Why are cacti so popular?

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Cacti are some of the most common house plants out there, and I just don’t understand.

I have a few. They’re not technically mine, they’re my boyfriend’s, but I take care of them. He LOVES cacti. Since I got into plants in a big way he’s moving away from them and towards Philodendron – it’s a move I’m celebrating – but he still loves a good cactus.

I truly don’t get it, but when I posed the question to Google, I suppose I did get some answers.

Cacti are hard to kill

Cacti live in extremely adverse conditions. They can tolerate extreme temperatures, low rainfall, blazing sun, and high winds. So they certainly won’t care if you forget to water them for a bit.

They’re even fairly forgiving of being overwatered, due to their ability to store water, but they can only take this abuse for so long.

Whilst I would never say that a plant can thrive on neglect (neglect and being left the hell alone to live your best life are two very different things), cacti don’t need much human contact, and for that, I think they deserve respect.

So yeah, I get that hardiness is a reason to love cacti.

monstera leaf

It’s fairly easy to get cacti to bloom

And by GOD it’s exciting when they do.

A lot of people don’t realise that cacti can produce some spectacular blooms, and you don’t need to coddle them to get them to do so.

In fact, my poor drainage-hole-less had cacti bloomed faithfully for years even though they were extremely neglected. I must say though since I’ve been watering them properly they’ve produced better blooms.

In order for your cacti to bloom it’s imperative that you let them get cold (I think, I mean, I’m hardly a botanist).

They won’t necessarily die or even be diminished in any way – I don’t think they give a shit if they bloom or not. In fact, it’s probably quite a hassle for them.

But in order to mimic their natural environment, they’ll need a drop in temperature. You can even keep them outside as long as you acclimatise them and you can ensure they’re not going to be wet for extended periods (they’ll just rot).

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They’re slow growing

I think one of the reasons I don’t like cacti is that they’re slow-growing (though if you water them regularly they’ll speed up). I like my plants to be putting out new growth all day long.

But not everyone has a big house (I fucking don’t, so I don’t why I buy plants like I do), so appreciate a plant that broadly occupies the same space all the time.

Unlike, say, a Monstera that’ll start climbing up your walls and ceiling given half the chance. Or a fern that fits beautifully in your bathroom window when you first get it but then starts stroking your bum when you have the shower.

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Cacti are winter-hardy

Admittedly I thought winter would be more of a struggle than I thought, house plant-wise – my house is warm enough that most of my plants are still growing, albeit slowly.

The humidity has been great, and I think the key to my success. Sure, I have to wipe mildew of the bathroom ceiling every couple of weeks, but you should see my Calathea thrive.

But cacti take the cold in their stride. They don’t give a toss. Bring it on winter, they say. Watch me fucking BLOOM.

Unlike Philodendron and Alocasia, who wouldn’t experience winter in the wild. My Alocasia Polly has recently bloomed, so I hope it’s ok (and that it’s not it’s swansong), but my Zebrina is sad af.

She suffered terribly at the hands of Sainsbury’s (I believe overwatering is the norm there) and is losing quite a few leaves. The leaves were droopy and crispy round the edge, so I’m hoping it was a humidity issue. The newer leaves don’t have the same crispy edges, so fingers crossed she’ll be ok.

Watering is also minimal in winter. I’ve been giving them a thorough water every couple of months (I rely on my moisture metre to tell me when) and everyone seems well. I water with lukewarm water, but I have no idea if they care or not. I just know I’d appreciate it, so they might too.

monstera leaf

Then…what’s my issue with cacti?

They’re spiky

This is the crux of the matter.

This is why cacti are the worst.

This is why I don’t really like them, and won’t buy anymore. THEY HURT ME.

Disclaimer: I love my cacti. I would never get rid of them, unless to good homes, unless they outgrow my house.

Because they’re spiky. And the spikes hurt. And if you move them using oven gloves and then wash the oven gloves in the washing machine you’ll be pulling spikes out of your bra for months.

I think we can all guess how I know this.

I know they’re cool, and they’re easy to care for but they’re DANGEROUS.

We have a really big cactus. Its actually 3 in one pot, and it’s HUGE. We’re looking for a new home for it because not only is it big, but it’s extra spiky.

So not only does it take up physical space, there’s an invisible circle about three feet in radius encircling in that we can’t go into for fear of tripping over and getting impaled.

It’s nearly 5 feet tall, and over a decade old, so the reason we haven’t just relegated it to the garden and waited for it to rot is that it’s like a member of the family. I wouldn’t shove my bunny outdoors, and we’ve only had her four months.

I digress.


Big cacti look cool as hell, and are super easy to take care of. They may even produce beautiful and exotic blooms.

But beware. They’re spiky.

So if you have kids or pets or other unstable (physically, I mean, but you never know) and unpredictable house guests, then either steer clear or put your cactus in a room you can lock.

monstera leaf

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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