How Often Does Cactus Flower? 7 Factors That Delays Blooming

You have had a cactus with you for several years already, but it hasn’t given you a single flower despite being given the best growing conditions. How often do they flower?

Generally, cacti shoot up flowers every year during their blooming season. However, some factors delay their bud formation, such as 1) maturity, 2) species, 3) temperature, 4) light, 5) watering, 6) nutrition, and 7) dormancy.

If you struggle to make your cacti bloom, you are not alone because I’ve been there. After years of growing them, I have figured out what delays their flowering. I will share with you what prevents them from blooming so you can assess your plants and avoid frustration.

Factors That Can Hinder Cactus From Blooming – Infographic

7 Factors That Affect Cactus Flowering

Every cactus species is capable of blooming, but sometimes, things are not in place, and getting them to bloom can be challenging. A variety of factors can hinder a cactus from blooming. I will discuss with you each aspect to help you assess your cactus.

1- Maturity

Cacti will not bloom until they reach maturity. While other cacti mature and bloom as early as 2- 5 years, some can take decades before sprouting their first bloom.

Two cacti flowering at different maturity levels

Cacti such as Golden barrel cactus, Saguaro, and Cereus take 20-30 years to start blooming. So, if you have these cacti at home, don’t stress yourself about them not flowering. Just continue giving them the best care, and they’ll reward you with striking blooms when they mature.

But if you cannot wait to witness a cactus bloom, buy a cactus that is flowering or has already bloomed in the previous season. Surely it will bloom the following year given the proper conditions. You can buy mature cactus and provide it with the best cultivation to see luxurious blooms.

2- Species

There are a few cactus species that rarely flower despite being mature or having a favorable environment. These species are hard to reproduce and need a bloom booster to produce the flowers.

Some cacti species that rarely flower are Selenicereus witii’ Moonflower cactus’ and Disocactus anguliger ‘Fishbone cactus’. They seldom flower, but when they do, they produce large exotic blooms.

3- Temperature

Cacti adapted to higher temperatures will not flower if kept in hot areas throughout the year. On the other hand, cacti growing in cooler regions will fail to develop blooms under continued low temperatures. In short, they need periods of high and low heat levels to rest and form buds.

Cacti needs a balanced exposure of high and low temperature to bring out their blooms. They need this period of rest necessary in their growth cycle and bud creation. During winter, avoid keeping your indoor cacti in a heated room, and keep it cool instead.

This will give time for them to rest and prepare for the formation of buds after the cold. Most cacti start to develop flower buds at the end of the cooler season, just in time for them to bloom in late spring or early summer. Increase the temperature gradually as the bloom begins to grow.

4- Light

Another reason why a cactus does not flower is the amount of light it gets. Inadequate light will suppress the areoles and inhibit the formation of flower buds. Moreover, too intense direct sunlight can burn and prevent flower buds from flourishing.

Giving your cactus an inappropriate supply of light can influence bud formation. It should be less than 4 hours and not more than 10 hours of light. That’s enough to meet the required exposure without harming and disturbing the flowering plant cycle.

Cacti grown indoors have a higher chance of not getting blossoms unless it is provided with enough light. Position your indoor cactus in an east or south-facing windowsill where it can get ample sunlight.

5- Watering

Insufficient watering can be another reason for a cactus not setting flowers. Without a steady supply of water, a cactus cannot support its budding activity. Water depletion can lead to dehydration and wilting of flower buds.

During the active phase of a cactus, they require sufficient water to carry out activities in their system, including blooming. Not meeting their water needs will result in early wilting, drooping, and budding failure. It is crucial to water them once their soil is dry to maintain a healthy root system.

Strong and healthy roots can efficiently absorb water and nutrients needed for growth and flower formation. However, always remember not to overwater your plant by allowing the soil to dry between watering.

6- Nutrition

When a cactus does not get the right nutrients, it will have a low chance of blooming. Producing flowers requires a lot of energy from the cactus. It is impossible to get the cactus to bloom without the proper nutrition to supplement its system.

Root-bound cactus or those with weak root systems suffer from poor nutrient absorption. Although they can get by with just a little nutrient, establishing healthy roots and feeding them proper nutrition will boost their health and encourage flower formation.

Usually, when I want to increase flower production, I start feeding my cactus with phosphorus and potassium when new growth is evident. In this way, they can utilize the nutrients to enhance their health and improve blooming activity.

Remember not to feed newly potted or inactive cactus. Wait for 2-3 months before fertilizing repotted cactus or when the cactus becomes active again. I use either of these liquid fertilizers below because they are both excellent flower boosters.

7- Dormancy

Even if all the above factors are met, blooming is still impossible when your cactus is dormant. Depending on the cactus, dormancy takes several months, where the plant begins resting and limiting its activity.

A cactus will go dormant when there is too much heat and too much cold. When dormancy is prolonged and rolls past its flowering season, the cactus will not flower unless given a bloom booster.

Under the best growing conditions, winter dormant cacti begin budding at the end of the cold season and are likely to bloom in spring or summer. Likewise, spring or summer dormant cacti will start sprouting at the end of the season. They will probably bloom at the end of fall or early winter.

How Many Times A Year Does A Cactus Flower?

On average, a healthy mature cactus should bloom once annually. However, some species can flower twice a year or more, depending on the climate they are growing, variety, and their age.

Cacti That Blooms Once A YearCacti That Bloom Multiple Times A Year
Queen of the night
Moonflower
Lophophora
Mammillaria 
Gymnocalycium
Astrophytum
Melocactus
Parodia
Cacti Frequency Blooming Table

When Do A Cactus Bloom? 4 Types

Most cacti bloom in spring and summer after their winter dormancy. Aside from seasonal flowering, cacti rely on the time of the day to blossom. Some open at night but mostly bloom during the daytime.

Spring Flower Display

The warm weather and light rainfall during this period influence the flowering season of the cacti. Since the temperature is not so high, it is the ideal time to put on a vibrant floral display. In some North American regions, the peak blooming month of most cacti is in April.

Spring flowering cacti include Prickly pear cactus, Easter Cactus, some Echinopsis, and Thelocactus.

Summer Bloomers

Cacti with ample water storage generally bloom in summer because they can withstand the summer heat. The water they hold in their stem helps them to form flowers easily amidst the daytime heat.

Saguaro cactus, Ferocactus, and Golden barrel cactus are among the summer bloomers. They produce vibrant and large flowers that attract bees and other pollinators.

Nocturnal Floral Show

When a cactus blooms, it uses a lot of water and loses moisture through evaporation. Hence, some cacti prefer blooming at night to conserve the precious water in their system.

Easter Lily, Queen of the night, Moonflower, and Hylocereus are examples of nocturnal bloomers. Their flowers only last for a night and wither soon after. Night-blooming cacti generally have large white blossoms with an exceptional sweet-smelling fragrance that allow nocturnal pollinators to find and pollinate them.

Diurnal Bloomers

Diurnal cacti are those that bloom during the day and close at night. Most cacti are diurnal, and their blooms last for 3- 7 days before wilting.

Some examples of diurnal cacti are Gymnocalyciums, Mammillarias, Parodias, Astrophytums. They require adequate light to blossom and invite outside pollinators to pollinate them.

Can A Cactus Flower Be Planted?

Cactus flowers cannot be planted because they will not develop roots. They are short-lived and they will only last for a few days.

They easily wilt when separated from the cactus because they do not have water storage, unlike the cactus stem. However, you can pollinate them to produce seeds for reproduction.

What Does Cactus Flower Smell Like?

Most cacti flowers are sweet-smelling when they are blooming. Some smell like vanilla, especially those of the night-blooming cactus. However, cactus-like succulents, such as Stapelia and Huernia have blossoms that smell like animal carcasses.

Sweet-Smelling Cactus FlowerFoul-Smelling Cactus Flowers
Easter lily cactus
Thanksgiving cactus
Mammillaria plumosa
Queen of the night
Stapelia 
Huernia 
Orbea
Cactus Flower with Bad and Good Smell

Are Cacti Flowers Edible?

The flowers of Prickly pear, Dragon fruit, and San Pedro cactus are edible when cooked. Their fruits and stems are also edible and can make a sumptuous salad.

Watch this video where the flowers and stems of a San Pedro Cactus are cooked deliciously.

Have you ever eat Pedro Cactus flower like this | Pedro Cactus flower recipe | Pedro cactus flower

Cactus Flower In Ancient Culture

The flower of the Queen of the Night cactus symbolizes answered prayer in Ancient Tamil. For the Chinese, it represents good fortune.

Answered Prayer

According to India Times, the Epiphyllum oxypetalum flower, commonly known as Queen of The Night cactus, bears a symbol in Ancient Tamil. They call it Gulebakavali, and it is believed that any person who offers prayer to God while the cactus is blooming will be answered.

Good Fortune

This cacti gained popularity when it was featured in the famous top-grossing romantic comedy film “Crazy Rich Asians.” In the film, a Chinese family gathers in the garden at midnight to celebrate the blooming of the Tan Hua flower, as what Chinese people call it.

They claim that it brings good luck to witness the flowers bloom.

Photo of a Queen of the night cactus flower symbolizes good luck and answered prayer.

Takeaways

  • In general, a cactus blooms at least once a year. They bloom mostly in spring and summer. Some cacti prefer blooming at night to conserve more water, while others require ample sunlight to bloom.
  • The factors that prevent cactus from blooming are maturity, species, temperature, light, watering, nutrition, and dormancy.
  • Cactus flowers cannot be planted nor rooted, but they can be pollinated to produce seeds. Some cactus flowers are edible, such as prickly pear flowers.
  • In some cultures, cactus flowers are believed to give good luck.

Sources

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