Types of Cacti for Indoors and Outdoors (With Their Picture and Name) – Identification Guide

Types of Cacti

Many types of cactus plants are easy to grow and care for and can make great houseplants. There is a wide variety of cacti to choose from if you want to grow this type of plant. Cacti come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and some house cacti look stunning when they flower. Lots of different types of cacti also thrive outdoors where the climate is hot and dry. Some cactus species also thrive in tropical climates where they require a warm humid environment.

Caring For Different Types of Cacti

One of the great things about having different types of cacti as houseplants is that they need little watering. The majority of indoor cactus plants need to be in a small pot on a sunny window sill and get watered occasionally. Popular indoor varieties of cacti include Bunny Ears, Christmas cactus, Moon cactus, and the Balloon cactus.

Of course, cacti are well-known for growing outdoors in arid deserts. If you live in a warm climate, planting different kinds of cacti can decorate your garden or rock garden. Some good choices of desert cactus types for growing outside are the Arizona Barrel Cactus, the Prickly Pear, and the Old Man Cactus.

Cactus Plant Features

The cactus plant family (Cactaceae) consists of a number of unique succulent-type plants that thrive in dry conditions. There are thousands of different types of cacti, with all of them being native to the Americas.

Although cacti are classified as succulents, they differ from many types of succulents. Cacti retain their moisture in their stems rather than in their fleshy leaves.

Most varieties of cacti have stems that are in varying shades of green. One of the unique features of cacti plants is the way they photosynthesize. Contrasting with other plants, all cactus species take in carbon dioxide at night when temperatures are cooler. This means that less evaporation occurs during the hot day.

Many types of desert cacti stems also have ribs that allow the plant to expand when it takes in moisture after heavy rainfalls.

Another of the identifying features of cacti is their spines. Some types of cacti have long sharp spikes that can cause pain if they prick your skin. Other cacti varieties have softer spines to protect the plant. For example, the Prickly Pear has soft hair-like spines that can easily cause irritation if they lodge in your skin.

Cactus Flowers

One of the most striking features of all cactus varieties is their flowers. Although short-lived, cactus flowers can be stunning. Cactus flowers can be various colors from deep pinks to beautiful shades of red. Yellow, orange, white, and burgundy flowers are also common in various types of cactus.

In fact, one of the differences between cacti and other types of succulents is the fact that they flower.

How to Identify Cactus Varieties

Cactus identification is usually based on their shape, blooming habits, and spines or hairs. Cacti can have a spherical, columnar, cylindrical, or disc shape and typically have characteristic areoles (small bumps) where sharp or soft spines grow. All types of cactus flower, and you can tell the species depending on when it blooms.

Most types of house cacti are small succulent plants that grow in sandy soil and direct sunlight. It’s usually best to handle cactus plants with care. Cactus varieties with stiff, sharp spines can cause injury by puncturing the skin. Even furry-looking cacti with soft fuzzy hairs can cause skin irritation due to their soft barbed spines.

Indoor Types of Cacti (With Pictures and Names) – Identification Guide

So now that you know that cacti are flowering plants that are easy to care for, let’s look at many types of cacti for growing indoors and outdoors.

Bunny Ears Cactus (Opuntia microdasys)

bunny ears cactus (scientific name: Opuntia microdasys)

The Bunny Ears is a flowering type of cactus which resembles rabbit’s ears. The small size of this cactus makes it a perfect house plant.

Bunny Ears cactus (name: Opuntia microdasys) is a flowering type of cactus native to Mexico that grows indoors just as well as it grows outdoors. Other names for this interesting cactus include Bunny cactus, Angel’s Wings, or Polka-Dot cactus.

The Bunny Ears cactus is a houseplant that looks comical with its green pads that resemble rabbit’s ears. The indoor cactus can grow around 15” to 23” (40 – 60 cm) tall. However, as with most cacti, the Bunny Ears cactus is slow-growing and a small type of plant will take a few years to reach this height.

Occasionally, you may see yellow flowers blooming on the Bunny Ears.

The Bunny Ears cactus has fine hair-like spines (glochids) that are extremely thin. They can cause a great deal of skin irritation if you brush against the plant and they lodge in your skin. The white or yellow glochids give the plant a dotted appearance like polka dots.

Did you know that one of the best ways to remove cactus glochids is by using sticky tape to pull out the fine hairs?

Cactus Identification: The Bunny Ears cactus is identified by its flat, disc-shaped stems covered in small tufts of fine hairs. This cactus can be easily identified due to the characteristic look of a rabbit’s ears.

Old Lady Cactus (Mammillaria hahniana)

old lady cactus (scientific name: Mammillaria hahniana)

The old lady is a ball-shaped type of cactus that can be grown indoors

The Old Lady cactus (name: Mammillaria hahniana) is a large, spherical type of cactus that is covered in spikes and fine spines.

The Old Lady cactus is a plant that looks somewhat like a large pincushion. The ball-shaped cactus can grow up to 20” (50 cm) in diameter and 10” (25 cm) tall. One of the delightful features of this desert cactus is the reddish-purple flowers that can sometimes appear. These small flowers grow in a circle around the top of the cactus.

This cactus needs a hot dry climate to grow in, and most people have success growing this cactus indoors in a large container.

Cactus Identification: The Old Lady cactus has an identifiable globe-like shape covered in fine white fuzzy spines giving the round cactus a furry appearance. Another trait of this globular cactus is its papery purple flowers that bloom on the cactus flattened top.

Balloon Cactus (Parodia magnifica)

baloon cactus

The Balloon cactus is a beautiful round cactus with large yellow flower

This large cactus, the Balloon cactus, certainly lives up to its scientific name, the Parodia magnifica – Many describe the appearance of this round cactus as magnificent.

The stunning large globe-shaped Balloon cactus has a large rib-like appearance with rows of contrasting white or yellow spines on the edge. Another striking feature of this large cactus is the large yellow flower that appears on the top when it blooms.

The Balloon Cactus can grow up to 6” (15 cm) tall and measure 18” (45 cm) across.

Cactus Identification: The Balloon cactus has recognizable ridges down the side of the rounded green plant. Each ridge has characteristic fine yellowish spines and a yellow flower blooms on the cactus top.

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)

Christmas cactus

The Christmas cactus is a type of cactus that flowers during winter time

A very popular indoor type of cactus is the Christmas cactus (name: Schlumbergera) that is native to tropical regions in Brazil.

There are actually a number of types of cacti in the Schlumbergera family, with the Christmas cactus being just one. This type of cactus doesn’t have leaves but long trailing flat segmented stems. This cactus species flowers during winter time, which is why it is called the Christmas cactus.

The trailing flowering stems make this cactus variety a good option for hanging baskets or to place on top of furniture.

This flowering cactus species can produce white, pink, yellow, and red flowers.

Different species of cacti in the Schlumbergera genus flower at different times of the year. Some other similar types of cacti include the Easter cactus (a cactus now in the classification of the Hatiora genius), Thanksgiving cactus, or Holiday cactus.

To ensure the Christmas cactus flowers, it needs to be in cool conditions with little water and get 12 – 14 hours of darkness every day.

Cactus Identification: The identifying trait of the Christmas cactus is the flattened rectangular green leaf-like leaves with scalloped edges. The segmented succulent “leaves” can grow 6” to 12” (15 – 30 cm) long and up to 24” (60 cm) wide.

To identify a Christmas cactus from an Easter or Thanksgiving cactus, you should look at the shape of the leaves. The Easter cactus is identified by its rounded leaves with scalloped margins and soft hairs. The Thanksgiving cactus has flattened leaves with pointed or spiked margins.

Powder Puff Cactus (Mammillaria)

powder puff

The Mammillaria family of cacti includes several cultivars: Mammillaria backebergiana ernestii (left) and Mammillaria boolii (right)

Mammillaria mystax

Mammillaria mystax is a small type of cactus making it an ideal house plant

The Powder Puff cactus is a small round cactus that is a species in the Mammillaria family of cacti.

The Powder Puff cactus is shaped like a ball and it is a slow-growing variety of cactus which is surrounded by soft hairy spines. From the various cacti in the Mammillaria family, the Powder Puff cactus is one of the easiest to care for. The spherical cactus will grow to between 3” and 5” (7.5 – 12 cm) high and about the same in diameter.

As with most cacti, the Powder Puff cactus needs to get a lot of sun, and the soil should never be more than slightly moist. You can expect the Powder Puff to bloom in the summertime with white or red flowers that form a crown on the top.

Other popular cacti from the Mammillaria genius include some of the following:

Mammillaria backebergiana ernestii is a cactus that has a tall cylindrical appearance.

Mammillaria boolii is a small round cactus covered in fine hair-like spines. The interesting feature of this cactus is the relatively large flowers which appear on this small cactus.

Mammillaria mystax is native to Mexico and has reddish-violet flowers that appear in April and May.

Cactus Identification: The identifiable traits of the Powder Puff cactus are its rounded, ball shape covered in clumps of sharp spines. When in bloom, the stunning flowering plant has a ring of purple, pink, or white flowers creating a beautiful crown.

Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii)

moon cactus

The Moon cactus is an unusual type of cactus that comes in various colors

Originating in Paraguay and Argentina, the Moon cactus (name: Gymnocalycium mihanovichii) is an unusual type of cactus with a colorful top that can be red, pink, orange or yellow.

Moon cacti are ribbed types of cacti that can’t produce chlorophyll. So, they need to be grafted onto a succulent for them to grow. Usually, Moon cactus plants are sold already grafted. They can look like a colorful spiky cactus that sits on top of a columnar succulent.

These colorful cacti varieties come in vibrant pink, orange, red, and yellow colors. Unlike other types of indoor cacti, these houseplants prefer partial shade. You should also water the cactus well every time the soil dries out. Avoid watering during the winter.

Cactus Identification: A Moon cactus is easy to recognize thanks to the colorful ribbed ball sitting on top of a columnar, three-sided cactus.

Further reading: Moon Cactus Care and Growing Guide.

Chin Cactus (Gymnocalycium)

Gymnocalycium baldianum

Gymnocalycium baldianum is one of the varieties of chin cactus plants

The Chin cactus (name: Gymnocalycium) originates in South America and is a small round type of indoor cactus.

The botanical name for the chin cactus variety (Gymnocalycium) comes from the fact that it’s “hairless” or “spineless” cactus. There are about 70 different species in the Gymnocalycium genus and they all produce brightly-colored flowers. Some varieties of this type of cactus can be as small as 1.5” (4 cm) with the largest types growing up to 6” (15 cm) in diameter.

Cactus Identification: Varieties of Chin cacti are recognized by their round shape and sizable colorful red, white, or pink blooms. Although some varieties are “spineless,” many types of Chin cactus have soft or sharp spines along the ridged margins.

Star Cactus (Astrophytum asterias)

star cactus

Star cactus is a type of a popular cactus plant for indoors

Native to Texas, the Star cactus (Astrophytum asterias) is a small type of round cactus that some say resembles a sea urchin.

The Star cactus has the shape of a puffed-up disc and its body is divided into sections. On each of the segments are rows of white dots that are covered with tiny hairs. The cactus should flower in the springtime with a large yellow flower on its top.

Because this type of cactus is a popular houseplant, many cultivars have been developed. Some of these, such as the Astrophytum asteriasSuper Kabuto’ is a delightful ornamental cactus with patterns of interesting white dots covering the body.

Cactus Identification: The Star cactus is a green cactus with a smooth round, bulging shape, covered in white dots, fine hairs, and a line of raised tufts along the center of each segment. This “non-prickly” cactus has identifiable pale-yellow blooms that appear in spring.

Astrophytum asterias ‘Super Kabuto’

Astrophytum asterias ‘Super Kabuto’

Fairy Castle Cactus (Acanthocereus Tetragonus) 

Fairy Castle Cactus (Acanthocereus Tetragonus) 

The Fairy Castle cactus is a common indoor cactus with columnar erect stems and new buds that look like castle’s turrets

The Fairy Castle Cactus is a tall, columnar cactus with long dark green angular spiny stems. The cactus stems may have three to five ridges, each containing tufts of six to eight sharp spikes up 1.6” (4 cm) long. Fairy Castle cactus blooms are greenish-white flowers.

The name Fairy Castle or Fairytale Castle cactus comes from the curved stems growing on the main stems. This feature gives the cactus the appearance of a castle’s turrets. The unique shape of the Fairy castle cactus makes it a popular ornamental houseplant.

Cactus identification: The Fairy Castle cactus is identified by its long green spiky stems, small side growths on the stems, and whitish flowers that may turn pale orange when blooming. The cactus can grow up to 6 ft. (1.8 m) tall.

Lady Finger Cactus (Mammillaria elongata)

Lady Finger Cactus (Mammillaria elongata)

Lady Finger cactus is identified by its dense groups of wooly golden cylindrical stems

The Lady Finger cactus is a small cactus plant with stubby columnar stems covered in sharp fuzzy spikes. The cylindrical green stems have a yellow or white appearance due to the sharp spikes. The erect cactus stems grow 2.3” to 6” (6 – 15 cm) long and up to 1.6” (4 cm) in diameter.

Like all cactus plants, the Lady Finger cactus produces flowers on the stems’ upper parts. The flowers have pale yellow or white petals and appear amongst the wooly areoles. The densely clumping yellowish-green cactus blooms from late winter through early summer.

Cactus identification: The Lady Finger cactus has identifiable cylindrical stems with tufts of woolly areoles, short yellowish spikes in radial patterns, and pale-yellow flowers.

Feather Cactus (Mammillaria plumosa)

Feather Cactus (Mammillaria plumosa)

The Feather cactus has rounded wooly shape with white flowers

The Feather cactus looks like a fluffy rounded ball of white cotton wool. The clumps of globular stems are covered with a woolly, white downy substance giving the cactus a soft appearance. However, the soft feathery covering hides sharp spikes that cover the flowering cactus.

Each of the spherical cactus stems grows around 3” (7 cm) in diameter. Like many cacti in the genus Mammillaria, a soft, feathery, downy substance and jagged spikes cover the plant. Additionally, the spiked cactus blooms with white flowers that have hints of pink and yellow.

Cactus identification: The feather cactus is easy to identify due to its cotton wool-like covering, spherical shape, and spiny surface.

Bishop’s Cap Cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma)

Bishop’s Cap Cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma)

The Bishop’s Cap cactus has yellow or white flowers and gray-green star-shaped ribs

The Bishop’s Cap cactus is a spineless, spherical cactus with three to seven prominent vertical ribs. From above, the cactus has a star shape. From the side, the cactus has the appearance of a bishop’s hat. The Bishop’s Cap cactus blooms in spring with yellow or white flowers.

Also called the bishop’s hat or bishop’s miter cactus, the star-shaped cactus has a grayish-green color. In the wild, the spherical cactus can grow up to 3 ft. (1 m) tall and 8” (20 cm) in diameter. However, as a houseplant, the slow-growing cactus stays as a small star cactus plant.

Cactus identification: The Bishop’s Cap cactus looks like a bulging star, typically with five pronounced vertical ribs and a bluish-green or grayish-green appearance.

Star Rock Cactus (Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus)

Star Rock Cactus (Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus)

The Star Rock cactus has pink flowers and triangular stems in a disc shape

The Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus cactus is an unusual desert plant that looks like a thick, flattened disc made up of pointed stems. The triangular tubercles (stems) point outward around the perimeter of the cactus, and it has a flat, woolly top. When blooming, vibrantly colored pink flowers appear on the top.

The Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus grows up to 3” (7.5 cm) in diameter. The flowers of this small star-shaped cactus grow up to 1” (2.5 cm) in diameter. Due to its gravel-like appearance, the cactus is also called the living rock cactus.

Cactus identification: The Star Rock cactus has identifiable pointed triangular stems forming a disc-shaped cactus.

Crown Cactus (Rebutia marsoneri)

Crown Cactus (Rebutia marsoneri)

The Crown Cactus has small rounded stems with red, pink, yellow or orange flowers

The Crown Cactus is a small flowering cactus with ball-shaped stems measuring 3” (7.5 cm) in diameter. The bumpy surface of the cactus is covered in tufts of flexible light brown or white spines. The globular cactus plant produces showy yellow, orange, pink or red flowers from its base.

The flowering spherical cactus has clumping growth. The small cactus spheres form larger clusters. The Crown Cactus is one of the first cacti to blossom in spring. The small round cactus also has the botanical name Rebutia minuscula.

Cactus identification: The Crown Cactus is a small globe-like cactus with white or tan-colored spiny tufts covering its bumpy surface.

Spiny Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria spinosissima var. ‘Rubrispina’)

Spiny Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria spinosissima var. ‘Rubrispina’)

Spiny Pincushion Cactus ‘Super Red’ (Mammillaria spinosissima var. ‘Rubrispina’)

The spiny pincushion cactus is a cylindrical or spherical cactus with reddish spikes. The small ball-like spiky cactus grows up to 12” (30 cm) tall and 4” (10 cm) wide. However, the slow-growing cactus has minimal growth in small pots indoors. When blooming, the spiny pincushion cactus produces funnel-shaped pink flowers.

Cactus identification: The ‘Super Red’ spiny pincushion cactus has identifiable bright red-orange spikes that contrast with the green surface of this bumpy spherical cactus.

Eriosyce Cactus (Eriosyce senilis)

Eriosyce Cactus (Eriosyce senilis)

Eriosyce cactus is a small rounded fuzzy cactus with pink flowers

One of the most fascinating fuzzy cactus plants is the Eriosyce plant. This cylindrical cactus has a barrel shape, covered with twisting feathery spines. When in bloom, bright pink flowers emerge from the fuzzy top. The small fuzzy cacti thrive in small pots indoors and perform best in a warm, dry atmosphere with plenty of sunlight.

Cactus identification: The Eriosyce cactus is easy to recognize because it looks like the small round cactus is wrapped in woolly spines or hay. Some species of Eriosyce cacti have multi-colored spines decorating the cactus.

Rat’s Tail Cactus (Aporocactus flagelliformis)

Rat’s Tail Cactus (Aporocactus flagelliformis)

The Rat’s Tail cactus is a great plant for hanging baskets due to its drooping cylindrical stems

The Rat’s Tail Cactus is a flowering succulent plant with long, drooping cylindrical stems that grow up to 6.5 ft. (2 m) long. The slender tube-like round “tails” are covered in tufts of tan spikes and fuzzy white hairs. When in bloom, the Rat’s Tail cactus produces showy crimson-pink funnel-like flowers.

Due to its colorful blooms and long dangling succulent stems, the Rat’s Tail cactus is one of the most spectacular cacti for hanging baskets. The cascading tuberculate stems and colorful flowers make for an eye-catching display.

Other names for the Rat’s Tail Cactus are Whip Cactus and Rattail Cactus.

Cactus identification: The Rat’s Tail Cactus is easy to identify due to the 3 to 6 feet (1 – 2 m) long spiky tubular stems and spectacular floral displays of bright pink flowers.

Silver Ball Cactus (Notocactus scopa)

Silver Ball Cactus (Notocactus scopa)

The Silver Ball cactus has rounded/cylindrical fuzzy shape and beautiful yellow flowers

The Silver Ball Cactus is a small round cactus with white tufts, yellowish-brown spines, and a wooly crown. The round spherical cactus grows 2” to 20” (5 – 50 cm) tall and 4” (10 cm) wide. The top of the cactus produces brightly colored yellow flowers that have a red center. This round cactus with long spines is a beautiful houseplant that thrives in full sun.

Cactus identification: The silver ball cactus is identified by its yellow blooms on this spherical green cactus with a yellowish, spiny appearance.

Outdoor Types of Cacti (With Pictures and Names) – Identification Guide

Planting different varieties of cacti outdoors is a great way to add exotic plants to your garden landscape.

In general, cacti are low-maintenance plants that can survive harsh conditions. However, for all types of cacti to thrive outdoors, they need slightly moist to dry soil. Too much water can result in their roots rotting.

Even if you have a small garden or a balcony, there are many varieties of small cacti that are great for growing in containers outside.

Let’s look at some popular cacti you can easily grow outdoors.

Arizona Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni)

young Arizona barrel cactus

Young Arizona barrel cactus with flowers on the right

giant barrel cactus

Types of cacti: Fruit atop Arizona barrel cactus (left) and a giant barrel cactus (right)

The Arizona Barrel cactus is a desert cactus variety that is native to the Sonoran Desert.

The Arizona Barrel is a large round spiky type of cactus that can grow to an impressive 6 ft. (1.3 m) in height and measure 2 ft. (60 cm) in diameter. Although the most common types grow between 3 and 4 ft. (0.9 – 1.2 m).

The olive-green skin of Arizona barrel cactus is covered in yellow hooked spines that grow on the ribs. This cactus species is drought-resistant and gets moisture from occasional flooding that takes place.

The Arizona Barrel cactus flowers in the middle of June and these blooms are a delightful reddish-orange color.

Having few of these Arizona cacti in your garden can create a stunning feature, especially when planted together in a grid formation.

Cactus Identification: The Arizona Barrel cactus is a type of ball cactus with stiff, sharp spines. Like many globe-shaped cacti, this round spiky cactus has a cylindrical shape with thick, leathery, prominent ridges. Red or yellow flowers appear as a colorful ring around the spiky, woolly top of the cactus when blooming in spring or summer.

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia)

Opuntia basilaris

Beavertail cactus (name: Opuntia basilaris) is a type of prickly pear cactus

Prickly Pear cacti grow in areas that are prone to drought and produce purple or rose-colored flowers.

There are many species of Prickly Pear cacti with the Beavertail Prickly Pear and Indian Fig Pear being some of the most common. This outdoor cactus variety generally has large barbed spines up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length. These cactus spikes can easily puncture the skin. The spines also shed which means that this type of cactus may not be suitable for all gardens.

The cactus is formed by large flattened pad-like structures that are a light blue-green color.

There are various types of Prickly Pear cacti that can suit many landscaping needs. For example, the Beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris) can grow into a medium-sized shrub-like plant that is about 15” (40 cm) tall and produces pink flowers. However, the tall Indian Fig cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) is a spineless variety of cactus that can grow up to 23 ft. (7 m)!

If you have cold winters and you want a prickly pear to decorate your garden, then try the Santa Rita prickly pear cactus. This can withstand temperatures as low as 15°F (-9°C) and grow to a height of 1.5 ft. (45 cm).

Cactus Identification: A Prickly Pear cactus is easy to identify due to its broad, flat pads covered in tufts of long white spines. Another trait of Prickly Pear cacti is their fine barbed hairs that can penetrate the skin, causing irritation.

Saguaro Cactus

saguaro cactus

Saguaro cactus is a type of Arizona cactus that has a very slow growth rate

One type of very tall Arizona cactus is the Saguaro cactus that can grow over 40 ft. (12 m) tall. You can identify this desert cactus as it has the classic “cactus” appearance. The Saguaro cactus has a tall long central body and “arms” that reach up to the sky.

This type of columnar cactus is a common sight in deserts in Mexico, Arizona, and California. Some species of the Saguaro cacti grow arm-like structures, whereas others are just like a tall column. The ribs that run up the length of this tall cactus variety have lots of sharp hard spines.

Similar to other cacti species, the Saguaro cactus is a flowering plant. White flowers appear on the giant cactus in late spring to early summer. After flowering, red edible fruits appear that have a sweet fleshy texture.

Even though this cactus grows to an enormous height outdoors, you can actually grow this cactus species indoors in a container. Due to its slow growth rate, the Saguaro cactus may only grow an inch (2.5 cm) in height in a 10-year period!

Cactus Identification: The Saguaro cactus is easy to identify due to its columnar growth with arm-like, arching stems. This tall upright desert plant has vertical spiky ribs, giving the cactus columns a ribbed appearance.

Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)

Epiphyllum oxypetalum

The Queen of the Night is a type of orchid cactus because of the beautiful flowers which resemble some orchid species

The Queen of the Night (name: Epiphyllum oxypetalum) cactus gets its name from the fact that its beautiful white flowers only bloom at night. This orchid-type cactus is also called the Dutchman’s Pipe cactus.

Originating in Southern Mexico and South America, the queen of the night is a flowering type of cactus that has long cylindrical ribbed columns. Some of these cactus stems can grow to a height of 20 ft. (6 m). From the main green stem, smaller stems branch off that produce white flowers that give off a pleasant fragrance.

One of the reasons why this type of cactus is prized is due to its large flowers. The flowers from the Queen of the Night can be up to 11” (28 cm) long and 5” (13 cm) wide. This type of flowering cactus only blooms at night when the temperature drops to between 52 and 57°F (11 – 14°C).

Being a type of tropical cactus, Queen of the Night cacti enjoy indirect sunlight throughout the day. If you live in colder climates, it is best to grow this type of cactus as an indoor houseplant.

Cactus Identification: The Queen of the Night is identified by its spectacular white flowers that bloom once a year at nighttime. The Queen of the Night cactus has identifiable flattened long trailing stems with wavy margins.

The Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis)

Old Man Cactus

The Old Man Cactus is a tall variety of cactus

Another tall columnar variety of cactus is the Old Man Cactus (name: Cephalocereus senilis) which is covered with a “wooly” white coat.

Planting the tall columnar Old Man cactus creates an interesting feature in any garden. The stems can grow in clusters and reach a height of between 16 and 52 ft. (5 – 15 m). Due to the unkempt appearance of the shaggy white hair covering the tubular cactus plant, it is called the ‘Old Man’ cactus.

When planted outdoors, you may have to wait for at least 10 years for the Old Man cactus to flower. By this time, it may have lost some of its distinctive white wooly coat but will produce yellow, red, or white flowers.

Even though the tall cactus looks like it is covered by soft cotton, sharp hard spines grow beneath the hairy exterior. For best results, plant the Old Man cactus where it gets plenty of sun and in well-drained soil.

Cactus Identification: The Old Man cactus is easy to identify due to its cylinder shape and easily distinguishable white fuzzy appearance.

Strawberry Cactus (Echinocereus enneacanthus)

strawberry cactus

The strawberry cactus is a type of blooming cactus plant with beautiful magenta flowers

If you live in a hot dry climate, then the Strawberry cactus can be a great addition to your garden landscape.

The Strawberry cactus is a type of blooming cactus that grows in clumps of small spiky cactus stems. This is one reason why this cactus species is also called the Hedgehog cactus. Each cluster of cactus stems can contain around 20 balls.

The Strawberry cactus is an outdoor desert cactus that blooms around late spring and produces stunning magenta flowers. The funnel-type flowers have deep pink petals with a black and yellow center. These cactus flowers can grow up to 3.5” (9 cm) long.

The sharp spines on the Strawberry cactus can also add a bit of color to your garden. These inch-long (2 cm) spines can come in various colors such as yellow, brown, white, and gray.

Cactus Identification: The Strawberry cactus is a desert plant, identified by its ribbed columnar spiky stems, stunning magenta flowers, and reddish-purple edible fruit.

Starfish Cactus (Stapelia grandiflora)

Starfish Cactus (Stapelia grandiflora)

The colorful flower of the Starfish cactus is large and can be up to 10″ (25 cm) in diameter

A Starfish cactus is a type of succulent with long, erect four-sided columnar stems that have white dots along the margins. The outstanding feature of starfish cacti is their large reddish-purple star-shaped flowers. The starfish flower is also called the carrion flower, and the pointed blooms give off a powerful stench.

Starfish cactus has various species with many hybrids, and although called a cactus, the Starfish cactus is a type of succulent. The ribbed, upward pointed fleshy pale-green columns grow up to 12” (30 cm) tall.

The large, showy starfish-shaped flowers are orange, deep red, or reddish-purple and grow up to 6” (15 cm) across and appear on the clumping succulent plant in late summer and the fall. The hairy red flowers attract insects.

Cactus identification: The Starfish cactus is identified by its tufted erect pale-green quadrangular stems with upward-pointing hooks on the edges and reddish-scarlet large star shaped flower.

Brazilian Prickly Pear (Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis)

Brazilian Prickly Pear (Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis)

The flowers of the Brazilian Prickly Pear cactus (left) develop into edible juicy fruits

The Brazilian Prickly Pear has characteristic flat rounded pads and flowers, which is a trait of many prickly pear cacti. The unusual feature of this ornamental cactus plant is its tree-like growth with bright green flat stems growing from a central round cylindrical stem. The cactus plant can grow up to 30 ft. (9 m) tall.

Pictures of the cactus leaves show small spines growing on the “leaf” margins. First, the showy cactus blossoms are yellow to bright orange. Then, they develop into red, yellow, purple, or orange pear-like edible fruits with a fragrant aroma and juicy texture.

Cactus identification: The Brazilian Prickly Pear is identified by its slender, firm, rounded pole-like stem that produces green oval, flattened spiny segments that appear like leaves.

San Pedro Cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi

San Pedro Cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) 

The tall San Pedro cactus has columnar stems and large white flowers

The San Pedro cactus is a fast-growing columnar pale green cactus with vertical ridges along its length dotted with white areoles. The clump-forming cactus stems can grow up to 10 – 20 ft. (3 – 6 m) tall and up to 6” (15 cm) in diameter. Large fragrant white flowers, 9” (23 cm) long bloom during the night.

The San Pedro cactus grows well as a houseplant in pots that restrict its growth or outdoors in zones 8 – 10. The white areoles dotted along the pronounced ridges contain numerous sharp spines. The cross-section of the cactus stems shows it has a star shape with rounded tips.

Cactus identification: The San Pedro cactus is identified by ribbed columnar stems, tufts of jaggy spikes, and large aromatic white flowers.

Walkingstick Cactus (Cylindropuntia spinosior)

Walkingstick Cactus (Cylindropuntia spinosior)

Walkingstick Cactus has yellow bumpy fruit and purple-magenta flowers

The Walkingstick cactus is a desert plant with thin stems densely covered in sharp white spines. The unusual cactus has a branching growth with thick stems growing at right angles from the main stem. From a distance, the branching cactus has a fuzzy appearance. The Walkingstick cactus grows up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) tall.

Also called the cane cholla or spiny cholla, this cactus species is characterized by deep purple-magenta flowers blooming in summer. These are followed by spineless yellow fruit that have a knobby appearance.

Cactus identification: The Walkingstick cactus is identified by its branching growth with stems growing evenly at right angles and measuring 2” to 20” (5 – 50 cm) long.

Old Man of the Mountain Cactus (Oreocereus trollii)

Old Man of the Mountain Cactus (Oreocereus trollii)

The Old Man of the Mountain Cactus has a tall columnar fuzzy look

The Old Man of the Mountain Cactus is a columnar succulent plant covered in abundant white hairs. The slow-growing cactus has long, stiff red spines that poke out the fine white hair. Despite being a tall cactus that grows in clumps in its native South America, the columnar white and spiky red cactus thrives in pots indoors.

Also called the Old Man of the Andes, this woolly cactus grows up to 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall outdoors. However, when growing indoors in small pots, the pot size restricts its size and growth.

Cactus identification: To identify the Old Man of the Mountain, look for a columnar cactus covered with white woolly fur and long, dangerous red spikes.

How to Grow Cacti Plants Indoors

Just how easy is it to care for indoor cactus breeds? It is surprisingly easy to look after different types of indoor cactus houseplants.

Most types of cacti that you can buy in garden centers and stores are well-suited for growing indoors. For your cactus plant to thrive, you should place it on a south-facing window sill where it gets plenty of sunshine.

One of the most important things to remember when caring for indoor cactus plants is to water them properly. Generally, cacti only need regular watering during the growing season when it is very sunny. You should water them well but allow all the excess water to drain out. During the fall and winter indoor cacti only need light watering every few weeks.

During the growing season, the ideal room temperature for cacti to grow well is around 70°F to 75°F (21°C to 23°C) during the day and 60°F (15.5°C) at night. (1)

Use soil and fertilizer that is prepared specially for indoor types of cacti.

How to Care for Outdoor Cactus Types

Cacti are excellent landscaping solutions for many types of gardens that get a lot of sun and heat during the summer.

Depending on where you live, you can also find types of cactus plants that can survive freezing temperatures in the winter.

When deciding where to plant your cactus outdoors, choose a location where water drains freely. For example, planting on the top of a rock garden or on a south-facing slope will ensure that the cactus doesn’t get waterlogged.

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