14 Types of Cactus Plants with Pictures

Cactus is arguably the most popular succulent variety around. Like most succulents, Cactus plants are easy to care for and maintain, and that is one of its strongest draws. Gardeners are free to make the occasional short trips without the fear of losing their precious plants. In this feed we ll get to know various types of cactus plants that would be a delight to observe.

The cactus plant thrives in arid/desert regions and can survive sweltering temperatures (up to 100 F) and dry climate conditions. Its vines have adapted to these conditions by storing its water for use during dry periods. People living in desert areas can quickly grow this plant as part of their desert landscape.

What happens when you live in tropical areas with lots of rainfall? Do you abandon the idea of cactus gardening? The cactus plant is a versatile succulent that will survive in most climatic conditions with some precautions. Most cactus species are small enough to fit into containers and can even be grown indoors.

In this article, I’ll be showing you some cactus and their characteristics. To help you select the most fulfilling succulent variety from the hundreds of species available. Check out this our cactus ideas guide if you’re looking for ways to fit this plant in your landscape design.

A cactus (plural cacti, cactuses, or less usually, cactus) is a constituent of the plant family Cactaceae, which includes around 127 genera and 1750 recognised species in the order Caryophyllales. Some of the 14 most famous cactus species are bunny ears cactus plants, old lady cactus, balloon cactus, Christmas cactus, Saguaro cactus, San Pedro cactus, Fairy castle cactus, Prickly bear cactus, Cholla cactus, Star cactus, feather cactus, Rattail cactus, Bishop’s Cap cactus and last but not least Moon cactus plant.

types of cactus plants

Features of the Cactus Plants

Which spectacular features does the cactus plant have? Here are a few

  • Unlike most succulents, the cactus stores water in its stems and not its leaves.
  • Even though most varieties have green stems, they prefer to take in carbon dioxide at night when there is a lesser chance of losing water to evaporation. 
  • Their blooming stage may be short, but they produce beautiful flowers that’ll brighten up your garden.
Features of the Cactus Plant

14 Different type of cactus

With about 2000 cactus species available, this article is even more critical, or how else will you be able to choose the type to grow in your garden?

1. Bunny Ears Cactus Plant

Botanical name: Opuntia microdasys

This cactus species originated from Mexico. It looks like a bunny’s ears; that is how it got its name ‘bunny ears.’ It is simple to grow plants once you can mimic its original growing conditions.

Gardeners with drylands and sunny spots can grow this plant without hitches. The bunny ear can grow as tall as 2 feet and 5 feet wide when grown at home.

2. Old Lady Cactus

Botanical name: Mammillaria hahniana

Its lone spherical stem characterizes this attractive species. It typically grows about 4 in. tall and 8 in. wide, producing a reddish-purple flower. Its size makes it a fantastic container option.

The old lady cactus is a slow-growing plant that loves to grow outdoors but can thrive indoors if you can provide it with enough sunlight during the day.

3. Balloon Cactus Plant

types of cactus

Botanical name: Notocactus magnificus

This plant is in the genus Parodia, a group of plants native to Brazil, Uruguay, and Peru. It loves the sun and likes to be kept slightly moist in other weather conditions but dry during the winter. This plump variety cannot withstand frost, protect them in such situations. This desert plant is blue-green and has brown spikes along its ribs.

4. Christmas Cactus Plant

Botanical name:Schlumbergera spp.

This is an indoor cactus variety that is quite different from the typical cactus species. It has deep green leaves with colorful flowers that bloom twice a year. Its blooming season triggers by temperature and light. Usually, when the temperature falls between 40 to 50 degrees and sits in darkness for about 14 hours per day. 

5. Saguaro Cactus

Botanical name: Carnegiea gigantea

Bold, significant, and attractive are some of the qualities you can attribute to this cactus species. This desert plant is native to Mexico, Arizona, and California. It is gigantic and can grow up to 50 feet tall.

If you’re looking for a statement plant that’ll draw a lot of attention in your garden then, you shouldn’t miss this. The saguaro cactus is slow-growing and can live for up to 200 years. It grows best in rocky soils.

6. San Pedro Cactus Plant

Botanical name: Echinopsis pachanoi

Unlike saguaro, San Pedro is a fast-growing cactus that grows in high elevation between 6,600 to 9,800 feet above sea level. It is drought-resistant in normal conditions and can survive in areas with considerably more rainfall as long as the soil is well-draining. 

7. Fairy Castle Cactus

Botanical name: Cereus tetragons

This looks like a fairy castle with towers like vines and shiny spikes. The fairy castle cactus can be a great addition to your fairy garden. This native North American plant grows slowly but eventually reaches a height of about 6 feet. When the fairy castle cactus flowers (it is rare), its white flower only opens at night.

8. Prickly Bear Cactus

Botanical name: Opuntia

You can quickly identify the prickly bear cactus by its wide and flat pads. It has detachable thorny spikes that can harm you if it comes in contact with your skin. They are a cold-tolerant species and flower with minimal attention. The prickly bear cactus also produces edible fruits.

9. Cholla Cactus Plant

Botanical name: Cylindropuntia spp.

 This treacherous but beautiful cactus is known as the jumping cactus as it jumps on humans and animals when they come close to it. But does it jump? The cholla cactus does not jump but have loose joints that can easily let go when it comes in contact with other things. That is why you’ll find it attached to your skin once you go by it. It gives an excruciating sting when on your skin, but don’t let that discourage you; it can be a beautiful cactus to grow.

10. Star Cactus

Star Cactus plants

Botanical name: Astrophytum asteria

It is also known as sea urchin cactus. It produces a mind-blowing yellow or white flower that is bound to attract the attention of your visitors,  making it the most attractive among the types of cactus plants. The star cactus is a relatively small cactus variety that can grow comfortably among your indoor garden plants. It has a round body with slightly ridged sides.

The star cactus’s hue ranges from green to grayish brown and can bring the necessary contrast to your garden.

11. Feather Cactus Plant

Botanical name: Mammillaria plumosa

This small cactus species have a white feather-like material covering it. The feather protects the cactus from extreme heat and sun while serving as a cover to mask its prickly spines lying underneath.

It can look attractive to touch; avoid doing that as you’ll receive a potent prick from the ranges hiding underneath. It is not cold hardy and will go dormant during the winter.

12. Rat Tail Cactus

Botanical name: Aporocactus flagelliformis

This cactus is native to Mexico and parts of Central America and is  unique among the types of cactus plants. You can quickly identify it by its long trailing stems that look like the tail of a rat.

This cactus flowers in spring and summer, producing red, pink, orange, or violet flowers. Because of its trailing stem, the rat tail cactus is an excellent hanging garden plant but ensure it receives a lot of light.

13. Bishop’s Cap Cactus Plant

breeds of cactus plants

Botanical name: Astrophytum myriostigma

This plant is native to the highlands of northern and central Mexico. It is star-shaped and grows best in stony lands. Flowers that resemble the headgears worn by bishops adorn this plant, and that is where its name “bishop’s cap” stems from.

Avoid leaving the plant under the full sun when it is young, as it cannot withstand the heat. Place it under soft shade for optimum growth.

14. Moon Cactus plant

Moon Cactus plants

Botanical name: Gymnocalycium mihanovichii

Moon cactus plants come in attractive hues of orange, pink, red, and yellow. Their color variation can give your garden a whimsical look. The flowers are ball-shaped, sitting at the top of the green cactus. Moon cactus is a small plant of about ½ inch across. They love warm climates but prefer to grow under partial shade.

Last Words

Generally, cacti are easy to grow plants that can survive a little neglect. Most types of cactus plants only need to be watered once in two months.

Even though most love to grow in warm desert climates, a lot can still thrive in cold tropical environments as long as it is adequately taken care of. Container gardening in well-drained soil will help you manage this plant in unusual climates. 

Have you grown any cactus plant? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

This article is also available in Hungarian: Kaktusz fajták képekkel – A 14 legismertebb fajta

About Jennifer Igra

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York City known for it’s green gardens. Jennifer, a 30 year old gardener and green living fanatic started Igra World to share her gardening journey and increase gardening awareness among masses. Follow Igra World to improve your gardening skills.

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