Do you have a cactus that doesn’t seem like it’s grown at all since you bought it, and are wondering if it will ever grow? I know I always think mine aren’t growing at all. If you feel the same way, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll talk about how long does it take for a cactus to grow, why they grow so slowly, and 3 main factors that affect the speed of their growth.
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Cacti are slow growers, there’s no doubt about it. A cactus will only grow about 0.08 inches (0.20 cm) a year on average. So if you have a two-year-old cactus that’s only grown an inch, don’t worry, that’s completely normal! You won’t be able to see a cactus grow from day to day like you can see new leaves on a Monstera plant.
This is a cactus I’ve had for years, the first picture is from October 2020, the second from March 2021, and third from July 2022. And while when I look at it every day, it doesn’t look like it’s grown much, in these pictures I can really tell how much it’s grown. (Keep reading for why it got moved to a different container!)
Why does it take so long for a cactus to grow? There are a few reasons for this.
Why Do Cacti Grow Slowly?
First, cacti are succulents, and most succulents have a slower growth rate than other plants. This is because they store water in their leaves, stem, or roots, so they don’t need to grow as quickly to get the water they need. Second, cacti are native to hot, dry climates, so they don’t need to grow as quickly to get the sun and heat they need. And lastly, cacti have a lot of spines, which act like mini-umbrellas and protect the plant from the sun. This means that cacti can photosynthesize more efficiently and don’t need to grow as quickly to get the sun they need.
Now that we know why cacti grow so slowly, let’s talk about four main factors that affect the speed of their growth.
How Long Does It Take For A Cactus To Grow: 4 Factors
While there are a bunch of different factors that can affect how fast does a cactus grow, like species, soil type, and fertilizer, we’re going to focus on four main ones: water, light, temperature, and pot size.
Water is probably the most important factor in how fast a cactus grows. Cacti need very little water to survive, so if you’re watering your cactus every day or even every week, you’re probably overwatering it. This can lead to root rot, which will kill your cactus. (Read how often should you water a cactus). With overwatering, your plant is not going to be growing because it’s focusing entirely on not dying.
On the other hand, if you’re not watering your cactus enough, it will also stop growing. Cacti need very little water, but they do need some. In hotter climates and summer, you will need to water your cactus more than if you live in a humid climate, or during winter. A good rule of thumb is to water your cactus when the soil is dry to the touch.
Light is also an important factor in how fast a cactus grows. Cacti need a lot of light to grow, but too much direct sunlight can burn them. For the most part, cacti prefer full sun, or as much sunlight as a window can get. But it will need to be acclimated to different amounts of sun if you’re looking to move it. And if you live in a particularly hot hot climate, look to put your cactus in a spot that gets some shade during summer afternoons.
If you have your cactus in a shady spot, it will grow slowly. But if your cactus is getting too much sun or isn’t used to the amount of sun it’s getting, it will also grow slowly.
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Temperature goes along with light and water factors when it comes to how long does it take for a cactus to grow. Cacti like it hot! If you live in a cool climate, your cactus will grow more slowly. But if you live in a hot climate, your cactus will grow more quickly.
Just like most other plants, cacti will grow slower in the winter than in the summer. But if you have a cactus that blooms in the summer, more of it’s energy will be going into the flowers than growing larger as well.
Pot size is also a factor in how fast a cactus grows. If your cactus is in a pot that’s too small, it will eventually stop growing. This is because the roots will get crowded and won’t be able to absorb all the water and nutrients they need.
On the other hand, if your cactus is in a pot that’s too large, you won’t see top growth on your cactus. This is because the roots will spread out and the plant will use all the water and nutrients in the pot, but it won’t have anything to anchor it down. And all of the growth will be in the roots, rather than the actual cactus. So, if you want your cactus to grow, make sure it’s in a pot that’s just big enough for its root ball.
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As seen in the pictures above, the cactus got moved to a smaller container, and then it really started growing, because it didn’t have too much soil anymore compared to cactus size.
So, how long does it take for a cactus to grow? It depends on a few factors, but on average, it will take a cactus about two years to grow an inch. Some will grow much more quickly than this, and others will grow much slower! And the cactus may grow different amounts different years, depending on it’s environment and part of the cactus life cycle.