How Are Clay Pots Good for a Cactus?

If you have had any experience looking after cacti, you already know just how easy their overall care routine is. Unlike most other green plants and succulents that need constant watering, a thorny cactus is well-adapted to thrive under deprivation and does best when left alone in a hot and dry environment.

Although indoor cacti can live for more than a decade, an aggravated fungal infection can quickly bring the otherwise tolerant desert plant to an early demise.

If you are unable to protect your indoor potted cactus from airborne fungal spores and stem infections, it is best that you repot your desert plant into a more porous and absorbent container like a clay pot.

Keep reading to learn why it is important that a cactus be grown inside a clay pot, and how you can carry out a successful repotting.

Why Should You Plant a Cactus Inside a Clay Pot?

According to recent statistics, nearly 66% of the American population owns at least one house plant. While most of these plant enthusiasts complain about being plant killers, people who own cacti are generally more successful in their plant parent journeys.

The reason behind this is that, unlike most house plants, a cactus is highly tolerant and resistant. While most house plants will die within a week without water, a cactus’ natural adaptation allows it to survive for months without any focused care.

However, as mentioned above, the one situation that can kill an otherwise healthy and tall cactus is an untreated fungal infection. This infection is a result of overwatering the desert plant.

Before we get into how overwatering leads to an infection, let us first shed light on how a cactus’ roots are different from other plant roots.

How Are Cactus Roots Different from Other Plant Roots?

In general, the roots of a plant have a limited absorption capacity. If you add an excessive amount of water into their soil, the roots stop absorbing the water once their cells are hydrated to their maximum capacity.

The water then accumulates inside the pot and can lead to a fungal infection.

On the other hand, cactus roots are naturally designed to soak up any amount of moisture they can find. Since these plants are adapted to living in dry desert conditions, they will absorb any water that their roots come across.

Hence, when the cactus is watered more than the advised amount or when the cactus is grown inside a plastic or metallic container, its roots do not stop absorbing the excess hydration. Instead, they soak up every last bit of the water inside the pot.

What is Stem Rot in Cactus Plants?

As the cactus roots absorb all the excess water available inside its pot, that water is carried up the step to be stored inside its natural water reservoir.

Since the cactus does not actually require all that water, that water enters inside the desert plant’s tissue and sits there. Such moist conditions attract fungal spores, which then multiply and spread across the cactus’ thick stem within days.

Eventually, the fungal infection causes the cactus stem to rot from the inside, which results in the desert plant turning brown and mushy. If such conditions are not treated on time, the desert plant will succumb to the disease and will die prematurely.

Top Signs of a Dying Cactus

If you have accidentally overwatered your indoor potted cactus and are worried about killing it prematurely, look out for the following signs:

  • Brown and mushy stem
  • Wrinkly or shriveled-up plant body
  • The cactus loses most of its thorns
  • The cactus is unable to hold up its weight and drops sideways

What Difference Will a Clay Pot Make?

Now that you understand how overwatering a potted cactus can lead it to an early death, let us now highlight the value of choosing a clay container.

Clay, by its nature, is a porous and highly absorbent material. When a cactus is potted inside a clay container, the plant parent does not have to worry too much about overwatering or underwatering their desert plant.

This is how it works:

  • For instance, if you accidentally overwater your potted cactus plant, the porous clay walls of the pot will soak up a good amount of the excess moisture from the soil.
  • As a result, the roots will be unable to absorb all that excess moisture, and your desert plant will not attract a fungal infection.
  • On the other hand, if you forget to water your potted cactus plant, the potting soil will be able to suck back the previously stored moisture from the clay pot’s walls.
  • As a result, the soil will once again contain moisture, and the cactus roots will be able to quench the desert plant’s thirst and save it from deadly dehydration.

Hence, as long as you grow your desert plant inside clay pots, your plant care routine will become even less demanding. 

How to Successfully Repot Your Cactus Plant into a Clay Pot?

If you made the mistake of growing your cactus plant inside metallic or plastic pots, it is never too late to correct it.

Since the cactus is highly tolerant and can endure unideal living conditions for remarkably long periods, repotting the desert plant into a porous container will almost always save it from stem roots and untimely death.

Hence, if you are planning to repot your cactus into a clay pot, follow the steps listed below:

  • Begin with using a small garden shovel to dig out the cactus plant.
  • While doing so, ensure the shovel does not cut off the cactus’ roots and that its root ball remains intact.
  • If the cactus is very large and heavy, do not lift it from its trunk.
  • Instead, tilt the container to the side and slide out your cactus and its roots.
  • Take a suitable clay pot with abundant drainage holes and fill half with a well-draining potting mix.
  • Place your cactus inside the pot and refill the remaining container with the rest of the potting mix.
  • Finally, pat the soil around the cactus to ensure stability, and use a spray bottle to add moisture to the mix.

Other Ideal Types of Pots for a Cactus Plant

If you cannot find a large enough clay pot for your cactus plant, you can also use the container types listed below:

  • Unglazed terracotta pot
  • Timber pot
  • Pots made from paper and pulp
  • Ceramic pots

Final Thoughts –Invest in Clay Pots Now!

If you are struggling with protecting your indoor potted cactus from fungal infections and rotten stems, it is best to repot the desert plant inside a porous clay pot. Unlike a plastic or metallic container that can hold in hydration, a clay pot is porous and absorbent. Hence, if you accidentally overwater your potted cactus, the clay surroundings will help suck up the excess water to prevent a stem rot infection.

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