Can You Grow Cactus Without Soil?

Have you recently embarked on a quest to grow a cactus without using any amount of soil? You may have your reasons. If you are asking, “Can you grow cactus without soil,” the answer depends.

Cactus isn’t like many other houseplants you have introduced to your home. It doesn’t need soil that is rich in nutrients. However, potting soil can help it with many other functions.

Your cactus plant can survive without soil only for a short period. Here’s why;

Why Can You Grow Cactus Without Soil?

Cactus plants are only able to grow without soil in the short term. This is because despite not needing a lot of nutrients, they still need the bare minimum to grow.

These plants might be known to survive without water. However, part of that mechanism is helped along by their roots which need moisture from the soil.

In case you don’t have soil, you can still invest in different materials that can provide these nutrients to your plant for a short time. These can be easily found in the USA. They include different kinds of rocks, wood, sand, or moss.

If you are asking, “Why can you grow cactus without soil,” the biggest factor is their water storage capacity. This is also a great way to explain the answer to “why are cactus good for indoors?”

Cactus plants are a great investment as they don’t require much from the owner. You can place them in low-nutrient soil and watch them grow using low-quality soil.

These indoor plants can survive anything as long as they are placed in indirect sunlight and receive water once in a while.

Cactus plants also do not require soil because they already have the mechanisms necessary to store water. Their stems, leaves, and roots are more than capable of conserving water on their own.

According to CactusWay, the Saguaro Cactus can store up to 4200 pounds of water during the rainy season. That is more than enough to survive for a long time.

However, a lack of soil becomes a concern because a cactus’ foliage and flowering depend on it. The cactus might not die without high-quality soil, but it will not look as vibrant.

Why Do Some Cactus Plants Need Soil?

Some cactus plants might need more soil than others. These plants might also require you to report them or add fertilizer every once in a while.

Most of these tropical cactus plants have beautiful foliage and flowers that require more nutrients. Moreover, they have also become used to growing in certain kinds of soil and conditions that are hard to replace.

What’s Worse than Growing a Cactus without Soil

You can do many things that are a lot worse than growing a cactus without soil.

Since you already know the answer to “Can you grow cactus without soil,” you might not need to worry about the soil. But there are other factors to consider.

How are cacti good for indoors? Well, since they don’t require a lot of water and maintenance, they are perfect for indoors. But that doesn’t mean you leave them unattended.

Sure, they might not require a lot of soil. However, you might need to replace that with something else to grow cacti.

Cactus plants might need rocks or some other kind of dirt to be able to grow. They also need indirect sunlight as well as the occasional watering.

Ironically, it is not the lack of something that usually kills cacti. In fact, it is the abundance that is the silent killer. The biggest culprit is excess water.

If you are growing cactus plants without soil, reduce the watering as the soil isn’t there to drink the excess water. Moreover, the lesser the soil, the more sunlight they need to prevent root rot.

Some signs of overwatering include;

  • A plant that looks like it can burst at any moment
  • A plant that feels soft and squishy to the touch or wet
  • A plant that looks smaller or wilted

On the other hand, a plant that appears dry and thinner might show a lack of watering.

Since cactus plants hold water in their leaves, a healthy watering can lead to a plump appearance. Thus, a lack of watering is easy to spot.

Testing the soil is the best way to determine whether the plant needs any watering. Since, in this case, you have no soil, it is best to use other watering methods.

Water these plants through a dropper or a sprinkler, and stop when you think the plant has had enough.

How Can You Grow Cactus without Soil for Long?

An abundance of nutrient-rich soil can promote the growth of almost all cacti species found in the USA. But growing a cactus plant without soil can get difficult.

Without soil, you might have to provide nutrients to the plant through other materials. Since the best route is soil, this deprivation should only be temporary.

First and foremost, figure out if you have even a handful of dirt you can use to add to the plants. Remember that cactus plants don’t have a lot of requirements, and even a handful would do.

You can easily improve the nutrient quality of the soil by adding some diluted fertilizer found at most stores all around the USA. This doesn’t just help the plant grow but can also hold more water, decreasing the need for frequent watering.

If you really want to grow cactus without soil, here’s how you can do so;

The Method

Contrary to popular belief, plants do not need soil to grow. They simply need the nutrients and the protection that soil provides.

Potting soil can add support and healthy nutrients to plants by speeding up absorption. In a world where pollution and lack of nutrients have become abundant, it acts as a much-needed provider.

 Yet, this can be achieved through other methods. Today, scientists are developing new and more sustainable ways to grow plants. This utilizes space more efficiently.

1. Water

Many houseplant owners are experimenting with growing vegetables in water instead of soil. Even though this is trickier, it uses up less space.

The water can provide essential minerals to the plants and can also regulate the temperature simultaneously. However, this poses a small problem.

Water doesn’t provide as much oxygen to plants as the soil does. The soil is a better alternative for plants that need much more oxygen. However, for other cactus plants, this could work!

2. Rocks

Another creative way to grow cactus plants without soil is to invest in good-quality rocks such as gravel and granite. Indoor plant enthusiasts are beginning to experiment with this.

However, cactus plants cannot survive for long in these conditions. Rocks provide even fewer minerals than plants submerged in water.

Moreover, it is much harder for plants to extract more oxygen from this rock and water mixture. Thus, only a few kinds of plants can survive here.

Before considering adding your cactus plants to a terrarium of rocks and water, consider whether they can survive.

3. Creative Methods

As the world begins to experience technological and biological advancement, research has given way to more inventive methods to grow different varieties of plants.

Plants can now be grown without soil if we provide them with the nutrients they lack.

To increase the effectiveness of nutrients and oxygen in the water for the first method, scientists have begun to create solutions that can be mixed in water to create artificial nutrition.

This, coupled with methods to provide more oxygen to the roots and ideal temperatures, might allow plants to grow at higher rates.

Regardless, this is still an experiment that might not be perfected anytime soon. It may also be much more expensive than regular soil.

You could also look forward to the recent developments associated with growing plants in the air akin to tropical plants that grow on branches high above the ground.

However, one might ask, why opt for any of these methods when you could simply walk outside and get some soil from your backyard to help your cactus plants grow faster?

You don’t need to look for the best quality soil. You can even make your own nutrient-rich soil! All you need to do is mix some fertilizer into the soil you have!

How Long Can a Cactus Live Without Soil?

The necessary question isn’t “Can you grow cactus without soil?” You should be asking whether growing cactus outside the soil is a good idea.

The Time Limit

The timer begins as soon as a cactus is taken out of the soil. While some plants do not need soil to grow, the cactus plant does.

The younger the plant and the more its foliage, the more nutrients it will need. Moreover, a plant that is experiencing a growing or blooming season may also need that soil for the foliage.

However, in ideal conditions, cactus plants can last from one to two weeks without exposure to soil. This is a great time frame for you to look for ideal potting soils you can use to make the transition.

It is not recommended to grow cactus plants without soil because it is much more expensive and troublesome to resort to other methods. The easiest way is to pot them in soil.

If you are thinking of growing your cactus in a box or a terrarium (or even water) just to make it look nice for the interiors of your home, that isn’t beneficial for the cactus.

Your cactus might not survive for that long outside of nutrient-rich soil. Since it needs these nutrients to produce the foliage you love, placing it in a box isn’t going to help anyone.


If you are considering keeping a cactus in conditions that aren’t ideal simply due to an emergency, you might not have the soil you need.

Most people may experience a transition period between getting their cactus and placing it inside their home. This means their cactus will live in a makeshift home for a while.

Remember that cactus plants might not survive in these conditions for long. Try to arrange another home or purchase some soil to keep them alive.

Cactus plants don’t just die out of the blue. They may show you many warning signs before they fail to go on any longer.

The worst thing for a cactus is staying without sunlight, nutrients, or water for very long. The time frame between life and death can vary depending on different species.

If you are planning on keeping the pot without fertilizer, water, or even a lot of sunlight for many days, it might survive. However, the soil is essential as that is its only source of nutrients.

In case you can’t provide soil, perhaps it is time to look for alternatives. If you don’t want to lose your plant early, this is an investment you must be willing to make.

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Final Thoughts

Cactus plants are living and breathing residents of the same world where we live. Like we need shelter, food, and the sun to survive, so do they.

Consider a pot and soil like the home of a cactus plant. The more it grows and the more it tries to stretch its wings, the worse it will get without any soil. How much your cactus plant can survive depends entirely on the features of the plant. Why wait for it to die? Take the necessary steps today and provide your plant with everything it needs!

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