There are over two hundred types of cactus, and they can be found in the tropics and temperate regions around the world in areas like the United States, Mexico, South America, Africa, and Australia. Cacti are among the most fascinating plants you can grow in your home or yard.
Cactus plants are an incredibly diverse group of plants that come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. The easiest way to think about them is by their classifications, which include tree cacti, flower cacti, and regular cacti.
Finding the right types of cactus plants to grow can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Some types of cactus plants are better suited to low light, while others love to bask in the sunlight.
Some are perfect as ornamental houseplants, while others need desert conditions to thrive. In order to find the right types of cactus plants, here is a list of the 25 best types of cactus with pictures and descriptions of their ideal growing conditions so you can select the right plant for your indoor or outdoor garden!
Types of cactus
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera)
Christmas cactus is a type of cactus that blooms around Christmas time (hence the name). They’re native to Brazil and range in color from white to pink to red. Christmas cacti are easy to care for and make great houseplants.
They can be propagated by stem cuttings, and they bloom best when they’re pot-bound. A member of the family Cactaceae, it has its own genus: Schlumbergera. Schlumbergera is a genus of 18 species that have been accepted into the botanical nomenclature; one synonymized taxon.
It belongs to the subfamily Epiphylloidae within the family Cactaceae, which includes about 186 genera arranged into 12 tribes, four of which are found exclusively in South America.
Fairy castle cactus (Acanthocereus Tetragonus)
The fairy castle cactus is a type of cactus that is native to Mexico. It gets its name from its unique shape which resembles a castle. The plant can grow up to 12 feet tall and has long thin spines.
The flowers are white or pink and bloom in the spring. The fairy castle cactus produces large orange fruits that are edible but have a sour taste. They’re also called pitaya pear because they resemble pears and have red skin.
The small yellow fruits found on this plant are also edible. The fruit gives the plant additional nutrients so it can grow and produce new buds after flowering occurs.
Star cactus (Astrophytum asterias)
The star cactus plants are types of cactus that are native to Mexico. It gets its name from the star-shaped pattern on its body. The star cactus is a slow-growing plant, but it can reach up to 12 inches in height.
It prefers full sun but can also tolerate partial shade. The star cactus is a popular plant for both indoor and outdoor gardens. You can propagate this cactus by taking a cutting from an existing one.
Make sure you let the cut end dry out before planting it in the soil. Keep it in bright light, water occasionally, and fertilize once or twice a year. When winter comes around, store your plants outside or give them enough light indoors so they don’t get too stressed out.
The barrel cactus is one of the most common types of cacti. It is also one of the easiest to care for. Barrel cacti are native to the deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico.
These cacti can grow to be up to 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Barrel cacti are easily recognizable by their round, cylindrical shape. They have a ring of white spines around the top which is called a crown.
They have long, flat pads which come in many different colors such as gray, pink, or green. In addition to being easy to take care of, they require very little water.
Old lady cactus (Mammillaria hahniana)
The old lady cactus is a small, round cactus that is native to Mexico. It has white flowers and small, spines. This cactus is easy to care for and can tolerate a wide range of light levels. It is a good choice for beginners. And it thrives on neglect.
People find it difficult to kill this cactus by neglecting it. A lot of people grow them as house plants because they are so hardy and don’t need much attention. And many people have known to grow them in large containers outside in their gardens or in pots indoors for decoration purposes!
Glow-in-the-dark cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli): Euphorbia tirucalli is also known as the glow-in-the-dark plant because its body will start glowing when there’s enough sunlight around.
They can survive in low light conditions and emit an intense green glow when exposed to ultraviolet radiation.
Moon cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii)
The moon cactus is a small, round cactus that’s native to Paraguay. It’s a popular type of cactus to grow as a houseplant because it’s easy to care for and doesn’t require much water. The moon cactus gets its name from its shape and the way it grows.
The top of the cactus is often a different color than the bottom, which gives it a moon-like appearance. When grown in full sun, the moon cactus will produce small, white flowers.
The flower only lasts one day but during this time they can be pollinated by hand or insects. Moon cacti don’t need much water and are able to survive droughts fairly well.
There are other types of cactus out there that don’t need nearly as much attention as the moon cactus does, so keep this in mind when considering this type of plant for your home.
Lady Finger cactus (Mammillaria elongata)
The Lady Finger cactus plants are types of cactus that are native to Mexico. It gets its name from its long, slender shape that resembles a finger. This cactus can grow up to 12 inches tall and 3 inches wide.
It has pink or white flowers that bloom in the spring. The Lady Finger cactus is a popular choice for indoor gardens because it is easy to care for and does not require much water. If you plan on growing this plant outside, make sure you plant it in an area where rain will fall onto the ground and not run off.
African milk tree cactus (Euphorbia trigona)
The African milk tree cactus is a type of cactus that is native to Africa. It is a succulent plant that can grow up to 10 feet tall and has 3-sided leaves. The African milk tree cactus is a popular houseplant because it is easy to care for and is drought tolerant.
This type of cactus can be propagated by stem cuttings or offsets. In colder climates, the African milk tree cactus should be moved indoors during the winter months. It also does well in hanging baskets, which allows for excellent drainage.
Like most types of cacti, this species prefers dry conditions. However, unlike many other types of cacti, the African milk tree can survive periods of dryness without damage.
Bunny ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys)
The bunny ear cactus is a popular type of cactus that is easily recognizable by its long, thin, green pads. These cacti are native to Mexico and can grow up to two feet tall. They are easy to care for and make a great addition to any cactus collection.
Some bunnies ears may have small red flowers on them which makes them even more attractive. Bunnies ears grow well in clay soil or sand but it’s important not to overwater these types of cacti because they will rot very quickly.
If the environment is too humid or if the soil has been watered too much, it’s a good idea to place some stones in the potting mix. That way when the bunny ear starts to wilt, you know that it needs water instead of worrying about whether your plant has wilted due to being overwatered.
Feather cactus (Mammillaria plumosa)
The feather cactus is a small, round cactus that is covered in white or yellow spines. It is native to Mexico and can be found in desert regions. The plant blooms in the spring and summer, producing pink or red flowers.
The feather cactus is a popular choice for indoor gardens because it is easy to care for and does not require much water. It prefers indirect sunlight but will grow in full sun as well.
The best soil for this cactus is one that has some sand mixed into it. To take care of your feather cactus, water when the top inch of soil becomes dry. If you want to bring your flower indoors for winter, cut off about 1/3rd of the stem so it will re-root itself.
The saguaro cactus is one of the most iconic cacti, and for good reason. These tall, columnar cacti are native to the Sonoran Desert and can grow up to 60 feet tall!
Saguaros are slow-growing but can live for hundreds of years. These cacti are easily recognizable by their sprawling arms, which they only grow once they reach around 50 years old.
They often hold moisture in their tissues, which makes them an excellent source of water in the desert. Prickly pear: Prickly pears have a flat body and round shapes on top called crowns.
They produce large yellow flowers and red or green fruit that can be eaten raw or cooked in dishes like jams, jellies, soups, chutneys, or pies. People from Native American tribes used prickly pears as medicine, food, and decoration. They were also traded as currency because they were so valuable.
Blue columnar cactus (Pilosocereus Pachycladus)
The blue columnar cactus is a type of cactus that is native to Mexico. It is a fast-growing cactus that can reach up to 20 feet in height. The blue columnar cactus has blue-green stems and white flowers. The cactus is drought-tolerant and does not require much water.
When grown outdoors, it should be planted in full sun or partial shade and is cold tolerant. In colder climates, it should be planted indoors as an ornamental plant for the winter months.
The blue columnar cactus needs well-drained soil and its flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. When watered, the roots will grow out from the ground quickly, so the plant should be placed in a location where there is no traffic.
Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri)
Easter cactus is a member of the genus Schlumbergera, which contains about 15 species of cacti native to Brazil. It gets its common name from the fact that it blooms around Easter time. The blooms are usually pink, red, or white, and they last for several weeks.
This cactus is relatively easy to care for, and it makes a great houseplant. They prefer bright but indirect light and dry conditions. These plants grow rapidly in good conditions, but can also be grown from seed if you want more control over the appearance of your plant. It’s not as cold-hardy as some other types of cacti, so it should only be planted outdoors during the summer months in zones 9 and 10.
For best results, place these types of cactus on an east-facing windowsill where it will get plenty of sunlight without being too hot.
Bishop’s cap cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma)
A native of Mexico, the Bishop’s cap cactus is a small, round cactus that grows to only about 6 inches tall. It has white or yellow flowers and produces small, black fruits.
The Bishop’s cap cactus is easy to care for and makes an excellent houseplant. They are often grown in pots as well. If you’re looking for a beginner’s cactus to grow, this might be your best bet!
Powder puff cactus (Mammillaria bocasana)
The powder puff cactus is a small, globe-shaped cactus that is native to Mexico. It has a dense covering of white, spines that give it a fuzzy appearance. The flowers are pink or red and bloom in the spring. Powder puff cacti are easy to care for and make great houseplants. They do not need too much light but require protection from frost.
These plants need less water than other types of cactus due to their round shape and short spines. They can be propagated by dividing the plant after blooming into many smaller plants.
During the summer months, they need to be watered more often because of increased sunlight exposure. Plant these cacti in well-drained soil as they cannot tolerate sitting in standing water for long periods of time.
Balloon cactus (Notocactus magnificus)
The balloon cactus is a round, spiny cactus that grows to about 12 inches tall. It has white flowers that bloom in the summer. This cactus is native to Brazil and Uruguay. It is easy to care for and can be grown in a pot. The balloon cactus needs plenty of sunlight and should not be watered too often.
The plant will produce blooms year-round if it gets enough water and light. If you want to grow one indoors, you will need a very bright spot with at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day.
The soil should be well-drained, but moist. You may need to water this type of cactus every other week or so during the winter months when it’s dormant.
Arizona barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni, Fishhook barrel cactus)
The Arizona barrel cactus is one of the most recognizable types of cactus in North America. It’s often seen in movies and TV shows set in the desert Southwest. The Arizona barrel cactus is a member of the family Cactaceae and is native to the Sonoran Desert.
The barrel cactus gets its name from its shape, which is similar to a barrel or drum. The cactus can grow to be up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It typically has 9-10 spines per areole that are 0.4-0.8 inches long. It flowers in the spring with yellow-green flowers about 2 inches across.
These flowers only last for a day or two before they dry out. Flowers give way to fruit clusters about 1 inch long. These fruit clusters are usually brownish green when ripe and will turn dark red when fully ripe over a period of weeks.
Queen of the night cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)
The Queen of the night cactus is a nocturnal bloomer, meaning it only flowers at night. The large, white flowers are incredibly fragrant and only open for a few hours before closing again until the next night. This cactus is native to Mexico and can grow up to 15 feet tall! If you’re looking for a dramatic addition to your cactus collection, the Queen of the night is a must-have.
The leaves are thick and dark green with spines on the edges that form along the length of each side. It prefers full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil. A typical watering frequency is once every two weeks or so but be sure not to overwater as this plant does not like wet roots.
Be careful when handling these plants as they have sharp spines on their leaves that may poke holes in your skin if you don’t handle them carefully enough. When choosing potting medium, remember that this plant has a shallow root system so use something lightweight such as sand.
To avoid getting poked by the sharp leaves, wear gloves while planting and then remove them afterwards. These plants thrive best in warmer climates without frost but will tolerate cooler temps (down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit) without any problems.
Strawberry cactus (Mammillaria dioica, California fishhook cactus)
The strawberry cactus is a small, round cactus that is native to California. It has long, thin spines and small, pink flowers. The fruit of the strawberry cactus is a small, red berry that tastes like a cross between a strawberry and a grape.
The plant is drought-tolerant and does well in full sun. The plant can be propagated by removing offsets from the mother plant, removing the offset’s outer skin, and then planting it in sandy soil.
The strawberry cactus can be found throughout much of southern California, but it’s most common in Joshua Tree National Park. The maximum height for this type of cactus is 12 inches tall and its maximum width is 8 inches wide.
They are usually greenish-yellow or grayish-white in color. They are often mistaken for fuzzy pincushions, but have small brown bumps instead of spines.
Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia)
The Prickly Pear cactus is a member of the Opuntia genus and is one of the most popular types of cactus. It is easily recognizable by its large, flat pads that are covered in small, sharp spines. The Prickly Pear cactus is native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, but it can now be found in many other parts of the world.
This cactus is a popular choice for gardens and landscaping because it is easy to care for and drought-tolerant. Another reason why this type of cactus is so common is that it produces edible fruit.
The Prickly Pear fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and has a taste similar to apples or pears. They grow on long, green stems and have bright yellow skin with soft pink flesh inside.
The prickly pear cactus is also commonly known as nopal or nopales (which means prickles).
This type of cactus grows well in dry climates and thrives in rocky soil.
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 appearance, which is said to resemble an old man’s beard. The old man cactus is a slow-growing plant but can reach up to 20 feet tall in its natural habitat.
This cactus prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It is drought-tolerant and does not need much water to survive. It will grow best if the soil stays between 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
In the winter months, this cactus should be kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night. As it ages, the old man cactus develops fewer branches than young plants do.
Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
The golden barrel cactus is a large, round cactus that grows up to six feet tall. It has beautiful, yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and summer. The golden barrel cactus is native to Mexico and can be found in desert regions.
This cactus is a popular choice for landscaping and gardens because it is low-maintenance and drought-tolerant. The plant does not need much water and will die if left out in the rain. These plants grow slowly but they are long-lived so they are worth the wait. They thrive in full sun and dry soil.
Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii)
Of all the cacti, the hedgehog cactus is probably the most well-known. It’s native to Arizona and Mexico and has long, sharp spines. The plant itself is relatively small, only growing to about 12 inches tall.
But it’s a tough plant that can withstand a lot of abuse. And it’s also pretty easy to care for, making it a great choice for beginners. Give it plenty of sun and some water every now and then, but otherwise, you’ll be fine.
They usually grow around 8 inches wide by 10 inches tall in their natural habitat so don’t go too crazy over watering them or they’ll get very pot-bound!
Club cholla (Grusonia clavata)
The club cholla, Grusonia clavata, is a cactus native to the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It is a small tree-like cactus that can grow up to 15 feet tall. The stem is green or blue-green and has many small spines.
The flowers are yellow or white and bloom in the spring. The fruit is edible and has a sweet taste. They were often used by Native Americans as food during times of famine and hardship.
Club chollas also have an excellent fragrance and so it was once used for medicinal purposes. Club chollas have been noted for their ability to survive when other plants around them die off because they don’t need much water to thrive.
Beehive cactus (Escobaria vivipara)
The beehive cactus is a low-growing, clustering cactus that is native to the Chihuahuan Desert. It gets its name from its habit of growing in large, round clumps that resemble beehives.
This cactus is easily recognizable by its cylindrical, greenish-yellow flowers that bloom in the spring. The beehive cactus is a drought-tolerant plant that does not require much care. It prefers bright sun and can grow well in sandy soil.
These plants are found at elevations below 6,000 feet and can take temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.