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How to Keep a Pet Cactus

by User Not Found | May 13, 2013

How to keep a pet catus
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I started growing cacti when I was about five years old and still have the original plant thirty odd years later. They really caught my imagination with all their spikes and grotesque shapes. I used to imagine how any animal could even think of trying to eat them and how desperate you would need to be to even try!

My original plant is still alive and well in my glasshouse but has been joined by about 200 others over the years. I really caught the bug at the age of ten when I brought one of my prize specimens to a cactus show in Dublin and won first prize and a silver spoon from the Royal Horticultural Society. I remember the antics of trying to get a large spiky cactus onto a train in Waterford and on Dublin Bus to Rathgar without causing major damage to passengers trying to squeeze by!

Most of my plants came from friends and neighbours of my mother who were kind enough to give me a cutting from their plant and so I still call them after the people who gave them to me. Every time I went to our local garden centre I could be found in the houseplant section admiring the plants they had and wishing I could buy them all!

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My favourite ones are really the flowering, small and easy to grow plants such as Mammilaria and Rebutia. These guys are so easy to grow and will reliably flower every year in early summer. When they do flower they are submerged beneath a breath-taking sea of bright colour. If you fancy keeping a pet cactus there are only a few rules to follow:

  • Cacti like to be watered from mid-March to the end of September and not at all for the rest of the year. When you do water them you need to really drench them and then leave them to dry out completely before the next watering (I find this to be once every fortnight). I give them a feed with tomato food once a month in spring and summer. This will keep them in good flowering condition. If you water in winter they will quickly rot and turn to mush ready for the compost heap!
  • They need to be re-potted once a year into a slightly larger container with good drainage holes such as a terracotta pot.  Free-draining compost that is roughly one third gravelly sand and two thirds potting compost will allow the excess water to drain away quickly and enables water to be absorbed after dry periods.
  • They need a good bright position if being grown in your home. However they don’t always appreciate being cooked in a conservatory on a hot day when you are away so good ventilation is needed to keep the temperatures down.

I would encourage everyone to keep a “pet” cactus at home and they won’t bite if you are careful! They only need feeding once a month and you can ignore them during the winter. If you have children, little boys seem to love admiring them so a little encouragement at a young age and you could end up with a free gardener for life like my mum!

Best of luck with your Cacti!

Written by Malachy

Here to help!
 - remember if you have any questions feel free to pop into one of our garden centres or you can contact us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and email us at:

Malachy's Bio 

I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!