Cacti are commonly associated with deserts, but the truth is that they can actually grow in a variety of climates regardless of where you live. There are two main varieties of cacti-the spiny, bulbous ones, more associated with the desert landscape, and the segmented, tropical flowering ones.
Cactus plants need just the right amounts of food to stay healthy and happy. The right fertilizer encourages them to grow, blossom, and thrive so that they can remain attractive for a long time.
Wondering how to fertilize a cactus plant can present some challenges because the first question that comes to mind is “Does a cactus really need fertilizer?” Some might also wonder if it’s worth adding fertilizer to a cactus plant at all. Regardless of what others may think, you should still proceed to get more information about fertilizing cactus plants anyway.
You need to remember that even though cacti come in a wide variety of beautiful shapes and sizes, they all have one thing in common – the need for proper care. Whatever the weather, you should continue to feed them with organic material to ensure they stay healthy and grow nicely.
How Often Do You Need to Fertilize Cacti?
Cactus plants don’t really require a ton of care (i.e., you pretty much can just water them and make sure they’re in a sunny spot). However, the best thing to do is to invest in a good soil-fertilizer mixture once a year and then use your own expertise to better determine how often you need to fertilize your cactus plants throughout the year.
If you’re unsure of what nutrients your indoor plants need, feeding at least once a month during the growing season is a good place to start and will be enough to meet the feeding requirements of the most common cacti and succulents.
“Cactus plants need fertilizer during their periods of active growth more than any other time.”
Cacti that have flattened leaves-like stems such as Christmas Cacti or Easter cacti flourish in the winter and fall months. They should be fertilized instead of in spring and summer.
Balanced Fertilizer Mixes
Though there isn’t an exact formula for the ratio of N, P, and K in your plant’s food mix, a balanced fertilizer will ensure adequate growth by letting you fine-tune which nutrients are most applicable to your growing situation. A higher proportion of nitrogen promotes faster growth. Potassium helps increase flowering time, while phosphors also strengthen your plants’ immune system against pests and disease. Growth periods will look quite different depending on climate and weather conditions too – so always monitor how conditions affect your plant’s health!
Cactus fertilizer requirements are pretty simple. Any good indoor food (diluted by half) that is higher in phosphorus than nitrogen is a good choice. A 5-10-5 solution can work well.
A balanced fertilizer has 5-10-5 proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A non-balanced soluble formula containing 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 are two popular options for different cacti.
“A good houseplant fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than nitrogen (5-10-5 solution) can also be used.”
How to Make Organic Fertilizer?
Making a fertilizer mix can be quite amusing and practical to grow some plants at home. Instead of using chemical fertilizers, one could go for the more natural option. Making it at home is the easiest way to do that with materials easily found in your surroundings.
To make your fertilizer, follow the proper measurements given in the recipe to weigh out all of your materials, and then use a 5-gallon bucket to allow for 14 quarts of the finished product.
Mix evenly, in parts by volume:
- 4 parts seed flour
- 1/4 part of ordinary agricultural lime, better finely ground
- 1/4 part gypsum (or twice the agricultural lime)
- 1/2 part dolomitic lime
- Also, for best results:
- 1 part bone meal, rock phosphate, or high-phosphate guano
- 1/2 to 1 part seaweed meal (or 1 part basalt powder)
How to Make Homemade Fertilizer for Cacti?
You can make use of various natural substances to enrich your cacti. Examples include:
- Chopped eggshells
- The liquid is formed by the boiling of a few banana peels (in 1L of water).
- The liquid that results from the process of boiling the rice (boiled in 1 liter of water).
- Wood ash.
- Coffee grounds.
How to Fertilize a Cactus
Cactus plants, with their numerous adaptions to their structure that allow them to thrive in dry, hot climates, appear very different from other species that people are led think that cacti don’t need the same requirements as leafy plants. However, they require regular fertilization and irrigation.
Things you will need:
- Measuring spoons.
- 1-quart or 1-gallon plastic container with a lid.
- Watering can.
- Inspect the cactus plants for fresh new growth in early spring. This may be a time where some may see an increase in plant size or even an increase of small flower buds or spiky needles present on the plants. Many people who grow cacti use fertilizers to help them grow.
- Choose a liquid fertilizer that suits your needs.
- Remember: if the package says ‘add 1,000 milliliters of water with a measurement of 1 teaspoon to accomplish this – use 4 teaspoons.
- Add the correct amount of fertilizer. Put on the lid. Shake the container to mix the fertilizer solution.
- Add some of the liquid fertilizer to a watering can. Water the cactus with the liquid solution until the soil is completely saturated and you see that water is running through drainage holes in the pot. Discard any excess water after a few minutes if the pot has a saucer.
- If possible, try to use all of the fertilizer that you have mixed in. As nitrogen breaks down quickly, it will not be as effective soon after pouring it and you’ll end up throwing away a lot of unused fertilizer.
- Do not fertilize cacti when growth slows down and you want to keep a steady, continuous flow of new clients.
- There are several factors to consider when fertilizing a cactus such as the quality of the soil and the pot in which it is planted. A general guideline that has worked well in my experience recommends using 1/4 strength fertilizer during each growing season.
- For earlier flowering in response to good fertilization practices, choose ball-shaped cacti rather than columnar ones.
Recommendations When Applying Your Fertilizer
Planting a cactus in a new pot, whether using potting soil or cactus mix, is like sending the plant to college. Much effort and energy go into shopping for just the right dorm room.
Fertilizer can damage a recently potted or repotted cactus. It is recommended that you wait two months before fertilizing your cactus once it has been transplanted into a new pot.
There are many varieties of cacti and they play by different rules. Some, like the holiday blooming variety, need to be fed during certain seasons of the year instead of others. Make sure you feed your plant in the correct season for this kind of plant so as not to cause it any harm.
Buying Guide for a Cactus Fertilizer
Cacti must be fertilized regularly. For a while, one might not notice anything is going to happen, as they take the nutrients they find in their substrate.
But one day we will notice that they aren’t blooming as much, are growing more slowly, or have become more vulnerable to stress factors like pests, disease-causing microorganisms, and natural elements such as drought. We must then learn how to choose the right fertilizer for cacti so that they do not develop nutritional deficiencies.
Phosphorus and nitrogen have opposite purposes. Phosphorus works below ground to promote healthy roots. Nitrogen acts on the soil to promote plant growth and, in the case of plants other than cacti, leaves. The third fertilizer ingredient, potassium, promotes flowering and strength inside the cactus.
A balanced combination of nitrogen and potassium fertilizers is considered to be ideal for healthy growth in this plant. One should avoid using a high concentration of nitrogen since it can cause too much plant growth.
In addition, it is important to differentiate liquid fertilizers or fertilizers from granulated or powdered ones.
The liquid fertilizers tend to have an immediate effect since the nutrients are available to the roots almost immediately. This is unlike solid fertilizers which take a few weeks before the nutrients are used by the plants. Furthermore, liquid fertilizers do not interfere with the absorption of water. So drainage capacity remains intact in soils and substrates after application.
Granulated or powdered fertilizers can be effective for cacti, but usually not when these are in pots. Their nutrients are released slowly which helps the plants absorb them bit by bit and as a result, can take several months. They don’t have that much of an effect on cacti in pots, that’s why they shouldn’t be applied to those.
What Are the Best Fertilizers for Cacti?
If you have a few cacti and you want them to have everything, do not hesitate to take a look at our selection of the best fertilizers for these very special plants:
LIQUID: Espoma Organic Cactus! Plant Food, Natural & Organic Fertilizer for all Cactus, Succulents, Palm, and Citrus both indoors and outdoors
- ORGANIC PLANT FOOD: This organic fertilizer is safe to use around kids, pets, and plants alike – no harm done! Best used for cacti and succulents.
- EASY: (1) Pour (½) cap of Cactus! plant food liquid into a quart of water. (2) Thoroughly drench the soil of the plants using a spray bottle. For best results use every 2-4 weeks.
- FAST RESULTS: Want to start a succulent cacti collection? Try Espoma Organic Cactus! Fertilizer. It’ll help you cultivate healthier, vibrant plants in your garden while also encouraging new growth and encouraging healthier root development.
- USE: We offer a wide range of organic plant fertilizers for large and small plants like Jade Plants, Zebra Plants, Burro’s Tails, Aloe Vera & Barrel Cactus & Christmas Cactus.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: LIQUID: Cute Farms Succulent, Cacti, & Aloe Fertilizer
- MADE FOR SUCCULENTS, CACTI & ALOE – Plant Fertilizer Gentle Monthly Use Formula.
- APPLY TO SOIL – 1-2 pumps near the base of each plant, once a month or just before normal watering.
- EASY PUMP BOTTLE – Measures out a perfect amount of fertilizer.
- VALUE – Each 4 oz. the bottle can feed a succulent for up to six months.
- The easiest way to give your cacti a monthly boost.
- Long-Lasting, Less Work– A monthly granular application is all that’s needed in order to ensure your indoor or outdoor houseplant’s survival with the nutrients being slowly released as your plant needs them.
- Light Feeding Rate – Our NPK ratio of (1(Nitrogen), 1(Phosphorus), and 1(Potassium)) is ideal for your plants, especially cacti and succulents, to grow in their optimal conditions. A healthy range will ensure the plant can develop a firm root system, consistent color, perhaps bloom when it’s ready, and support its overall growth while avoiding over-fertilization!
- Professionally Formulated– This Blend contains an expertly arranged assortment of nutrients that are perfect for many succulent and cactus varieties like Jade, Crown of thorns, Echeveria, the string-of-pearls plant, the snake plant, and more.
- Granular Plant Foods – This is professional-grade fertilizer that comes in our heavy-duty resealable pouch. Will last for several months after being applied, and almost indefinitely when stored in a cool dry place in the packaging.
- Easy Application —It’s not enough to just drop a few pellets into your dirt and hope for the best. If you want your plants to grow properly, it is important to water them after applying fertilizer, even if you don’t think they need it. A balanced diet is one of the most important factors in plant health and growth!
- PERFECT BLEND OF NUTRIENTS – As potted plants enthusiasts, we know that you always look after your green babies with care – especially when it comes to giving them just the right amount of fertilizer they will need to grow healthy, strong, and robust. Our 13-11-11 slow-release fertilizer pellets are designed to feed your succulents and cacti at their ideal rate. This means that you’ll be giving them exactly what they need as opposed to “too much” or “not enough”.
- 6 MONTH TIMED RELEASE – Our single-use succulent fertilizer is ready to be used for 180 days (more than 6 months)―simply place it in your planter and watch as the plant grows a bounty of succulents! This means less fertilizer is needed and less waste when compared with other traditional fertilizers.
- SUITABLE FOR ALL VARIETIES – You can use our plant conditioner on just about any kind of plant, from cacti to orchids, bromiliads to a variety of cacti. It’s also great for seedlings and mature plants alike.