When to grow cactus in planter or garden

What you need to know:

Cacti have health related benefits such as purifying air, improving mental health by reducing stress, boosting productivity and enhancing memory.

Due to their unique water holding properties, cacti have become a fixture in people’s gardens and landscapes. Regardless of how a person gets started on cacti, it has been inarguably a popular plant and seems to grow in popularity each year.

“These desert plants will continue thriving even when there is barely water because that is in their DNA. They survive the gusty sandy winds, the scorching sun, so there is no amount of neglect you can throw their way that they cannot handle,” Prima Kisakye, a florist says.

Even the jungle cacti which may not come from the same conditions are more of air plants and maintenance is not gruelling.

“A dash of water, ample air and well-draining soil is all they need,” she says. Besides that, contrary to many people’s beliefs, cacti have a wide range of colours in addition to green such as near blue, with various shapes and they produce flowers too.

Save for their beauty, Kisakye says cacti have health-related benefits such as purifying air, improving mental health by reducing stress, boosting productivity and enhancing memory.

Conditions that make cacti thrive

Kisakye says these plants have short roots making it possible for them to thrive in containers.

“It is crucial that one has a proper understanding of a plant’s root system. That determines whether it can thrive in a pot or not and the pot type if it fits in the container plant category. In the case of cacti, some have shallow roots that usually spread but do got go so deep. The cacti fibrous roots easily absorb water from the surface,” she explains.

That said, some have a long taproot that anchors them into the soil. Kisakye says while those with a fibrous root network can thrive in short containers, those with tap roots will need deeper containers to accommodate the tap root.

 “Understanding the root system also helps when you are choosing the plants as well as the container to use. Ultimately, that also affects how they thrive,” she says.

Eunice Akite, a florist, says it is important to consider the needs of your cacti when planting.

“Growth requirements (light, nutrients and water) is one of the things to consider. For instance, jungle cacti cannot grow with desert cacti because the former requires aerated conditions and well-draining soils, while the latter is accustomed to harsh conditions,” she says.

Akite adds that it is also important to consider the growth rate of each plant.

“It is not ideal to mix slow growing cacti with a fast growing type. Ultimately, the slow type will get overwhelmed by the fast growing one. The best thing is to group fast growing cacti with those of the same growth rate,” she says.

When putting these plants in one pot, Akite reminds us that they, regardless of type, require lots of light.

“Therefore, when planting them, ensure that none shields the other from receiving ample light,” she says.

The pot sizes continues changing as the plant grows which calls for up-potting.

“As the plant size increases, more often than not, it will need a bigger pot thus the need to transplant. To avoid doing this often, always get a pot whose diameter is one to two inches larger than the predecessor.

In case you are growing your cacti from cuttings, Amos Muleme, a florist says a smaller container is ideal.

“Cuttings do not thrive in very big pots as they do not do well when planted deep. Additionally, they do not thrive in very moist soil as it is a catalyst for rotting,” he advises.

Worth noting also is the pot must drain well. “Otherwise, the cacti roots will get exposed to lots of water thus easily rotting.”

The pot type also matters because while the common pot types are clay, concrete and terracotta, when they heat up, they cause the soils to dry up fast thus losing the moisture.

“The best alternative is wooden planters as they retain coolness. However, in damp places, they can aid rot. Metal should also not be used in the long term because of rust. Ultimately, depending on your weather conditions, pick the ideal pot type,” Muleme advises.

How to plant cacti

Akite takes us through the process of having a cacti planter garden:

Get a container

 Depending on the type of cacti you have picked, get a suitable container. You must ensure that it has enough (yet not too many) holes to allow for water draining.

Add gravel and soil

 Put a layer of small stones (gravel) at the bottom of the container topped up with well-draining soil (some sand mixed with organic matter and loam soil).

Make a mock organisation

 Before you remove the cacti from their original pots, assemble them in the manner you desire until you get an organisation you are comfortable with. When that is done, make holes for them in the desired pots.


 The commonest cacti are those with thorns. Therefore, as you move them to their new home, adorn your hands with leather gloves. That said, rather than pull them out of the pot or hold the leaves as you dislodge them from the pot, use tongs because some thorns can pierce through even heavy gloves. In case the plant is not getting dislodges, use a knife to lift the soil or bang the container onto a hard surface.

Firm up the soil

 Once the transplantation is done, firm the soil down using a small trowel. That will allow you space to add more soil.

Water the plants

After transplantation, water is necessary. Avoid watering unless the soil is dry to avoid rot. Now that you are set, you can enjoy your garden, Muleme recommends adding pebbles over the soil to  enhance the beauty.


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