.
Handling a cactus
First tip – be careful. Not all cacti are prickly or barbed, but most houseplant cacti are. We would recommend you wear gloves to touch your cacti or use something like newspaper carefully wrapped round it should you need to pick to pick it up. Keep out of reach of any toddlers or pets who may get curious and end up with a sore hand or paw!
Caring for a cactus
Don’t be worried if you have had a cactus before, chosen specifically because it is hardy and yet it still died. They are pretty tough plants but not indestructible! Also it is a bit of a myth that they don’t need water. They do! But just the right amount – all you need to do is give them a little water every 3-4 weeks and ensure the excess water drains off. If you aren’t sure how to do this, then once you have given it the water, just tip the cactus upside down (remembering our handy hint above for handling it) in the sink and let the water drain off it.
They do like sunny spots but try to make sure you pick somewhere fairly dry. They’re great for homes and offices where there isn’t much humidity and you don’t have to worry if you are away for a bit of time.
How your cactus will grow
Some cacti do flower but certain types need fresh growth to do so. If you don’t see any sign of this happening, then there are a few things you can do to give it a little nudge. Also if you have a mini one and keep it in a small pot, it will keep it on the miniature side.
This isn’t going to be a list of suggestions to call your cactus, but there are different types of cactus and many have a nickname too. There are actually more than 2,000 types so we won’t go through all of them, but here are a few of our favourites.
- Bunny Ear Cactus (Opuntia microdasys): originally from Mexico, this is one we stock and is so delightfully named. It is so called as some of the stems grow in a way that looks like an adorable little rabbit silhouette
- Mother-in-Law’s Cushion (Echinocactus grusonii): a round and sort of pouffe shape, we guess the person who named this one wasn’t on the best of terms with their partner’s mother. Also known as the golden barrel cactus, it is covered in ribs of sharp spines
- Old Lady cactus (Mammillaria hahniana): another Mexican cactus, this is a pretty round variety that has very white or grey spines all over it. It also has a ring of pink flowers near the centre