Can You Plant A Cactus In A Flower Pot?

By   | Last Updated :   March 14, 2022 | Filed In :   DIY & How To

There is an assumption that cacti aren’t very picky when it comes to their planting conditions. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and many cacti don’t make it through their first year. If you’re wondering how to properly plant and care for a cactus in a flower pot, keep reading.

Can you plant a cactus in a flower pot?

Definitely. If you use the right pot along with the correct potting soil. Cacti need excellent drainage if kept in a pot. For this reason, a breathable pot along with very well-draining soil is ideal.

cacti in flower pots

Credit: Pixnio

The best flower pot for a cactus

The best pot for a cactus is one that is breathable like terracotta or unglazed ceramic. If you’re unsure about which pot to choose, take a look at this guide:

Things to consider before buying a pot:

Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to choose a pot. Here’s a short breakdown.

cacti flower pot

Credit: Maxpixel

Clay/terracotta pots

Clay or terracotta pots are popular choices for succulents like cacti. If unglazed, these pots are very porous, making it easy for water to evaporate. This helps with regulating the moisture in the pot and improves drainage.

Terracotta pots also absorb water, causing the pot to change colour. This colour change makes it easy to judge how wet or dry the soil is and help you know when it’s time to water your cacti.

Clay pots generally come in uniform colours, making it easy to match them to your decor. However, they are breakable and can crack if left out in winter. The roots of the cacti might also invade the pot making it difficult to remove the plant once it’s due to be repotted, or might even crack the pot in some instances.

Wood

Wood isn’t the most common material for plant pots but it does work quite well for cacti since they don’t need much water. Less moisture means less chance of the wood rotting.

You can even take an extra step to ensure the wood doesn’t come in contact with water. Simply plant your cactus in a plastic pot that fits snugly inside the wooden container.

wooden pot for cactus

Credit: Piqsels

Plastic

Plastic is the most common material for plant pots. It’s affordable, extremely durable and won’t get damaged by moisture or exposure to the cold.

Plastic containers are also lightweight, making them perfect for plants that need to be moved around often. It’s also great for hanging baskets.

Unfortunately, plastic containers aren’t the best for drainage. They allow water to drain out of the drainage holes, but none can escape through the sides of the container. This makes it harder for the soil to dry out which may affect the health of your cactus if you’re not careful.

plastic pot for cactus

Credit: Maxpixel

Ceramic

Ceramic pots are ideal for cacti as long as they aren’t glazed, as the material is very breathable. They may not work so well in very hot environments due to how quickly they lose water.

Because water evaporates so quickly, you might find that the roots of your cactus are concentrated on the side of the pot. This is due to minerals being left behind by the water.

Glazed ceramic pots are easy to match to your decor, but they won’t be as breathable as unglazed pots. They often lack drainage holes too so you might have to make some yourself.

ceramic pot for cactus

Credit: Piqsels

Why pot size matters

Cacti like to be slightly root-bound. When choosing a pot for your cactus, it’s best to select one that’s almost the same size as the plant, or more specifically the roots of the plant. Keep in mind that most cacti have very shallow roots so you don’t need a very large or deep pot.

The best way to select the correct pot is to take the cactus out of its current pot, remove the soil from the roots and measure them. If the roots of your cactus are long, you will need a deeper pot. If they are short and spreading outwards instead of down, a wider, shallow pot will be better.

Keep in mind that you need to leave some space for drainage. For this reason, the pot needs to be slightly deeper than the length of the roots.

A well-fitting pot means no water will be standing around unused in the soil. The plant will absorb what it needs and the rest of the water will drain away. If the roots don’t fill the pot, the areas without roots will stay moist for a very long time which can lead to problems such as mould.

cactus flower pot size

Image credit: @dreamy_leaves

How to prepare a flower pot for a cactus

Once you’ve decided on a pot, it’s time to plant your cactus.

Prepare the pot

Before you can plant your cactus, you need to prepare the pot. Make sure to wash it to remove any harmful chemicals and other substances that may harm your plant.

Add gravel and potting mix

Cacti need well-draining soil to stay healthy. To achieve this, place small rocks or gravel at the bottom of the pot. You can top this with potting mix specially designed for cacti. Normal potting mixes hold far too much water to keep a cactus healthy.

If you don’t want to buy a premixed bag of potting soil, you can also make your own cactus mix. To do this you will need three parts potting soil, three parts gravel or course sand and two parts pumice or perlite. Mix well before using. You can use the measuring cup of your choice, just make sure to add the correct amounts with the same cup.

Prepare the cactus

prepare the cactus

Protect your hands when planting these spiky plants. Image credit: @christinepankowcj

The hardest part of planting a cactus is repotting it. Cacti are extremely spiky which makes it nearly impossible to hold the plant. The only way to do this is carefully! Use tough gardening gloves, newspaper or thick fabric, or cooking tongs with silicone ends to handle them.

If you’re using gloves or tongs, lightly grab the cactus and turn the pot upside down. Wiggle the cactus and squish the pot (if possible) to loosen the soil and roots. If the cactus doesn’t want to come out, use a butter knife and loosen the roots and soil all around the edge of the pot before trying to remove it again. If all fails, your last resort is to break the existing pot to free the cactus.

If you don’t have gloves or tongs, fold a piece of newspaper or old cloth multiple times before wrapping it around the cactus. Hold the ends gently without stabbing yourself and use the material to wiggle the cactus free.

Use a fork to gently loosen the roots before moving on to the next step.

Transplant the cactus

Once your cactus is in place in the new pot, gently fill up the empty space with potting mix and use a spoon to make sure everything is pressed down firmly. Once done, make sure to water your cactus. Don’t give it too much water or your cactus will start to rot.

FAQs

Do cacti like small pots?

Yes, the pot should match the size of the plant. If the pot is too big, the roots won’t fill the container. This allows too much moisture to stay in the soil which can lead to rot.

If the container is too small, the roots will be restricted and unable to absorb as much moisture and nutrients as they are supposed to. This leads to the plant being stunted.

small pots for cacti

Image credit: @cali.cactus.co

How often should a cactus be watered?

The soil of your cactus needs to be allowed to dry all the way through before you water it again. If you’re unable to check the dryness of the soil, measure the amount of water you give. Generally, ¼ to ½ cup of water is enough if given every week or every other week.

Do cacti need direct sunlight?

Cacti need to be placed in an area with bright indirect light. It’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight since they may turn a yellow colour when exposed to this intensity.

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