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Cacti are All Succulents, Not All Succulents are Cacti

Posted in Houseplant Advice on April 08, 2019


Succulents are plants that have some parts that are more than normally thickened usually as a place for water storage. These thickened parts can be leaves, stems and sometimes roots. This water storage gives the succulents the ability to survive drought periods.


A cactus is a member of the family Cactaceae. The word “cactus” comes from the ancient Greek word for spiny plant. Cacti are succulents that have thickened stems, and many have lost leaves except for the spines which are modified leaves.

Succulents, including cacti, are evolved to survive drought in dry regions of the world and so can make good houseplants as they can survive not being watered for periods when people are not home, and they are tolerant of the dry atmosphere in heated or air-conditioned homes.

Cacti Growing Media

Compared to standard houseplant potting mix cacti and succulents like fast drainage; double the sand and reduce the loam.


In general cacti and succulents need little water in winter. But they need regular watering in summer. With the well-draining media and ensuring the cactus pot is not sitting pooled water, it should be hard to over-water. However, it is probably good practice to let the media dry before watering again; Kiwicare Gro-Sure Houseplant Watering Indicator can help with this. Succulents make good houseplants because they can tolerate not being watered for periods. They "go dormant" if not watered and come back again when watered.

Light and Location

Most cacti can withstand direct sunlight, but some other succulents may require shade. Read the advice label on the plant when you buy it or ask garden centre staff. Although many cacti come from hot deserts it is best not to keep cacti in places where the temperature will exceed 32°C.

Pests and Disease

When cared for as above cacti and other succulents are less likely than other plants to be affected by pests and diseases. However, they can be attacked by mealybugs, scale insects, spider mites and others. And overwatering or poorly draining potting mix can encourage root rot diseases.

Did you know that the collective nouns for succulents and cacti are, a reservoir of succulents and a spike of cacti.

David Brittain

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