Last updated on August 25th, 2023 at 11:44 am
Cactus identification may seem complicated at first because there are so many different kinds of cactus plants out there, but actually, it’s quite simple once you know what to look for.
From the shape of the leaf to the color of the flower, there are always unique identifying characteristics that are common to specific types of cactus plants, and these characteristics can be used to figure out whether you have an agave, an opuntia, or a saguaro in your garden.
If you’re looking to get your hands-on cactus plants, there are numerous species available that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Whether you want something tall and skinny, short and stout, or anything in between, you’ll find plenty of different types of cactus here.
If you’re interested in learning more about cactus identification then see below to learn about common types of cactus with their pictures!
Cactus plant features
Cacti come in all shapes and sizes, from the small and round peyote cactus to the towering saguaro. They can be found in a variety of colors, including green, blue, and even pink. And while they may all look different, they do have some common features.
All cacti have areoles, small, raised bumps on the surface of the plant that function as attachment points for spines. The size, shape, color, and number of areoles vary depending on the type of cactus. The epidermis, the outer layer of skin that protects the plant, is usually covered with sharp spines or bristles called glochids.
These hairs help protect the cactus from predators by making it difficult for them to get a good grip. Other types of protection include thick skin and large bodies with thorns along their surfaces or spikes coming out from their joints.
The cactus flower is one of the most beautiful and unique flowers in the world. There are over 30 different types of cactus, each with its own distinct appearance.
This cactus identification guide will help you identify the different types of cactus and their corresponding pictures, perfect for those who love these prickly plants.
Caring for different types of cacti
Though cacti are often thought of as low-maintenance plants, they still require some care to stay healthy and happy. Here are a few tips for caring for different types of cactus:
- Give them bright light, but protect them from the harsh midday sun.
- Water them thoroughly, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
- Fertilize during the growing season, using a half-strength fertilizer solution. -Pruning is recommended in late winter or early spring to remove dead or dying growth.
- Do not fertilize in fall; it will promote new growth that may not survive the winter’s cold temperatures.
- The potting medium should be allowed to dry out between waterings (e.g., once every one or two weeks).
Cactus identification: How to care for indoor types
- Place the pot in an area that gets plenty of natural light but not direct sunlight.
- Water the plant every two weeks by letting the soil dry out between waterings.
- Do not fertilize unless you notice it is losing its color or has dark patches near the base of the leaves.
Allow the top inch of soil to dry before watering. If yellowing leaves develop at the base, cut them off at ground level and discard them; they will stop absorbing nutrients and sap energy from other parts of the plant. Remove any spines before planting.
Cactus identification: How to care for outdoor types
Outdoor cacti are typically easier to care for than indoor cacti, as they are accustomed to more extreme conditions. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when caring for outdoor cacti.
First, make sure to plant your cactus in well-draining soil. Second, water your cactus deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings.
Third, provide your cactus with plenty of bright light; most outdoor cacti prefer full sun. If you want to bring your cactus indoors during the winter months, it is best to do so gradually over the course of one or two weeks.
The best time of year to move an outdoor cactus indoors is at the end of summer before fall and winter rains begin.
Cactus identification with pictures
Bunny Ears Cactus (Opuntia microdasys)
The Bunny Ears Cactus is a type of cactus that gets its name from its two long, pointed ears that protrude from the main body of the plant. These cacti are native to Mexico and can be found in a variety of colors, including green, yellow, pink, and red.
The Bunny Ears Cactus is a popular choice for indoor gardens because it is relatively easy to care for and does not require a lot of water. The bunny ears themselves provide great decoration to the otherwise plain-looking plants. The bunny ears cactus will grow up to 3 feet tall, but many people like them as tabletop plants because they only grow about 12 inches tall.
Old Lady Cactus (Mammillaria hahniana)
The Old Lady Cactus is a small, round cactus that is native to Mexico. It has a short stem with many small, sharp spines. The flowers are pink or white and bloom in the spring.
The Old Lady Cactus is easy to care for and can be propagated from cuttings. It does well in dry conditions and can survive indoors as long as it gets enough light. It grows well in hanging baskets where it will produce more flowers than if planted on the ground.
In colder climates, this plant may not flower at all. To avoid frost damage, this plant should be kept above freezing temperatures (above 50 degrees Fahrenheit). If it is below freezing outside, bring your plants inside and keep them near a window that receives sun during the day.
The Old Lady Cactus needs very little water- once every two weeks should suffice. You should also check it occasionally for mealy bugs because they love eating through their skin.
Balloon Cactus (Parodia magnifica)
The Balloon Cactus is a type of cactus that is native to South America. It gets its name from its round, balloon-like shape. The cactus is green and has white flowers. It grows to be about 12 inches tall and 6 inches wide. The Balloon Cactus is a popular plant for people to grow in their homes.
It can tolerate lower light levels than other types of cacti. It also needs less water than other types of cacti. The flowers on the cactus are edible. The most common way to eat them is by dipping them in chocolate.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)
The Christmas cactus has showy, pink, red, or white flowers and can grow up to three feet tall. To care for a Christmas cactus, water it when the soil is dry and give it bright, indirect light.
These plants do not need any fertilizer. When growing from seed, use a mixture of peat moss and perlite as potting mix and place in a plastic bag for about one week before planting in your container.
Powder Puff Cactus (Mammillaria)
The Powder Puff Cactus is a small, round cactus that is covered in white, furry tufts. This cactus is native to Mexico and can be found in desert regions. The Powder Puff Cactus blooms pink or white flowers in the springtime.
These cacti are easy to care for and make great houseplants! They need moderate light, moderate water, and plenty of humidity. The holes on their stems allow them to suck up air and moisture from the soil which helps them grow faster than most other types of cacti.
You can propagate these plants by pulling off their offsets (known as pups) during their growing season when they’re 2-3 inches tall. Simply push the offset into your potting soil until only its base is visible above ground level.
Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii)
The Moon Cactus is native to South America and can be found in Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. These plants prefer hot and dry climates. They need at least four hours of direct sunlight each day, and they like soil that drains well.
The Moon Cactus is one of the more popular species because it’s so easy to care for.
This type does not need much water, about two gallons per month, but it does require plenty of sunlight each day for optimal growth.
Chin Cactus (Gymnocalycium)
The Chin cactus is a small, round cactus that is native to South America. It has a thick, green stem and small, white flowers. The Chin cactus is not a true cactus, as it does not have the typical spines that most cacti have. Instead, it has small, white hairs on its surface.
This cactus is easy to care for and can be grown indoors or outdoors. They require very little water and need about six hours of sunlight per day. They also need at least ten inches of potting soil.
If you decide to grow them in your garden, make sure they are protected from direct rain because they cannot tolerate being in standing water for long periods of time.
Star Cactus (Astrophytum asterias)
The Star Cactus is a small, round cactus that is covered in star-shaped spines. It is native to Mexico and can be found in a variety of colors, including green, yellow, orange, and red. The cactus typically blooms in the spring, and its flowers are white or yellow.
These cacti grow best in full sun, but they can also tolerate partial shade. They are drought tolerant and need very little water to survive. These plants thrive on neglect, but if you decide to water them make sure not to get the plant too wet.
If you do want to repot your Star Cactus, use potting soil mixed with sand because this type of soil has drainage properties that allow for air circulation around the roots without getting them too wet.
Fairy Castle Cactus (Acanthocereus Tetragonus)
The Fairy Castle Cactus is a type of cactus that gets its name from its castle-like appearance. The cactus is native to Mexico and can grow up to 10 feet tall. It has long, thin spines that are arranged in a spiral pattern and flowers that bloom in the spring.
The Fairy Castle Cactus is a popular choice for gardens and houseplants. They require very little water and do not need fertilizer or pruning. These plants are easy to propagate so many people like to collect them during their travels and bring them home for free!
A lot of people consider these cacti living fossils because they have not changed much over the years. They have been around since before the ice age, meaning they are among the oldest plants on earth!
The main threat these cacti face is habitat destruction due to human activity such as development and farming.
Lady Finger Cactus (Mammillaria elongata)
The Lady Finger Cactus is a type of cactus that gets its name from its long, slender shape. This cactus is native to Mexico and can grow up to 12 inches tall. The Lady Finger Cactus has pink or white flowers that bloom in the springtime.
This cactus is easy to care for and does not require much water. It grows best in dry conditions. People often use this plant as an ornamental piece because it only needs minimal care and it looks beautiful when planted near a window so it can get some light during the day.
Feather Cactus (Mammillaria plumosa)
The Feather Cactus is a small cactus that only grows to be about 6 inches tall. It has a round shape and is covered in white spines. The flowers of the Feather Cactus are pink and bloom in the springtime.
This cactus is native to Mexico and can be found in the states of Sonora and Chihuahua. The name feather comes from the fact that it is so full of hair, or feathers as it were, on its body.
The fleshy fruit from this cactus has a sweet taste, which attracts animals like birds, deer, and javelinas who eat them and disperse their seeds far away from where they originated.
Bishop’s Cap Cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma)
The Bishop’s Cap cactus is a small, round cactus that is native to Mexico. It has a yellow-green body with white spines. The plant blooms in the spring and summer, producing small, white flowers.
The Bishop’s Cap cactus is a popular choice for gardens and can be grown indoors or outdoors. The plant needs well-drained soil and should not be planted too deeply into the ground as it will rot. These plants do not require much water but will produce more blooms if watered regularly.
Star Rock Cactus (Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus)
The Star Rock cactus is a small, slow-growing cactus that originates from Mexico. It gets its name from the star-shaped pattern on its body and can grow to be about 6 inches tall. The Star Rock cactus is a popular choice for beginner cactus enthusiasts because it is easy to care for and does not require much water.
It produces tiny yellow flowers in the springtime which attract hummingbirds and honeybees. There are only two known locations where this type of cactus can be found in the wild – one is near Creel, Chihuahua and the other is near Miquihuana, Coahuila.
Crown Cactus (Rebutia marsoneri)
The Crown cactus is a small, round cactus that grows in clusters. It has bright green, spiny stems and yellow flowers. This cactus is native to Bolivia and Argentina. It is a popular houseplant and is easy to care for. It needs direct sunlight, so it should be kept outdoors during the summer months.
However, it can tolerate light shade indoors as well as high heat and low humidity. They are excellent plants for dry landscapes because they are drought tolerant.
Crown cacti do not like wet feet, which is why this plant does not need much water at all. If you water them too much, their roots will rot.
Spiny Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria spinosissima var. ‘Rubrispina’)
The Spiny Pincushion Cactus is a small, globular cactus that is native to Mexico. It has long, thin, spines that are arranged in clusters and can be either red or yellow in color.
The flowers of this cactus are white or pink and bloom in the spring. This cactus is relatively easy to care for and can be propagated from seed. It prefers light shade and dry soil.
When watering, water thoroughly but do not let it sit in water as rot will set in. The most important thing to remember when growing these plants is that they need protection from freezing temperatures!
Eriosyce Cactus (Eriosyce senilis)
The Eriosyce cactus is a small, slow-growing cactus that only reaches about 6 inches in height. It has a green body with white spots and spines. The flowers are small and white and appear in the spring.
This cactus is native to Chile and can be found in the Atacama Desert. The Eriosyce cactus is not used for food or traditional medicine but it does have uses as an ornamental plant. In Chilean culture, this cactus is thought to bring luck and wealth because of its low stature and success in harsh climates.
Rat’s Tail Cactus (Aporocactus flagelliformis)
The Rat’s Tail Cactus is a type of cactus that is native to Mexico. It gets its name from its long, thin, rat-tail-like shape. This cactus can grow up to 3 feet tall and produces small, pink flowers.
The Rat’s Tail Cactus is a popular type of cactus for indoor gardens. They need lots of sunlight, so be sure to give them at least four hours of light per day. They also need to be watered on a regular basis; they do not do well in areas where there is little rainfall or moisture.
Silver Ball Cactus (Notocactus scopa)
The Silver Ball Cactus is a small, round cactus that is native to South America. It has a silver-gray color and is covered in white spines. The Silver Ball Cactus blooms in the spring and summer, and its flowers are yellow or white.
Unlike most other cacti, this plant does not have any sharp needles. Instead, it has soft fur and bristles that act as defenses against predators such as birds and rodents.
In addition, the Silver Ball Cactus also produces fruit during its flowering season. These fruits are red when they first form but turn brown as they mature.
Arizona Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni)
The Arizona barrel cactus is one of the most iconic cacti in North America. It is easily recognizable by its large, round shape and yellow flowers. This cactus can grow up to six feet tall and can live for over 100 years.
The Arizona barrel cactus is native to the desert regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
It has a long taproot that allows it to withstand long periods without rain. In order to conserve water, this cactus closes up during the day and opens at night when temperatures are cooler.
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia)
The Prickly Pear Cactus is a type of cactus that is native to the Americas. It gets its name from the fact that it has small, sharp spines that can prick your skin. The Prickly Pear Cactus is also known for its large, flat leaves and its bright, colorful flowers.
This cactus can grow to be quite large, so if you’re looking for a cactus to add to your collection, the Prickly Pear Cactus is a great choice! When it comes to pests, the Prickly Pear Cactus doesn’t seem to have many.
However, they are susceptible to spider mites and mealy bugs. For those who want to know how big this cactus can get before purchasing one, keep in mind that it will only grow as big as what’s comfortable for the pot in which it resides.
The Saguaro cactus is one of the most iconic cacti and can be found in the Sonoran Desert. It can grow to be over 70 feet tall and live for over 200 years! The Saguaro cactus is easily recognizable by its long, curved arms that grow out from its main body.
If you’re lucky, you might even see a Saguaro in bloom – the flowers are beautiful and fragrant. In addition to being seen on the ground, they are also frequently used as landscape decoration.
They come in many colors including purple, red, yellow, and white. To help them survive desert conditions such as extreme heat and little rainfall, they have adapted their structure so it collects rainwater through small pores on their skin called stomata
Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)
The Queen of the Night is a type of cactus that is native to Mexico. It is a night-blooming cactus, meaning that it only flowers at night. The flowers are large and white, and they have a sweet fragrance.
The Queen of the Night blooms from May to June. They grow in clusters around one meter tall. They can grow up to two meters tall if left unpruned. These plants are grown commercially for their flowers and fruit in cooler climates such as Holland, France, and New Zealand.
The Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis)
The Old Man Cactus is a type of cactus that is native to Mexico. It gets its name from its white, woolly hair that covers the plant, which makes it look like an old man.
The Old Man Cactus can grow up to 20 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It blooms in the spring and summer, and its flowers are white or pink. The Old Man Cactus is a popular plant for gardens and homes because it is easy to care for and does not require much water.
The bright red fruit of the Old Man Cactus ripens to yellow and then dark brown, growing in clusters on long stems.
This fruit is edible but often unpalatable. The sap from this cactus may be toxic if ingested so avoid contact with skin or eyes as well as eating the fruit unless you know for sure it is safe!
Strawberry Cactus (Echinocereus enneacanthus)
The Strawberry Cactus is a small cactus that only grows to be about 12 inches tall. It has red, white, or yellow flowers and blooms in the spring. The fruit of the Strawberry Cactus is edible and tastes like a cross between a strawberry and a kiwi.
This cactus is native to Mexico and can be found in the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila. It is also grown as an ornamental plant. One of its common names is Maiden’s Blush because the flower looks like a girl blushing on her wedding day.
Starfish Cactus (Stapelia grandiflora)
The Starfish cactus is a unique-looking plant that is native to South Africa. It gets its name from its star-shaped flowers which can be up to 4 inches wide. The flowers are usually a deep red or purple color and have a foul smell, which attracts flies that help pollinate the plant.
The Starfish cactus is a succulent, so it stores water in its thick leaves. It can grow up to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. In the wild, this cactus grows near rocky cliffs where it has an advantage because of its ability to store water for long periods of time.
In cultivation, however, this type of cactus does not need a lot of water and can tolerate drought better than other types.
Brazilian Prickly Pear (Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis)
The Brazilian Prickly Pear is a cactus that is native to South America. It has long, thin, green pads with sharp spines. The flowers are yellow or orange and bloom in the summer.
The fruit is edible and has a sweet taste. It can be eaten raw or used as an ingredient in jam, jelly, chutney, syrup, and wine. People can also use it for medicinal purposes such as for relieving pain from arthritis and ulcers.
However, some people may have allergic reactions if they touch this plant. One should not eat the seeds or chew on the plant because there is a possibility of swallowing shards of glass.
San Pedro Cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi)
The San Pedro cactus is a fast-growing columnar cactus that can reach heights of up to 20 feet. It is native to the Andes Mountains in South America and is often used in traditional medicine.
The cactus has green, spiny stems and white flowers that bloom in the summer. The San Pedro cactus is easy to grow and can be propagated from cuttings. In order to propagate a new plant, take a cutting from the stem of an adult plant that you have watered for at least 24 hours.
Trim off any leaves on the bottom 2 inches and insert them into moist soil or sand for about 2 weeks before moving them into their permanent location.
Walkingstick Cactus (Cylindropuntia spinosior)
The Walkingstick Cactus is a type of cactus that gets its name from its long, thin, and spiny stem. This cactus is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico and can grow up to 20 feet tall!
The Walkingstick Cactus is easily recognizable by its unique shape and size, making it a great plant for identification purposes. When trying to identify a Walkingstick Cactus, look for its long, thin stem that is covered in spines.
It has clusters of yellowish-green flowers that bloom from April through June. The Walkingstick Cactus prefers dry climates and does not do well in wet conditions because its roots will rot if submerged in water for too long.
There are about 10 species of cacti under the Cylindropuntia genus, but only one is classified as a Walkingstick Cactus.
Old Man of the Mountain Cactus (Oreocereus trollii)
The Old Man of the Mountain cactus is a small, round cactus that is native to Bolivia. It has a green body with white spines, and it blooms yellow flowers in the spring.
This cactus is named for its resemblance to an old man’s face. To care for this cactus, water it once a week and place it in a sunny spot. If there are brown patches on the skin or if growth slows down, you should repot it.
If you want to propagate this plant, break off one of the pups (stems) at its base and stick it into moist soil.