Have You Ever Tried to Grow Cactus without Soil?

can cactus grow without soil

It’s important to recognize that this kind of experiment is purely for experimentation. The plant isn’t going to last for a long time. So, you should not expect so, as I did such a mistake.

While these projects are gorgeous and enjoyable to create, however, consider them as temporary arrangements and aren’t designed to last for long. Accept the fact that your plants will die and you might be losing some of your most beloved cacti ( I lost many). The most enjoyable part is beginning an entirely new project and then getting the fruits of your work.

Cactus, unlike many other houseplants, are not dependent on an organic substrate to thrive.

They don’t need to be placed in soil that is abundant in nutrients. However, they do require an amount of organic material and organic substances within their soil in order to flourish. Cacti can live in these environments for a certain amount of time, based on the care you give their environment and the kind of conditions they’re exposed to.

Consider this as a temporary arrangement that you don’t anticipate being able to keep for long since the cactus isn’t going to have the optimal conditions. A Cactus without water isn’t as alarming as one that lacks nutrients.

To ensure the proper growth of your cacti plants, you could use the following inorganic medium instead of the soil.

  • Coconut Husks.
  • Driftwood.
  • Gravel.
  • Peat Moss.
  • Perlite.
  • Sand.
  • Sphagnum Moss.

Cacti need soil, but it doesn’t need to be rich in nutrients or even moist. If they’ve got a small amount of soil attachment that isn’t rich, they will be able to absorb plenty of oxygen and avoid the possibility of root rot if they do receive water.

Can Cactus Survive Without Soil?

I get asked this question repeatedly is it possible for cactus to survive these conditions with no soil?

They’ll be able to survive without soil. But can they flourish? But not for the long run. Consider them as fun, short-term projects that are not designed to last a long duration.

Another attribute of cactus plants that makes them ideal candidates for these kinds of arrangements that do not require soil is their capacity to conserve water. Cactus contains water storage tissues that are drought-resistant. The majority of these plants keep the water within their leaves, in their stems, or in their roots.

As explained by Dr. Universe website Cacti can store a lot of water, too. When it rains a lot, the saguaro cactus takes in so much water.  It weighs up to about 4,800 pounds, or just a little less than a mini-van.

Most of them are from dry areas deserts, semi-deserts, and deserts. Other species can be found within mountainous areas and rainforests. Environments that are usually not suitable for species to endure, like high temperatures and low rainfall,  have made these plants exceptionally robust and adaptable.

Which Cacti must need Soil with Potting Mixture?

 Tropical cacti (also known as epiphytes (moon cacti) require a certain type of soil for them to flourish. This is due to the fact that in cultivation in contrast to their natural habitat, they have become used to growing in a particular soil mix.

But the Christmas cactus is a popular one and is considered an epiphyte by nature. Its unique growing habits require soil with its potting media.

Most cacti and succulents grow in well-drained sandy soil.

“Desert cactus (aka Opuntia cactus or hairy old man cactus) prefer a rocky, nutrient-rich soil held in a well-draining pot or container.”

Cactus Dirt For Desert Cactus

Terrariums without Soil for Cactus Growing

Be sure to start off with these two questions and always ask them if you’re cultivating cacti in terrariums. As much as they need water and light, they also need dirt and nutrients.

In smaller pots, cacti need less water than those grown in larger containers. Cacti in small containers like terrariums don’t need as much water as potted cacti because they only need to be watered enough to keep the soil moist.

Ways to kill plants are many and varied, but the easiest way is to water them too much, let them stay in the dark and not give them enough light. Cacti that are not exposed to enough sunlight and are constantly moist are a recipe for disaster.

How to Water in Terrariums Cacti

The idea of soaking your plant and giving them thorough irrigation until the water drains from the hole doesn’t apply in this case. The best method of watering those plants growing in terrariums that do not have holes would be to spray them with spray bottles or sprinkle them with a syringe or dropper to prevent excessive watering. It is not necessary to do this frequently.

If your plants start to shrivel and the leaves look wilted, then it might be time to water them.

When you touch the plant and it feels soft and moist but not plump, it is likely that the plant has been experiencing a lack of water.  Be careful not to confuse this with an overwatered plant.

Overwatering a plant can be fatal, but doing the opposite can kill the plant too. Make sure you have proper knowledge of how to take care of your plants well.

A plant that is overwatered can also shrink and wilt the plant. A plant that has been overwatered can appear soft and mushy. The most effective way to determine whether the plant is in less or in excess of water is to be aware of the way you water it.

Check that the plants get enough light and that they are in a well-lit spot. This is crucial to prevent mold. Cacti that are damp and don’t receive sufficient light are more prone to death and rot. Be aware of the way your plants appear and relocate the pot to a more sunny spot should you need to, or move it to a location that is more shaded in the event of sunburn.

How to Prolong the Life of Cactus without Soil

If you would like to give your plants more nutrients, you could either fertilize them through a soil-based process or place some plant-friendly pots next to the dirt, which will give the plants more of what they need.

By adding diluted fertilizer (buy from amazon.com)  at 1/4 or 1/2 strength (1 tablespoon per gallon of water for outdoor plants, to make it 1/2 strength), you can greatly improve the soil’s ability to hold water.

How Long can A Cactus Live Out of the Soil?

The short answer is that Cacti, as with most succulents, can withstand it for one or two weeks. But it will depend on the age of the plant and its environment and exposure to sunlight. The younger ones are more likely to struggle than mature ones.

Mature Cacti can last up to a week without water or soil. Seedlings shouldn’t have exposed roots as they could end up dying immediately. However, as cacti are drought-resistant they can survive drought. Cactus thrives by losing water for a prolonged period of time.

The mammillaria species, as well as other smaller cactus species, are able to live comfortably through the entire winter without water, for around four months, as they are kept in close to freezing temperatures, ranging from only a few degrees more on warm days.

Can You Grow A Cactus with Just Rocks?

soil mix and rocks

All you have to do is to plant your cactus inside the pot with a cactus-potting mix. You should leave some space on the top to accommodate the rocks. Add pebbles or rocks, or voila.

Cactus can thrive without soil due to the fact that they hold water in their leaves. It allows them to thrive for long durations without access to water on the surface. Most of the time the cactus can be found in rocks that do not have soil or water. It is important to choose the right rock for the absorption of nutrients and water.

To plant in containers it is possible to incorporate gravel, sand, or volcanic rock in the potting soil to ensure better drainage. The container you plant in must be able to drain or you can place the crushed rock in the base of your container before you place it into the planting medium.

Can Cactus Grow in Just Water?

Some cacti can be propagated in water, but it is not recommended that you do so since they will often thrive better in soil or potting mix. Like all cacti, your new plant will need excellent drainage to thrive.

How to Plant Cactus With Rocks and Soil Mix?

Rocks and Soil Mix

Cactus can be planted in the rocks that have soil mix. You’ll need:

  • Cactus plants (a good space in a container)
  • Rocks or gravel or marvel (in different sizes, shapes, and textures)
  • Cactus pot mix (try to use homemade soil mix)
  • Watering jar
  • Garden Shovel

The rocks come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors, so you’ll be able to pick from when you plant Cactus.

The lower three-quarters of your container with stones prior to adding any cactus soil mix, since this is the area where the majority of plants will end up placed to support.

Make sure there aren’t any gaps between the layers of rocks and soil mix which could trap water instead of letting it flow away.

Mix enough succulents or cactus mix into the upper two-thirds of the pot to ensure that the rocks are covered.  And then sprinkle the cactus on top of the mixture of potting.

Fill any gaps you may have with soil to hold them in place. Ensure there is plenty of space between each plant since they’ll require plenty of space to develop into their ideal form.

After planting cacti, you should water them well, but don’t submerge the plants. This is why it’s wise not to fill your container with excessive amounts of mixing mix when filling your container.

Be aware of the way the surface appears moist and ensure that you water it regularly to ensure that the plants have enough moisture throughout the course of their growth. This can take between one and three months depending on the kind of cactus plant chosen.

Why Do You Put Rocks on Cactus?


The primary reason for placing pebbles on top of your potted plant is to increase drainage. Cacti naturally thrive in sandy soils, which drain quickly. Cactus roots must never be kept in soil that is wet. The rocks aid in moving moisture through the soil and keep the roots from becoming rotten.

What Type of Rocks Should I Use for a Cactus Garden?

Type of Rocks

Different kinds of rocks can be used in Cactus gardens. However, the most popular types are granite, marble, and quartz. The three kinds of rocks possess distinct characteristics with regard to cacti.


Granite is a great kind of rock due to its porous structure means air can flow through, allowing roots to expand more quickly. 

It also allows for excellent drainage in the lower layer.

But, this kind of stone could require additional fertilizer to maintain the health of plants.

Another disadvantage of the use of granite in gardening with cacti is the fact that it’s heavier than other stones, such as quartz or marble. It takes longer to wash the stones.


Marble is extremely porous, however, not like granite.

This type of stone has tiny holes in it that are great breathing spaces for roots.

It is also less hard than the other types of rocks, making it easier on your hands and less strenuous when you are planting or removing cactus, as they grow too large or die off.

The only downside to marble is that over time plants may start to die because there aren’t enough drainage features like granite, which doesn’t have as much of a drainage issue as it might seem.

The watering process will take longer than usual and require constant monitoring!


Quartz might sound unusual for someone who is looking to start a cactus garden, but it has some of the best benefits. It is hydrated and has the benefit of being able to absorb sunlight, which makes it an excellent choice for growing cacti.

Still, some people have had success using this type of rock in their gardens.

Not only does the hardness of cactus gardens let plants stay in place, but it also provides the perfect environment for them to grow healthy roots. The resulting root growth allows plants to last much longer.

How Long Can a Cactus Survive in a Box?

A cactus needs a combination of support and nutrients to grow. It also needs plenty of sunlight. A cactus won’t die from being in a box, as long as there is water and the temperature can be regulated. But, without soil or a proper attachment, it will only last for about a week or two.

If you’re planning to use a cardboard box or a paper bag, consider the needs of your cacti. Cacti are able to survive almost indefinitely if they are given the appropriate conditions to grow. With careful attention, they can thrive in a variety of geographic regions and conditions.

How Long Does It Take for a Cactus to Die?

Without water, soil, or access to sunlight, a cactus will go without nourishment and die within a short period of time.

But, if it gets plenty of sunlight in a bright location with the right amount of water, it can live for several weeks before the roots, leaves, stems, and flowers begin to struggle.

Cacti are typically found in deserts, where they can survive without any water for decades. So it is important that the desert cacti have the appropriate climate and moisture requirements.

 If a desert cactus is not well taken care of, it likely won’t live for more than five years.


Cactus can be a live creature that can live without soil, however, it’s not the best environment. Cacti that are older and mature can endure no soil for at least a week, while juveniles and seedlings aren’t a good bet.

The age of the plant and its environment and exposure to sunlight will be key factors in determining how much they will survive.

They don’t have to have soil to survive, but they can’t live without it for a long time. Consider these projects as short-term fun and not long-term strategies.

Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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