Blog Cactus What Are The Different Types Of Cacti

What are the Different Types of Cacti?

Wondering what the different types of cacti there are? Check out our comprehensive guide on all you need to know about these plants!

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Kiersten Rankel
Jan 04, 2022

Many people are fans of cactus plants––often called succulents––largely because they are so easy to care for. That’s because cacti can go for very long periods of time without water due to their ability to store so much of it in their roots and plant body. That’s why they survive so well in the desert! 

Fun fact: their thorns cause the water to drip down to the roots, which can absorb the water. There are many different types of cactus varieties, and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, big and small. 

Some even produce flowers, which makes them all the more attractive to plant lovers! The number of different cacti plants in the world could probably fill a book, but we’ll highlight a short list of fan favorites below.

Photo by Cltrigg1805

Different Types of Cactus Plants

Ferocactus: Barrel Cactus 

The Barrel Cactus, cheekily nicknamed the ‘Mother-in-Law’s Cushion’ is a round-shaped cactus with pointy thorns on all sides. The Barrel Cactus prefers to stay under bright, direct sunlight to ensure proper growth and doesn’t require a lot of watering. It also has pretty red and yellow flowers that bloom during the summer. However, if  yellow spots are appearing, be sure to consult our app and read our resource on “why is my cactus turning yellow.”

Gymnocalycium: Chin Cactus 

A Chin Cactus is an indoor plant, called the ‘Naked Kalyx’ in Greek. This given name refers to the naked appearance of the plant, since it doesn’t have spines or hair on it. This succulent is a beautiful dark green shade that produces pink blooms, perfect for creating a stunning contrast in your home.

Schlumbergera Bridgesii: Christmas Cactus 

This indoor cactus variety blooms with a beautiful contrast of red and green, like Christmas––hence the name! When well cared for, it can live a whopping 100 years. It’s also––contrary to many assumptions––not native to the desert. 

The Christmas Cactus actually requires a higher humidity content for proper growth than other types of cacti and also a good amount of water. You can refer to our app for tips on appropriately watering and caring for these pretty succulents. 

By taking good care of your Christmas Cactus, you can keep it happy and healthy throughout the year. Your gift in return will be its pretty blooms during the holidays! 

For more helpful information on growing this succulent, read our guides on what soil for Christmas cactus to use and how to take care of a cactus.

Schlumbergera Truncata: Thanksgiving Cactus 

Thanksgiving Cactus is named so because its flowers bloom around 

Thanksgiving time every year and continue to bloom pink flowers well into the winter. Largely because this succulent plant prefers colder climates to thrive. However, the Thanksgiving cacti performs poorly in frosty climates, so be sure to do your research before getting one, especially if you live in places that are, well, frosty! 

Hatiora Gaertneri: Easter Cactus 

Another variety of the famous holiday cacti family is the beautiful Easter Cactus. It blooms in––you guessed it!––early spring, with stunning bright pink flowers. The contrast of the green stem and pink flowers make it ideal for brightening up any room indoors.

Looking for detailed, step-by-step instructions on watering your plants? By using physics and machine learning to predict the water needs of any plant in any environment, the Greg plant care app will help you grow healthy plants with confidence. Download the app today!

Acanthocereus Tetragonus: Fairy Castle Cactus 

This is an unusual-looking houseplant, with stems of various sizes that give the appearance of a castle’s many towers. However, it’s the flowers on top of the stems that take the spotlight when they bloom, which is rare. 

Additionally, since the flowers so rarely bloom, most Fairy Castle Cactus houseplants are sold with artificial blooms attached to the top of the stems. 

Astrophytum Asteria: Star Cactus 

This indoor plant is also sometimes called the Starfish or Sea Urchin Cactus because of the similarities in appearance to these sea creatures. It’s a small succulent plant, with beautiful pale yellow or white blooms and a spotted green base. They make lovely gifts to friends and family who love small succulents.

Epiphyllum Oxypetalum: Queen of the Night Cactus 

This outdoor cactus plant is also sometimes called the Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus. It has flat leaves and fragrant flowers in shades of yellow and red, perfect for an outdoor garden.

Queen of the Night grows on trees and is named so because it is one of the night-blooming cacti species. Ergo, it doesn’t require a lot of sunlight––or watering––to flourish! However, it does seem to perform better when planted in an acidic soil. 

Carnegiea Gigantea: Saguaro Cactus 

Saguaro Cactus is the inspiration behind all the cactus plants that are often depicted in cartoons. They have a huge central stem, with a couple of off-shoots on either side. 

This classic cactus plant is slow growing and can live up to an astonishing 200 years if the living conditions are favorable. It can be placed indoors due to its extremely slow growth rate, just be sure to give it lots of direct, bright sunlight. 

Photo by Deborah

Opuntia: Prickly Pear Cactus 

The Prickly Pear Cactus is a flat-leaved cactus, with white or pale yellow polka dot spots on all sides of the leaves. It blooms with yellow, purple, or red flowers and sheds its spines. 

This outdoor desert plant doesn’t require a lot of water, making it a popular choice for people who can’t access a lot of water throughout the year, or who live in more arid climate locales. Be sure to consult our app for tips on caring for these beauties! 

Mammillaria Plumosa: Feather Cactus

A Feather Cactus is a plant that looks like something with feathers, but it’s quite the opposite in reality. Though that white feathery top looks fluffy and soft, the fluff actually conceals dangerously sharp pricks that cover the surface of the cactus! Innocuous looking, yes. But these little guys are anything but! However, they do have a very cool look and make a great addition to your indoor succulent collection. 

Cylindropuntia Ramosissima: Cholla Cactus

The Cholla Cactus has a round stem and sharp spines, giving it a unique appearance among its cacti brethren. It can produce orange or green blooms, too, as long as it has access to loads of sunlight. Of course, the Cholla Cactus doesn’t require a lot of watering either, which is always a plus! 

Mammillaria Hahniana: Old Lady Cactus 

A type of Powder Puff Cactus, this small desert plant has a beautifully round appearance, with a light layer of white feathers that cover the spines. It sometimes has a ring of light pink or purple flowers around it that typically bloom in the spring. It makes for a great indoor plant because it doesn’t require a lot in terms of climate or watering. 

Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus: Totem Pole Cactus 

This outdoor cactus is named so because of its tall stems. It also has a wrinkly texture and doesn’t flower. The Totem Pole Cactus doesn’t require a lot of water. However, it does require bright direct light for proper growth. 

There’s a catch, though. The noonday sun can burn this particular plant, so be sure you have a good spot to place it before investing in one.

Opuntia Microdasys: Bunny Ear Cactus 

As the name suggests, the Bunny Ear Cactus comes with flat, bunny ear-shaped leaves, with a red polka dot design on top. However, the red dots can be quite prickly and sharp. 

This succulent blooms with purple and white flowers in summer, as long as it gets ample sunlight. These plants are so cheerful-looking, they make a perfect accessory for livening up any indoor space, be it your office or your living room. 

Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii: Moon Cactus 

The Moon Cactus is a brightly colored variety of cactus. It is actually a hybrid cactus, with two separate cacti fused together. The end result is a green stem or spine, with a red, round cactus on top. Intriguing, for sure!

However, there’s a slight downside. The lifespan of a moon cactus tends to be quite short compared to other cacti. Don’t let that stop you though! They are a cute and colorful addition to any succulent garden and tend to be extremely popular with folks that love cactuses. 

Pilosocereus Pachycladus: Blue Columnar Cactus 

The Blue Columnar Cactus is one of the fastest-growing cacti plant, with tall funnel-shaped blooms. It can grow up to 30 feet tall in height! That makes it a great addition indoors, provided you can find the right spot for it. 

However, it’s definitely more suited for an outdoor garden because of the sheer size and heights it can reach, that way, you don’t have to repot it frequently or worry it will outgrow the room it’s placed in. 

As you can see, there are so many different types of cacti. There’s just no way to cover them all! Hopefully, this short list gives you a good place to start though as you journey into discovering the wonders of these beautiful succulents for yourself.