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We've had this cactus along with 4 others for nearly 2 years and it's been transplanted to cactus soil and watered and kept in a warm sunny spot and now it's drooping badly. Has anybody got any advice or should I just stake if better than my makeshift job. Thanks

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  • It is in a large window facing south west with plenty of sunshine. Do cacti need even more light than this? Thanks Commented May 30, 2017 at 22:21
  • Not enough exercise or food? ;)
    – Jude
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 4:26

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You've got to remember that even next to a sunny window, the light is coming from one direction only. In nature outside, light is bounced all over the place and the only direction it doesn't come from is straight down.

You've also got to remember the pupils in our eyes open wide to let in more light when it's not as bright. To our brain, a moderate amount of light with wide open pupils will look just as bright as full sun with pinpoint pupils. There's no such adaption on plants.

I suggest to everyone who has a smart phone (who doesn't now?) and loves houseplants to download a free light meter app. It might not be as highly accurate as those meant for photography but it will give you an idea just how dim the light is where a houseplant is placed. Many houseplant sites will give optimal light intensity (measured in LUX) for different houseplants. Until one really knows light intensities well, it's a useful tool to have.

When a plant's not growing at its full potential (lower light level or other causes), they shouldn't be watered as often. They don't need as much water, regardless of the plant, nor do they need as frequent fertilizing.

If it's impossible to give your plant a brighter location, you might want to try what I've done - not for a housplant but to develop strong sturdy seedlings - but it'll work for your cactus. Cut out a square or rectangle of cardboard, wider and taller than your plant. Glue or tape aluminum foil to one side of the cardboard so the dull side is hidden. Place that behind your plant so some sunlight will bounce to the back of the plant. Every week or two, turn the plant around so both side will get the same amount of light. Fold part of the cardboard so the plant sits on it holding it in place and rig up cardboard or whatever to keep the vertical part upright.

I did a crude drawing on my phone to show what I mean. Sunlight is yellow, cardboard is brown and foil is grey. I hope my description and drawing is understandable. Drawing Setup

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In addition to the light issue mentioned above it is most likely that you keep your cacti too warm and maybe too moist in winter. That causes elongated growth. You should water your cacti only maybe once every 4-6 weeks during winter and keep them in a cold (5 - 15 degrees celsius - it depends on the kind of cactus, in your case opuntia which is quite tolerant) and light place. A typical suggestion is a southern window in an unheated stairway.

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I don't know about for cacti, but I have some thoughts that may help you, with regard to spindliness.

Light, is, of course, a big issue, but others have covered that (I believe that's probably your issue). However, some cacti do well as houseplants, without loads of light (I'm not sure what kind yours is; you might want to ask for an ID on it in another question if you don't know). Anyway, if plants don't have enough light, they may reach for it.

Your temperatures may have something to do with it. I don't know about cacti, but for such as tomato seedlings, cooler night-time temperatures can help them not to be spindly. Deserts generally have cool nights and hot days; so, I imagine most cacti are used to that.

Excess nitrogen (without a proper balance of other nutrients) may also be the culprit. It may cause an excess of growth, and make the plant weaker. (The link is about nitrates specifically, but I believe other forms of nitrogen may also cause the same or similar issues.) Excess water may also be an issue (I believe that may increase nitrogen availability, too.)

Also, you may be interested to know that phosphorus affects leaf size. I'm not sure how that would work out with cactus pads, but you may want to get a soil test and see if anything is amiss.

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