Cactus Type: The 10 Most Popular On Earth

Discover 10 most popular cactus species on earth. Learn how to grow and propagate Moon, Ladyfinger, Easter, Old Lady, Bunny Ear, Blue Columnar, Star, Golden Barrel, Fairy Castle, and Saguaro cacti

Many people are looking to incorporate green spaces in their homes. Fortunately, one doesn’t need to have a green thumb to do just that. Cacti and succulents are easy to care for and are low-maintenance options for those who want to add a touch of green but have difficulty keeping regular plants alive or those who simply don’t have the time to tend to a garden.

What are the most popular types of cactus? The most popular types of cactus as listed by cactus enthusiasts and cactus growing sites include:

  • Moon cactus
  • Ladyfinger cactus
  • Easter cactus
  • Old lady cactus
  • Bunny ear cactus
  • Blue columnar cactus
  • Star cactus
  • Barrel cactus
  • Fairy castle cactus
  • Saguaro cactus

What makes them popular? We will talk about each one in detail and how easy or difficult they are to care for and propagate.

1. Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii)

A Moon cacti.
Moon cacti with spherical shape and vibrant red color, which can flourish in warm and dry environments

Moon cactus, also known as Hibotan cactus or ruby ball cactus, is a hybrid and grafted variety of cactus. It is one of the most popular and easiest to recognize because of its perfectly spherical shape with thorns and bright colors, due mainly to its inability to produce chlorophyll. Its inability to photosynthesize means that the moon cactus needs to be grafted onto a compatible rootstock that produces plenty of chlorophyll upon which the moon cactus can sustain itself.

These cacti come in vibrant shades like red, orange, yellow, peach, and purple. They are most commonly grafted onto rootstocks like Hylocereus and Stenocereus. They also make perfect gift plants because they are small, generally an inch in diameter.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

Moon Cacti are native to the deserts of South America. They can be found anywhere warm, dry, and sunny because they are easy to cultivate and propagate. Moon Cacti thrive in temperatures at least 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

These cacti love bright but indirect sunlight. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can be harmful to them. As such, they are best placed in a shaded area or under taller plants where sunlight cannot penetrate directly. You can also take them indoors and put them in a spot where they are shielded from sunlight during the brightest time of the day.

It is best to bring your Moon Cacti indoors during the winter, especially when the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, cover them up with a light blanket to protect them from the cold weather. Otherwise, they will freeze when the cold weather gets harder.

Water requirements are minimal. You will need to water your moon cacti deeply and allow the soil to dry entirely at the base before you water again. Overwatering would cause root rot. During the winter, we recommend that you stop watering your adult moon cacti completely.  If you have a young Moon Cacti, give it just a bit of water.

Moon Cacti love shallow pots with proper drainage holes. It is also recommended that you put a thin layer of gravel into the bottom of your pot to better drain the water.

How to Propagate

You can start propagating your moon cactus when a baby sphere appears on the surface.  Multiple spheres usually appear at the same time. Wait for these baby spheres to grow large enough and carefully nip them off the mother sphere.

Prepare your rootstock by slicing off its top portion. Make sure your rootstock is already well-rooted and stable and planted in a pot with excellent drainage. Slice off the bottom of your baby sphere and graft it onto the rootstock.

Check out this video to know how grafting a Moon Cactus is done:

2. Ladyfinger Cactus (Mammillaria elongata)

A top view of Mammillaria Elongata.
Mammillaria Elongata, known as a Ladyfinger Cactus, is a cactus with finger-like stems of cylindrical shape

Also called gold lace cactus, ladyfinger cactus is a petite cactus with clustered cylindrical and finger-like stems that grow only up to 6 inches tall and 1.2 inches in diameter. While it grows slowly, this plant is easy to care for.  If you provide it with enough light, it grows well when placed indoors.

This cactus has an invariable number of curved spines that vary from white to brown to golden yellow. It flowers in spring and the blooms, usually one centimeter in diameter, are either white, pinkish, or pale yellow.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

Ladyfinger is native to central Mexico but is now cultivated in other countries with a warm and sunny climate.

This cactus loves partial to full sun. So plant it in a spot that gets about four hours of sunlight each day. Moreover, ladyfinger cactus is not cold hardy, so if you live in a place that can get colder than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, plant it in a container and keep it indoors. Just make sure that it gets lots of sunlight. In the winter, the Ladyfinger goes dormant, so you can water it sparingly to prevent rotting.

Ladyfinger cacti do not need frequent watering. It is best to use the soak-and-dry method, where you soak the soil completely in water and then let the soil completely dry out before you water it again. That also means that you should plant them in well-draining soil in a pot with a sufficient drainage hole.

While most other cacti have ribs that serve as storage devices, ladyfingers have raised tubercules, where the spines emerge. The flowers will also bloom from the axils of the tubercles on the previous year’s growth. During watering, these tubercules will expand to store water.

How to Propagate

You can propagate ladyfingers from cuttings. Gently pull away one of the cylindrical stems from the clump or use a cutting knife to break a stem off. Wait several days for the end of the cut stem to callous over before you plant it in well-draining soil.

3. Easter Cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri)

A flowering easter cactus,
Easter cactus is pretty similar to Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti, but it is native to drier forests

The Easter cactus, which is also called Spring cactus, is a segmented type of cactus that blooms at certain times of the year, specifically around late winter to early spring.  Since this coincides with several winter holidays, it is called a holiday plant. Other holiday plants include the Christmas cactus, which blooms during the winter holidays, and the Thanksgiving cactus.

The holiday plants are all hybrids of the Brazilian forest cactus. But while the Christmas and Thanksgiving varieties are from the rainforests of Brazil, the Easter cactus is from drier forests.

The Easter cactus is unique as it has flattened stems or segments, which also serve as the leaves. These segments are lightly serrated on their edges. Its star-shaped flowers come in a range of colors, from white to pink, to peach, to orange, to purple. These blooms open at sunrise, and they last for several weeks.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

People growing Easter cacti would say that it can be a bit of a prima donna. These plants tend to act up, dropping entire segments, if they are not watered correctly and refusing to flower for years if they do not feel like it.

Easter cacti love being in bright, but indirect, sunlight. And unlike dessert cactus species, Easter cacti need cooler temperatures. When exposed to nighttime temperatures in the 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit range, they will have an easier time setting buds and blooming. They also flower more easily and abundantly in February and March.  If you want to see those blooms, water them sparingly in October and November.

With Easter cacti, you would need to keep the soil lightly moist and wait for it to dry out before you water them again. Proper care for Easter cacti also requires that you re-pot them every couple of years in spring. They love being in pots, so you can just change the soil and plant them again in the same pot.

If your area is dry, make sure to provide these cacti some humidity. Place each pot on top of a saucer or tray filled with pebbles and a little water. The evaporation will provide moisture in the air around the plants.

You can fertilize Easter cacti after they flower.

Growth and Propagation

Easter cacti are slow but steady growers. They tend to spread out rather than grow tall.

To propagate your Easter cactus, cut off a part of the stems with two or three segments. Allow the cut to dry for a couple of days and insert it a few centimeters into a pot with soil. Make sure to plant it with the lower segment on the soil and the upper segment at the top.

Keep the newly planted cuttings slightly moist.

4. Old Lady Cactus (Mammillaria hahniana)

A Mammillaria Hahniana plant with a reddish-purple flower.
Mammillaria Hahniana, also called Old Lady Cactus, is gorgeous cactus with reddish-purple flowers

Old Lady cactus is a powder puff-looking type of cactus that is popular because of its attractive lone spherical stems covered in sharp white spines and white down. It is made even more unique by its pretty reddish-purple flowers that form a crown or halo on top. Cactus enthusiasts love having this kind of cactus in their collection because it is easy to care for.

This plant can grow up to 4 inches tall and 8 inches in diameter. It may, however, evolve to grow up to 10 inches tall over several years. This cactus hates being alone and often produces new spheres, thus growing in groups.

The Mammillaria family has around 200 species of cacti, and most of them are native to Mexico.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

Old Lady cacti are known to be an outdoor variety, but they can thrive indoors, too. They love dry and hot conditions, with minimal water, so it is still best to keep them outside where they can get lots of sunlight. Generally, they would need around four to six hours of sunlight a day for long-term health. But during the hottest time of the day or a heatwave, you may want to keep them in bright, partial shade to avoid sun damage.

If you choose to keep them indoors, just be sure to place them in a warm and sunny area, typically by the window. However, keep in mind that the spot by the window is cooler during the cold months. As such, don’t hesitate to move your old ladies around to more suitable locations as the seasons and the temperatures change.

Moreover, the plant goes dormant during the winter. So not a lot of growth takes place around this time. Their growth peaks during the spring and summer.

We recommend that you wait for the soil to become completely dry before watering it again.

Old Lady cacti also thrive in soil rich in potassium. So add in a potassium fertilizer during the summer months.

How to Propagate

To propagate your old lady cactus, start by gently removing offsets from the mother plant. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your fingers from the sharp spines. Allow the newly cut offset to dry out and wait for a scab-like growth over the area where you had cut it.

Plant the calloused end into the soil. Place the pot in a bright spot without direct sunlight and water once a week or when the soil is dry. Allow the new plant to establish itself before placing it in direct sunlight.

5. Bunny Ear Cactus (Opuntia microdasys)

A Opuntia Microdasys.
Made up of individual oval-shaped segments, Opuntia Microdasys is among the low-maintenance cacti

Bunny Ear cactus, also known as Angel’s Wings and Polka-dot Cactus, originated from northern Mexico and the desert regions that stretch to Arizona. This cactus has no central stem, and its body is made up of individual oval-shaped segments. New segments form on top of existing segments, and they usually come in pairs, just like a bunny’s pair of ears.

The new segment growths are usually red, but they turn dark green as they mature and are covered with closely spaced polka-dot-like glochids, which are tiny mounds of prickles. These fuzzy glochids resemble bunny hair.  They are loosely attached, so a strong breeze can easily blow them off.

Flowers, meanwhile, sprout from the terminal ends of the Bunny Ear’s segments. Budding starts in late spring, and flowers bloom in early summer. Its 2-inch-wide flowers are creamy yellow that fades to peach. They will eventually turn into 2-inch-long purplish-red fruits.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

Bunny Ears are low-maintenance, and growing them is easy and straightforward, especially if you are living in a dry place with low humidity and plenty of sunlight. You only need to water them when the top of the soil gets dry. However, you need to keep in mind that they need consistent moisture in the spring and summer.

Bunny Ears love full sunlight during the spring and summer. During the winter season, their exposure to sunlight should be reduced to partial. Because Bunny Ears love low-humidity conditions, you might consider getting a dehumidifier in the room if you are keeping them indoors.

Use pots with good drainage holes to allow water to drain properly, and make sure to remove excess water from the tray if you are using one. In the fall and winter, you can water sparingly, like every three to four weeks.

The ideal temperature for Bunny Ears is 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, during the cold months, they will also require lower temperatures of 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They need this cooler spell throughout the entire winter when the segments turn light gray.

Growth and Propagation

In their native habitat, Bunny Ears grow up to 2 to 3 feet tall with a spread of 4 to 5 feet. When grown at home, they are slow-growing plants that can reach 2 feet tall and spread to 2 feet. They make excellent container plants.

You can propagate them by removing a segment off a segment from the plant. Wait for the end to callus for a few days then plant it an inch deep into the soil. Water regularly. New roots will shoot within a few weeks. Cuttings work best during early summer and when done in groups of three or more.

As for fertilizing your bunny ears, you can apply a diluted cactus formula or houseplant food every other water period in the spring and summer with a diluted houseplant food or cactus formula.

6. Blue Columnar Cactus (Pilosocereus pachycladus)

A Blue Columnar cactus in a orange pot.
Blue Columnar cactus native to warm countries is a tall tree-like cactus with greenish-blue, turquoise color

The Pilosocereus genus of columnar cacti originated in Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean, and other warm countries. Those who would like their cacti big and majestic would love the Blue Columnar cactus. This popular tree-like cactus can grow up to 33 feet tall and develop a distinct light blue-green or turquoise trunk with plenty of erected branches that can grow to 4.4 inches in diameter.

 The surface of the cactus will be covered with areoles, where long, white bristles grow out. The spines of this cactus are translucent with an orange or yellowish hue that turn to gray as they mature. Blue Columnar cactus flowers are funnel-shaped and are up to 3 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. These flowers are usually white, green, and reddish outer segments.

This cactus type is popular because of its color and size, its hardiness, and low maintenance.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

If you want this cactus to grow to its full splendor, plant it on the ground. This kind of cactus tends to do better outdoors because it needs plenty of direct sunlight and space. It would outgrow containers faster than your average cactus, so keeping it in a pot may mean having to continuously upgrade to a bigger pot.

This plant also needs slightly more water than most other cactus species, especially during the summer. And while you need to make sure the soil is well-drained and does not contain sphagnum moss and other water-retaining organic material, you should keep it moist during the growing season.

The Blue Columnar cactus thrives best in hot temperatures. But it can tolerate temperatures of at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Propagate

This cactus can be propagated easily from cuttings. Just sever a branch and let the cut end dry out and callous. Then plant it in moist and well-drained soil.

7. Star Cactus (Astrophytum asterias)

A top view of a Star Cactus.
Star Cactus is a spinless cactus of grayish-brown color, which is divided into 5-8 sections

The Star Cactus goes by many names: Sand Dollar Cactus, Sea-urchin Cactus, and Star Peyote. It is a spineless cactus with a chubby round body that looks like a sand dollar. It has gently ridged sides that are covered with tiny white dots. Its body is divided into five or eight sections, each lined with little clumps of fine white hairs.

This cactus, which originated from Mexico, is green to grayish-brown. It can grow 2 to 6 inches in diameter. With proper care, it can give you a 3-inch yellow flower on top around March to May. This flower can turn to gray, pink, or reddish berries or drupes with wooly hair in late spring.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

People love this cactus because it is easy to grow and thrives on neglect, thanks to its excellent water storage capacity. However, it still needs to be watered occasionally. Depending on specific environmental conditions, you can water it two to four weeks apart. If left dry for too long, its body will turn brown and flatten out. During the winter, however, you will need to water ever more sparingly as the plant is dormant.

This cactus loves being kept in a pot so that you can take it indoors. You just need to make sure its container has good drainage and does not keep excess moisture. You should also make sure it gets direct sunlight for a few hours each day.

While the Star Cactus loves the sun, it can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Propagate

The only way to propagate Star Cacti is through seeds. The seeds need to be planted as soon as you harvest them, as this boosts their chance of germinating and producing new plants.

Just remember to keep the soil moist from germination up to when the baby cacti are ready to be transplanted to their own pots. Ideally, you can transplant them when they are half an inch tall.

8. Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

A golden barrel cactus.
Golden Barrel cactus is characterized by the spherical body and yellow lowers growing in mid-summer

The Golden Barrel cactus is popular due to its exotic appearance and hardy nature. It is native to arid desert regions but is now rarely found in the wild. Instead, it is commonly seen in gardens and homes across North America and Europe.

This cactus has a spherical shape with deeply ribbed lobes and is coated with evenly spaced rows of golden spines, making it look like a pincushion. It is almost perfectly round when it is young, but as it matures, it usually stretches and becomes more oval.  It can grow up to three feet in height and diameter. Its bright yellow, funnel-shaped flower blooms from the crown in mid-summer. And when it is fertilized, the flower produces a fleshy yellow fruit that bears seeds.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

This cactus grows best outdoors as it loves the sun. However, at the height of summer, move it away from direct southern sunlight to prevent it from getting burnt. You can also grow it in a pot and keep it indoors if it is in a bright, sunny, and warm room. The only drawback to growing it inside the house is that it makes it unlikely for the plant to produce flowers.

We suggest you water your Golden Barrel once a week during the summer. Adequate water in springtime would encourage it to flower. In the winter, however, the plant is dormant and won’t need much watering. Water it only once between December and February.

Keep your Barrel Cactus at low to moderate temperatures during the day, specifically between 50- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit on average. Do not expose your cactus to a temperature that is lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit as extreme cold and frost could kill it. Moreover, this cactus does best without humidity, although it is fine in a regular household environment.

This cactus grows naturally in low-fertility soil, so it has low nutrient needs. As such, fertilize it with a low-nitrogen liquid fertilizer only once a year, particularly at the start of its growing season in spring, after its dormant state.

How to Propagate

Golden Barrel cacti are usually propagated by seed. Plant the seeds just below the surface in a cactus mix and keep the potting medium warm and moist slightly. The seeds will readily germinate. When the seedlings are big enough, you can transplant them into a larger container.

9. Fairy Castle Cactus (Acanthocereus tetragonus)

A fairy castle  cactus.
Fairy Castle cactus is a tall columnar cactus with lots of curved branches making up a castle-like shape

The Fairy Castle cactus is native to North America, Central America, northern South America, and the Caribbean. It is a tall, columnar cactus that produces many curved branches resembling castle turrets.

This slow-growing cactus is easy to care for. It can reach up to 6 feet, and the stems are five-sided with spines along each plane and have woolly bases. The turret-like limbs are bright green, and they turn a darker, brownish shade as they age. The Fairy Castle produces large white or yellow flowers, but this happens rarely and not until the cactus is at least ten years old.

The Fairy Castle Cactus is popular among beginners and is often sold as an indoor cactus.

Water, Temperature, and Sunlight Requirements

Fairy Castle cacti love partial sun and partial shade. As such, if you are growing them indoors, place them in a bright and sunny area, away from air conditioning and drafts.

This cactus is not cold hardy.  If the temperatures get below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, you should take it inside the house. It actively grows in spring and the fall.

When watering, wait until the water comes out of the container’s drainage holes to ensure it’s been done thoroughly. Allow the soil to dry out completely before you water your Fairy Castles again. You can cut the watering in half during the winter as they stay dormant.

How to Propagate

You can propagate Fairy Castle cactus by seeds or by stem cuttings. For cuttings, simply sever a stem from the main plant using a knife, wait several days for the cut stem to dry out and harden, then plant in moist and well-drained soil. Water using the soak and dry method and allow the new cactus to form roots before transplanting it.

Propagating through seeds is not recommended as this cactus is a slow grower. But if your plant has already produced a fruit, you can harvest the seeds and sow them in well-draining soil.

10. Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)

A full grown Saguaro cactus.
Saguaro is a giant cactus with smooth and waxy skin, which grows from 15 to 60 feet in height

The Saguaro is a tree-like cactus species that can grow to a great height, anywhere from 15 to 60 feet. It is made up of a tall, fluted columnar stem that can go as thick as 24 inches. It has a smooth and waxy skin, and its trunk and arms have two-inch spines clustered on its ribs. Saguaros feature pleats that expand like an accordion when they drink water and contract as they use up this water supply.

This cactus is a very slow-growing plant that takes five to seven decades before its barrel-like body would start growing its first arm. This means that the adult Saguaros you see in photos, with several arms curving upward, are at least 125 years old. The average old Saguaro boasts five arms and a length of 30 feet.

Saguaro cacti only grow in the arid Sonoran Desert, which covers parts of California, Arizona, and Northwestern Mexico. Saguaro flowers are the state flower of Arizona. While this cactus can only be found in this region, it is one of the most popular and recognizable cactus species, as shown in many movies.

Its flowers are creamy-white with yellow centers. They are three inches wide and usually bloom in May and June during cooler desert nights. These flowers are clustered near the end of the arms.

Additionally, Saguaros are an essential part of the desert’s ecology, both as a food source and as a habitat.

Saguaro Cactus Care

Saguaros are found in areas of the Sonoran Desert that don’t get freezing temperatures.  Also, they cannot be found in areas beyond 4,000 feet above sea level. As such, they can only survive on the south slopes.

Taking a Saguaro home is illegal, so you cannot exactly grow one. Besides, an adult saguaro is estimated to weigh six tons.  Hydrated, it weighs even more.  It is impossible to care for one in your backyard.

Bottom Line

There you have it—our top 10 cactus types.  If any of these appeal to you, we are sure you will be able to get your hands on them if you look hard enough.  Whatever kind you get, you’re sure to enjoy it.

Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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