How to get your cactus to flower – you can do it with (nearly) any cactus

Did you know that most cacti can grow flowers? Here’s how to encourage your cactus to bloom

A cactus on a shelf next to a toy cactus
(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Cacti are known for their prickly exterior. But not so much for their flowers - except for Christmas cactus, of course. That’s because they rarely ever show them off. And yet, most (albeit not all) cacti have the ability to bloom and there are things you can do to get your cactus to flower.

It’s all about creating the right environment when it comes to this almost unkillable houseplant and making it bloom. And it’s often down to the wrong conditions that a cactus doesn’t flower.

That’s why our plant experts reveal the most important steps you should take to make your cactus happy and produce its bright and beautiful blossoms. It might not be the easiest to provide all that the cactus desires as it’s built for a desert environment – but if our editors could make their cacti flower without knowing they could do that to begin with, so can you. We believe in you.

Flowering cactus plant

(Image credit: Getty Images/Dani Bazelkova)

How to get your cactus to flower 

Making most cacti flower is quite different from getting a Christmas cactus to bloom, which is well-known for its flower-covered look. 

‘Cacti are a flowering plant, but some find it more difficult to bloom than others,’ says Shane Dibbs, director of Seed Barn. ‘Some species have more prominent blooms when grown outdoors or under precise conditions.’

Petar Ivanov, Fantastic Gardeners' gardening expert, continues, ‘There are several factors that affect cacti flowering, which include light and sun exposure, watering, temperature conditions, soil and feeding and pruning and repotting. Doing all of these the right way will encourage a cactus to flower easier.’

Petar Ivanov portrait
Petar Ivanov

Petar Ivanov is one of the company's top-performing experts and manages over six teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work.

A large potted cactus next to a white radiator and a dresser

(Image credit: Future PLC)

But before you begin your efforts, it’s important to establish whether yours is a flowering cactus.

‘The key will be to know which species can flower,’ Petar says. ‘The most well-known cacti for their blooms are the Saguaro cactus, the Easter Lily Cactus, the Christmas Cactus, Rebutia, the Fishhook Cactus and Astrophytum Ornatum.

To those, Shane adds, ‘species such as Mammillaria, Gymnocalycium and Parodia will flower with impressive displays that explode with colour and brilliant flowers.’

Once you’ve established its flowering ability, then this is what you need to to encourage your cactus to bloom.

A cactus on a shelf next to a toy cactus

(Image credit: Future PLC/Oliver Gordon)

1. Provide it with enough sunlight

As cacti are used to the desert, they thrive in direct sunlight. Quite a lot of it actually.

‘Most cacti require lots of sunlight to bloom. Place your cactus in a location where it will receive lots of bright, indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours per day,’ Shane recommends. 

2. Water it sparingly

Similarly to caring for a Christmas cactus, most cacti don’t require a lot of watering as that can lead to root rot.

‘Cacti are known for their ability to withstand drought, but they still need water to bloom. Water your cactus thoroughly but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out completely between watering. Overwatering can lead to root rot and prevent flowering,’ Shane says.

Flowering cactus plant

(Image credit: Getty Images/Akkalak)

3. Provide it with well-draining soil

‘They’ll need well-draining soil that’s rich in nutrients to flower and also pruning and repotting at the right time because over time they can become rootbound, which will prevent flowering,’ Petar explains.

4. Avoid high humidity

This goes back to cacti’s natural habitat which is the desert known for its dry conditions.

‘High humidity is another factor that can prevent a cactus from flowering as these plants prefer dry and hot conditions,’ Petar says.

A mirror shelf in the bathroom with cacti

(Image credit: Future PLC/Caroline Mardon)

Apart from all this, you also need to keep in mind that cacti are slow growers and it might take even a few years for them to reach maturity and produce flowers. Just be patient with it.

Sara Hesikova
News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home and interiors. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors. She feels the two are intrinsically connected - if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.