By Pavel Shchegolevatykh / July 4, 2015

Growing healthy cacti and succulents indoors

This year I added cacti and succulents to my hobbies list. They reduce my stress and I enjoy looking at them. I'm a perfectionist. I wanted to do everything properly, especially when it comes to the living things like plants.

People might think that cacti and succulents don't need much care. Well, that's wrong! Look at those pics from plant-care shaming community!

Do you want your beloved plant look like one of those? If you do you can skip all this. You are one of "those people". There is no point. Well if you don't and you truely care about your plants' well-being then keep reading.


The first thing you faced with is choosing the right pot for your plant. As a general rule it should be small, roughly equals to the size of your plant, or just a little bit larger than the root ball. Why? Because it provides a better drainage. Rotting roots is the main issue when dealing with cacti and succulents. You would want to avoid it at all costs. Double check if the hole in the bottom of the pot is large enough. If possible make it larger because sometimes manufacturers make them small.

As for the material clay(terracotta) pots are better than plastic pots for cacti and succs because they have pores and take up all the extra moisture. Extra moisture again leads to rotting roots.


Do not put any rocks at the bottom of your pot for drainage. It's a myth that many people believe in.

For cacti and succulents you need a special soil. Plain garden dirt is not good for your cacti. It is too rich with minerals and could contain some pests and parasites. Here you have two options. First is to buy a special cactus soil from the vendor. Nothing wrong with that. The second option is to make your own soil mix. This way you have more control over what's actually in there.

You would need some pumice or perlite (white thing in the picture). At the moment in Europen countries perlite is more popular and wide-spread. You can find it in large grocery stores. Instead of perlite you can use red bricks crushed with a hammer. The second component is the sand, but only rough sea sand would do, not the one you use to make a cement. The small sand for aquarium fish would do as well. Third component is a garden dirt or a potting soil. I recommend to buy a potting soil because it safer and cleaner.

Then you should mix it all up in certain proportions. I prefer 3 parts of potting soil, 2 parts of pumice (perlite, or red brick crush), 1 part of sea sand. You can mix it all up in a bucket with larger amounts then use some of it for your plant, and save the rest for the future needs.


There nothing special to it, except the one rule: do not water the plant immediately after re-potting. Wait for three days to a week (depending on the plant) util the roots adjust to the new container. This is again to avoid root rotting. Also make sure you are not making any damage to the root ball while repotting. If it's a cactus grab the plant with a newspaper or a towel, roll it over, and put into a new pot. Then center it carefully and fill the gaps with your soil mix. After this is done you can add some rocks or gravel on top to make it look better.

The pot itself should be placed under the direct sunlight if it's a cactus or sun-loving succulent. Most of them are. A window with sunny side would be perfect in that case. Be careful here, some haworthias for example zebra-cactus could suffer from it. Google for the light conditions requirements for a specific plant.


Do not over-water! How often to water depends on the plant itself. Water only when the plant needs it! Not once a week or once a day, not on schedule. As for watering can I prefer using vintage steel can with a tiny hole. It's more delicate and convinient for smaller plants.

You can check if your plant is thirsty by using a box of wooden toothpicks (or sushi sticks if your plant is large enough).

Take one of those toothpicks and put it deep down into the soil. If it comes out dirty then you don't need to water. If it comes out clean and dry - it is time to water again. When you do the watering, do it until the water drains out of the pot, not just a little bit.


You do not need it at all in most cases. For example here in Russia cacti grow only in summer, so they don't use up all of the existing minerals that fast. Your soil mix gives them all the necessary stuff for two to three years. Then usually you move the plant to a larger pot and add some new soil with fresh minerals. I am not completely against fertilizers. You can use the one dedicated to cacti and succulents. You can find it in a grocery store. If you from another country where sunny days last longer, you might consider fertilizing more often. I use Cactus Focus fertilizer sometimes in the summer. It's organic, cheap and liquid (1 tea spoon per liter of water every two weeks).

I'm just a beginner with all that. So if you have some other opinions on that feel free to leave them in comments. Happy growing!