If there’s one plant that seems easy to grow, especially for newcomers trying to have houseplants, it’s cactus. It’s easy to see why. They are low maintenance and look gorgeous all year long. There are so many though that it is not easy to know which ones to start with.
What are the best types of cacti to grow indoors? This can vary from person to person, but most people agree that the best types of cacti to grow indoors include
- Star Cactus
- Bunny Ears
- Old Lady Cactus
- Fairy Castle Cacti
- Barrel Cacti
- Barbary Fig
- Moon Cactus
- Easter Cactus
- Ladyfinger Cactus
- Christmas Cactus
- Saguaro Cactus
- Queen of the Night
Finding the right cactus for your home can be a little tough, especially if you are new to growing plants. Each cactus has its own needs, blossoms, and aesthetics. Before you decide to buy, it is a good idea to know what you should look for.
The 13 Best Cacti to Grow Indoors
Are you looking to get your indoor gardening on, but don’t quite know where to begin with cacti? You are not alone. Thankfully, we decided to break down the perks, pitfalls, and needs of each type of indoor-friendly cactus to make the decision easier for you.
Star Cactus – Best for Desktop Growth
It’s hard to ignore the beauty of this petite flowering cactus type. These gorgeous cacti offer up white-yellow flowers with a red center when they hit their blooming season. Since they don’t grow too large, they are an ideal choice for desktop gardening.
These cacti reach a top diameter of six inches and spend their first two years as small, round, slightly star-shaped cacti. If you’re patient and care for your cactus, you should expect to see it blossom in two years.
Believe it or not, these cacti work well in the cold. They typically thrive from 20 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and require easy-draining soil. With a little watering and love, they will be amazing flowery companions.
Bunny Ears – Best for Statements
These humorously nicknamed cacti are a favorite in the American Southwest for both indoors and outdoors growing. Unlike the Star Cactus, Bunny Ears cactus grow to a reasonably large size. Depending on care and age, you can expect these clump-forming cacti to grow up to six feet in height and three feet in width.
Plant parents who are looking for a large, attention-grabbing cactus will like Bunny Ears. These cacti don’t have spines but do have pricks. When cared for properly, you can expect a small amount of milky yellow flowers, followed up with deep purple fruits.
Bunny Ears cacti are major sun lovers, so you will need a bunch of daylight to make these cacti blossom. To ensure that you get the gorgeous blooms you want, you’ll need to have indoor temperatures ranging from 55 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Old Lady Cactus – Best for Easy Care
Old Lady Cacti, also known as Mammillaria Hahniana, are one of the most popular types of cacti to grow in Central Mexico. Though it’s a favorite among modern homes, it still has a greyish, fuzzy appearance caused by its many, many spines.
Round and petite, the Old Lady Cactus is adorable with its petite four-inch high stature. When it’s in bloom, it shows off beautiful purple flowers that are bound to get compliments from those who visit.
This plant is an excellent indoor-outdoor cactus. It requires loads of sun, minimal watering, and time outdoors during the warmer months of the year. This makes it one of the best cacti for people who want a plant with minimal care.
Fairy Castle Cacti – Best for New Gardeners
With its traditional “cactus” appearance, the Fairy Castle Cactus is known for its multiple long stems and noticeable spines. Because it tends to look somewhat like a pint-sized building due to its bulkiness, people call it a “fairy castle.”
This beautiful cactus is a great option for people who are looking for a long-term project. Though you can buy them at a very petite size, these cacti can grow to a whopping six feet in height. They grow very slowly, so you won’t have to worry about them outgrowing your home for years.
If you’re interested in getting a Fairy Castle of your own, you should grab some cactus potting soil and expect to place it in full-grown sun. After ten years or so, you should expect to see some beautiful white blooms.
Barrel Cactus – Best for Low Nutrient Growers
Barrel cacti come in a wide range of sizes, but they all have the same cylindrical, ribbed, and spiny appearance in common. Most barrel cacti that are sold in stores don’t get too large in height, making them a great mid-size cactus that will draw attention with ease.
Among interior designers, they love the look of these cacti and their (typical) foot-long height. Among gardeners, barrel cacti are known for being exceptionally low maintenance, even among other cactus species.
These cacti require minimal (read: almost no) watering and do better in low-nutrient soil. These cacti are so easy to work with, you only need to fertilize them once a year!
Barbary Fig – Best for People Who Want Homegrown Food
The Barbary Fig is a unique cactus in the sense that it is a popular cactus to grow for commercial purposes. While it’s got the potential to reach a staggering 33 feet in height, it will stay petite if placed in a small pot. So, you have a lot of control when it comes to the size it grows to.
You might be wondering why commercial growers love the idea of growing Barbary Figs. The reason is simple: they are one of the few cacti that grow mouthwateringly delicious fruit in large quantities. Needless to say, having a Barbary Fig is a great addition to your kitchen!
If you want to get a Barbary Fig, you can expect to see beautiful red and yellow flowers shortly before this cactus bears fruit. Like most other cacti, these cacti work best with minimal watering and full sun. If possible, try to grow these in a hot climate since they require hot temperatures!
As for the actual fruit, they’re best peeled and eaten raw. Yum!
Moon Cactus – Best for Shady Homes
It’s hard to ignore the beauty of a moon cactus. These impressive cacti grow anywhere from one to eight inches in height. What makes them unique is that they take a lot of effort to seed, graft, and cultivate due to a novel mutation. Thankfully, growing them once they have sprouted is a cinch.
With their bright pink, orange, or yellow tops, moon cacti must be specially cultivated due to their inability to produce chlorophyll. Store-bought cacti are already made grafted and ready to produce chlorophyll, which is why they are your best option.
Moon cacti are one of the rare types of cacti that work well with shade. Too much sun can and will scorch them. Though they do not need too much sunlight, they will need a little heat. Temperatures as lower than 48 degrees will hurt them.
Easter Cactus – Best for Flower Lovers
Most cacti flower, but rarely enough that it’s a big deal when they do. This is not the case with Easter Cacti, which are known for their bright, beautiful, lotus-like flowers that shoot right out of its green stem. They have so many flowers that you would be forgiven if you mistook them for a regular flowerbed plant!
The thing about Easter Cacti you should be aware of is that they only flower two months in the year—April and May. However, they’re perennial and will bloom again and again. When cared for properly, you can expect these cacti to grow to a size of one square foot. That makes them great plants for smaller homes.
Considering their top blooming season, it’s unsurprising that they like warm-ish temperatures. Do not put them in direct sunlight, though, since the harsh sun can easily wilt those tender flowers. A better option would be to put them in bright, yet indirect natural sun—-much like what you would get from light through sheer curtains.
Ladyfinger Cactus – Best for Windowsills
With its petite “towers” of spiny greenery, it’s easy to see where the nickname of “ladyfinger” came from. They bear a remarkable similarity to the sandwich cookies. Unlike those popular cookies, these cacti bear pretty little flowers that will bring a splash of color to any home.
People looking for a small cactus that thrives in sun to partial shade are going to love the small, cute, and easy to care for fun that ladyfingers offer. This cactus requires minimal water during the summer. When it goes dormant in winter, you might not need to water it at all.
This cactus has strikingly similar needs to succulents, especially when you consider the low maintenance requirements. That makes it a great starter plant for people who just want a little windowsill beauty.
Dwarf Chin Cactus – Best for Heavy Shade
If there is one thing that this list proves, it’s that cacti rarely ever are just all green towers of spines. They have the propensity to have flowers and fruit that add serious color that can rival any rose, tulip, or peony. The Dwarf Chin Cactus is an excellent example of this in action.
Though these spiny cacti will only grow to a maximum of six inches, they pack a serious punch of beauty. When they are in full bloom, these cacti produce flowers that come in a wide range of colors—brilliant red, sunny yellow, rich salmon, and hot pink, just to name a few.
Surprisingly, these cacti do best in heavy shade. So, if you thought that you needed to have brightly lit areas to have a cactus inside your home, you’re wrong. The Dwarf Chin Cactus is a perfect pick for your indoor garden.
Christmas Cactus – Best for Wintery Cheer
The Christmas Cactus doesn’t get its name for its orange blooms atop its green spine. Rather, it gets its nickname from its tendency to bloom in the middle of winter, mostly in the middle of December. The stalks of these cacti droop over pots and have leaf-like folds, giving them a unique shape that raises eyebrows.
If you decided to go indoor gardening during the winter, this might be one of the few cacti you will see for sale. They are regularly offered up as Christmas centerpieces, particularly in the American Southwest. Finding them during other times of the year can prove to be a little tricky.
This cactus is unusual in that it needs a lot of lush, nutrient-rich soil to thrive. Aside from that, doing the routine of minimal water and moderate sunlight is all you need to make them happy.
Saguaro Cactus – Best for Traditionalists
When most people think of a cactus, they are thinking of a Saguaro cactus. These cacti are the tall, spiny plants that are typically tower above people when they’re left to grow out in the United States. Their reputation for being extremely tall often dissuades people from having them, but don’t dismiss them quite yet.
Saguaro cacti are known for being huge, but they start off incredibly petite. They also are notoriously slow growers, so the fear of having your cactus poke holes in your ceiling is unfounded. If you love petite cacti, you will love how cute Saguaros can be when they are young and placed in a small pot.
If you choose to get a Saguaro, you might need to be a little more involved than a typical cactus owner. You will need to house it in draining grit and give it minimal water. Lots of sun and warm weather are a must-have for these gentle giants.
Believe it or not, Saguaro cacti can blossom. However, chances are you will not see them bloom since it can take up to 35 years or more before a single blossom can happen.
Queen of the Night Cactus – Best for Night Owls
Cacti typically bloom in the daytime, but not this one. The Queen of the Night only will display its gorgeous flowers during nighttime. Despite the gothic name, the flowers on this home-friendly cactus are a beautiful, almost pearly white.
Like Saguaros, the Queen of the Night is a cactus species that has a reputation for being a tall grower—and rightfully so. These perennials can grow up to a whopping 10 feet tall if they are given enough space and time. These plants love shady areas that mimic the darkness of jungle floors.
When adding soil, make sure that your cactus gets a nice amount of ventilation. If you want then to bloom, make sure to add fertilizer to their soil once during the spring. These cacti are slow growers, so don’t be disappointed if they do not seem to noticeably grow.
Picking the Right Cacti for You
Every cactus is a little different in terms of maintenance, biological needs, and appearance. Some cacti are known for being a little on the plain side, while others are celebrated for their vibrant flowers. Some, such as the Barbary Fig, are noted for their edible fruits.
You cannot treat cacti like a “one size fits all” matter. If you want to choose a good cactus for your lifestyle, it’s important to consider these factors:
- Sunlight. Most cacti require bright, direct sunlight. If you live in a shady area, this limits the number of cacti you can grow. You might be better off with a Queen of the Night, or a Moon Cactus in those cases.
- Free Space. Cacti vary greatly in size. Some can be as tiny as an inch high. Others can grow up to dozens of feet tall. If you have limited space, it’s important to choose a cactus that “maxes out” at a small size or that grows exceptionally slowly.
- Temperature. Though some cacti can survive in temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, most require a temperature around 50 to 70 degrees to live. Some thrive in even higher daily temperatures, so placing your cactus near a heater might not be a bad idea.
- Blooms. Not all cactuses have flowers, though most of them do. If you are focused on aesthetics, then you might want to learn more about how each cactus blooms and what it means for your apartment or home’s look.
- Potting. Believe it or not, some cacti have a hard time sharing pots with others. For example, the Saguaros are famous for competing with other plants’ resources and killing them through nutrient draining. Other cacti work well in groups.
- Required Maintenance. Cacti might be low maintenance compared to most other types of plant life, but that does not mean they all have virtually no need for help. Some cacti are more demanding than others—especially when it comes to fertilization, water, or sunlight. If you are worried about being tight on time, getting a notably low-maintenance cactus is ideal.
What Are the Best Types of Cacti to Grow Indoors?
The best cacti for newbies all have a couple of traits in common. They are hardy, they require little water, and they are not going to grow too tall too quickly.
Are Cacti Safe to Have Around Pets?
Unlike other plants, cacti are generally not poisonous. This makes them a great choice for people who have pets that like to chew on things or kids who might be a little too curious for their own good. Though they might not be poisonous, they still aren’t for every household.
Some cacti have spines that harbor bacteria on their spikes, which can cause a variety of ailments. You should research the cactus’ toxicity before bringing it indoors if you’re concerned about poisonous plants near your pets or children. While most commercially sold cacti are not poisonous, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
What Do You Need to Grow Cactus?
Growing cactus is not as demanding as other flowers, like roses or orchids. That’s one of the reasons why they’re appealing to newbie gardeners and why busy homeowners tend to love having them around.
Though they are easy to grow, you still need to get supplies. While the distinct needs of each cactus species can vary, these supplies below are usually advisable:
- Clay Pots. Most cacti need to be in clay pots rather than plastic pots. The clay helps wick away excess moisture and keep soil dry.
- Cactus Soil. While some cacti can use regular potting soil or a mixture of sand and soil, getting quality soil designed with cacti in mind is usually ideal. If you cannot find cactus soil near you, most cactus types can also make do with potting soil that has small amounts of sand mixed in.
- Fertilizer. Though cacti don’t need a lot of nutrients in most cases, a little fertilizer is still necessary. This is doubly true if you want them to bloom.
- Gravel. This isn’t required, per se, but a lot of homeowners find that adding a light (or sparse) layer of multicolored gravel can help bring a new level of beauty to a potted cactus or succulent.
Are Cacti Safe to Have Around Kids?
Since cacti are generally prickly (unlike succulents), it’s important to make sure that any cacti you choose to raise will not be near klutzy people or near kids who might get reckless and prick themselves.
Certain age groups are at particular risk of getting pricked or having cactus-related injuries. If you are a parent to a toddler or children under the age of six, it’s best to consider getting plants other than a cactus.
Are There Any Types of Cacti You Should Avoid?
For the most part, commercial growers do not sell cacti that are openly dangerous or unusually high maintenance. If you are new to growing cacti, you should stick to common, mainstream species.
Exotic species are rare to find in households for a reason. They are often species that require extremely specific growing conditions, cannot be sprouted naturally, or are poisonous to the touch. There are also exotic cacti that cannot be grown indoors or transplanted into a different pot. That is usually why stores are hesitant to sell them.
It’s not always easy to know if a cactus is exotic or poisonous. If you are in a specialty store, the best thing you can do is ask some of the staff members to advise you on which cacti are better for indoor gardens or beginners.
Can You Plant Multiple Cacti in One Pot?
The general answer is yes, as long as the cactus types you choose are not known for competing for resources and are given ample space. Many cactus gardeners start out their indoor gardens with larger pots containing multiple types of cacti.
If you choose to go this route, make sure to choose cacti that require similar soil types. Otherwise, you might end up causing one plant to suffer due to improper potting. If you want to keep things on the safe side, it’s better to stick multiple plants of the same type in a single pot.
How to Keep Your Cactus Alive During the Winter
Cacti are perennials that are a lot hardier than people make them out to be. The worry about keeping them at high heat is often unfounded since most cacti only need to have an average temperature between 40- and 60-degrees Fahrenheit. Some can go even lower, with a minimum temperature of 20 degrees.
It’s a common misconception that cacti look the same year-round, Many, if not most, cacti go dormant in the winter. If you notice your cactus looking a little wilted or brown, do not panic. Check to see if it’s time for it to go dormant and reduce your watering schedule. With time, it will be able to bloom once more.
When you’re just starting your own indoor garden, getting a cactus seems like an easy way to get a splash of color for minimal effort—and it absolutely can be. When in a house filled with responsible individuals, owning one or more cacti can be a great way to have a low-maintenance indoor garden that makes a serious statement.
Choosing a cactus that is appropriate for your indoor garden isn’t something you should take lightly. While everyone loves Moon Cacti, Barbary Figs, and Saguaros, the space and conditions you have available to you will need to play a deciding factor in which plants you choose to get.
After you choose the right cacti, the rest of your indoor gardening journey is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is follow the care instructions your cactus comes with, and with time, you’ll be able to see beautiful cactus blossoms and enjoy your garden for years to come.