Cacti are a very popular and unique plant with a distinct appearance. They are growing in popularity as houseplants since they require little care. In the past few years, many at-home gardens have started to feature cacti and succulents. Unlike other plants that require a lot of maintenance, cacti only need to be watered once every week or two. If you’ve been looking to start an at-home garden, a few cacti are the best way to start.
Although many believe cacti and succulents to be the same thing, they actually differ from each other. While both cacti and succulents store water in their stem or foliage, cacti include areoles. The spines and hair that are a characteristic feature of cacti grow from these areoles.
Cacti are desert plants, but they can thrive in home environments as well. There are many types of cacti like indoor, outdoor, flowering, and non-flowering. We have compiled a list of some of the best cacti to feature in your at-home garden. Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
1. Moon Cactus
The Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii), also called Hibotan cactus, is native to South America. These cacti come in various colors like red, yellow, and pink since they lack chlorophyll. The moon cactus is usually attached to another cactus that produces chlorophyll using grafting techniques. This small and colorful indoor cactus adds a splash of color to any space.
2. Star Cactus
The Star Cactus (Astrophytum asterias), also called sand dollar cactus, sea urchin cactus, and star peyote, is native to Mexico. They are a type of indoor flowering cacti. The Star Cactus usually blooms between the months of March and May. Its flowers are a combination of yellow, orange, and red. During late spring, the flowers turn into gray, pink, reddish, or green oval berries.
3. Feather Cactus
The Feather Cactus (Mammillaria plumosa) is a flowering cactus native to Northeast Mexico. The feather-like protrusions on the cactus may look soft but they hide sharp spines. They give the cactus a distinctive look but also protect it from the heat of the sun. Feather Cacti bloom all year long in some regions and produce white, yellow, or pink flowers.
4. Ball Cactus
The Ball Cactus (Parodia magnifica) is an eyecatching and easy-to-grow cactus. Native to South America, these cacti grow in clusters that can be a foot wide. Compared to other cacti, the Ball Cactus can withstand much lower temperatures. The spines of the Ball cactus turn yellow-brown with age. It produces beautiful yellow, red, pink, or orange flowers.
5. Bunny Ears Cactus
The Bunny Ears Cactus (Opuntia microdasys), also called angel’s wings cactus, polka-dot cactus, and golden bristle cactus, is a popular addition to many home gardens due to its unique and distinctive shape. This cactus thrives in dry climates with low humidity. Rather than spikes, it features glochids which are short prickles. The Bunny Ears Cactus is native to Central and Northern Mexico where it grows abundantly.
The Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) is probably what most people imagine when they think of desert cacti. This tree-like columnar cactus is the largest in the United States. As they age, the Saguaro cacti develop branch-like limbs. In late spring, this cactus produces white flowers. The flowers turn into red fruit in summer. Saguaro cactus can live up to a hundred and fifty to two hundred years.
7. Easter Cactus
The Easter Cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri) is native to the Brazilian rainforest. It has a unique appearance due to its flattened stems that produce flowers. The Easter Cactus blooms during late winter or early spring and is a common holiday gift. The flowers may either be white, red, lavender, peach, orange, or pink.
8. Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cacti (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) are popular houseplants due to their distinctive appearance and vibrant flowers. When in bloom, it produces flowers that are either pink or lilac. Unlike desert cacti, the Christmas Cactus grows in Brazilian rainforests. As a result, it thrives indoors where there is more moisture and less sunlight. With a bit of care, Christmas cacti make excellent indoor plants.
9. Thanksgiving Cactus
The Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), also called crab cactus, is another variety of flowering cacti native to the Brazilian rainforest. These cacti bloom between November to December and sometimes through January. The leaves of this cactus are rectangle-shaped with pointy hooks along the sides and at the end. The Thanksgiving Cactus bears beautiful satiny flowers that are pink or lilac.
10. Golden Barrel Cactus
The Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii), also called golden ball or mother-in-law’s cushion, is a popular houseplant native to east-central Mexico. It has a rounded shape with yellow needles that grow in clusters along the ribs of the cactus. When fully developed, the cactus forms a discreet ring on top. The Golden Barrel cactus adds texture and color to any landscape.
11. Old Lady Cactus
The Old Lady Cactus (Mammillaria hahniana) is a flowering cactus native to central Mexico. In appearance, the Old Lady cactus is similar to a Feather cactus but less fluffy. It features spherical stems covered in white spines. As the cactus matures, other spheres also sprout to give the plant a unique look. When spring comes around, this cactus grows reddish pink flowers.
12. Chin Cactus
Gymnocalycium, commonly called chin cacti, is a species of flowering cactus. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes with alluring and brightly colored flowers. Chin cacti are native to South America, namely Argentina, Paraguay, southern Bolivia, and certain parts of Brazil and Uruguay. The Chin cactus works well as an ornamental houseplant but should only be kept indoors.
13. Ladyfinger Cactus
The Ladyfinger Cactus (Mammillaria elongate), also called gold lace cactus, is a flowering cactus native to central Mexico. The cactus’ name refers to its elongated and golden yellow to brown spines. The spines of the cactus grow in tight clusters and are cylindrical in shape. In spring, the Ladyfinger cactus produces white, yellow, or pink flowers.
14. Fairy Castle Cactus
The Fairy Castle Cactus (Acanthocereus tetragonus), also called night-blooming cereus, barbed-wire cactus, and triangle cactus, is a slow-growing cactus. It is a columnar cactus native to central America, Mexico, southern United States, the Caribbean, and northern South America. The name refers to the asymmetrical spines of the cactus, which grow in tight clusters.
15. Bishop’s Cap Cactus
The Bishop’s Cap Cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma), also called Bishop’s cap and Bishop’s miter cactus, is a cactus plant native to the highlands of central and northeastern Mexico. This spineless cactus is safe to plant indoors even if you have pets and children. When mature, the Bishop’s Cap cactus grows daisy-like flowers. The flowers are yellow with a red-orange center and have a pleasant smell.
16. Queen of The Night
The Queen of The Night cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum), also called the Dutchman’s pipe cactus, Orchid cactus, and Princess of the night, is an extraordinary and majestic cactus plant native to the Mexican tropical rainforests. It has spineless stems and large, heavily fragrant flowers. The cactus rarely blooms but is a sight to see when it does. The large flowers bloom nocturnally and wilt by the morning.
17. Totem Pole Cactus
The Totem Pole Cactus (Pachycereus schottii monstrous) gets its name due to warts and bumps on its smooth surface. These carbuncles give it a distinctive appearance similar to a totem pole. It is a slow-growing cactus native to regions from Baja to Mexico. The plant grows upright and has no spines. The curves on its skin help the Totem Pole cactus retain water.
18. Nopal Cactus
Nopal cactus, popularly known as the Prickly pear cactus, is flat-stemmed cactus native to Mexico. Both the pads of this cactus and its fruit are regularly consumed as part of the Mexican diet. The health benefits include regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels. If you want to plant a Nopal cactus, it will do well outdoors.
19. Cholla Cactus
Cholla cactus refers to a variety of cacti native to North American deserts. These shrub-like cacti have cylindrical stems with segmented joints. Like other cacti, the Cholla cactus has sharp spines, but its distinctive appearance is achieved due to the colorful papery sheath that covers the spines. The cactus bears orange or yellow-green flowers in April through June.
20. African Milk Tree
The African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona) is a succulent native to Central Africa. It has various names, including friendship cactus, good luck plant, and cathedral cactus. This fast-growing cactus lives a long time and offers enthusiastic growth. Its size varies based on whether it is grown indoors or outdoors. The most popular variety of the African Milk Tree is the Royal Red or Rubra cultivar.
21. Blue Columnar Cactus
The Blue Columnar Cactus (Pilosocereus pachycladus) is a common houseplant native to Mexico, Brazil, and the Caribbean. It is a large cactus with branches that bear daisy-like flowers when in bloom. The Blue Columnar cactus has a distinctive blue-green skin complemented by bright yellow spines. You can grow this cactus both indoors and outdoors.
22. Powder Puff Cactus
The Powder Puff Cactus (Mammillaria bocasana), also called Powder puff cushion, is a small, round cactus native to Mexico. It is a common variety that grows rapidly and bears flowers. The Powder Puff cactus looks like a cluster of blue-green spheres covered with silky white hair. When in bloom, it bears small white or red flowers that grow in a halo shape.
23. California Barrel Cactus
The California Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) has many names including Desert barrel cactus and miner’s compass. It is native to southern United States and Mexico. It is either cylindrical or spherical in shape with bright red spines when young. The cactus bears picturesque yellow flowers with yellow or red centers.
24. Strawberry Cactus
The Strawberry Cactus (Echinocereus Enneacanthus) will make a wonderful addition to your home garden. It is a beautiful cactus with deep green stems, When in bloom, the cactus bears funnel-shaped flowers that are either reddish purple or pink. Although this is a small cactus, it needs strong sunlight so it is better to plant it outdoors or keep it on a windowsill that gets ample sunlight throughout the day.
25. Arizona Barrel Cactus
The Arizona Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni), also called Southwestern barrel cactus, fishhook barrel cactus, compass barrel cactus, and candy barrel cactus, is a flowering cactus native to the southern United States and northern Mexico. It is best suited for outdoor gardens since it grows tall, up to ten feet high. When mature, the cactus produces orange, yellow, or red flowers that form a halo on top.
26. Hedgehog Cactus
The Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) is a low-growing succulent variety native to the southwestern United States. It is also called Engelmann’s hedgehog cactus, after the botanist and physician George Engelmann. The cactus grows as a clump of light green stems. The cactus gets its name due to its short spines which resemble a hedgehog’s spines. The Hedgehog cactus bears vibrant magenta, pink, lavender, or purple flowers and edible fruit.
27. Beehive Cactus
The Beehive Cactus (Escobaria vivipara) is the most widespread cactus found in the United States. Due to its high frost tolerance, it is one of the only four species of cacti found from Mexico all the way to Canada. The Beehive cactus is an excellent option for your outdoor garden if you live in a cold, dry climate. The cactus grows as a globe or cylinder with fine, dark spines. When in bloom, the Beehive Cactus bears bright pink flowers.
28. Beavertail Cactus
The Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris), or beavertail pricklypear cactus, is a cactus species native to southwestern United States. The cactus gets its name from its wide and flat gray-blue stems that resemble beaver tails.
The plant grows as a cluster of flat stems that extend outward. Instead of long spines, the stems feature tiny bristles. At the top edges of the stems, the Beavertail cactus bears eyecatching rose-purple flowers. These flowers turn into spineless brownish-gray fruits. The Beavertail cactus is a great addition to cactus gardens, Mediterranean gardens, and rock gardens.
29. Brain Cactus
The Brain Cactus (Mammillaria elongata ‘Cristata’) is a succulent native to central Mexico. It is a rare form of the Ladyfinger cactus which generally grows straight. Due to the mutation to its center of growth, the cactus grows in a unique crested shape that resembles the human brain. This cactus would be perfect as a Halloween decoration but can be an unusual addition to any home garden.
30. Button Cactus
The Button Cactus (Epithelantha micromeris) are a unique-looking cactus that are native to Madagascar. They make a great addition to cacti and rock gardens, but can also be hung around the house in little baskets. It looks like a small, round ball covered in fuzz. Since the gray spines grow thick over the surface, you can barely see the green skin of the cactus.
31. Calico Cactus
The Calico Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) is commonly found in desert areas of southwestern United States and Mexico. It is a rare variety, commonly sought by cactus collectors. The Calico cactus grows as a cluster of stems with flowers at the upper end. It bears vibrant magenta flowers that turn into spiny fruit.
32. Rat Tail Cactus
The Rat Tail Cactus (Aporocactus flagelliformis) is one of the most popular varieties of cacti. It is an eyecatching cactus native to southwestern Mexico and some regions of Central America. Its long trailing stems that resemble rat tails are the reason for its name. The Rat Tail cactus is best planted in a hanging basket since the stems grow long. It also bears beautiful large flowers in pink and orange color.
A small cacti plant can spruce up any space. Although it can be a little overwhelming to choose from the wide variety of options you will find. When looking for cacti to feature in your home garden, there are certain things you must consider. There are many types of cacti suited for an indoor or outdoor garden.
Types of Cacti
When one thinks of cacti, they probably imagine a simple barrel cactus. However, the cacti family is very diverse with many options for your home. There are around 2000 species of cacti, each with their unique shapes and features. If you would like to add cacti to your home garden, consider the following types.
Cacti are a wonderful addition to any home. Although known for their love of sunlight, cacti can also grow and thrive in indoor environments. Indoor cacti are small and need less light, so they will do well placed on a windowsill.
It’s best to keep your indoor cacti on a windowsill or in a room that gets a lot of natural light. There are various indoor cacti, such as the Christmas and Easter cactus.
Want to spruce up your outdoor garden? Planting some outdoor cacti is an excellent way to give your garden a fresh look. They will do well in any yard, depending on the weather conditions. Outdoor cacti come in various shapes, so combine each type to give your garden a distinctive look. The common types of outdoor cacti include Barrel, Columnar, and Prickly Pear cacti.
If you are worried about rain or wet soil affecting your cacti, you can plant them in pots. This gives you the freedom to move your cacti indoors if weather conditions get rough. However, if you live in a dry, hot climate like Arizona’s, plant your cacti in the ground and you’re good to go. Outdoor cacti are just as easy to care for as indoor cacti. With a bit of care, these houseplants can last hundreds of years.
When thinking of flowers, one rarely imagines a flowering cactus. Not only do flowering cacti look incredible in any garden, but they are relatively easy to care for.
With other flowering plants, you need to adjust the soil and ensure they get enough water. When you have a flowering cactus, you get a beautiful plant and vibrant flowers with only a fraction of the care you’d put into other plants. Most flowering cacti bloom all year round, but some bloom during specific seasons. You also have the option of diurnal and nocturnal varieties. Regardless of whichever flowering cacti you plant, it will surely add color and personality to your garden.
Non-flowering cacti are the most common variety available. They are easy to care for plus you don’t have to worry about when they bloom. Water them once every week or two and you’re good to go. Non-flowering cacti come in various shades, shapes, and sizes.
How to Plant A Cactus
When planting a cactus, keep the following tips in mind.
1. The Right Container
Getting the right container is essential to maintain your cactus’ health. If you live in a desert region, you can plant the cactus into the ground, but most people prefer planting in containers. A container provides you more control and flexibility than planting your cactus in the ground. In case weather conditions become harsh, you can move your cactus inside.
To choose a suitable container for your cactus, consider its size and root length. If you have a cactus that will grow large over time, get a bigger container. Most cacti have long roots, so a deeper container is better. There are many options to choose from, so don’t worry about planting your cactus in a boring pot.
2. Soil Conditions
If you live in a desert region with an arid climate, the soil conditions will be optimal for cacti. However, if you’re planting your cactus in a container, get the right soil. Most plant stores and garden centers offer a “cactus mix” containing the nutrients your cactus needs. Cacti also need a high amount of peat, an element that can hold moisture. Since cacti absorb and retain water for an extended time, they need soil capable of doing the same.
3. Light Conditions
Keep your cactus in a room with ample natural light or a windowsill. If you’re planting it outside, plant your cactus in a spot with enough light. Cacti do not need direct sunlight and a brightly lit room is enough. If kept in direct sunlight for too long, your cactus can turn yellow.
You don’t need to water your cacti more than once every week or two. They need a minimum amount of water to thrive. To check if your cactus needs water, simply stick a chopstick deep into the soil. If it feels moist or the soil clings to it, there is no need to water your cactus. Ensure your cactus’ container has a drainage hole. Standing water can damage your cactus, so drain any pots and saucers underneath.
5. Plants vs. Seeds
Cacti take a long time to grow, even several years. If you want to grow a cactus from scratch, it will take a long time so stick to plants. Purchase a few cacti plants of your choice from a local nursery and pot them with cactus potting mix instead of getting seeds.
How often do I need to water my cactus?
All cacti can store water in their stems and are used to dry climates. As a result, they don’t need much water to grow and thrive. How often you need to water your cactus varies by species, but it is certainly not often. For most types of cacti, watering your cactus once every week or two is generally enough.
What is the best cactus for my home garden?
There are many factors you should consider before planting a cactus in your indoor garden. If you are planting cacti in pots, there will be no issues unless the climate in your area is unsuitable. The best cactus for your home garden should be well-suited for your garden’s soil and water conditions.
Where should I put my indoor cactus?
You can place your indoor cactus on a windowsill or in any room that gets ample natural light. For some cacti, it is essential not to put them in direct sunlight. The intense light can turn some cacti yellow.
How will my cactus do in winter?
Most cacti do not fare well in cold weather conditions. However, certain types of cacti can survive in cold areas. These types will do well in a dry winter rather than one with snow. For most cacti, the lowest temperature they can withstand is the freezing point.
Can I plant cacti in my garden?
If you live in an arid climate, you can plant cacti in your garden. However, most cacti don’t do well with normal soil. You can grow cacti in containers outdoors with potting mix. If you would like to plant the cactus in your garden, consult a professional about your options.
What kind of soil does my cactus need?
When you visit a planting store, you will find a “cacti mix” specifically for planting cacti. This mix contains a large amount of peat, an element that withholds moisture for a long time as cacti do. The soil you plant your cactus in should also be able to retain water, which ensures your cactus can absorb the water properly from the soil.