While most cacti produce flowers, many varieties of flowering cactus only do so when grown outdoors or under precise conditions. For houseplant lovers, the good news is there are still many flowering cacti that happily grow indoors and produce stunning blooms. The key to optimal cactus blooming is providing growing conditions that mimic their natural environment.
Encouraging Blooming in a Flowering Cactus
To promote blooming in flowering cacti, simulate the desert conditions they grow in. These conditions include ample heat, sunlight, and correct watering procedures. Recreating the plant’s dormancy period during the winter is key to a cactus flowering during its next growing season. Even with optimal conditions, some cacti varieties won’t bloom until they are several years old.
Flowering Cactus Light Requirements
Place flowering cacti in a south or west-facing window to provide the direct sunlight they require. On average, cacti need six to eight hours of full sunlight per day. Give direct sunlight from early spring until fall for best growth and blooming potential. During the fall, keep flowering cacti in the same place if sunlight hours in your region naturally decreases. In winter, most flowering cacti need a rest period, called dormancy, to redirect energy from growth into bud production. Less sunlight is required during this time.
Temperature and Humidity
Flowering cacti require warm temperatures to trigger blooming. During the spring and summer, provide temperatures between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit ( 21 to 26 degrees Celsius). Average household temperature, plus a spot in a sunny window, will typically provide enough heat.
Once fall arrives, a flowering cactus needs cooler temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) to trigger dormancy. During this rest period, the plant redirects its energy from growth to flower bud formation. All year around, keep humidity at average household levels. Cacti do not tolerate high humidity so use a dehumidifier for homes with humid climates.
Flowering Cactus Water Needs
Cacti require water to bloom, even if they are drought tolerant. Water your cactus when the soil has completely dried out. Water thoroughly until the water runs out the pot’s drain holes and into the drip tray. This recreates the heavy, but sparse, rainfalls of the desert. Empty the tray once drainage is complete to ensure the roots do not sit in water.
Water no more than once per month in the winter dormancy months as the plant is not in active growth. Misting flowering cacti instead of direct watering is a good option and helps keep spider mites away. Too much water, with the lower temperatures needed during dormancy, will encourage pests or disease.
Soil and Fertilizer
Flowering cacti require a fast-draining soil to keep the roots healthy. Use a specific cacti soil mix if available. If creating your own soil, combine a mixture of potting soil, coarse sand, and perlite for added drainage.
Fertilizer provides needed nutrients necessary for blooming. Feed your flowering cactus with a fertilizer designed for cacti during the spring and summer. A fertilizer with low nitrogen and high phosphorus and potassium will encourage healthy blooms.
To induce blooming outside of the flowering cactus’s regular schedule, place the cactus in an area with temperatures between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 to 15 degrees Celsius). A basement or cold storage room works well. Limit the amount of light the plant receives to no more than 8 hours light per day, with 16 hours of darkness. Keep the plant in these temperatures and lighting for at least 8 days.
Flowering Cactus Varieties
The Christmas Cactus is a popular flowering cactus variety. It is prized for its showy, tubular blooms that appear from early to late winter. The branches are segmented and dark green when healthy. The bright-pink blooms appear on the tips of the branches. This flowering cacti has an epiphytic growth pattern and spreads out as it matures.
Provide bright, indirect light from an east-facing window when possible. Filtered light from a south-facing window is also acceptable. Avoid direct sunlight for prolonged periods as it will bleach the branches and inhibit both growth and blooming.
For best cactus flowering, water the Christmas cactus once every two to three weeks. Allow the top third of the soil to become dry between waterings. Soak the soil until the water runs through the drainage holes and into the drip tray. Wait 15 minutes for drainage, then discard excess water in the tray to avoid root rot.
Keep spring and summer temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit ( 21 degrees Celsius) during the day and between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit ( 15 to 18 degrees Celsuis) at night. Blooming is triggered by the cooler temperatures and less sunlight of winter. Flower buds form best in temperatures between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 to 15 degrees Celsius). This flowering cacti prefers the higher humidity of kitchens and bathrooms.
The Moonlight cactus is one of the most impressive flowering cactus varieties. Also called Queen of the Night, this flowering cacti features ribbed, angled, or flattened stems with short spines. Its large, white blooms are between 6 and 12 inches (15 t0 30 cm) in size and give off a vanilla fragrance. The blooms only appear at night and usually only last one night per bloom.
Provide full sun in a brightly lit room with all-day sun or from a south-facing window. A place in a sun porch or outdoor glasshouse also works. Give the plant plenty of light in the early spring to encourage blooming.
Water the Moonlight cactus once per week from April to September. Water deeply until the water runs out the pot’s drainage holes. Once draining has stopped, discard the collected water to avoid root rot. Allow the soil to dry between waterings to mimic the rainfall it receives in its habitat.
Average household temperatures are adequate for this flowering cactus. Never let the temperature drop below 41 degrees Fahrenheit ( 5 degrees Celsius). Flowers appear from late spring to early summer. Due to the large size of this plant, a trellis is required to provide support as it grows.
The young Lovivia flowering cactus is globular-shaped, elongating as it matures. The body features vertical ribs that grow spikes from a central point, resembling spiders, along the ribs. The showy blooms of these flowering cacti are large in comparison to the plant, growing from stems on the cacti’s side. Flowers last one to two days each and can be red, yellow, orange or purple.
Provide bright, direct sunlight, when grown indoors, for optimal cactus flowering. A south or west-facing window is ideal. If taken outdoors, place in dappled light or part shade to avoid scorching. This cactus requires good ventilation to avoid health issues.
Allow the soil to dry between waterings, then water deeply until the moisture runs out the pot’s drainage holes. Discard excess water from the drip tray to prevent soggy soil and root rot. Repeat this process, as needed, during the spring and summer months. Withhold water in the winter when the plant requires dormancy. This dormant period allows the cactus to rest, encouraging more blooms during spring and summer.
Average household temperatures and humidity are adequate during the spring and summer. Do not expose this flowering cactus to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) while in active growth. During winter dormancy, move the cactus to an area with temperatures around 45 degrees Fahrenheit ( 7 degrees Celsius) to rest.
The Easter flowering cactus is considered easy to grow and is popular for its large blooms of either red, pink, orange, purple, or white. The cactus features segmented, green stems with a middle rib. The plant reaches a size of 2 feet wide by 2 feet tall ( 60 cm x 60 cm). Blooming occurs during late winter to early spring.
This flowering cacti prefers bright, indirect light. Too much sunlight will fade the plant’s green stems to a pale yellow. Water your Easter cactus when the soil has dried out. Water thoroughly and allow the water to drain into the drip tray. Discard excess water to avoid root rot. Decrease waterings in late fall and continue to water sparsely through the winter.
Encourage blooming of this flowering cactus by withholding fertilizer two months before spring blooming. Give the plant equal dark and light conditions until spring. Provide temperatures during this period of 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) during the night and average household temperatures during the day. After blooming has finished, cut back on waterings until you’re ready to prepare the plant for next season’s blooming.
The Prodia cactus is a ball-shaped flowering cactus with pronounced ridges. Each ridge grows spines, which start as white, then turn yellow or brown with maturity. This clustering cacti reaches a width of 12 inches ( 30 cm) and grows approximately 4 inches ( 10 cm) per year. This flowering cacti’s blooms are cup shaped and may be yellow, pink, orange, or red in color. Flowers appear in spring and summer.
The Parodia flowering cactus prefers bright, indirect sunlight all day. For full-sun areas, exposure to morning and evening sunlight only is acceptable. Rotate the plant to even out sun exposure and avoid crooked growth. Water thoroughly when the soil feels dry. Allow water to drain through the pots drainage holes, then dispose of the collected water.
Cactus flowering occurs more often on mature plants. To encourage ample blooming, allow the plant to go dormant during the winter months. Water sparingly, providing just enough to keep the plant from dehydrating. Place the cactus in temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and limit sunlight exposure to no more than 8 hours per day.
Spiny Pincushion Cactus
The Spiny Pincushion flowering Cactus is a compact variety growing up to 6 inches ( 15 cm) tall. The plant is ball or barrel shaped and the body is covered in white spines. The blooms are bright-pink and form in a halo effect around the top of the cactus. Flowers appear in spring and summer with blooming lasting approximately 7 days total.
This flowering cacti prefers around 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. Full morning sun, followed by indirect light for the remainder of the day works well. Provide a place near a south or west-facing window if possible. Water the Spiny Pincushion cactus once per week in the spring and summer. Allow the water to drain through the pot’s holes, then discard collected water from the drip tray.
To encourage more cactus flowering, allow the plant to rest in a room with temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 4 to 10 degrees Celsius) during the winter. Withhold water during this time. Begin once-a-week waterings again in the early spring and feed the cactus once every two weeks with a fertilizer designed for cacti.
The Spider flowering cactus is spherical with a dark-green, glossy body. The rounded ribs produce spines growing out of a fuzzy center that lay flat against the plant and resemble small spiders. This cactus grows to a height of 4 inch ( 10 cm) and 6 inches ( 15 cm) wide. Creamy-white blooms appear in spring and summer.
Provide full sun from a south-facing window for these flowering cacti. A place in a bright room with all-day sun is also acceptable. If moved outside, place the cactus in partial shade to prevent scorching. Water the cactus one or twice per week, depending on the size of the plant. Allow the soil to dry between waterings, then soak the soil thoroughly. Drain any water collected in the drip tray to avoid root rot.
Encourage more cactus flowering by letting the plant go dormant in the winter. A cool place with temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) with limited light is ideal. Withhold water during this time until spring. Do not fertilize the cactus during dormancy. In the spring, begin feedings of a liquid cactus fertilizer once per month.
This small flowering cactus blooms more readily than other varieties. The Chamaelobivia cactus is cylindrical and produces small, white spikes in clusters along the plant’s raised ridges. These flowering cacti grow 4 inches ( 10 cm) tall and 6 inches ( 15 cm) wide. Large, bright-pink blooms appear in late spring at the top of the cones. Each flower is short-lived but the many blooms appear in succession.
Provide full sun from a south or west-facing window for at least five hours per day. Plants moved outside during the summer will benefit from the protection of dappled sunlight for most of the day. Follow the soak and dry method when watering. Allow the soil to dry completely, then soak the soil until the water runs through the drainage holes. Empty the drip tray when draining is done. When in doubt, it is better to be underwatered than overwatered for this sensitive cactus.
Better cactus flowering is achieved by allowing the plant to go dormant during the winter. Move the cactus to a place with temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 4 to 10 degrees Celsius) with no more than eight hours of sunlight per day. Withhold water until spring, then resume the recommended watering schedule. Feedings of a cactus or succulent fertilizer once per month, beginning in spring, results in more blooms.
Powder Puff Cactus
This round flowering cactus produces offsets at its base. The blue-green stalks are covered with white, silky hairs that are sharp to the touch. The Powder Puff cactus grows 5 inches ( 12 cm) tall and 4 inches ( 10 cm) wide. The blooms grow in a circular pattern at the top of the plant resembling a halo. Flowers can be white or red and appear in summer.
These flowering cacti store water in tubercles making them drought tolerant. Water only when the soil is completely dry during the spring and summer months. Water thoroughly and drain any excess water collected in the drip tray. Provide at least eight hours of bright sunlight per day from a south or west-facing window for optimal growth and blooming.
Optimal cactus flowering depends on the cactus being dormant for the winter months. Place your cactus in a cool place with temperatures between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit ( 15 to 18 degrees Celsius) from end of fall until early spring. Withhold waterings, misting the plant if it begins to shrivel. Resume watering in the spring and feed with a liquid cactus fertilizer.
Rosy Pincushion Cactus
The Rose Pincushion flowering cactus has globular-shaped stems that turn cylindrical as the plant matures. The cactus reaches a height of 5 inches ( 12 cm) tall and 3 inches ( 7.5 cm) wide. The plant features four central spines which produce clusters of 15 to 18 soft, hair-like spikes. Pale pink or purple blooms on the body of the cactus. Flowering occurs for most of the year in optimal conditions.
Provide all-day, indirect light from a west-facing window or three to four hours of direct sunlight from a south-facing window for optimal growth and blooming. Avoid full exposure all day as plants may scorch and turn yellow. Follow the soak and dry watering method by allowing the soil to dry completely between waterings. Soak the soil until the water runs out the pot’s drainage holes. Discard water collected in the tray to avoid root rot.
Allow the cactus to go dormant for the winter months to rest and encourage blooms the following spring. Place the plant in a cool area with temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) with limited sun exposure. Withhold waterings during the dormancy period and resume again in the spring. Cactus flowering is improved by feeding the plant with a liquid cactus fertilizer beginning in early spring.
The Rebutia cactus is small with a globular shape. The cactus does not have ribs, instead it features tubercles that store water. The body of the plant is covered in tiny thorns of white, yellow or brown. The blooms of these flowering cacti are large in comparison and grow out from the base of the plant. The flowers can be pink, red, yellow, or orange and appear in the spring and summer. Unlike some cacti that need years to mature before blooming, the Rebutia can produce blooms in as little as two to three years.
Rebutia have many hybrid species so sun exposure will depend on the variety you are growing. For most, bright, indirect sunlight is best. If fading occurs, move to dappled light or a spot that receives only three to four hours of sunlight per day. During the spring and summer, water the cactus once the soil feels dry. Soak the soil until the water runs through the drainage holes. Pour out excess water collected in the drip tray.
Enjoy more spring and summer blooms by allowing the cactus to rest during the winter. Place the plant in a cool room with a temperature between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 4 to 10 degrees Celsius). Do not water the plant during this time but you can mist the plant if it begins to shrivel. Cactus blooming is improved by resuming normal watering in the spring and feeding the plant with a liquid cactus fertilizer.
The Peanut Cactus
The Peanut flowering cactus grows finger-like stems reaching 6 inches ( 15 cm) long. The cactus grows in clusters with each stem covered in white bristles that appear soft but are prickly to the touch. Blooms of orange or red appear in late spring to early summer. The impressive flowers are large compared to the plant and open to display their beauty during the day.
Provide bright sunlight from a west or south-facing window. These flowering cacti do not tolerate low lighting conditions. If moved outside, all-day dappled sunlight is best for optimal growth. The Peanut cactus is drought tolerant and stores water in its fleshy stems. The plant is susceptible to overwatering so allow the soil to dry completely before watering. Water deeply in the spring and summer and drain the drip tray of excess water.
Reduce waterings to once a month during the winter months when the plant goes dormant. Cooler temperatures of between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 4 to 10 degrees Celsius) allow the plant to rest and ready for spring blooming. Encourage cactus flowering in the spring by resuming the normal watering schedule and feeding the plant with a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength.
The Balloon flowering cactus has a round shape with a blue-green body color. The cactus has raised ridges spiraling down from the top center point that grow wooly spines down the length. This fast-growing, flowering cacti reaches a height of 12 inches ( 31 cm) tall when grown in a pot. Large, bright-yellow blooms grow at the top of the cactus during summer.
The Balloon Cactus prefers six to eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day. Sun exposure in the morning or evening is best as mid-day sun may cause scorching. This desert cactus is not frost tolerant so, if taken outside, only do so during the warmer months when night temperatures are well above freezing. Water this flowering cactus thoroughly once the soil has dried out. Allow the water to run through the drainage holes, then dispose of excess water in the tray to prevent root rot.
Cactus flowering in spring is enhanced when the plant is allowed to go dormant for the winter months. Reduce waterings to no more than once per month if the cactus becomes shriveled. Reduce the amount of sunlight to between three to four hours of bright light per day. Cooler temperatures of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) also help. Once early spring arrives, return to regular waterings and feed with a liquid cactus fertilizer diluted to half strength.
Fairy Castle Cactus
The Fairy Castle flowering cactus reaches a height of 6 feet ( 2 meters) with its multi-length stems that resemble castle turrets. Each stem is 5-sided with wooly spines on each plane. The white or yellow blooms appear at the top of the stems once the plant is at least 10 years old. The large flowers are between 3 to 6 inches long and 5 to 8 inches wide. The impressive blooms open in the evening.
These flowering cacti prefer full sun but will tolerate some shade. Morning light from a south or west-facing window is ideal. Beware low lighting conditions for prolonged periods as this leads to faded color and misshapen columns. Water only when the soil feels dry, then water deeply until it runs out the pot’s drainage holes. Avoid root rot by emptying the drip tray of excess water.
During winter, move the cactus to a place with no more than four hours of sunlight per day. Temperatures of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) trigger the plant to go dormant and use its energy to create blooms in spring. Withhold water during dormancy, resuming once again in early spring. Once watering increases, feed once per month with a liquid cactus fertilizer for better cactus flowering.
The Starfish flowering cactus is a soft-stemmed succulent that does not produce spikes. The stems grow from a central point and feature a thick outer skin. The plant grows aggressively and will spread when planted outdoors. In pots it will reach a height of 10 inches ( 25 cm) and 4 inches ( 10 cm) wide. Blooms are large with five petals, usually yellow with many red or brown speckles to give a mottled appearance. Like the Lifesaver plant, these showy flowers give off a strong and unpleasant odor to attract pollinators. Flowering begins in late summer through fall.
Bright, indirect sunlight is recommended for indoor growth. Near a west or south-facing window is ideal, though the plant will benefit from some shelter to afternoon sun. If moving the plant outdoors, full sun to partial shade is best. The Starfish cactus is drought tolerant and prefers the soak and dry watering method. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, then soak the soil until the water runs through the pot’s drainage holes. Dispose of collected water in the drip tray.
Allow the plant to rest during the winter by moving it to a cooler location with temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius). Reduce waterings, providing just enough to keep the leaves from shriveling. Do not fertilize in the winter but begin feedings once per month in the early spring of a houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength.
There are many beautiful varieties of flowering cactus plants to choose from. Most are easy to care for, provided you follow their sunlight, soil, and water requirements. The key to abundant blooms is allowing the flowering cacti to rest in the winter, when it diverts energy from growth into bud formation for the following season.
Flowering Cactus FAQ
Yes, most cacti make excellent houseplants. When grown indoors they often grow smaller and are easily accommodated in a pot. These plants also do well if given a spot near a sunny window.
Most flowering cactus plants will benefit from fertilizer feedings during the spring and summer months. This boost of nutrients helps give the plant energy to grow and produce more blooms.
Many varieties of cactus can be propagated by seeds collected from expired blooms. Some germinate more quickly than others. A more dependable method is to propagate from cutting offsets or stems from the mother plant and planting them. These cuttings will produce their own root system and grow into mature plants.
In general, the most common pests to watch for are mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids. A treatment with insecticidal soap will often rid your plant of these insects. Root rot is the most common disease among cacti and is a result of overwatering the plant.
In most cases, cacti are not toxic if ingested as they rely on their spikes for protection. There are some cacti species that are toxic, like the ones from the euphorbia genus, that produce a very toxic and irritating milky sap. In general, it is best to keep small children and pets away from cacti as most have spikes that will pierce the skin if touched.