The cactus is a prickly plant that grows wild in the deserts of the American Southwest and many other places. Cacti are a diverse family of plants, but they do have some common characteristics. They all have similar survival requirements. Knowing some basics about the needs of a cactus will help you grow them successfully. Although there is no catch-all rule that is exactly right for every cactus, following some of the basic needs of these plants will point you in the right direction.

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The cactus has survival requirements that other plants could not tolerate.

Light

Light is among the most important factors related to successful growth of cacti. The cactus needs a lot of light. This seems reasonable since so many of these plants thrive in the blazing desert sun where there is little shade and extreme temperatures. Many popular species of cacti perform best in full sunlight -- as much of it as possible. The saguaro and the prickly pear are examples of cacti that will never get too much light. Some species are intolerant to direct sunlight, although they are in the minority. These include leafy rainforest cacti, according to the Cactus Info website.

Soil

Because of the natural environment where cacti grow best, it's simple to figure out that they need sandy or otherwise well-drained soil to prosper. A cactus will not do well in damp soils that retain water for long periods of time. A mixture of potting soil, coarse sand and peat moss is an excellent homemade soil for cacti because it will drain quickly and remain dry much of the time.

Climate

Cacti are tropical and desert plants and they should be planted in areas that reflect the natural habitat's temperature range. Most cacti are safe in temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Overnight temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees are ideal for flower blooming. Overnight temperatures under 35 degrees are not typically suitable for cactus growing.

Water

It's true that many cacti survive in desert climates that only receive trace amounts of rain all year, but this doesn't mean you shouldn't water your cactus. During the warm season, cacti should be watered deeply like other plants, but be sure the soil drains well. Roots should never be waterlogged. The drainage of the soil is very important. Watering lightly to compensate for poor drainage will be similar to not watering the plants at all. During the cool season, particularly in the winter, cacti go dormant and watering can be scaled back considerably.