Fertilize cacti properly - home remedy: make cactus fertilizer yourself

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Opuntia - Opuntia

Cactus fertilizer is put together differently than normal green plant fertilizer, because cacti are not normal green plants, but water-storing succulents with special nutritional needs. Read how a good cactus fertilizer is made up and how you can make cactus fertilizers yourself or supplement them with home remedies:

Which fertilizer do cactuses need?

Certainly not the fertilizer that most (normal) land plants need because cacti are not normal land plants. But slow-growing specialists who thrive in areas of frequent water shortage and have planted special plant cells to store occasional excess water for times of water scarcity. They are the best known representatives of these succulent plants ("succulent", from Latin sucus), adapted to special climatic and soil conditions plants; mostly stem succulents whose shoot axes swell strongly with good supply.
The cactus plants are an impressive 108 genera of enduring plants, all of which were originally developed on the American continent. There they have spread from the south of Canada to the south of South America, in lowlands and high mountains, tropical rainforests, steppes and deserts. All these habitats have a common feature: the vital water is not available all year round, but only occasionally.
Tip: Cactus fans may be irritated by the statement that all cacti are native to America. Almost even: Only one of the currently 2.233 recognized cacti species in more than 100 genera has made it to Africa and from there even to the southernmost tip of Asia (Sri Lanka). This Rhipsalis baccifera, in German coral cactus or Binsenkaktus but is well suited in culture most widespread cactus species... Does not affect the nutritional requirements, even on the light claims, because Rhipsalis baccifera originated in America.
Of course, these developmental conditions also had an influence on how the nutritional requirements of the cacti developed. The absorption of nutrients takes place in water dissolved over the roots, in the cactus as the water supply so rather rare and rather sparse. Then, however, the nutrients are released from the soil from a wide environment, because fine hair roots grow during the rainy season. The cacti have adapted to this rare nutrient supply during their development, only the culture under similar conditions allows them to grow healthy and flourish in a foreign land.
The vital plant nutrients that need to be supplied mainly by fertilization are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Therefore, these nutrients are also in most fertilizers, the "NPK" in the term NPK fertilizer (the solid fertilizer) stands for N as Nitrogenium = nitrogen, P as phosphorus and K as potassium. Furthermore, land plants need certain minerals that are found in the soil: as main nutrients must be supplied in perceptible amounts of calcium, magnesium and sulfur (as in humans, calcium, iron, fluoride, iodine, potassium, magnesium, sodium, zinc). From the micronutrient elements boron, chlorine, iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, nickel and zinc, plants need tiny amounts of their own (the essential trace elements of chromium, copper, lithium, manganese, molybdenum and selenium in humans).
This is no different with cacti either, because the soil contains the same nutrients everywhere in the world, and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the nutrients that are most likely to run out. Cacti are only used, unlike other plants, to spend a good part of their existence in a nutrient deficiency situation.


Then the composition of a cactus fertilizer is designed. Normal green plant fertilizers contain about 3 parts nitrogen, 1 part phosphorus and 1.5 parts potassium, the whole in a certain percentage based on the filling material. NPK 12/4/6 means 12% or 3 parts nitrogen, 4% or 1 part phosphorus, 6% or 1.5 parts potassium. The nutrient content of a green plant fertilizer consists of approximately half of nitrogen, the second half share phosphorus (a good 1/3) and potassium (just under 2/3); the minerals are added as a trace element mix. The cactuses look a bit different:


Nitrogen is the nutrient for powerful and fast growth that cacti do not need very much. When enough nutrients flow in with seasonal rainfall, a stem succulents can not easily grow vigorously, as the statics of the soft plant tissue stem would suffer.When the rain is over and the nutrients are scarce, the cactus can certainly not supply masses of new tissue... Therefore, cactus fertilizer contains less nitrogen, its proportion should be at most as high as the proportion of phosphorus and potassium.


Phosphorus needs the cactus for reproduction, so for flowering, fruiting and fruit ripening. Existential for the cactus, so enough of it has to be stored and contained in the cactus fertilizer: At least as much as nitrogen and potassium, but also slightly more than nitrogen. Much more, but not because superfluous phosphorus enters into chemical compounds with minerals; These important trace elements can then no longer be absorbed by the plants, which leads to growth disorders.


Potassium is more important for cacti than for normal plants with thin green shoots or thick but woody branches, because potassium is responsible, among other things, for the stability of a plant. In addition, potassium is extremely important for cacti because it regulates the water balance - and it should really work precisely with a plant that regulates the water balance for much of its lifetime through internal storage. Other "tasks of potassium" are strengthening the resistance to animal and plant pests and training a good cold and frost resistance (the latter is interesting in cactus culture in our latitudes only for a few, selected species). Potassium should therefore be present in relatively high amounts in the cactus fertilizer, at least one third of the nutrient content, like more (then especially at the expense of the nitrogen content).

Minerals and trace elements

In terms of minerals and trace elements, cacti have special requirements: the spotty, overgrown soils of their homelands are certainly more rich in minerals than low in minerals; Many spines are intended to fend off enemies and not hang limp on the plant, for which the cactus needs enough calcium.
Summary: Cactus fertilizer is available from a nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium ratio 1: 1: 1, should not contain more nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium (more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen goes), enrichment with minerals and trace elements is desirable.
Composition and ingredients of some proven cactus fertilizers:
  • WUXAL cactus fertilizer: NPK 4-6-8 with micronutrients (boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc and sulfur, which no longer "swirls" in the environment since the invention of flue gas desulphurisation)
  • Compo cactus fertilizer: NPK 5-5-7 with trace nutrients (boron, iron, manganese, molybdenum)
  • Uhlig cactus fertilizer: NPK 1,5-2,3-3 and trace nutrients
  • Kakteen Haage cactus fertilizer: NPK 6-12-6 + valuable trace nutrients
Kakteen Haage is the oldest cactus nursery in the world (nursery since 1685, specialized in cacti since 1822) and will therefore know for sure. Here you can also get many interesting additions such as valerian flower extract (for more flowers, against fungi on the seed) and special compilations such as foliar cell nutrient solution for epiphytes, 10-52-10 phosphorus fertilizer for rooting and budding and potash fertilizers for the last fertilizer application before the " hibernation ".

Quite a difference?

The fertilizers of Kakteen Haage give the decisive hint; It is not the exact composition of a fertilizer that counts, but the choice is yours: You choose one of the commercially available fertilizers and change to a slightly different composition if this fertilizer does not seem to be optimally nourishing your cactus or you are more thoroughly involved with the matter and learn which deficiency symptoms indicate deficiencies in which nutrient.

As an introduction here is a first overview

Nitrogen deficiency slows growth and leaves leaves or cactus stems turn yellow to pale green; Phosphorus deficiency causes the cactus to flower or fruit hardly or not at all; Potassium also causes growth inhibition and wilting. You can see from this brief description that things are not that easy; Nitrogen and potassium both cause delayed growth and not properly stained plant cells.

Opuntia - Opuntia

In order to fertilize the plant by appearance / need, you would then have to learn to recognize the differences - perhaps you could rewrite the effects of a lack of nitrogen with powerlessness, while the effects of a potassium deficiency look more likely than if the plant is "darkened and compressed" by a giant hand becomes". These descriptions are much clearer, however, once you have seen what plants and the special case of cacti looks like, so you have found a gardener or experienced cactus friend who gives you "live lessons". Each mineral also causes its more or less specific deficiency symptoms, and of course, the success of fertilization depends crucially on how and how often the cactuses are fertilized:

How should cactuses be fertilized?

How and how often your cacti get nutrient replenishment depends on several factors:
  • Vegetation phase: Cacti are only fertilized during the growth phase from spring to early autumn
  • Beginning of the growth phase: April, May; End of growth phase: August, September; Last fertilizer application: August
  • Season: More fertilizer in June / July than April, May, August, September
  • Concentration: Poorly concentrated fertilizer (0.05% = 0.5 ml per 1 l of water) every 2-3 weeks, higher concentrated (0.1% = 1 ml per l of water) once a month
  • The weak, more frequently administered concentration is preferable because it provides a more even nutrient distribution
  • Weather: If possible do not fertilize when the room is heated, then the nutrients remain concentrated on the substrate surface
  • Moisture of the substrate: Do not fertilize on dry plant substrate
  • Then the nutrient solution runs through to the roots, ineffective and potentially root-injurious
  • Dried plant substrate should be thoroughly moistened for days before fertilization
  • And it should (should) always drip so well that the roots are not in the wet
  • During hibernation pour sparingly in a bright, cool environment and do not fertilize under any circumstances
  • From about February / March place in a sunny, warmer location and pour more slowly
  • Initially only overspouts to encourage growth, watering a week later
  • Soon after, the plant is "really awake" and can tolerate the first fertilizer
Tip: Freshly potted cacti need fertilizer only in the next vegetation period, because they are previously supplied by the nutrients in the cactus soil from the trade. Before that, the fertilizer would even interfere with its growth, because the roots do not stretch when they immediately encounter enough nutrients. Unless you mix your cactus soil yourself, but then you also know what nutrients need to be added and when.

Treat cacti?

For friendly people, the idea is close to the cactus in their own home in the home to provide a lush supply. There is little to say against that; The supply is only too fast. Too lush is not good for your health, not even in plants.


Better give too little or too little too often than too much or too often fertilizer, because cacti are more sensitive to excess than to deficiency. Fertilize so carefully that the quantity specified on the package is adhered to in any case. In case of doubt, you can rely on this information rather than on the selected composition of the fertilizer. Excessively high concentrations become noticeable very quickly and are therefore carefully tested, whereas a too low-dose nutrient may only have an effect after months.
Maybe it also shows no effects, because the variety of nutrient supply can be enriched:

Make cactus fertilizer yourself

DIY appeals to a great many people, because meaningful activity is good for the mind and saves money, and making one's own useful things increases one's self-determined life. Why not lend a hand to fertilizer instead of simply going into business? Basically a good idea; but it is important to choose the appropriate variant:

Mix cactus fertilizer from the basic elements

You could theoretically make the entire cactus fertilizer itself or put together from the main nutrients themselves. Commercially available fertilizers consist of a few basic chemicals such as ammonium nitrate, mono-ammonium phosphate, di-ammonium phosphate, ammonium sulfate, urea, potassium hydroxide, potassium nitrate, potassium sulfate, phosphoric acid as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium suppliers whose NPK concentrations are known. Anyone can buy these chemicals and mix them into a fertilizer at home if they have taken care in chemistry at school.
Financially, this is not even worthwhile for people who can shop in the chemical wholesaler because (usually in the laboratory, etc. used, appropriately purified) single chemicals are expensive. The effort of compiling would be worthwhile if you could put together the perfect fertilizer for your cacti. Unfortunately, this is difficult to impossible, because not only does each species have its specific needs, but every slightly different location and innumerable other factors affect the "hunger of the plant".
Just mix it works not synonymous, z. B. because the mixture needs a certain pH, so that does not accumulate nutrients. This pH is z. B. only complied with when very specific combinations of the just mentioned nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium suppliers are mixed together. Apart from that, only a few people have the right room, because the individual chemicals can not simply be stirred together on the kitchen table; And there are many more safety instructions and precautions to follow...

Modify finished cacti as desired

However, you can quite easily "home-remodel" the chemical makeup of a fertilizer if you're good at percent computing: just mix different fertilizers whose NPK levels you know into a fertilizer that contains exactly the NPK makeup that you need You would like to give your cactus. The pH value of these liquid fertilizers is already set correctly, and you could also coarsely drown when you collapse without damaging your plants.

Fertilize cacti with home remedies

Coffee grounds fertilizer

In the household numerous substances accumulate, which do not have to fill the garbage, but can feed plants instead. A list of aquarium water (with potassium and nitrogen) on coffee grounds (which is actually a complete complete fertilizer) to cigarette ash (which contains at least 50% trunk and spines firming calcium oxide and many more trace elements has to offer) can be found in the article "geranium fertilize perfectly - the best manure fertilizers and home remedies ".
While the "high-nitrogen geranium" geranium will be almost unsatisfactory with a fertilizer mix from household scraps alone, a common household number of cacti could probably be made up completely with the household leftovers. However, it would be a prerequisite that you are somewhat concerned with which plant-available nutrients are contained in the substances that can be used as fertilizer from the household.
As important as the correct fertilization is the correct casting, which may not be too frequent for cacti during the growing season from March to September. Water penetrate penetrate, after drying the earth a casting pause of about a week insert, then pour again. By tamping, check that the root ball has been thoroughly moistened until you have developed a feeling for the waterline. Pour out excess water from the saucer or planter a few minutes after pouring, standing wetness can not tolerate cacti at all.

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