Fertilize Your Cactus in Spring

Q: Peter,

Mom asked (as we live right down the road in Santa Cruz) when, roughly, we can assume the various cacti are out of their winter dormancy. I know this varies according to the individual species but as we have over 40 different ones, we’re just looking for some general guidelines here. Normally we stop feeding in Oct and start again in May. Are we doing this right?

Thanks again,


A: Sondra,

It is a good rule of thumb to wait until May to fertilize cacti, and stopping in October (Stop in September in colder climates). Succulents, on the other hand, may be winter-growers and would be on a different schedule.

At the nursery, we like to start fertilizing as early as possible, and so it varies each year. This year it looks like we’re now coming out of winter, with only occasional rain still to come, so we’ll start feeding some of the winter-stressed cacti in mid-March with kelp meal, adding our own cactus meal fertilizer in mid April.

Neem seed meal is another good spring fertilizer helping to protect against root fungus while feeding the plant for increased green growth and bud set.


Bonus: Here’s my very short instructional video about cactus and winter stress.

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