Should Cactus Be Misted? [4 Reasons Why Not]

Are you one that believes that misting cacti is beneficial? Does misting help with watering?.

Misting cacti is beneficial only for a specific category (called tropical cacti). Desert cactus, on the other hand, should not be misted to avoid 1) stem rot, 2) pests and diseases, 3) poor root growth, and 4) dehydration. However, cactus species native to the rainforest can be misted in their base near the roots for added moisture.

Cacti that need mistingCacti that should not be misted
Thanksgiving CactusMammillaria 
Rhipsalis Rebutia 
Fishbone cactusOld Man Cactus
Crab CactusAstrophytum

Do you mist your cactus when watering? I guess most gardeners have tried misting their cactus before. Stick around so you can decide if you should mist them or not.

Why Do People Mist Their Cactus?

Many people believe that misting will benefit their cacti because:

  1. It increases the humidity,
  2. It prevents overwatering, and
  3. It washes the dust off the plant.

Although there are few truths to these misting beliefs, the deeper effect can be problematic. Let’s dig into the details.

1- Misting Increases Humidity

People believe that misting a cactus will increase the humidity around the plant. It provides moisture that the cactus need so they will not go parched. The increase in humidity, however, only lasts temporarily.

This is partially true, as it can cause a temporary rise in humidity, but probably for a few minutes only. Water mist will evaporate rapidly and leave no residual effect on the surrounding.

Unless you mist all day long, which can be a whole lot tiring, then there is a chance for humidity to increase. Other than this, I can say that misting has little to no effect on the humidity level around the plant.

2- Misting Prevents Cactus from Being Overwatered

Overwatering is one of the reasons why people opt to mist their cactus. They believe that watering using this method will save the plant from getting too much water and thus avoid rot. In general, however, misting does not provide enough water.

Cactus will not be overwatered through misting, but this method cannot provide sufficient water to the entire roots. There’s so little water coming from the spray bottle that it cannot penetrate down to the bottom. As a result, the plant will be deprived of water and eventually die from dehydration.

If overwatering is the reason why you mist your cactus, change your watering habit. A variety of circumstances can cause overwatering, but the easiest way to avoid it is to water only when the soil is dry. When watering, drench the whole pot and wait for the soil to dry before watering again.

3- Misting Washes Dust and Mud Off The Cactus

People mist their cactus because they want to wash dust particles off them and make them clean. Misting will get rid of the dirt stuck between cacti ribs and spines, and on the surface. This method, however, does not clean the whole plant thoroughly.

You noticed muds and dust on your cactus and would want to wash them off. But you’re afraid you might flood your plant, so you guess misting will do the trick.

Yes, misting can remove some dust from the surface, but not those muds that adhere to the crevices. Instead, it just concentrates the dirt particles. Unless you hose down the cactus or set them under the shower to wash the mud, then it’s not misting anymore.

3 benefits: misting cacti
Misting Cacti – Infographic

Should You Mist Your Cactus?

Avoid misting desert cactus because it will result in 1) stem rot, 2) pest and diseases, 3) poor root growth, and 4) dehydration. It is more of a disadvantage since cacti need a generous amount every watering cycle.

It’s understandable why newbie gardeners would want only to mist their cactus. They’re just playing safe, not knowing that the method is not actually ideal for the plant. Here are the reasons why you should stop misting your cactus.

1- Stem rot

Misting can cause stem rot on cacti. Too much moisture absorbs through pores and build-up in the stem, causing water-storage cells to disrupt and rot.

Succulent plants, including cactus, contain about 90-95% of water in their leaves and stems. If there is too much water in the stem due to misting, the water-storing cells will rupture and rot. Stem rot due to excess moisture appears like mushy translucent spots.

2- Pests And Diseases

Another reason is that misting a cactus, especially at night with cooler temperatures, invites molds and mildews to thrive and cause fungal disease. Moisture sitting on the cactus stem will lead to blotches and bumps called edema.

The blister is a disease called edema and is caused by misting

Topsoil that remains moist from misting allows algae to grow and infect the roots, causing bacterial root rot. Furthermore, moisture on the soil attracts pests such as fungus gnats to lay their eggs and disturb the root system.

3- Poor Root Growth

Watering cactus through misting will result in poor root growth and development due to water not penetrating deep enough to reach all roots. Misting moistened only the topsoil so the roots could not receive adequate water needed to grow.

Cactus has wide lateral roots and long taproots, and it prefers deep watering where the entire potting medium is saturated with water. Without sufficient moisture to absorb, roots will become dry and brittle.

4- Dehydration

Watering through misting allows the cactus to suffer from dehydration in the long run. Misting provides only a limited supply of water for the cactus. There is an insufficient moisture uptake because water cannot get to the bottom roots.

Although cacti can withstand several days or weeks without water, they cannot survive with prolonged dry spells. The plant will start to develop and show signs of dehydration. Providing enough water infrequently is beneficial, but misting and providing moisture from time to time is detrimental.

When Should You Mist Cactus?

Cacti can be misted if they are native to the rainforest. Cactus species originating from the tropical rainforest would love extra moisture on their roots. Some cacti that can be misted include the thanksgiving cactus, Rhipsalis, and epiphyllum.

Although misting cactus is not advisable, there are some exceptions – the moisture-loving species. They don’t like their substrate to dry out completely, so a little bit of misting on their base will provide just the right amount to moist them.

Mist them once a week before the regular watering. Remember not to mist their leaves, especially during winter, to avoid the appearance of edema and other diseases. Succulent leaves propagation would appreciate misting, too, to encourage new roots to form.

Proper misting of tropical cactus

Does Cactus Need Humidifiers?

Humidifiers are not that necessary for a desert cactus, but a rainforest native species would appreciate the humid air.

In the desert, the air is usually dry with only less than 40% relative humidity throughout the year. Likewise, a typical indoor home humidity is between 40-60% humidity. So if you’re growing your cactus in this environment at home, your plant will grow just fine without the humidifier.

However, if you have tropical cactus such as the thanksgiving cactus or holiday cactus, you may need a humidifier to increase moisture when the air gets dry below 40%.

Does Misting Imitate Natural Conditions?

Misting imitates some natural conditions temporarily. It raises the humidity around the plant for a short time. Despite that, it does not create a tropical effect or rainforest feel for the plants.

There are several ways, however, to increase humidity at home. Using humidifiers is one way to elevate moisture inside your room. Placing plants in a group can contribute to raising the humidity.

Summary On Misting Cactus

  • People believe that misting is an excellent method of increasing humidity, avoiding overwatering, and washing dust and dirt off the cactus.
  • Misting is not a good watering practice, especially with desert cactus, because it can lead to stem rot, pests and diseases, poor root growth, and dehydration.
  • Cactus does not need humidifiers as long as the air at home remains low at 40% – 60%.

Sources

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