Can Cactus Live in Low Light? [Useful Tips]

The average cactus plant is known for being incredibly hardy and drought-tolerant, thanks to adaptations like spines that are key to their survival. We also know that cacti love to bask in indirect sunlight – up to 8 hours of sunlight at the minimum. But can cactus plants in California live in low-light conditions?

In general, cactus plants can live in low light, but they won’t grow properly. With that said, there are certain species of cacti that do well compared to others in low-light conditions, which we will discuss below.

How to Take Care of Cacti in a Low-lit Environment

There are a few steps you should take to ensure your cacti’s survival if it’s kept in a low-lit environment. You will have to make up for the low light conditions by keeping the other parameters at near-perfect levels. For example, you must use good watering practices and avoid over-watering the plant.

It would help to use the ideal potting mix, preferably one designed specifically for the cactus plant.

Provide the Plant with a Well-Draining Soil

You would be surprised to learn that cacti are surprisingly efficient in water management. This often means they are at a greater risk of being overwatered if you’re not too careful. The combination of low light and high moisture can devastate the plant.

This is why you should provide the plant with well-draining soil that allows excess water to escape.

You should also keep the plant in a cactus mix. You can also improve the soil mix by adding perlite, known for helping with aeration and keeping the soil loose.

Use a Pot with Drainage Holes

As mentioned earlier, overwatering can be devastating for cacti. This is why you should use a pot with plenty of drainage holes that allow the excess water to drain out. Cacti that sit too long in overly wet soil is vulnerable to pests and pathogens.

Over time, they may develop root rot that could devastate the foliage, especially when you keep them in a low-lit environment.

A pot with plenty of drainage holes should help keep the excess water out.

Cactus Species That Grow Well in Low-lit Environments

Cacti Species that do well in Low LightDetails
Scarlet Ball CactusA slow-growing plant that doesn’t require much fertilizer.
Crown cactusIt can survive in low light conditions but grows faster when exposed to more sunlight.
Zebra CactusIt doesn’t prefer sunlight and grows best in a low-lit environment.
Christmas CactusThese plants prefer a shady environment and often grow on trees and rocks, making them very different compared to their desert-dwelling counterparts.

Zebra Cactus

Another name for the Zebra Cactus is Haworthia Attenuata. They are native to South Africa and have acclimated to low-light conditions. The Zebra Cactus is known for growing dark green leaves that are very similar in shape to the average aloe vera plant. Their pale horizontal stripes and spikes give them an exotic appearance prized among houseplant enthusiasts.

Although the Zebra cactus thrives under indirect sunlight, it is best when provided a bit of shade. The plant does fairly well, even if kept in a low-lit environment. Just make sure to water the plant at regular intervals.

Check the topsoil before deciding to water the plant. The zebra cactus is relatively easy to care for because of its smaller size and exotic appearance.

Scarlet Ball Cactus

Also known as the Parodia Haselbergii, the scarlet ball cactus is spherical and completely covered with spines. Under the right conditions, this tiny ball of spikes can bloom yellow or red flowers on its crown.

These cacti are known for being relatively easy to care for and are highly recommended if you’re a beginner to succulents.

The scarlet ball cactus hails from South America, where it has adapted to low light conditions with relatively high humidity. This doesn’t mean you should overwater the scarlet ball cactus because it is just as prone to root rot as any other houseplant.

With that said, this cactus can tolerate slightly more humidity than others and is more tolerant if you accidentally overwatered it every now and then.

This gives you more wiggle room to experiment with the best watering frequency for the scarlet ball cactus.

Unlike most cacti species, the scarlet ball cactus doesn’t like direct sunlight. While it can survive the slightly less harsh morning sun, it will easily get scorched when exposed to the afternoon sun. This is why you should relocate this plant to a low-lit environment to help them thrive.

Crown Cactus

Also known as Rebutia, the crown cactus has adapted to live in low-light conditions, although it does well when exposed to bright sunlight. It is native to the mountainous regions of South America, where the plant is used to inadequate sunlight and water. As a result, the crown cactus is one of the most resilient plants out there.

Although inadequate lighting and missed watering sessions are not good for the plant, especially if you want it to bloom, it should be able to survive much longer. For best results, make sure to fertilize the crown cactus lightly in the growing season with a cacti fertilizer mix. This will help it deal with low light and water conditions more effectively.

Christmas Cactus

The highly popular Christmas Cactus tends to bloom during the holiday season, showing off bright flowers, hence the name Christmas Cactus. This cactus is rather unusual compared to other species because it actively seeks low-light conditions. Experts suggest it needs about 14 hours of low light conditions to bloom.

This makes the Christmas Cactus ideal for enthusiasts who cannot provide them with adequate sunlight. They thrive when removed from sunlight and look stunning wherever you keep them.

The only difficulty with Christmas Cactus is that getting them to bloom is slightly difficult. It is recommended to prune the plant in the early summer months to increase its chances of blooming.

The cactus also needs a lot of water, and it is recommended to water it completely through the soil once the first two inches of the topsoil have dried out. That said, the Christmas Cactus is best-taken care of by individuals who already have some experience. This is because you must do much research to care for them despite surviving in low light conditions.

Hint: Always keep a humidifier around your Christmas Cactus to control the moisture levels, especially in-between watering intervals.

Fairy Castle Cactus, Acanthocereus Tetragonus, Night-Blooming Cereus, Triangle Cactus, 4 inch Pot

Wrapping Up

So there you have it, a detailed look at whether cacti can survive in low light conditions. For the most part, the average cactus can grow in a low-lit environment, but you must compensate by ensuring that other parameters are perfect.

For example, the humidity, temperature, and soil acidity must be kept at optimal conditions to help the plant cope with the low light conditions. Let us know if you’ve ever grown cacti species in low-lit environments and how you helped them thrive.

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