Cacti and succulents are some of the strangest yet most artful sculptural species of plants on the planet. Environmentally speaking, they are great for native gardens where water conservation is a top consideration. For people who live in apartments, succulents improve air quality, all while making excellent additions to the balcony or window display. Since many species are quite small and grow well in pots, you don’t need a huge yard to enjoy an attractive cactus garden.
Do Cactus and Succulent Plants Purify Air?
Aside from improving the aesthetics around your home, cacti and succulents can play another important role in your living quarters. Chemicals in paint, rugs and various common household products can degrade your indoor air quality and jeopardize your health. Leafy plants are well known for providing oxygen and filtering the air, but do succulents clean air as well? Research backs up the notion that succulents are good for indoor air quality, helping you breathe easier by absorbing volatile organic compounds. The aloe and the snake plant especially were found to be effective air filters among succulents, with other species providing smaller benefits.
Even though most cacti and succulents may not be the biggest workhorses when it comes to improving indoor air quality, every bit of filtering counts, and caring for the plants that provide these incremental improvements take very little work on your part. Plus, if after dabbling in cacti you decide you enjoy taking care of plants, you can always level up to more care-intensive species like ferns or spider plants that will provide even greater improvements to your indoor air quality. While they’re at it, the plants can help reduce your stress levels as well, another significant side benefit.
Keep Your Plants Alive and Happy Indoors
Since cacti and succulents thrive in warm, dry growing conditions, Texas provides an accommodating environment for these plants, as long as you remember to take care of them. And thankfully, most of these hardy plants are quite forgiving – if you forget to water them for several weeks, you most likely won’t kill them. Factors like soil quality and sun exposure do play an important role in the success of growing succulents, so follow these tips to get the most from your cactus collection:
How to Grow Cacti and Succulents
- Consider the Plant Selection: The optimal conditions for growing succulents depends on which species you choose. Some grow well on a brightly lit windowsill, planted in rocky soil, while others are better off interspersed with flowering natives in the ground. Some succulents will crawl along the floor like ground cover, while other cacti will grow vertical like a pole-shaped sculpture. Talk to a knowledgeable attendant at your local nursery, and be sure to let them know where you intend to grow them in order to find the best selection for your needs.
- Determine the Soil Needs: Cacti and succulents thrive in soil with ample drainage, since their roots prefer to stay dry and don’t want to lie in water the way a fern does. If you have “gumbo soil” in your yard, which is prevalent in East Texas and tends to hold water, mix something like lava soil or some kind of soil mender into the dirt. If you’re planting in the ground, don’t plant near a low-lying, boggy area that collects water. And if planting among other bushes, be sure to build a small mound for them to grow on to ensure that water doesn’t accumulate around their roots.
- Calculate the Sunshine Requirements: While many cacti can handle eight hours of full-blazing sun, many delicate succulents prefer bright light but not desert-like sun exposure. When they get too much sun, their leaves burn. On the other hand, if succulents don’t receive enough light, they may become leggy and stretch outward seeking the sun’s rays. Rotate the pot from time to time so their shape remains straight instead of at an arc. Try moving your plants around the house and yard to find the best location for them, and if they’re doing great, don’t move them!
- Learn the Water Needs: Though certain species of cacti can survive for long periods of time without water, it’s a myth that your houseplants don’t need any water at all. If you ignore your succulents for too long, they could dry out entirely and die. The real trick, however, is to not over-water them, otherwise you will drown their roots and they’ll rot. Water perhaps twice a month if they’re in pots, and make sure the pot has proper drainage and the soil dries out completely between waterings. Your plants may have different water requirements depending on the season as well – consult with your friendly nursery attendant or species-specific documentation to learn their exact needs. If the plants are outside growing in the ground, let them be. They will likely get enough water on their own from annual rainfall.
- Sharing Cacti and Succulents: The best way to find plants that will thrive in your local growing conditions is to talk to your neighbors or friends who grow cacti and ask politely for a cutting. For example, prickly pear cactus will grow by cutting one leaf from a mother plant. Plant the side of the leaf that was cut into the ground. Over time, it will become the mother and babies will begin to grow outward. You can do the same with the leaves of a succulent. Simply pluck one off and place it into water on a brightly lit windowsill. Or you can plant the leaf into a pot with at least two thirds above the soil line. When it comes to propagating succulents, experiment and find what works.
For a minor upfront investment and a few minutes of work per month, you can have cacti cleaning air and sprucing up the décor of your apartment, providing a pleasant, healthy and green living environment in your home.