Fertilizing Cactus

Plants soak up nutrients that support growth through their roots, and houseplants need support in the form of fertilizer to make up for the limited availability of nutrients. Most houseplants respond well to regular doses of fertilizer, but cacti are not heavy feeders. Cacti are acclimated to growing in challenging conditions, often in poor-quality soil, so they do not need or depend on regular feedings. Most cacti will grow and thrive with fertilizer, but it is not mandatory.

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Why Fertilize Cactus

Fertilizing houseplants like cacti helps the plants grow more rapidly and become larger. Many cactus cultivars can bloom, and houseplants often need a consistent fertilizer routine to grow flowers. Fertilize cacti during the growing season in the spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing. Dormant plants do not need fertilizer and should not be fertilized during the fall and winter. 

How Often To Fertilize Cactus

Fertilize cactus houseplants one to three times during the growing season. One application of fertilizer in the spring is typically enough. Feeding cacti in the spring allows the plant to start the growing season strong. You can also fertilize cacti throughout the growing season, often in the spring, mid-summer, and late summer.

How To Tell If Cactus Needs Fertilizer

Fertilize a cactus if the plant is not growing at the appropriate times and the soil has not been replenished for a long time (more than a year or two). The plant should naturally begin to grow in the spring. If the cactus continues to appear dormant several weeks into the growing season, then apply fertilizer to encourage growth.

Best Fertilizer For Cactus

Feed cactus plants using a balanced fertilizer or a product formulated for cacti and succulents. Cactus fertilizers typically have an NPK ratio of 2-7-7 or 1-1-2. When using a specialized formulation, match the fertilizer to the type of cactus. Forest cacti have different nutritional needs than desert cacti and will benefit from a balanced product like a 10-10-10 if you want to encourage blooming.

Cactus Fertilizing Tips

Cactus houseplants are not heavy feeders, but a well-timed dose of fertilizer will support new growth and possibly encourage flowers. Use a balanced fertilizer or a product intended for cacti.

  • Fertilize cactus houseplants annually in the spring and no more than three times during the growing season.
  • Do not fertilize dormant cactus plants.
  • Use a balanced fertilizer or a product formulated for cacti.

Warnings

-Always wear protective gloves and a face mask when handling chemical fertilizers.

-Closely follow all directions and storage guidelines that are on the fertilizer label.

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Author Alison Cotsonas - Published 12-1-2023