How Long Can an Indoor Cactus Go Without Water?

Taking care of certain plants can be tricky at times. Some need continuous water while others can last a good while in between waterings. Cacti are different because they’re known not to need a lot of water. So just how long can an indoor cactus go without water?

An indoor cactus can go about 3 – 4 months without water. The exact time varies depending on the environment and type of cactus. Going this far in between waterings is not recommended, though.

This article will discuss how to keep your cactus alive without overwatering it, the correct amount of water required, and some great indoor cactus options.

Why Do Cacti Not Need a Lot of Water?

Cacti do not need a lot of water since they are native to the desert where water is scarce and it’s extremely dry. So they are accustomed to not receiving much water. Cacti need some amount of water, but they can go very long periods without it and still live.

Cacti have a unique system for storing water. They have thick stems that can keep water until it’s needed. These plants also have a thick protective layer to keep them from losing any moisture. So, they can pull water from the storage as needed.

The prickly spines on a cactus are actually its leaves. While the spikes protect them from predators, they also stop water from evaporating so the plant can store it. According to MitCity Farms, some cacti can hold up to 200 gallons of water (758.02 liters).

Small Space Gardening reports that desert cacti can go up to  two years without water because they’re used to the harsh dry conditions. However, since indoor cacti aren’t used to a desert environment, they need to be watered more frequently than those growing in the wild. Also, depending on the type of cactus, it may need to be watered more or less. 

If your indoor cactus had to go without water for 3 to 4 months, it would still be okay, but this is not recommended. 

Watering Your Indoor Cactus

When watering your cactus, there are a few factors to consider. 

  • Age 
  • Location
  • Season
  • Type of cactus

These factors will determine the length of time in between watering. For a majority of cactus species, they need to be watered every 10 days in the warmer months and once every 4 to 6 weeks in the colder months.

A good rule to go by is to make sure the soil dries out completely in between waterings. This will ensure you don’t overwater your cactus, which could cause it to die. If your cactus is starting out, you’ll need to water it a little more often since it’s still growing. An adult cactus shouldn’t need as much water since growth has come to a halt. 

Make sure you keep your cactus in a dry area where it will get lots of sun. Most cacti species do not enjoy the shade and require a lot of sunlight.

Your cactus won’t die if it goes a while without getting water. As noted, most indoor cacti can go 3 – 4 months without water; however, this is advisable because it could adversely affect the plant’s overall health. If you miss a few waterings though, your cactus should be just fine.

How To Water a Cactus

Although you can pour some water on top of the soil, there’s a better method for watering your cactus. Considering that cacti store water in their roots, it is best to soak them in water to allow them to absorb what they can.

Make sure the pot has holes on the bottom so that water can drain out. You’ll want to set the pot with the cactus on a saucer or a bowl containing water and let the roots soak up the water it needs. 

You can also soak the entire plant until water starts coming out of the bottom. That way, the cactus can pull the water when needed from the soil, and you can go longer in between waterings. 

What To Do if You Overwater Your Cactus

If you went a little overboard on the watering, halt watering for a bit and do these few things to save your cactus.

  • Drain excess water: Make sure all the excess water has drained from the plant. If the water isn’t draining correctly, you may want to switch flower pots.
  • Move the cactus: You’ll want to move the plant to where it can get more sunlight. The extra sunlight will help dry out some of that excess water.
  • Check for root rot: When there is too much water, plants can get root rot. Carefully take the cactus out of the pot and inspect the roots. If you notice root rot, trim off the affected part.

Report: If you notice signs of root rot, you’ll want to change flower pots and get one with a good draining system. Before repotting, let the plant air out for a day or two on some newspaper. You’ll also want to get a fungicide to spray on the roots to eliminate any remnants of root rot.

If you’re unsure how to tell if your cactus is overwatered, check for black or brown spots, dullness of plant color, and a bad rotting smell. These are all signs your cactus has received too much water.

Best Indoor Cacti

When getting a cactus for your home, you want to ensure you get the right type that can survive indoors. Here are several that do lovely indoors.

  • Star cactus: These are small cacti that, you guessed it, are star-shaped with white or yellow flowers that spring up during the blooming season. These cacti do well in cooler temperatures and need a good draining soil and pot with little watering.
  • Bunny ear cactus: Much like its name, this cactus resembles bunny ears and does well both indoors and outdoors. However, this isn’t a plant you can put on your desk. The cactus can grow up to 6 feet (1.83 m) tall. So be prepared to make some room for when it grows. The bunny ear cactus also has yellow flowers that will bloom, and they need lots of sunlight.
  • Barrel cactus: This cactus has a round-like shape with lots of spines all over it. They are an in-between size, ideal for those who don’t want anything super tiny or large. The barrel cactus requires little to no watering making it very easy to care for.
  • Moon cactus: This cute cactus comes in various pink, yellow, and orange circular tops, making it a great addition to your home. The cacti can be anywhere from 1-8 inches  ( 2.54 – 20.32 cm) in height. They actually prefer shade over sunlight, so don’t put them on the windowsill.


An indoor cactus can go without water for about 3 to 4 months. Some species of cacti, like those found in the desert, can go up to two years without any water at all if they have to. 

A cactus has a unique system to absorb and store water for when it needs it so it doesn’t need to be watered as often as other plants do. Additionally, cacti need to dry out between waterings for about 7 to 10 days. Get a good draining pot to place your cactus and watch out for signs of overwatering.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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