Cacti are one of the extraordinary plants. Most people prefer them and can be grown either indoors or outdoors. With proper care: watering when needed and having the right potting mix, your cactus can last for decades. They require minimal supervision and are ideal for aesthetics.
As I was researching on cactus species, I wanted to know which species are ideal for indoors and outdoors. I have compiled a list of 20 types of cacti that are ideal for your home.
1. Saguaro Cactus
Also known as Carnegiea gigantea, this particular species can grow to over 40ft/12m in height. The Saguaro is native to the Whipple Mountains, the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, Imperial County found in California and the Mexican State of Sonora.
It has a lengthy lifespan of approximately 150 years. Some may grow their first side arm after about 75-100 years. However, some don’t grow these arms and are referred to as Spear.
It starts flowering in between April and June. The flowers open after sunset and close mid-afternoon.
It can take about ten years for the Saguaro to reach 1 inch in height.
Their fruits are red and are often between 2.4 inches to 3.5 inches. They ripen in June and are edible.
Saguaros are barrel-shaped and have peripheral stems, which are the “arms.” The plant stores water, and the more it stores, the more it expands and becomes heavy. A foot of the Saguaro can weigh up to 90 pounds. A mature one can even weigh about or over a ton.
Watering cactus is an essential aspect of the plant as proper care needs to be taken for it to grow healthy. Water the Saguaro every 10 to 14 days. However, be sure to check if the soil still has moisture before watering it to avoid root rot.
The oldest Saguaro to live is the ‘Old Granddaddy,’ and it was 300 years old when it died.
2. Angel Wings
Also known as Bunny Ears or its scientific name Opuntia microdasys, the Angel wings cactus is native to northern and central Mexico. It is more of a dense-like shrub that’s usually40-60cm tall. The stems range from 6-15 cm long while 4-12 cm broad.
Unlike some other cacti, it has no spines but instead, has yellow or white glochids that are 2-3mm and in clutters. The glochids are thinner than the human hairs and detach when touched. Upon touching, they can cause skin irritation.
The Angel Wings cactus has no central leaves or stems but has individual segments that contain the cactus body. The sections grow in pairs which the new growth resembles bunny ears.
Budding always begins late spring and produces flowers that are 2 inches. The flowers are yellow but slowly fade to peach once they are fertilized.
Since this is a desert cactus, regularly water it when in a new pot to from strong roots. Don’t water it during winter.
Its fruits are safe to eat but should be handled with care, especially when repotting.
3. Rat Tail Cactus
The Disocactus flagelliformis or the Aporocactus flagelliformis is native to Mexico. It can be grown indoors, outdoors, or in greenhouses. It is quite a distinctive species whose long trailing stems branch out and are about 1-2 m long and 8-24mm thick.
The cactus flowers during spring and summer and they are usually red, violet, pink or orange. The flowers are generally 2 inches, which last for a few days.
Due to its trailing stems, the rat tail cactus is grown in hanging pots. It’s easy to propagate it by cuttings as the stems grow so fast.
Full light is necessary for this species. Make sure your pot/container is near or on a south or west-facing window. During summer, when the cactus is blooming, ensure the potting soil is moist. However, during winter, water sparingly; when the soil is dry.
For the temperature, your cactus is just fine at room temperature during summer, spring, and early autumn. However, during winter, keep the cactus in a more relaxed setting.
4. Christmas Cactus
Just as the name suggests, the Christmas Cactus blooms around Christmas. It has hanging branches that are green and flat about 3ft tall.
The flowers are commonly red, lilac, yellow, pink, and white. They are usually 3 inches long. Native to coastal parts of Brazil, this cactus prefers a humid climate.
Christmas Cactus is scientifically referred to Schlumbergera. Proper care will help you see the tips of leaves starting to grow. The tips will then begin turning darker until buds appear. Around Christmas time, the buds will then open to beautiful flowers which are perfect for the season.
They do well in natural light but avoid direct sunlight to encourage blooming. Water them every 3-4 weeks. Only water when the pot is dry on your touch. It requires more water when flowering.
The type of soil you use should contain leaf matter and debris as this is what they feed on. If you want to propagate, do so 2-3 months after flowering.
For them to bloom, they’ll need 12-14 hours of complete darkness daily.
5. Barrel Cactus
Barrel cacti are not just one species but various species belonging to two genera, Ferocactus and Echinocactus. They are native to southwestern North America. Some species reach over 1 meter in height at maturity. Others have been known to reach 3 meters in some areas. They are 30cm wide.
They have a lifespan of an average of 100 years. Naturally, barrel cactus live in extreme heat and direct sun, and it’s only natural to try and mimic the same conditions indoors.
Barrel cacti are muffin-shaped and often pop out over the edges of their pots. You can easily distinguish it because of its elongated fruits and wavy ribs.
The flowers that bloom in April tend to be yellow, orange or purple and are up to 8cm across. The spines can go up to 10cm long. They grow in a circular shape on top of the cactus when it is quite old.
For barrel cactus to bloom, they need full sunlight during spring and summer. Direct sunlight can make them become stunted and sunburned and fail to thrive, which is why they are perfect indoors because you can control the amount of light they are getting.
Due to adapting to arid conditions, their water requirements are not high, and you can even get away with watering every 2-3 months. Unlike other types of cacti, the barrel ones are hard to check for water because their shape almost covers the whole pot and it’s easy to get pricked.
What kills most barrel cacti is overwatering. Only water when you think it’s essential to avoid root rot.
Place your cactus on a south-facing window, and it does best without humidity. You can also add some cactus fertilizer during the growing season. Propagation is by seed.
6. Old Lady Cactus
Old Lady Cactus, commonly known as Mammillaria hahniana, is a powder puff species which grows in arid areas. It is native to central Mexico. It is capable of growing 10inches/25cm by 20inches/50cm broad. The width being 12cm. White spines usually cover it.
The Old Lady Cactus is quite popular. As much as it is found in arid areas, it makes a perfect indoor plant as well. You just need to place it in a sunny place in the brightest spot in the room and avoid overwatering it. A south-facing window is perfect.
It blooms in spring and summer producing red or purple flowers with them being about 0.6 inches/15mm in diameter. It needs 4-6 hours daily for it to thrive.
Make sure when choosing a cactus soil, you get a porous one, one that drains quickly to avoid the roots sitting in water for an extended period. Make sure you add perlite into the mix. You can use potassium fertilizer once during summer.
Only water when the soil is almost dry. It could be weekly or biweekly depending on its requirements. Avoid watering during winter unless the plant needs it.
If you want to propagate, use the offsets that often form clusters on the base of the main plant. Remove the offset and let it dry in a few days so that it forms a callous. Once it forms, you can plant it in a new pot.
7. Bishop’s Cap
Also known as bishop’s hat or bishop’s miter cactus, this particular species is native to the highlands of northeastern and central Mexico.
Its scientific name is Astrophytum myriostigma. The word astrophytum is Greek meaning star plant. Physically, it has about three to seven vertical ribs which define its star-like shape when young. As it matures, the ribs may increase in number and become more cylindrical.
The bishop’s cap grows to about 70-100cm tall with a 10-20cm diameter. The flower which is usually daisy-like appears on top of the cactus. It is typically a maximum of 2inches in diameter.
The cactus blooms in early spring. It produces one or more flowers and is usually creamy yellow with a red or orange base. It can take up to six years to flower. Each of its flowers blooms after every two days.
For the young plants, the bishop’s cap can’t take intense light, which is why it is perfect indoors. Never place them under the full sun.
These types of cacti don’t require a lot of water. Only water frequently during summer and avoid watering at all during winter.
8. Moon Cactus
The moon cactus has a scientific name, Gymnocalycium mihanovichii. The species is native to Paraguay and Argentina. They are found in South America as well.
Moon cacti are also referred to as Ruby Ball, Red Hibotan, Hibotan cacti or Red Hibotan. What makes them stand out is their red, pink, orange, or yellow colors. The colors are usually ball-shaped, making them look like balls with thorns that sit on another green-colored cactus. It’s more of a two-in-one kind of plant.
This particular species comes in numerous varieties. What’s frequently found is the mutant of cultivated ones where the colors are only viable if they are grafted because they don’t assimilate because of lack of chlorophyll. In most nurseries, it’s grafted onto another green cactus that has chlorophyll. The plants reach both a heigh and a diameter of 3-5cm while the flowers are 4-5cm wide.
This type of cactus does not require a lot of water. Only water it when the soil feels dry. Don’t water during winter unless it’s a young moon cactus but even on these occasions, water minimally.
For sunlight, they thrive best in bright but avoid direct sunlight. It; s great for beginners as it is a low maintenance cactus.
1. Prickly Pear Cactus
The Prickly Pear Cactus is also known as Opuntia. The prickly pears (fruits) are referred to as Tuna, and the pads are Nopals.
The cactus can grow to a height of about 5-7m, which is equivalent to 16-23ft with spines of 2.5cm. Some are spineless as well.
Opuntia is only native to the Americas. They are available in various parts of the world and are in abundance in Mexico (central and western areas & West Indies), United States (in drought-prone Western and The south-central regions) and Canada (southern and western) among other areas.
The Tuna is a typical delicacy in Mexico. The fruits come in various colors: red, yellow-orange, wine-red, or green and can be eaten raw depending on how ripe they are. The pads are also edible; they require thorough cleaning before incorporating them into your meals. The nopales are used in numerous Mexican dishes such as eggs and salads.
When it comes to propagating, you only need the stem segment. Make sure you plant in spring or summer for better results.
When caring for your cactus, it doesn’t need pruning. Make sure to get the right potting mix with porous soil that drains quickly to avoid water resting in for long. For newly propagated pads, don’t water for the first month. After that, you can water every 2-4 weeks.
Growth may be slow after propagating and may take 3-4 years before it produces many flowers.
As mentioned, the pads are edible — harvest about ⅓ of the pads to keep your plant healthy. The pads are best cut in the mid-morning since the acid content is usually low.
Place the Opuntia where light is maximum as it requires ample sunlight. For hotter climates, have a partial shade for them to avoid scorching. If you plant them outside in garden soil, no fertilizer is needed.
These cacti bloom mid-spring all the way to mid-summer.
2. Jumping Cholla Cactus
Also known as the hanging cholla, it is native to the South Western United States and Sonora. Scientifically known as Cylindropuntia fulgida grows at elevations of 300 to 1,000m. The jumping cholla is tree-like grow to heights of 4m/13ft.Their wart-like projections on their stems measure between 6-9mm. Their flowers range from pink, white and lavender and are about an inch wide.
The name, ‘Jumping Cholla’ comes from the ease at which the stems will detach upon the slightest touch. Their sharp spines will attach themselves to animals and people where they get dispersed. Upon dispersing, when people remove them and throw them on the ground, they easily root there.
Chollas do well in slightly acidic soil with an approximate pH of 6. The best potting mix to use for these cacti is one with grit and sand. Just like other cacti that have spines, be cautious when repotting as they may end up sticking on you. Get a pair of leather gloves and a newspaper to ensure you have no contact with them.
They need as much light as possible and do well in greenhouses where there’s partial shade. Always check the soil for moisture before watering. If it’s moist, wait till it dries to avoid overwatering.
3. Old Man Cactus
Image from Red Bubble
As hilarious as the name sounds, you may think it doesn’t exist, but the truth is, this cactus does exist. The cactus s native to Hidalgo and Guanajuato in eastern Mexico.
Otherwise known as Cephalocereus senilis it is a columnar species that has clusters of stems that grow between 5-15m tall. What’s striking about this species is the shaggy coat of some long and white hairs that resemble unkempt hair of an older man, hence the name.
It usually takes a long time before flowering, which can take place anywhere between 10-20 years. The flowers are generally yellow, red or white and bloom at night. They bloom in spring.
It grows well in Mediterranean climates, and it loves well-draining soil hence the need to have a good mixture.
The best way to grow it is from seeds as it may be hard to get its cuttings. Old man cactus is slow-growing and may take about a three-month germination period, which is why purchasing a grown away could be an easier option.
This species loves bright light and heat and needs a lot of special care. Allow the soil to dry before watering the plant thoroughly.
4. Organ Pipe Cactus
Also known as Pitaya, this particular species is native to the United States and Mexico. They are mostly found in rocky deserts.
Scientifically known as Stenocereus thurberi, has several stems that grow from one short trunk and rising vertically. The stems are usually 15cm/6inches thick with an average height of 4.9m/16ft while others reach between 23and 26ft.
Older plants have funnel-shaped flowers that open at night and close during the day. They are usually white and are 8cm for the older plants. The flowers grow around April, May, and June.
What’s interesting is that they bear fruits as big as a tennis ball with people claiming it tastes better than a watermelon.
Grow the cactus in gritty,well-drained soils. In the case you are growing them in a container, you can mix one part perlite, one part sand, and one part potting soil. Since it is found in the hot sunny areas, ensure it accesses full sunlight.
In early spring, water it regularly but look out for indications of overwatering.
The organ pipe has an estimated lifespan of 150 years.
5. Peanut Cactus
A peanut cactus can both be grown indoors or outside. Scientifically known as Echinopsis chamaecereus, this cactus is native to Argentina.
It has long stems that are about 1cm/0.4inches wide and orange flowers that are about 4cm/6inches wide. The flowers appear in late spring. They can grow up to 15cm/6inches tall.
This particular cactus is quite popular in gardens of hot areas and have a high growth rate. Some of these areas are Arizona, Texas, and California.
Peanut cacti are susceptible to rot, and they need to be watered only when the top inches of the soil are extremely dry. You can use a stick and dip it into the soil, if some remnants of wet soil stick to it then don’t water the plant.
Also, give it as much sunlight as possible as it prefers hot temperatures.
6. Silver Torch Cactus
The Silver Torch Cactus which is also referred to as snow pole and wooly torch, is native to the mountain regions in Argentina and Bolivia. With a height of 3m/9.8ft, they have grey/green columns that are quite erect and slender with only 6cm/2.5inches across.
Its scientific name is Cleistocactus strausii. The perfect soil is a highly-draining one. It requires strong sunlight but not high temperatures. Full sunlight is needed several hours a day for it to bloom. Surprisingly, it can withstand a frost of -10 °C.
Naturally, it needs plenty of water during summer and none at all during the winter. Some of the older plants produce deep red and burgundy flowers in summer.
7. Kingcup Cactus
Kingcup cactus is a species of the hedgehog cactus. Scientifically referred to Echinocereus triglochidiatus, it is native to northern Mexico and the southwestern United States.
Some other commonly referred names are claret cup or Mojave mound cactus.
One distinct feature is that it forms a bulbous pile of hundreds of cylindrical stems. It is somehow wooly.
The flowers, which are usually orange-red or scarlet red bloom up to 8-9cm wide in late spring. They prefer a little bit of moisture, some partial sunlight and porous soil that drain water quickly.
8. Barbados Gooseberry
Some of its common names are blade-apple cactus, Barbados gooseberry, rose cactus, leaf cactus, and lemon vine. Scientifically, it is known as Pereskia aculeata.
The cactus is native to tropical America. Its leaves and fruits are both edible as they contain iron, protein, among other nutrients. Unlike other cacti, this particular species has a vine that grows up to 10m/33ft tall. The stems are 2-3cm thick.
Flowers of the Barbados gooseberry are either pink, white or cream with them being 2.5-5cm/0.98-1.97inches. They are mostly outdoor plants because of their shrubby growth. Their preference is dry areas, and you don’t need to repot them regularly.
When it comes to watering them, you need to be careful not to overwater. They’d rather be underwatered than excess water because the chances of rotting are higher.
9. Queen of the Night Cactus
The Queen of the Night Cactus-Epiphyllum oxypetalum-is also referred to as Dutchman’s pipe cactus.
Native to Southern Mexico and some areas of South America, it is a fast-growing plant that flowers late spring all through to summer. The stems are of two types; we have the primary stems that grow to be 6m long while the secondary stems are flat and grow 30cm x 10-12cm.
They only bloom at night and wilt just before dawn. Flowers are usually white and have a sweet scent and are 30cm long by 17cm wide. Their fruits are purple-red.
Make sure you feed them the morning sun but avoid the afternoon sun because their leaves can quickly get scorched. If possible, keep them under a shade. They prefer mild winters but hate overwatering.
10. Mexican Fence Post Cactus
The Pachycereus marginatus is a slow-growing plant with a height of between 3.7m/12ft and 6.1m/20ft. The stems are 9-10cm/3-4inches in diameter.
As it matures up, it grows numerous ‘arms.’ The name comes from the fact that in several Mexican homes, it’s used as a fence.
The plant blooms in spring and produces red and yellow fruits with black seeds. You can plant it against the wall of your house. Mexican fence post cactus requires full sunlight with partial shade and porous soil.
Water occasionally during the hot, dry months.
11. Totem Pole Cactus
The Pachycereus schottii f. Monstrosus is a smooth-skinned plant with no visible spines. It is a columnar cactus that grows 3.6m/12ft tall. It has small bumps that give the plant an overall look of a carved image.
The plant is a night bloomer that produces light pink flowers that open in the evening and close by mid-morning. They produce red fruits that are egg-shaped and are edible.
These plants are low maintenance and can practically grow even when left uncared for. They love a partial shade as opposed to direct sunlight. Ensure they are under a shade but shield it from extremely cold temperatures. You can even keep them inside during winter.
Only water them on need-basis.
12. Blue Candle Cactus
Also named whortleberry cactus and bilberry cactus, it is a large shrubby cactus that grows 4-5m in height. The stems have a diameter ranging 6-10cm.
The flowers have a diameter of 2-2.5cm and are usually creamy white. The fruits are dark purple and are edible. This particular species is quite popular in Mexico for consumption.
Don’t expose them to temperatures below 25°F as they may die. They are low-maintenance and always allow the soil to dry out before watering them.
Its scientific name is Myrtillocactus geometrizans.
All the above species are all great. Some are low maintenance, while others require a bit of attention. Before choosing what you want, make sure you go through this list to ensure you make an informed decision.