How to encourage flowering

When it comes to me getting my cacti and succulents to flower, I have found that these are the top 5 things that have made a huge difference to the flowering of all of my plants.

My Trichocereus grandiflorus packed with blooms

My Trichocereus grandiflorus cactus packed with blooms


1)  Overwintering. A cool dry rest period for the desert cacti and most of the other succulent plants is essential for these plants to flower.

Overwinter your cacti and succulents by stopping watering them from Autumn to Winter, which for me here in Ireland is from Oct -March. keeping them in a dry,bright and cool room to let them rest for the Winter will greatly encourage them to come into flower in the Spring and Summer. 

Exceptions to this are the Epiphytic cacti and some of the Winter growing succulents that are actively growing and should not be kept totally dry over the Winter. I discuss this in greater detail in another growing tip page on this website and can be read HERE

Flowering cacti in my greenhouse

Flowering cacti in my greenhouse

2) Sunshine, Sunshine is absolutely essential for flowering. The desert cacti and many other

sunshine and my cacti flowering in the greenhouse

sunshine and my cacti flowering in the greenhouse

succulents will never flower in a north facing window that never receives any sun. Some of the Epiphytes such as the Schlumbergera cacti, commonly known as the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, may flower and even thrive in a bright but sunless north window, but I have never had any success with getting any of my Epiphytic cacti to flower in a north window but there are many other growers who have.

When it comes to the desert types they need bright sunshine to produce their flowers, so ideally a south facing position would be ideal for most of them where they can receive many hours of sunshine a day, the next best location for them is an east or west window.

3) Underpotting rather than over potting, I often find that if a cactus is

My Trichocereus grandiflorus cactus slightly underpotted and happily flowering

My Trichocereus grandiflorus cactus slightly underpotted and happily flowering

slightly under potted then this will encourage flowering, maybe because cacti like to have their roots a bit cramped, as in their natural habitat many of them will grow out of small rock crevices.

Its always best that you never re pot a cactus or a succulent when it is coming into bud as it is very possible that it may drop its buds because of the stress of being re potted.

I have often found that if a plant has been recently re potted, then it may skip a year of flowering even if the pot is just the next size up.

This may happen because the plant is using its energy to make new roots instead of flowers, and now I will often hold back on re potting any of them needing it until after they have flowered for their usual flowering month. .

Astrophytum cacti

Astrophytum cacti in bud in my greenhouse


4) Tomato fertilizer I have found using tomato fertilizer feed to be such a bonus for flowering.

Although there are a maxicrop organic tomatofeednumber of different  fertilizers specifically for cactus and succulent  on the market, and trust me I have tried a lot of them over the years, but one of the best I have used for success has not been for cacti but for plain old Tomato plants.

I can assure you I have never had any tomatoes on my cacti yet haha! I use Maxicrop Organic tomato fertilizer which is made from all natural plant ingredients and has the benefit of being Vegan friendly.

I use Maxicrop organic tomato fertilizer on all of my cacti and succulent plants from early March up until early September, and only occasionally in the Winter on any of my winter growing and flowering plants.

I always use it at half the strength they recommend for tomatoes, and with every third watering.

Since feeding my plants with tomato fertilizer, I have had such success with flowering as well as healthy looking plants too. I always prefer to use tepid clean rainwater when watering all my plants, and if you are not familiar with the benefits of using rainwater instead of regular tap water you can find out more information from another growing tips page that I have created HERE.

Rebutia perplexa

My Rebutia perplexa cactus with a bouquet of flowers


5) Age The age of the cactus and succulent has a lot to do with why a cactus or succulent may not flower.

My 17 year old Trichocereus pachanoi with quadruple flowers

My 17 year old Trichocereus pachanoi with quadruple flowers

flowering cacti in my greenhouse

flowering cacti in my greenhouse

Most of the cacti and some of the succulents will not flower until they are a number of years old, especially when grown indoors in pots rather than outdoors in the garden.

However well grown your plants are, and even if the are kept in excellent conditions, many of the tall columnar cacti may never bloom indoors, and many may have to get to a great height and age before they will produce flowers.

I have been growing many of my cacti for over 30 years now, and I am only just seeing flowers on some of my tall cereus cacti varieties now that I purchased as a teenager, so that is a hell of a lot of patience haha!

ite easily in the right conditions.

So if you have a small Saguaro seedling as a windowsill plant, you may have to admit to yourself that the chances of seeing it bloom in your lifetime may not be that realistic even if you are still only a youngster now haha.

If you only want to grow cacti because of their flowers and you haven’t got the time or patience to wait until your 3 inch high Cereus peruvianus grows about 6 ft indoors, then the better choice would be to go for cacti such as Rebutia’s Mammillaria’s, Lobivia;s Gymnocalyciums, Chamaecereus and the Epiphytic cacti, especially the Epihyllum hybrids that are very easy to grow and flower 🙂

Epiphyllum pegasus

My Epiphyllum pegasus in fuschia pink flower

If you are looking for succulents that are easy to get to flower then I would recommend the Crassulas, Kalanchoe’s, Haworthia’s, Lithops and Echeverias, but I would love you to see your plants as something that will grow with you. When I look back to when I was a teenager getting my first plants, I could not have imagined the joy and pleasure they have given me over 30+yrs and the flowers are a bonus and it really is surprising how much joy plants gives you when you get to see their first blooms.

Here is my Kalanchoe daigremontiana aka Bryophyllum daigremontianum aka Mother of Thousands succulent plant

Kalanchoe daigremontiana aka Bryophyllum daigremontianum aka Mother of thousands

Below is one of the very first cacti that I ever had when I was just 13 years old. It is a Chamaecereus silvestrii, commonly known as The peanut cactus.

I have had this plant for over 30 years and over time it has grown into the size of a large dinner plate, and although when it flowers it is a feast for the eyes, funnily enough I have never been tempted to eat it no matter how beautiful it looks 🙂

My chameacereus silvestrii cactus aka the peanut cactus

My 30 year old Chameacereus silvestrii cactus aka the peanut cactus

If you find that your cactus and succulents drop their buds before they have a chance to flower, there can be a few reasons for this. Certain cacti like the Echinoposis varieties are very prone to this, Often a few good sunny days will encourage your plants to come into bud, but if these days are then followed by a few days of overcast dull weather, then this can sometimes cause your plant to abort the buds.

Never move your plants once they have come into bud as this is a very common cause of bud drop, even turning your plant around at the windowsill can cause them to abort their buds. wait until after the flowers have opened and died off before moving your plant/s.

Here is a video below where I talk in more detail about Flower bud drop and why it happens.

Wishing you all a BLOOMING LOVELY time with your plants XXXXX <3