7 Key Tips For Owning Cacti, According to a Cactus Expert
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7 Key Tips For Owning Cacti, According to a Cactus Expert

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Don't let another spiky companion bite the dust.

Plant pundit, greenery guru, flora fanatic—Gretta Solie is pretty much all of the above. Not only is she the owner of Home Grown—an interior plant and floral company in Los Angeles specializing in curating and maintaining vegetation for commercial and residential clients—she is also an experienced cactus buyer. 

"A lot of time and care goes into the process of meeting with growers and picking out every single cactus that we transport," Solie explains. "We also have to keep an eye on the plant market to see what’s currently popular. It’s almost like the stock market, because prices of specific plants fluctuate so much depending upon what’s trending and what’s selling—or not." Below, Solie has shared some of her extensive cacti knowledge with us by rounding up vital tips you need to know about owning these diverse plants.

1. Find Out the Name or Species of Your Cacti. 

"When buying a cactus, make sure to ask the nursery or store for the plant's exact name or species," advises Solie. "This will help you if you want to search for more information and general care tips about that specific cactus online after bringing it home."

The large cacti are Cereus Repandus or "Peruvian Apple Cactus." The small cactus in the black planter is an Opuntia Microdasys, also called a "Bunny Ear Cactus," and the small cactus in the while planter is an Opuntia Laevis, otherwise known as a "Smooth Prickly Pear Cactus."

2. Look For Signs of Trouble Before Buying.

As with any purchase, Solie suggests examining your cacti selections before you buy them. "When picking out your cactus, don’t worry too much about imperfections. It’s normal for older cacti to have scarring—it’s just a sign that they’ve been around for a long time. But avoid cacti with discoloration, which can indicate unwanted pests."

Simple leather butterfly chairs paired with a cactus.

3. Examine Your Cacti For Pests.

"Keep an eye out for pests that are commonly seen on cacti, which include Scale, Mealybug, and Spider Mites—but don’t freak out if you have them. There are various natural remedies for common pests, as well as stronger solutions if the infestation grows. Usually, if you catch them early enough, you can get rid of them without having to throw out the plant."

Although cacti are associated with being low-maintenance plants, it is important to remember every cactus has different needs.

4. Don’t Overwater Your Cacti. 

While cacti are hearty plants, Solie reminds us that, "every cactus has different needs, but the most common way we’ve seen a cactus die in someone’s home is from overwatering." 

For optimal care, she suggests allowing the soil to dry out completely in between waterings. "Try to be intuitive about when your plant needs another watering. For example, some cacti will start to look dimpled or shriveled, which indicate that they need to be watered." 

A cactus sits nicely in this fired-clay vessel from La Gardo Tackett.

5. Bright Light Is Key. 

"Make sure you place your cactus in bright light if you want to see growth and change," explains Solie. "Some cacti will survive in lower light situations, but it is unlikely to see major growth under these conditions." Remember that these are desert plants. "If you want your cactus to thrive, place it in bright light." 

The Poul Henningsen pendant lights the stairwell. A cactus garden runs the length of the front yard and extends into the house.

6. Choose Planters Carefully.  

"Place your cactus into a planter that allows drainage. This is crucial for keeping your cactus healthy during watering so that the soil is able to dry out completely," says Solie. "You don't want water sitting in the bottom of the planter."  Excess water can cause root-rot, which will damage and eventually kill your plant. 

"Cacti are truly masters of adaptation and perseverance. There are some species that have adapted to grow in extremely high altitudes and can survive through below-freezing temperatures.  Other species of cacti can grow in some of the most remote and arid deserts in the world," says Solie.  

7. Avoid Getting Pricked!

If you need to re-pot your growing cactus, Solie tells us the best way to avoid getting pricked is to use newspaper. "Fold over several sheets of newspaper, and then wrap them around the plant so that you can grab it without damaging your hand. Another trick we use for transporting larger cacti is to use moving blankets, which can also protect your hands from the spines."

The master bathroom has a bamboo screen and a Deauville tub by Victoria + Albert. A vintage enameled metal sign from the London Underground is framed by the screen and a cactus that sits atop an African stool.

Home Grown hosts pop-up plant shops and plant and floral workshops around Los Angeles, and will be launching a plant e-commerce store later this Fall called Plantd.

Check out Home Grown on Instagram.

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