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How to Care for Cactus & Succulent Plants

By Lillian Downey ; Updated September 21, 2017

Cacti and succulents are popular because they grow heartily in bad soil conditions and require very little care. They're sought-after among brown thumbs because they can survive extended periods of neglect. Still, they're not entirely care-free. Cacti and succulents need to have their basic soil, water and light needs met in order to thrive. Once these three things are in place, maintenance and care can be as simple as monthly watering.

Water sparingly. Learn the growing season of your cactus or succulent plant. This period usually happens during the spring and early summer months. Water weekly during this time, then scale back to monthly watering for the rest of the year. Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering, even if it means adjusting watering times.

Use the right soil mix. Cacti and succulents like fast draining, sandy soil. These types of plants are famous for growing the harshest, poorest soil conditions. Use potting soil designed specifically for cacti and succulents or make your own by mixing equal parts sand and potting mix. Throw in a handful of gravel to make a more coarse mix.

Use pots with drainage holes. If you grow your cacti and succulents indoors, drainage holes are crucial. Never let your plants sit in water because they succumb to mold and root rot more easily than other plants.

Provide air circulation. Open a window or occasionally run a ceiling fan. Succulents, especially, thrive in conditions with regular air movement.

Learn your plant's preferred lighting conditions. Cacti and succulents usually do better in filtered light conditions instead of direct sunlight. Avoid placing them in direct, hot sunlight for extended periods of time because they can burn. Some cacti do require direct sunlight, so if you find your plant shrinking back or looking thin and spindly, move it closer to the sunlight.

Fertilize monthly with a mix especially designed for cacti and succulents. Do not use regular houseplant fertilizer and do not over-fertilize as this could burn your plant's roots.


Things You Will Need

  • Cacti and succulent soil mix
  • Cacti and succulent specialty fertilizer
  • Gravel (optional)


  • Use gravel or rocks on the top later of your soil to help keep the top layer from drying out faster than the rest of the soil.

About the Author


A Jill-of-all-trades, Lillian Downey is a certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, certified clinical phlebotomist and a certified non-profit administrator. She's also written extensively on gardening and cooking. She also authors blogs on nail art blog and women's self esteem.