Why Doesn’t My Cactus Flower: How To Get A Cactus To Bloom


By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

Many of us have to bringcacti indoors for winter to protect them from the cold. While thisis necessary in many cold winter climates, by doing so, we may be creatingconditions where cactus won’t bloom. Too much water, too much heat, and notenough bright light provide reasons that answer “why doesn’t my cactus flower.”

Reasons a Cactus Won’t Bloom

The type of cactus you grow may actually be unable toproduce flowers for many decades. Fifty to 100 years is not uncommon for cactusbloom times on certain varieties. If you desire ready flowering indoor cactus,choose from the following types:

  • Mammillaria
  • Gymnocalycium
  • Parodia
  • Notocactus

How to Get a Cactus to Bloom

When keeping cactus indoors during winter, try to locatethem in the coolest spot. While they likely won’t survive outdoors below 20degrees F. (-6 C.), they do need a chilling period to bloom. Also, keep in mind,if they are outside in temps this cold, they must stay completely dry. Indoorcactus doesn’t need water during the winter either. Withhold all water duringtheir period of dormancy, waiting for signs of growth to resume watering. This encouragesflowering.

At this time, if you’ve not already positioned your cacti ina full sun position, this is a great way to get blooms. Full morning sun isbest, with the exception of jungle/forest cacti that can take dappled sun orjust bright light.

Cacti, as with other plants, should be gradually acclimatedto the sun so they don’t get a sunburn.Begin with an hour or two and increase weekly for desert cactus, until yourplant is getting at least six hours of sun daily. An indoor lighting system maywork if actual sunshine is not available. However, if you can move the plantoutdoors when temperatures warm, do so.

When you start watering again, you may also lightly feedwith a high phosphorous fertilizer. Use it at half strength, watering first. Ifyou have fertilizer already on hand, check the fertilizer ratio and make surethe middle number is highest. Nitrogen fertilizer (first number) is not goodfor cactus and succulents, as it creates weak and spindly growth, so avoid thiswhen possible. High phosphorous fertilizer is sometimes labeled as “BloomBuster.”

Following this regime, when do cacti flower? Late spring orsummer for some, while others may not blossom until winter. Remember, don’texpect blooms until your plant is mature. Google the type of cactus you have tolearn more about its age at first bloom.

Now that you’ve learned how to get a cactus to bloom, youcan proceed with getting flowers on those mature plants that have not yetflowered. Enjoy the show!

This article was last updated on

Read more about General Cactus Care


Cacti are found in desert areas mostly and like to be in the sun. Cacti have learned well to survive in the scorching heat. They may need sunlight at least from 4 to 6 hours and a maximum of 14 hours. They can grow best in bright light, high temperature, and less water. Some of them may survive in less light and humidity. Insufficient light may make cacti pale and they show discoloration. It can also affect the growth of cacti plants. These symptoms can be reversed by putting the cacti plants in the sun. Once they start receiving the sunlight again, they become healthy.

Photo – Britannica.com


The best time to see the Saguaro cactus bloom

The saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, is the largest cactus in the United States and native to Arizona. In 1931 the opulent white blossom of the Saguaro Cactus was designated as Arizona’s state flower. The best time of year to see these cactus bloom is April through June.

large white flowers on the saguaro cactus

The Saguaro cacti mainly grow in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. When a Saguaro cactus reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce blossoms. Amassed near the ends of the branches, the green buds bloom into milky-white flowers. The Saguaro flower blooms after sunset and last only one day.

At the top of the flower tube is a compact group of yellow stamens. The saguaro cactus has more stamen on its flower than any other cactus. If conditions have been favorable for the Saguaro you could see hundreds of blossoms on a cactus.

yellow stamen inside the Saguaro Cactus flower

Pollinators like birds, insects, and bats are attracted to the nectar that collects at the bottom of the flower’s 4 inch tube. A Saguaro blossom can only be fertilized by cross-pollination.

yellow stamen inside the creamy white Saguaro flower

Only a few Saguaro flowers bloom each night and close by late morning thus, giving a greater opportunity for pollination.

white cactus flower attracts birds

This elegant desert pageant occurs for about 2 months. From living in this area, we have to say it is hard to decide the exact dates but end of April to mid June would be notable.

bird pollinating the Saguaro cactus blossom

Red fruit of the Saguaro Cactus

Pollinated flowers form a vivid red fruit filled with thousands of black seeds. The fruit is eaten and digested through which its dispersed throughout the desert.


Cactus and Succulents forum→How to get cactus to bloom?

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This year, with temps in the 80s to 90s, I have increased watering's to every 4 weeks. No results !


The other one looks like some sort of cristata form of a prickly pear (I think it's a prickly pear). It may or may not be one that blooms (I don't know if the cristata form of cacti bloom or not it's some sort of genetic mutation).

Erm, editing. Cacti need very little fertilizer (and a weak one at that). Fertilizing more or with stronger fertilizers will only create other issues.

The crested cactus may not bloom because its a crested cactus - some just don't.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org


Crested cacti are not known to flower very often. Never say never, but certainly not a common or easy to achieve event.

If at 100+ temperatures you have trouble keeping them from rotting your soil is way too water retentive even at a relatively humid 100F that you might get in Fresno a well draining soil should dry out in a week or so. So I would suggest transplanting them to faster draining soil, then you can water them more frequently and that will certainly help them grow better.

Now all that said that crested cactus looks like a crested Austracylindropuntia subulata, which is incredibly prone to rot, so you have to be careful with that one even in well draining soil.

If in well draining soil Golden Barrels actually will take a good amount of water and that will help them grow. They tend to be pretty slow when young and small, but when they reach say 3-4 times the size of your plant they go through a growth spurt before slowing down somewhat as they get pretty big. Usually at some point in that growth spurt is when the flowering starts.


My golden barrel is about 12 inches wide (the body, not counting spines) and it hasn't even thought about flowering yet. No fuzz at all. I am definitely not mistreating it so I think it just takes a long time for them to flower. The Ferocacti tend to wait a while too. Our native Mammillarias flower several years sooner than the native Ferocacti.

I had the second plant (the Austrocylindropuntia subulata crest) for years and it never flowered. I think AgaveGirl recently had some flowers on her non-crested plant, so this is in theory what they would look like if they ever ventured forth.

As for the general question in the title, I would be most curious about people's strategies or voodoo magic for getting great cactus flowers. I would imagine strong light is probably really important (I consider it mandatory for my own plants). Some cacti are real shy to flower here (they get part of the way or the flower never really opens up) and I think that's because our climate is too mild and doesn't provide the kind of heat they need to really pop. It's like they're waiting for something that never happens.

My own experience (providing regular water, when the soil goes dry, but not leaving the soil dry for days and days on end) is that the actual fertilizer you use is not that important, if it's a reasonably balanced formula. The quantity you use is much more important, or easier to get wrong anyway. For reference I use 0.5 tsp of liquid 7-9-5 formula per 5 liter bottle. (Metric and gringo units commingle here as you would naturally expect.)

You can scale accordingly, based on the the first number in the N-P-K listing. 5 liters is about a gallon, if you want to round to the nearest container. My dosage works out to be a little under 50 ppm N, and here is a handy calculator to arrive at that precise amount with your own preferred brand.

Now your fertilizer will come with dosage recommendations and they are generally way too high for succulents, especially out of the blazing sun. The Miracle Gro granular product was recommended at 20 times the amount I use. Try a quarter or less for starters, or use the handy calculator to arrive at a sane dosage. And don't fertilize every time you water unless you are prepared to flush the container well every time.


Philip, I know that you know what soil to use, so maybe its the fertilizer that's causing your cactus to rot? Just a thought. On the other hand, watering once every 6 weeks is WAY out of line. My potted cactus get watered once a week in summer, once a month in winter. But I also think you need to find a spot in your yard where they get more sun.

There is no humidity in Fresno so that is not the problem. Are you using your cactus soil with added perlite? 1:1 ratio? When I lived in Oakdale (same weather), I was watering every other day when it got hot.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org

I'm also curious as to why, in early spring, at nurseries I see so many Cati and succulents blooming, some in in as small as two inch pots.
That's how I got mine, it wasn't one of those pin-on flowers, as it dried up and made seeds.


Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org



Like it or not, most succulents (of the size and type which are mass produced for sale) come from a greenhouse somewhere, where they are being pampered to the maximum by the grower with the goal of pumping them up as fast as possible. The amount of time a plant requires to be sellable is not at all fixed. it can vary a lot depending on care. More than one might expect.

These observations to the group in general and not skopje in particular, regarding hormonally altered succulents.

Whenever I get a new plant that's not already familiar to me, I spend 5-10 minutes looking at pictures of that plant on the web, to get a general sense of how it might look under proper light, and what the usual variation may be. That's a good exercise because it gives you points of reference as you dive into the new one's way of life. A pampered plant will need to be gently coaxed into the non-pampered (real) world, which is mostly a matter of patience and observation, but cacti and succulents tend to be extremely adaptable plants when allowed to proceed in a gradual way.

Sometimes I see plants at a nursery, all stretched and out of proportion, or gigantically huge for the size of the container, and think to myself I need to never let that happen with my own plants. It's like the example you need to remember not to follow.

That said, I'm pretty sure you don't make more money by blasting cacti with light. Speaking from my own experience, they grow smaller and slower if they are in the sun, compared to 50% or even 20% shade cloth. When young, that is, the size that would be suitable for nursery sale. I have had the opportunity to experiment with various lighting situations, whether shading by the walls and overhangs on my home patio or different types of shade cloth. The sale plants that suffer from freaky gigantism are coming out from under filtered light, not direct sun.




I have read that too. It's supposed to mimic their winter dormancy I think. Mine go into the garage in the winter and it freezes here outdoors, so I'm sure it gets cold in the garage.


I also fertilize my epiphytic cacti, but they get a lot more because they love it.

There are so many variables like species, subspecies, indoor/outdoor, exposure (NSEW), soil, amendments, pH, and so forth that fertilizing or not fertilizing are both good practices.

When offering cacti a cool and dry "rest" period to encourage blooms, remember that not all species have a "winter" in their natural lands, and of those who do, some of them have much wetter winters than others. With a lot of epiphytic cacti you're not mimicking "winter" as much as a brief dry season.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org


Like it or not, most succulents (of the size and type which are mass produced for sale) come from a greenhouse somewhere, where they are being pampered to the maximum by the grower with the goal of pumping them up as fast as possible. The amount of time a plant requires to be sellable is not at all fixed. it can vary a lot depending on care. More than one might expect.

This is another good reason to grow them from seed--you know exactly from whence they have come and what treatments and conditions they have received from the moment of germination. I have grown several of mine from seed and I find them all to be relatively straightforward. A lot of people think it's difficult but after two or three failed starts (at most) I think anyone who starts vegetables or annuals under lights can grow cacti from seed.


Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost


Watch the video: How To Make A Christmas Cactus Bloom!


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