15 Amazing Uses and Benefits of Cactus Plants

Cactus plants add a fantastic architectural feel to any houseplant collection. Plus, cactus plants also have several incredible uses and benefits, such as purifying the air and providing a wealth of symbolic value. In this article, I’ll go through 15 amazing uses and benefits of cactus plants.

Amazing Uses and Benefits of Cactus Plants

About Cactus Plants

Cactus plants are a group of spiny succulents from the Cactaceae family, which contains approximately 1,750 species. The vast majority of cactus plants are native to parts of the Americas. However, one or two species are native to parts of Africa.

As succulents, cactus plants have a fleshy texture that allows them to store water. Cactus plants are also covered in spines that emerge from bulbous structures called areoles. Most cactus plants also produce colorful, tubular flowers that usually open at night.

Cactus plants come in several shapes, sizes, and types. Some cactus plants, like barrel cacti, have a low-growing, rounded shape. Others, like the famous Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), have a tall, tree-like growth habit.

15 Amazing Uses and Benefits of Cactus Plants:

1) Cacti Are Fantastic Ornamental Plants

Due to their diverse appearances, cactus plants offer astounding variety as ornamental plants. Many cactus plants have a lot of architectural appeal due to their rounded or tree-like forms. Different cacti also have different spines, offering even more variety.

Many cactus plants that are sold as houseplants are reasonably compact. This allows you to easily collect a few different ones. In the right conditions, some cacti may even produce colorful flowers.

2) Cactus Plants May Help Purify the Air

Cactus Plants May Help Purify the Air

Cactus plants can also help purify the air in our homes. Like many plants, cactus plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Cactus plants can also help remove potentially harmful chemicals known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air.

VOCs are produced by household items, including adhesives, cleaning products, paint, and vinyl floors. Some studies that have examined the health risks posed by VOCs have linked these compounds to an increased risk of cancer.

3) Cactus Plants May Have Health Benefits

Some types of cactus plants, like the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica), may have medicinal benefits. Prickly pear cacti are usually used to make a jelly with antiviral properties. According to some research, prickly pear cacti may also help protect our nerve cells.

When ingested safely, prickly pear cacti also provide lots of antioxidants. These cactus plants may also help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.

4) Some Cactus Plants Have Culinary Uses

Some Cactus Plants Have Culinary Uses

In many Native and South American cultures, cactus plants were primarily grown as crops. As such, eating cactus fruits and pads provides several nutritional benefits.

Cactus plants are packed with several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium. Cactus pads are frequently boiled or roasted, while cactus fruits can usually be eaten raw. Just remember to remove the spines and skins before consuming any part of a cactus plant.

5) Cacti May Help Improve Productivity

Cactus plants could also help you sharpen your focus and improve your productivity. One study monitored whether office workers in the Netherlands and the UK were more productive with plants nearby.

According to the data, the participants recorded a 15% spike in productivity when indoor plants were nearby. The participants also felt less stressed and more engaged with their work. So, cactus plants could be a good addition to your home office.

6) Cactus Plants Could Improve Your Sleep

Having cactus plants nearby could also improve your sleep. Studies conducted on astronauts in long-term isolation indicate that plants can help us sleep better. Cactus plants can also help purify the air in our bedrooms, reducing the presence of VOCs.

According to the data in one experiment, participants slept more soundly when they could see or smell plants. The participants were able to regulate their central nervous systems better and had lower cortisol levels.

7) Cactus Plants May Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Cactus Plants May Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety

As well as their nutritional benefits, cactus plants are also good for our mental health. According to some studies, interacting with plants can help reduce stress and anxiety, helping us feel happier.

Two groups of 24 young men had their stress levels monitored when working at a computer or repotting a houseplant. The participants who worked with the plant were less stressed and also demonstrated lower blood pressure.

8) Cactus Plants Act Like Natural Soundproofing

Cactus plants can also improve the acoustics in our homes by acting like natural soundproofing. Most plants can absorb sound waves through their leaves and trunks. Some studies have shown that plants can actually outperform many other soundproofing materials when used as living walls.

However, cactus plants take this to a whole new level. Cacti are relatively dense and have a larger surface area than many other plants, allowing them to absorb more sound.

9) Cacti Are Pretty Easy to Grow

Although cactus plants may seem daunting, many of them are actually pretty easy to grow. Cactus plants can thrive for several years if their basic requirements are met.

Cactus plants need approximately six hours of bright, indirect sunlight every day. Positioning cactus plants near south-facing windows provides the ideal amount of light. Cactus plants also require low to moderate humidity levels and temperatures between 65 and 85ºF.

10) Cactus Plants Don’t Need a Lot of Water

Cactus Plants Don't Need a Lot of Water

Cactus plants are specifically adapted to conserve water. Cactus plants store water in their succulent trunks, allowing them to survive droughts. Many cacti also release excess water at night, minimizing water loss.

Even when growing indoors, cactus plants don’t need a lot of water. Water cactus plants when at least 90% of the soil is dry. This usually means watering them every ten days or so during spring and summer.

11) Cacti Come in Several Types

One of the main benefits of cactus plants is their sheer variety. The Cactaceae family contains approximately 1,750 species, which are divided between nearly 130 genera. As such, cactus plants offer a fantastic range of shapes and sizes.

Popular cacti species include the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera spp.), the fishbone cactus (Disocactus anguliger), and the feather cactus (Mammillaria plumosa). Many of these cacti can be grown easily at home.

12) Cactus Plants Thrive in Arid Soils

Due to their ability to conserve water, cactus plants thrive in hot, arid climates. Some types of cacti can even survive in South America’s Atacama Desert. As such, cactus plants grow best in loose, nutrient-poor soils with fast drainage.

You can buy pre-made cactus soil mixes or create your own blend. Use an equal mix of standard potting mix and some coarse sand or fine grit supplemented with perlite.

13) Cactus Plants Can Be Grown Outdoors

Cactus Plants Can Be Grown Outdoors

Although usually grown as houseplants, many types of cactus plants can also be grown outdoors. Most cactus plants will thrive outdoors in USDA Zones 5 to 11, depending on the exact species.

Cactus plants need loose, well-draining soils and at least six hours of full sun daily. Cactus plants are also ideal for xeriscape gardens that rely on minimizing water usage.

14) Cacti Are Deer-Resistant

Cactus plants are also highly deer-resistant thanks to their fleshy texture and rows of spines. Even the most hungry or inquisitive deer will avoid cactus plants once they’re aware of the spines.

As such, cactus plants can be a great way to protect more vulnerable plants from grazing deer. Planting a barrier of cacti in front of vulnerable plants deters deer from foraging.

15) Cacti Are Symbolic Plants

Cactus plants symbolize different qualities in different cultures. Cactus plants usually symbolize endurance, strength, and resilience in the face of adversity. Cacti may also represent chastity and purity.

In some Native American cultures, cacti like the Saguaro cactus were seen as sacred. The Saguaro cactus blossom is also the official state flower of Arizona.

Cactus Plant Uses and Benefits – Wrapping Up

Cactus plants have an astounding range of uses and benefits. These plants are easy to grow and come in several types. What’s more, cactus plants may also help purify the air and reduce stress. Some cactus plants are edible and could potentially have medicinal or nutritional benefits.

Contributing Editor | edd@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.

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