A Full Detailed Guide to Growing and Caring for Orchid Cacti

A Full Detailed Guide to Growing and Caring for Orchid Cacti

Think of growing orchid cacti in your house? Although they’re simple to care for, they need regular attention to grow healthily with bright beautiful flowers.

In this detailed guide, we’ll discuss their growth and care needs and how to fulfill them. Also, we will teach you how to propagate your orchid cactus!

How do I grow my orchid cactus from seed?

How do I grow my orchid cactus from seed

Here are the steps needed to grow orchid cacti from seeds:

  1. Soak the seeds in warm water.
  2. Create potting soil.
  3. Sow the seeds on the soil surface.
  4. Direct grow light onto the seeds.
  5. Let the seedlings adjust to a bigger pot.

1) Soak the orchid cactus seeds in warm water

First, you need to fill a container with warm water and place the seeds in it to hydrate them. Leave it there for 2 to 3 hours.

2) Create a potting soil while the seeds are being soaked

While waiting for the orchid cactus seeds to become moist enough, you can start making their potting soil.

Use any of the soil options below which are light and have ample essential nutrients. But bear in mind that giving seeds too many nutrients from the outset can harm them.

  • Organic cactus soil
  • Compost mix (with coco coir and perlite)
  • Regular potting soil

After preparing your potting soil, sterilize it by pouring boiling water onto it, letting the water flow through and then cool down.

That said, if you feel that the soil is not thoroughly sterilized, you can pour another round of hot water onto it.

3) Sow the seeds on the top layer of the soil

Sow the seeds on the surface of the potting soil. 

Using a seed tray helps the seeds to grow easily compared to using a bigger pot. Aside from that, it will make the task so much easier too!

If you have multiple seeds, you can use a seed tray. If you don’t have one, a styrofoam or plastic cup will do.

Put 2 to 3 seeds in each hole of the tray in case one of them fails to germinate. Refrain from burying the seed under the soil, or it will not grow.

Then place the seed tray or plastic or styrofoam cup over a heat source like a heat mat or cover it in a globe case. 

Along with using the proper soil, orchid cactus seeds need to be incubated to facilitate the germination process.

4) Direct grow light onto the seeds

Next, turn on a grow light and direct it onto the seed tray. Doing so will speed up the germination process even more.

5) Let the seedling adjust to external conditions

When the second leaf sprouts, you can transfer the baby plant to a pot and let it acclimate to external conditions. These include moisture and sunlight.

So start giving the seedling just a bit of water to make it moist once a day or every other day. Only a bit of water is needed since it’s still a tiny plant.

How do I care for my orchid cactus?

How do I care for my orchid cactus

To care for your orchid cactus, you’ll have to give it well-draining soil and frequent watering once every ten days. Plus, it needs to be placed in a warm and humid spot with plenty of indirect sunlight.

What are the care requirements of orchid cacti?

The care requirements of orchid cacti are

  • Bright shaded sunlight
  • Light and well-drained soil
  • Watering every 10 days
  • Warmth and humidity
  • Fertilizing twice a year

Orchid cacti need bright filtered sunlight

Like in their rainforest habitat, orchid cacti need bright shaded or dappled light for a few hours each day to grow healthily.

Putting them somewhere in the direction of harsh afternoon sun, especially during the summer, will burn their leaves.

Thus, they have to be set under or near tree canopies or awnings outdoors. Indoors, they can be kept in front of an east or south-facing window.

An east-facing window is great for orchid cacti since it gives light and cool sun throughout the day. But place the plant about 4 to 5 feet from the window.

Meanwhile, south-facing windows let in the most light. The light intensity can be controlled by adding sheer curtains or by placing the plant 5 to 8 feet away from the window.

Orchid cacti need light and quick-draining soil

Orchid cacti need light and quick-draining soil

Orchid cacti prefer fertile, light, and quick-draining potting soil. 

The soil has to dry out at a moderate rate to prevent overwatering.

Also, the orchid cactus soil must be slightly acidic within 6 to 6.5 of the pH scale. Keeping plants at their desired pH level will boost the amount of nutrients they get.

A great and easy potting soil recipe for this is 3 parts peat moss and 1 part perlite or pumice.

What kind of pot should I use for orchid cacti?

Orchid cacti are best grown in a pot or hanging basket with ample room for their lengthy leaves and stems to grow.

However, the plant prefers being root-bound. Being root-bound means having compact and tangled roots fitting snugly in the pot container.

Orchid cacti need watering every 10 days

Compared to most cacti species, orchid cacti need more frequent watering—once every 10 days in the spring and summer. 

In winter, though, they require less watering due to the cold weather which reduces the soil’s drying speed.

That said, the plant can withstand dryness and lack of water for 2 to 3 days.

A good rule of thumb is to water the orchid cactus whenever the top 1/3 of its soil becomes dry. To know this, you can test the soil using your finger or a moisture meter.

Orchid cacti thrive in warm and humid surroundings

Orchid cacti are home to a tropical warm and humid climate in South America. To foster their productive growth, this condition has to be imitated.

The ambient temperature for them indoors or outdoors can be between 45°F and 90°F.

However, orchid cacti don’t like very windy and frosty conditions. Thus, don’t put them near drafty windows or bring them inside before the winter.

Besides that, the plant needs plenty of moist air so it will stay hydrated and comfortable. Usually, keeping the humidity level high outdoors is not a problem.

But inside the house, you may need to set the thermostat to have a higher humidity of 50% to 60%. Or you can mist the drying leaves as well as turn on a dehumidifier to achieve the right moisture level.

Orchid cacti need to be fertilized twice a year

To supply all their nutrient needs, it’s advisable to feed the orchid cacti with a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 NPK ratio) twice a year in summer and fall.

A balanced fertilizer is plant food with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, all of which play a role in keeping the orchid cactus healthy.

In essence, nitrogen is responsible for giving plants healthy stems and leaves, phosphorus benefits root and flower growth, and potassium raises its resistance to diseases and pests.

Orchid cacti can be pruned to look neat and light

Orchid cacti can be pruned to look neat and light

Eventually, orchid cacti will grow long and heavy in their pot container. Their lengthy trailing vines can make them appear untidy.

Therefore, pruning the plant should be done to keep them neat and light. Take note that it’s best to do this after the blooming period.

Also, use clean and sharp gardening shears to prevent damaging the stems. And don’t dispose of the stem cuttings immediately, as they can still be used to propagate the plant.

Orchid cacti need to be protected from pests

Many pests can harm and infest orchid cacti. Among these are mealy bugs, scales, gnats, slugs, and fungi.

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Prevent these insects from attacking the orchid cactus by practicing proper plant care habits.

This includes not overwatering the orchid cactus, not splashing water on the leaves while watering it, not pruning it, and so forth.

If there’s a sign of a pest infestation, isolate the plant quickly to prevent the pest from spreading to other nearby houseplants.

Wipe the entire leaf with insecticidal soap, including the parts underneath where insects can hide. You can also use a DIY spray consisting of dish soap and water for this.

Or use neem oil, which is a natural and effective pesticide.

Orchid cacti need to be repotted every 2 to 3 years

Unlike other plants, there’s less of a need to repot orchid cacti. This only needs to be done when their roots outgrow the container, their soil is overwatered, or they are suffering from a disease.

Generally, orchid cactus roots become too large for the pot vessel every 2 to 3 years. Thus, the plant has to be repotted to a larger pot.

And similar to pruning, repotting an orchid cactus should only be done once it has flowered to minimize stress to its roots.

How do I care for orchid cacti during the winter?

How do I care for orchid cacti during the winter

To care for your orchid cacti during the winter, they must be watered less, brought indoors, and kept in a pitch-dark place for at least 12 hours a day.

First, you must transfer the potted orchid cactus indoors because it doesn’t take frost and strong cold winds well. As a matter of fact, it can get killed in these conditions.

Scale back your watering, doing it only when the top 2/3 inches of the soil has dried, and don’t feed the plant with fertilizer at all.

Concerning light, it needs to be kept in a dark place for 12 hours a day. Limiting the plant’s sun exposure will give it time to rest and recover so it can bloom abundantly in spring.

Also, you have to ensure that the ambient temperature of the orchid cactus doesn’t go beyond 65°F during the day and stays within 45°F to 55°F at the night.

How do I propagate an orchid cactus?

How do I propagate an orchid cactus

Follow the steps below to propagate your orchid cactus:

  • Choose a healthy stem of the orchid cactus.
  • Let the cut portion of the plant dry and close by itself.
  • Plant the stem cutting into the correct potting soil.
  • Transfer the pot somewhere with bright shaded sunlight.
  • Water the plant once its roots grow.

Choose a healthy stem of the orchid cactus

While you can propagate short orchid cactus stems, we suggest choosing one that’s at least 9 inches long.

Doing so will enable the plant to produce flowers in a shorter time when it has become established in the soil.

Let the cut portion of the plant dry and close by itself

Before placing the stem cutting into the soil, let the open wound of the orchid cactus dry and harden first.

This step is prudent to take. Otherwise, bacteria will enter the stem cutting’s wounds and infect it.

Plant the stem cutting into the correct potting soil

Set the stem cutting in a pot with orchid cactus potting soil consisting of peat moss and perlite. 

About 1.5 to 2 inches of the stem’s lower part should be in the soil. Afterward, fill the sides with soil and pat it firmly to secure the plant.

Transfer the pot somewhere with bright shaded sunlight

Now put the potted plant on a spot receiving bright shaded or dappled sunlight. 

However, if the sun coming through the window is harsh, relocate the young plant. But if this cannot be done, add light curtains and place the plant several feet away from the window to protect it.

Water the plant once its roots grow

At first, spray the stem enough to make it moist. Don’t water the stem cutting yet until the roots begin to grow, which should start 4 to 6 weeks from when it was planted.

And once it does, water the propagated plant only until the soil is moist but not sodden. This step will also help to establish it in the potting soil.

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