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To add variety to your houseplant collection, consider the types of cactus plants we have here on the list. You need not feel intimated about sharp spines. Why? As some types of cacti are spineless.
Most cacti come with attractive features like yellow flowers in spring, white hairs, or whimsical shapes. Another fantastic thing is that some cacti grow slowly and need little maintenance. So, check them out and add a few to your wishlist.
What is Cactus?
There are over 170 types of cactus with more than 2,000 types of cactus species. One thing a cactus is not a tree, herb, or flower, but they are part of the plant kingdom. The cacti belong to the Cactaceae family.
While the different cacti are not flowering plants, they can produce flowers. The cactus grows as tall as trees without woody stems. Furthermore, they fall under the succulent genus as they store water in the stems, and the Latin word is kaktos, meaning spiky plant.
An interesting fact is that the spines protect the plant from wildlife and keep them insulated in drought. In addition, the ribbed and waxy stems help to retain water, and photosynthesis takes place at night in the stems.
Still, not all types of cactus have spines, as some have bristles when looking to forest cacti species. Another interesting fact is that cactus plants can grow as old as 100 years outdoors and 15 years indoors.
The different types of cactus you find native to Brazil, Mexico, and central Latin America. In addition, the species can extend to British Columbia and Patagonia. Furthermore, the spines on cacti are the leaves and protect the plant against water evaporation.
You find different types of cactus plants that grow in all shapes and sizes with colorful blooms at various times of the year. The fun part of the cactus is that it can survive on minimal water and is very drought tolerant.
Types of Cactus Plants for Your Home
We have selected some of our favorites for you to grow as indoor plants or landscaping with brief information on what a cactus plant is.
The Christmas Cactus
The fancy botanical name for the Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera spp. This cactus adds color to any living space when it is cold outside. It is one of the least stereotypical cacti. The cactus also resembles some other cacti like the Easter and Thanksgiving cactus.
Yet, there is a difference in the foliage as the Easter cactus has foliage that looks like lobster or crab claws. The plant grows in the forest in Southeastern Brazil on trees or other plants and objects.
The plant also blooms twice a year under the right conditions, and the bloom cycle is thermo-photoperiodic. What this means is that the temperature with the day length triggers blooming.
You notice the flowers bloom as soon as temperatures fall under 50°F and spend up to 14 hours per day in total darkness.
Acantheocereus testragonus, as botanists call it, looks like a whimsical castle with a display of stems growing at different heights. The fairy castle cactus can grow up to 6 feet tall. Unfortunately, this type of cactus is slowly growing and seldom produces flowers.
Still, some botanists call it the Cereus tetragonus, native to North America. It grows distinct ribs with short, dense spines. As the cactus plant ages, it turns brown, and the clustered tips extend to branch out when they grow.
When the cactus does flower, it only happens at night and displays a large white flower.
Astrophytum asterias is a great plant to grow indoors; it reaches 2 inches tall and spreads 5 inches wide. The star cactus grows spine pads along the ribs and has no prickly spines. The brown, greenish body you see is covered in white scale and provides extraordinary ornamental value.
When the star cactus flowers, it is yellow and has a reddish base. Unfortunately, the cactus is on the endangered list in Texas and is native to Mexico. As a result, the cactus plants have suffered habitat loss, but you can find cactus growers offering them for purchase.
Many growers also call the star cactus the starfish or sea urchin cactus.
Echinocactus spp. and Ferocactus spp. are native to the North American desert. The barrel cactus can live up to 100 years and only grows 3 feet tall. Many people grow the barrel cactus for their flowers that bloom in red, orange, yellow, or pink.
You can find different types of cacti of this species sold at nurseries. The spines grow long yet dense, and they are sharp. Some of these cactus plants can have a filament covering the spines.
The name is because of the barrel shape, sometimes referred to as the mother-in-law’s cushion. The barrel cacti need a lot of sun with minimal watering.
Old Lady Cactus
The Mammillaria hahniana is a great beginner plant that needs no frequent watering. Some gardeners call it the powder puff cactus, with white spines running down the body.
The cactus grows in Mexico and produces small round offsets clustering around the mother plant. While the cactus is easy to grow and looks fluffy, it is best not to touch it because its spines are sharp.
When the old lady cactus blooms, the flowers are red or white, and flowers are in summer.
These cacti are loved for their bright colors as they are grafted with two different species. The bottom part comes from the Hylocereus species.
You see the scion known as Gymnocalycium mihanovichii displayed in red, yellow, pink, white, or orange.
The moon cactus scion lacks chlorophyll and needs the cactus beneath for nutrients. These cacti remain small, under six inches tall. Still, the moon cactus’s lifespan is short compared to other cacti.
Mammillaria elongate, gold lace cactus, or ladyfinger cactus grows golden yellow spines as some refer to this species. In the pot, you see five tubular-shaped stems growing up to 6 inches tall with white flowers in spring.
The cactus plant is perfect for the beginner; it needs full sun and partial shade to flourish.
Unfortunately, the cactus is not cold-hardy and best kept growing indoors.
The Euphorbia trigona is more succulent than a cactus as it is relative to the poinsettia. It does have ribbed long yet fleshy stems similar to the cactus plants and grows maroon leaves on top with spikes along the stems. Yet, it can irritate when your skin comes in contact with the stem.
San Pedro Cactus
Echinopsis pachanoi is the fancy botanical name for the San Pedro cactus. You find the cactus growing in its natural habitat in the Andes Mountains. It can grow at elevations between 6,600 to 9,800 feet.
It is an easy-to-grow houseplant but grows fast and is best kept in the landscape in mild climates. The cactus plants are drought tolerant, work well for xeriscaping, and grow well in high rainfall regions.
The important thing is to provide the cactus with well-draining soil to prevent crown and root rot.
Prickly Pear Cactus
Pricky pear cactus belongs to the Opuntia genus and is a cold-tolerant species as several cacti can withstand temperatures below zero degrees. Still, you find them growing in dry, sunny landscaping or indoors in North America. The cactus plants produce flowers in spring and delicious fruit in summer.
You can find dozens of cultivars grown with fleshy lobes and unique spine patterns.
Cylindropuntia spp. belongs to the prickly pear cacti but grows more restricted in Southwest America. This cactus grows with a round yet elongated cylindrical stem that connects with segment joints.
The cactus needs plenty of space to grow with clearance for you to move around the plant. The cactus grows dense spines inside paper sheaths, and some are colorful. For xeriscaped landscapes, it makes an excellent addition in sunny, dry locations.
Mammillaria plumosa looks like it is covered in snow with white filaments. The feather cactus makes for a beautiful ornamental display. The filaments provide shade for the plant when the heat is intense in Mexico.
The feather cactus can grow up to three inches tall and 16 inches wide. The best-growing medium for the cactus is a shallow container, and it is best not to water the filaments. You can feed the cactus twice a year with some cactus plant food.
Euphorbia tirucalli is another species that is not a true cactus plant. Like the African Milk Tree, it belongs to the poinsettia and rubber plants. The appearance is similar and native to Africa and India.
The cactus can grow up to 30 feet when treated as an outdoor plant, but indoors you need to maintain the growth. This specimen is ideal for xeriscape landscaping in temperatures above 25°. You find the pencil cactus in a red tint, solid green, chartreuse, or orange hue.
Cylindropuntia fulgida is similar to the cholla cactus and grows loose joints. When people walk past the loose segments, it attaches to them, leaving countless thorns behind. The cactus grows in its natural habitat in Southwest America.
Yet, while it makes for a fine specimen in landscaping, it helps to choose an isolated spot. So, the rule is looking but no touch.
Echinocactus grusonii you find growing mainly in east-central Mexico. In the vicinity, it is an endangered and rare plant. It grows in the shape of a globe with a flat top. It has golden curved spines that line the ribs.
If you want to grow golden barrel cacti, it helps to buy them from a reputable nursery. Then, you can grow the cactus in arid landscaping or indoors. It makes for a wonderful xeriscaped additional or even a desert-themed garden.
You can plant the cactus among clustered or solid mass desert plants.
The Parodia genus is native to South American regions with about 50 species that range from small to tall, ball, and narrow cacti. The cacti can reach three feet high. When it flowers in spring, it blooms yellow, red, orange-pink, and pink flowers.
Cactus plants are not winter-hardy and are best grown indoors in cold climates.
The Parodia ball cactus is known as a snowball or silver ball cactus. These cacti are very spiny so take care.
Bunny Ear cactus
Opuntia microdasys is a rare plant you can seldom find sold at garden centers. Yet, it is a popular indoor plant that looks attractive and has low maintenance. The crested bunny ear cactus comes from Mexico and has other names like angel’s wings and polka dot cactus.
Still, it might have a cute name but do not be fooled by it as it is very prickly even if it does not have long spines. Each white dot on the surface is glochid with patches of small spines that dislodges easily into the skin when touched.
Blue Columnar Cactus
The blue columnar cactus is part of the Pilosocereus genus growing in Mexico, Brazil, and the Caribbean. The cactus has a blue-green stem with soft grey spikes and is suitable as a beginner plant.
The spike can irritate the skin if touched, so keep your hands clear of this plant. The desert species blooms white flowers with a greenish to reddish out part. After the cactus flower period, it bears fruit in a globular yet flattened shape.
Schlumbergera gaertneri is another holiday cactus similar to the Christmas cactus. The stems are shaped like leaves with bright colors and bloom a deep pink to yellow-white centered flower during early spring. Yet, even without the blooms, this plant looks spectacular.
Bishop’s Cap Cactus
When you look at the cactus with the fancy botanical name Astrophytum myriostigma, you first see the Roman Catholic bishop’s concave cap. The cactus makes for a great houseplant as it is slow growing and does not need much water. The cactus grows small and blooms a flower in beautiful yellow color in spring.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most common house cactus is the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera spp.), known for its attractive, colorful blooms during the holiday season.
Yes, cacti can be excellent houseplants due to their unique appearance, low maintenance requirements, and ability to tolerate dry indoor conditions. They come in various shapes and sizes, making them versatile for different home decor styles, and they are well-suited for individuals with busy schedules or those new to plant care.
House cacti generally do not attract bugs. However, if the cactus is placed near an open window or in a location with other plants, insects like fruit flies or gnats may be attracted to the moist soil or decaying organic matter, not necessarily the cactus itself.
The frequency of watering a cactus depends on factors such as the type of cactus, its size, and the environment it’s in. As a general rule, water cacti sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings, typically every 2-4 weeks.
Yes, cacti are low maintenance plants. They are adapted to arid conditions and can store water in their stems, allowing them to tolerate extended periods without watering and requiring minimal care. They are a great choice for individuals who want a low-maintenance houseplant.
No, you should not spray your cactus with water; instead, water it directly at the base to avoid causing damage to the plant and to prevent moisture-related issues.