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5 Tips for Overwintering Cacti (From Watering Less to Checking for Pests)

Lyn is a horticulturist and YouTuber with over 35 years of experience growing succulents and cacti.

Keeping your cacti alive through the winter months is actually fairly easy if you follow a few simple tips.

Keeping your cacti alive through the winter months is actually fairly easy if you follow a few simple tips.

How Do You Keep Cactus Alive in the Winter?

I get this question a lot. Luckily the answer is fairly simple. Here are my five top tips for keeping your cacti alive through the winter so they can go on to thrive again in spring.

Grow lights can help your cacti survive the darker days of winter.

Grow lights can help your cacti survive the darker days of winter.

1. Continue to Provide Ample Light

Even in the wintertime, it's important that cacti still receive light. Now, they don't need as much sunlight as they would in the spring of summer months when they're actively growing, but even a dormant cactus still appreciates having bright light (even indirect bright light) in the wintertime. At least four hours is the minimum for winter.

If you don't have anywhere bright enough to place your cactus, install a plant grow light and have it on for about 3 to 4 hours a day.

2. Avoid Temperatures Below 41˚F

Although many cacti, especially desert cacti, can tolerate low temperatures in the wintertime, it's important that the minimum temperature is kept at least 41˚F (5˚C) or above when you're growing cacti. Any colder than that can encourage things like rot and damage to your cactus.

Keep your cacti away from heaters and cold drafts.

Keep your cacti away from heaters and cold drafts.

3. Keep Away From Hot Radiators and Cold Drafts

Both excess heat and cold drafts can cause a lot of damage to your cactus plant in the winter when it's resting, so keep your cacti away from heat sources such as radiators and also from cold drafts.

4. Reduce Watering (Or Stop Completely)

Desert cacti like to have a dry winter rest period, and if you water cacti during the winter months, this can encourage them to rot and cause other issues, such as fungus. That's because cacti like to rest and go dormant during the winter months.

Note: This isn't the case with holiday cacti (Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti) and epiphytic cacti. Because they're still flowering in the winter months, they do appreciate a bit of water during that time. But with all the other types of desert cacti, keep dry.

Check your cacti pots and saucers at least once every two weeks to ensure there are no signs of pests.

Check your cacti pots and saucers at least once every two weeks to ensure there are no signs of pests.

5. Regularly Check for Pests

Even during the winter months, pests such as mealybugs like to attack your cactus and they can hide in places you just cannot see, such as underneath the pots and underneath the saucers.

Mealybugs can do a lot of damage if they aren't dealt with quickly. Treat affected plants by brushing or spraying with rubbing alcohol.

Mealybugs can do a lot of damage if they aren't dealt with quickly. Treat affected plants by brushing or spraying with rubbing alcohol.

At least once every couple of weeks, pick up your cactus plants and check not only the plant itself but also underneath the pots and around the saucer for any signs of pests.

If you see any pests, treat your plant by brushing it with rubbing alcohol (a small paintbrush works well) or putting the isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle and misting the affected areas of the plant. This will kill the mealybugs on contact.

Best of luck with your winter cacti!

Best of luck with your winter cacti!

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© 2021 Lyn Kimberley