Essential Cactus-Growing Accessories

As our passion for caring for our ever-growing cactus collection escalates, we’ve put together a list of must-have cactus-growing accessories. Your level of commitment to this cactus-centric lifestyle may not yet necessitate the purchase of all these tools. However, we’re convinced that one or two of these carefully-selected cactus-growing accessories could be beneficial to you!

Have we missed any crucial items you believe are essential? Please share your thoughts with us via the Contact page.


Our Essential Cactus-growing Accessories

Alcohol wipes

When you’re making a cut on a cactus – or any other plant for that matter – it’s essential to take all possible measures to minimise the risk of an infection. A straightforward way to accomplish this is by using sterile alcohol wipes. Wiping both the blade’s surfaces before and after the cut can help eliminate most of the harmful bacteria, if any are present. If you prefer, you can also use a clean tissue soaked with alcohol. This should help ensure the safety of your cut.

Remember, the goal is to thoroughly clean and disinfect your tools to prevent the spread of plant diseases – especially when dealing with diseased plants or plants susceptible to the same diseases. This is not only important for the health of your plants, but also for your own safety.

Cactus fertiliser

Cacti thrive in extreme environments, often surviving in harsh desert conditions where they store water in their stems. However, just like any other plant, they can benefit from the right nutrients. While they are resilient, they can still grow stronger and healthier with the right care, including the right amount of fertiliser.

To provide a brief primer, balanced fertilizers contain equal parts nitrogen (N), potassium (P), and phosphorus (K). Nitrogen stimulates cell and foliage growth, potassium boosts blooming and fruit production, and phosphorus enhances disease resistance, seed viability, root growth, and fruit ripening.

For cacti, ‘low-balanced’ soluble fertilisers can be used to great effectiveness. Common solutions include 8-8-8 (8% nitrogen, 8% potassium, 8% phosphorus) and 10-10-10. Many high-quality fertilisers that are richer in phosphorus than nitrogen are also used, including several commercial cactus blends, such as those with a 2-7-7 or 1-7-6 ratio. However, it’s crucial to note that excessive fertiliser, particularly nitrogen, can lead to issues such as rotting roots or split skin. Hence, it’s advisable to avoid overfeeding your plants. Many experts suggest diluting the fertiliser to half or even a quarter of the recommended strength as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Currently, we prefer to use store-bought cactus fertiliser, dilute it to half the recommended proportion, and apply it during the spring, summer and early autumn every two to four weeks. It’s then watered into the earth as usual. In winter, when the cacti are dormant, they should not be fertilised at all.

Be aware that too much fertiliser (especially nitrogen) can cause frustrating issues such as rotten roots or split skin, so it’s wise to avoid overfeeding your precious plants! Many folks recommend diluting to half or even quarter strength compared to the fertiliser manufacturer’s instructions. At present, we prefer to use a shop-bought cactus fertiliser, dilute it to half the recommended proportion, then apply during the summer and early autumn every two to four weeks, watering it in to the earth as usual.

For those who are new to cacti and cactus-growing accessories, it’s advisable to purchase a specific liquid cactus fertiliser from a local garden centre or online. These commercially available fertilisers will contain all the nutrients that your cacti need and usually come with comprehensive instructions on when and how much fertiliser to apply to your plants.

Cactus gloves

Immersing oneself in the world of cactus cultivation gradually underscores the wisdom of investing in high-quality cactus gloves, essentially extra-thick or armoured gardening gloves. Our journey thus far has seen us try out several pairs, with varied results.

For managing smaller cacti, typically those not exceeding fifty centimetres in height, or those with shorter or duller spines (or glochids), most robust, thorn-resistant gardening gloves have proven to be quite effective. The key to success lies in handling these spines with care, a lesson we’ve had to learn through experience!

For larger cacti or those with longer spines, and for cuttings, specialised armoured gauntlets are available on the market. These are designed specifically to provide extra protection for handling these larger and more challenging plants. We currently own several different pairs of these gloves ourselves, including the popular Thorn Armor brand (good for the more hardcore spint species).

In conclusion, the right cactus handling gloves are not just a smart investment, they are an essential tool for any cactus enthusiast and one of the most vital cactus-growing accessories for serious gardeners. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, having the right gloves can make your cactus cultivation journey more comfortable and less painful.

Canes / plant supports

While it may seem self-evident, it’s always beneficial to have a variety of canes and sticks on hand for propping up cacti during their rooting phase. These canes can also provide general support to your plants and are one of the most practical cactus growing accessories we know of.

We’ve found wooden coffee and tea stirrers to be particularly useful for this purpose when rooting small cuttings, as they offer them a sturdy (but temporary) support. However, these canes may not be suitable for humid environments as they can start to decay more easily. For larger, columnar plants like many Trichocereus species, we recommend recycling old metal wardrobe rails (or similar), as they provide a stronger and more durable support. However, if you’re looking for more versatile options, consider using bamboo sticks (eco-friendly, lightweight, strong and pliable – making them a good choice for both small and large plants) or PVC pipe (which come in various diameters and can be cut into lengths to create custom supports). All three of these examples work well, given their durability and strength; although you may need to use multiple supports when working with larger, heavier cacti.

Gibberellic acid (GA3)

Driven by curiosity and a keen eye for experimentation, we embark on a journey into the fascinating world of Gibberellic acid. This potent, naturally-occurring hormone (also known as ‘GA’, ‘GA3’ or ‘Gibberellin A3’) has its roots in both fungi and plants.

When skilfully administered and timed just right, this hormone unlocks a treasure trove of growth potential. It can stimulate the development of flowers, fruits, roots, and stems, enhance germination rates, and even promote seedless fruits. Its protective properties against frost damage make it an invaluable asset. Furthermore, it can be used as a standalone solution or harmoniously combined with thermal stratification. Its versatility and wide-ranging benefits have made it a trusted partner in commercial laboratories and nurseries. Over recent years, lay enthusiasts and independent researchers have increasingly begun to explore this territory on a smaller scale. We’ve yet to find the time to dabble with it ourselves, but it’s on our list to do so.

Magnesium sulphate paste

Here’s a very useful piece of information which we wish we’d been told much earlier: Magnesium sulphate paste (more commonly known as Epsom salts) is a “drawing paste” that contains glycerol and dried magnesium sulphate. The glycerol it contains acts as a hygroscopic humectant (attracting water), while the magnesium sulphate itself is dry and works via osmosis.

Unsurprisingly, we often find ourselves suffering bits of cactus spines lodged into the skin of our hands and fingers. Generally (presuming they’re resistant to the use of tweezers) such shards will work themselves out over a few days, but magnesium sulphate paste is definitely an extremely effective (and safe) addition to the cactus grower’s arsenal for those more stubborn spines.

When applied to the skin, the paste exerts a strong osmotic effect, while the glycerol draws out moisture from the inflamed area. This makes this paste particularly useful for removing splinters and cactus spines, as its active ingredient reduces inflammation around the spiny intruder, softening the skin to allow for easy extraction. It may take a day or two in our experience, but eventually the splinter simply rises to the surface, consequently becoming easy to remove (or even falling out of its own accord). Every cactus cultivator really should have a pot of this in their cupboard!

Moler clay / Perlite / Sand / etc.

For those passionate about cactus cultivation, crafting an optimal growing mix is crucial. This involves enhancing the drainage of your soil, and to a lesser extent, its aeration, by integrating it with a compatible medium. Commonly used materials include volcanic stones like moler clay and perlite, and sand. Our current approach is to use a roughly equal mix of perlite and potting soil. However, do experiment and find what works best for your specific needs!

Magnifying lens

When cultivating cacti, a magnifying glass, loupe, or similar lens can be an invaluable tool. It’s not just useful for identifying pests, but also as a helpful assistant when extracting the sharp spines of these plants.

Plant tags

Durable, waterproof and generally hard-wearing plant marker labels are especially important if you’re cultivating species, strains or hybrids which are difficult to distinguish on first glance, or which need to be tracked through generations or some such. Make sure to use a pencil (2B works well) or a decent permanent marker pen (which tends to break down much quicker than pencil) when labelling your precious plants!

Plastic tubs / bottles / etc.

Plastic food and drink containers and the like can often be recycled when growing cacti (or other plants). For example, we regularly make seed trays, propagators, cloches, saucers, scoops, plant labels and watering cans out of such plastic “waste” as cake and pastry packaging, drinks bottles, ‘disposable’ cups and fruit and vegetable punnets!

Sharp knife

If you’re someone who often finds yourself making cuttings of your favourite cacti, you’ll definitely require a good, sharp knife! This will preferably be steel and have a smooth surface which is free of pits, so that it can easily be cleaned before, during and after use.

Tweezers

This one’s certainly among our top cactus-growing accessories! As above; sooner or later, everybody growing cacti realises they should keep a clean pair of tweezers to hand. Especially useful when dealing with smaller, often disproportionately irritating, spines. We have some affordable metal tweezers in stock (at the time of writing).


We hope our list of cactus-growing accessories proves useful to you – please do tell us if we’ve missed anything out which you believe to be of benefit to other growers and we’ll add it here.

Check out some of the cacti we currently have in stock