With people spending more and more time at home in the past two years, growing plants, such as succulents and cacti, has become a popular hobby. Cacti and succulents, in particular, are a great addition if you are looking for ways to brighten up your home. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that cute plants have even become a bit of a social media craze, with people posting photos of their growing apartment gardens everywhere.
When it comes to indoor plants, people tend to choose the smaller varieties rather than the larger ones, for understandable reasons: they take up less space, they are convenient to move around, and they are also incredibly cute. Besides succulents, Bonsai trees are another popular example.
Given this new passion that people have for ornamental plants, it was only a matter of time until trends started to emerge. Wondering what the newest one is? Micro-cacti – potted teeny tiny cacti cuttings measuring no more than 5cm (2 inches) in height.
At first glance, these tiny plants don’t even look like they could be real, but they are, and they’re not much different to care for than regular cacti. In fact, they may be even easier to care for, as they only require a few drops of water and, in most instances, no repotting.
If you’re like us, you probably want to get your hands on these adorable little plants ASAP and start growing your micro garden. But before you do so, keep reading to find out more on how to care for micro-cacti and keep them in this adorable size.
What exactly are micro-cacti?
Cacti are very interesting plants, as they can grow in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can be easily acclimated to remain small. When you first look at a micro-cactus, it’s easy to think these plants have been modified to grow like this, but that’s not exactly right.
Micro-cacti are essentially baby cacti acclimated to develop very slowly. This means they are used to low light and very little water so that they can still be healthy but not grow more than 2 inches. To achieve this, every aspect of the growth process matter, from propagation to choosing the right pot size and soil mixture.
To ensure they resist low light and watering, it is recommended that only the hardiest cacti species are used for micro plants.
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Essentially, almost any small to medium-sized cacti and succulents can be used to grow micro specimens. However, nurseries have their preferences and tend to use cacti that are resistant to low light conditions and without water for prolonged periods. This allows gardeners to keep these plants pretty much anywhere and water them scarcely.
Some of the most popular micro-cacti options are:
Golden Barrel Cactus
Echinocactus grusonii, also known as the Golden Barrel cactus is one of the most popular indoor cacti options mostly because it can withstand some pretty harsh environments. And, because we motioned hardiness is one of the main criteria to select cacti that can be grown in micro-container, this makes the golden barrel cactus is an excellent choice.
Also known as the golden ball, this cactus can withstand temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Sure, it won’t grow as fast or bloom, but remember we want to keep this plant, which can grow up to 3.5 feet tall, no bigger than 2 inches.
The barrel cactus prefers direct sun, but the micro variant will be able to withstand medium light as well. Also, the barrel can hold a lot of water inside (hence, the name), which means you only need to water it once a month.
Great companion plants for the Golden Barrel Cactus include Aloe Pepe, Tiger Tooth Aloe, Blue Chalksticks, Blue Barrel Cactus, and Feather Cactus. Companion plants are important if you wish to grow several tiny cacti or succulents in a larger container. Micro-cacti can be planted alongside other tiny plants to create a beautiful arrangement.
Bunny Ears Cactus
Opuntia Microdasys, commonly known as The Bunny Ears cactus, Angel’s Wings cactus, or Polka-dot cactus is easy to care for and has a unique look. Its fuzzy glochids, or short bristles, resembling rabbit fur decorate the thick pads that look a lot like bunny ears, making this plant one of the cutest ornamentals on the market.
The Bunny-Ears cactus originates from Mexico and is accustomed to arid areas and low humidity. As you may have guessed, this makes it perfect for micro-growing. In their natural habitat, they can grow up to 3 feet, but they are much more adorable when they are as tiny as a thumb.
Water your bunny ears cactus every 3-4 weeks, as it is accustomed to drought and can go a long time without water – just what we need for a micro cacti garden. It is important to mention that Bunny Ears cacti will thrive in locations where they get plenty of natural light, so it’s best to keep yours near a south or a west-facing window.
Our favourite companions for Bunny Ear cacti include the Fairy Castle cactus, Blue Candle Cactus, Silver Torch Cactus, and the Button Cactus, but you can plant it alongside any succulents and cacti that have similar requirements.
You can learn more about this fascinating cactus from our complete guide to growing and caring for Bunny Ear Cactus.
Old Lady Cactus
Mammillaria Hahniana commonly referred to as the Old Lady cactus, Birthday Cake cactus, or Old Lady Pincushion has beautiful spherical stems covered with sharp white spines. This is one cactus that doesn’t like being alone, so it grows in clusters, forming a spherical collection of adorable cacti.
The old lady cactus can do very well in cold temperatures, especially since it requires little water during cold periods, preventing it from freezing. They can even withstand a shallow coat of frost, so this is a very low-maintenance option for your micro-cacti garden. And, because it likes to grow with friends, you can actually have an old lady garden if you want to or you can pair it with other cacti that have similar growth requirements such as the Feather Cactus, the Barbed Wire Cactus, or the Ball Cactus.
If you are curious to learn more about this low-maintenance buddy, read our complete guide to growing and caring for Old Lady Cacti.
Astrophytum Asteria commonly referred to as the Star Cactus, is a great example of a succulent plant that can be grown as a micro-cactus. While star cacti don’t grow much in height, which makes your job of keeping them on a micro size much easier, they do tend to get a bit wide. This is why you need to make sure the micro-planter is not too large in diameter.
The star cactus is a slow-growing species – a great thing for micro-growing – and, like most cacti, it can do well with scarce watering. It likes warm temperatures and sunlight, but the micro version will do well in your apartment as a desk plant or book-shelf plant.
Star cacti make great companions to a wide range of succulents and cacti thanks to their easy-going nature. You can easily grow them alongside their cousins Bishop’s Cap cacti, but they will also thrive when planted with Bunny Ear cacti, Finger cacti, Chin cacti, and any other small cactus that has similar growth requirements. If you wish to grow these cacti alongside spine-less succulents, you can definitely do so. Some examples of succulents that pair well with cacti include Crassula Red Pagoda, Kalanchoe Tomentosa, Moonstones, or the Bear Paw succulent.
Curious to learn more about this cute ornamental? Read our complete guide to growing and caring for Star cacti.
Haworthiopsis Fasciata, commonly referred to as the Zebra cactus is technically a succulent. The zebra cactus is one of the most popular options for micro-growing because it can do well without too much care. You can forget to water it for weeks, and it will still thrive. Plus, it looks absolutely adorable, with its leaves resembling another very popular ornamental houseplant – the Haworthia-leaved Aloe.
The zebra cactus only needs some moderate light and does well in an apartment, making it perfect for a person who likes plants but is not that good at keeping them alive. The best part is that there are a lot of varieties of Zebra cacti to choose from, all great for micro-growing. This versatile succulent can be paired with any other succulent, be it a similar-looking Aloe, a Crassula, or a delicate Echeveria.
If you want to give your succulent the time of its life, make sure you read our complete guide to growing and caring for the Zebra cactus.
How to Care for Micro-cacti
Caring for your micro-cactus is not that different from caring for a regular-sized cactus, but you do need to keep some things in mind.
The first and most important aspect is the pot, which needs to be properly chosen to hold the right amount of soil and water and keep the plant micro-sized. Assuming you purchased your micro-cacti from a plant nursery, you won’t need to worry about the planter, as the cactus will likely come in a perfect-sized one. If you plan on cultivating your own micro-cacti, you will need a planter that is no more than 0.5 inches larger in diameter than the plant itself.
Micro-cacti are grown in a mixture of sand and soil, to ensure proper drainage. The good news is, you only need about a teaspoon of pot mixture and, if you follow the instructions and the plants stay tiny, you won’t ever have to repot them. White sand – which looks like white crushed pebbles – is often used around the plant as a top layer that goes over the soil mixture, to ensure the water is slowly released into the soil.
Micro-cacti are acclimated to living in low light in nurseries, so when you take them home it is recommended to keep them in moderate light to help preserve their tiny size.
When it comes to watering, micro-cactuses require about 1 teaspoon of water every 2-4 weeks, depending on the species and growing conditions in your apartment.
Can I Cultivate Micro-cacti Myself?
The short answer is yes, you can theoretically cultivate micro-cacti at home, but the success rate may not be high as the process requires a lot of attention.
If they are not grown like this from the beginning, micro-cacti cultivation can be done using micro cuttings taken from grown cacti. To qualify as micro, only cuttings that are under 5 cm in height are used. This means these cuttings need to be removed from the mother plant as soon as they start growing.
The pot in which you grow micro-cacti is also important to help it keep its tiny size. If taken care of properly, most plants will grow as much as their container allows them to. This means if you want your plant to be small, you need a small pot. For micro-cacti, use pots that are approximately 2-3 cm in diameter and make sure the pot has a small hole at the bottom for proper water drainage.
Because most cacti and succulents need high drainage in order to prevent root rotting, it is recommended that you use soil that is specially mixed for them. This type of soil usually contains sand, to replicate the natural environment of these plants and allow the water to drain quickly.
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Water micro-cacti with a few drops of water every two to four weeks and keep them in moderate light to control their growth.
Luckily, you don’t need to go through this process by yourself, as there are quite a few options online where you can purchase these adorable little plants. Plant nurseries selling micro-cacti usually ship them with instructions attached on how to care for them, as well as what you need to do to keep your micro-cacti micro.
Plants have long been a popular choice for home decor, but it’s not just your imagination if you’ve seen an increase in the amount of greenery in your friends’ houses and your social media feed. Nowadays, it’s rare to go into an office without seeing at least one succulent, but the micro-cactus trend is among the hottest trends when it comes to planting, and it’s just as adorable as it sounds.
And, if one thing is for sure, you’re not succumbing to the micro-cacti craze alone, so you need no excuse to add some small green friends to liven up your indoor. And if you think these micro-cacti are too delicate for you, there are always plenty of regular cacti options you can choose from.
Are you growing micro-cacti? Let us know in the comments!