Common types of cactus and care requirements

Desert cacti

Moon cactus(hibotan cactus variety)

These colourful cacti lack chlorophyll, hence they must be grafted onto a rootstock cactus as seen in the picture above. They come in colours like orange, red, pink, and yellow.These are small plants, generally only ½ inch across, although there are cultivars that get up to 8 inches in diameter.


They prefer temperatures on the warm side but need a minimum of 48 F. (9 C.) to survive.

These small plants thrive on window sills that get partial light.

Use unglazed shallow pots with numerous drainage holes to prevent standing water at the root zone. Water deeply and then allow the soil to completely dry to the base of the pot before reapplying moisture. Suspend watering in the winter months and repot in spring to reintroduce nutrient dense soil.


Moon cactus propagation is achieved by removing the offsets, which are smaller versions of the parent plant growing from the base of the rootstock. These divide away easily and root readily in a cactus potting soil.


Has a limited lifespan of a few years or less unless grafted onto a new rootstock(mine died in about 9 months)

Bunny ears cactus

Originally from Mexico, the bunny ears cactus is named after its appearance. It has two pads that are bunny ear shaped. They are covered with glochids or brown prickles and should be handled with care(duh!) or you will find the glochids hooked unto you(pun intended).The bunny ears cactus grows to two or three feet, making it the perfect house plant. It produces white flowers and purple fruits in the summer if exposed to enough light.


They can also grow outdoors but are only hardy in United States Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 11.
Water the plant when the top one inch of soil is dry. Allow the water to drain out of the pot and remove any excess from the saucer. During fall and winter, water lightly only every 3 to 4 weeks.

Occasionally, the plant will be beleaguered by pests such as mealybugs and scale insects. Combat these with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol and rubbing it on the pests(you can find alcohol at most pharmacies)Is the type for disinfection not drinking!

Bunny ears cactus should be repotted every 1 to 2 years when they grow larger.Remember to use a well draining soil.
Note: An unglazed clay pot allows for evaporation of excess moisture, which is a prime killer of these plants.


You can start new bunny ears plants with a pad taken from the cactus. Use extreme caution when removing a leaf because the glochids dislodge easily and are very difficult to remove from the skin. Use thick gloves or newspaper to pick up the pad. Allow the end to callus for a few days and then insert into cactus soil. Use a good cactus mix for growing bunny ears cactus, or make your own with 40 percent potting soil, 40 percent sand and 20 percent peat moss. The pad usually roots within a few weeks.

My opinion:Very easy to grow

Chin cactus

Gymnocalycium cardenasianum(nice spines!)Extremely slow growing and can tolerate very bright light.

Popularly known as the chin cactus, the gymnocalycium is a South American species of cactus. It’s name means “naked kalyx” in Greek which refers to the lack of hair or spines on the flower buds. Depending on the variety, some chin cacti seek shade while others thrive in sunlight.Generally plants with shorter smaller spines would prefer less light and longer spines more.


Light: Some Gymnocalyciums are shade-seeking in the wild, among shrubs or grasses, while others grow completely exposed. Some will therefore need a light shading from the sun in the hottest months, but to overdo this will result in loss of flowers.
Soil: The balance of the potting medium should be sufficient to allow good drainage, so that the plants do not sit in soggy soil for more than a day or two after watering.
Water: Watering in the summer months, while the plants are growing well can be frequent (weekly for small plants in small pots), but always allowing the compost nearly to dry out before rewatering. Watering in the winter months at all is unwise, and certainly not necessary. The difficult times are spring and autumn.


Those species which produce offsets can be readily propagated by cuttings. Gymnocalycium seed germinates well when fresh, and will keep for a few years if stored in cold conditions.

Old lady cactus

The old lady cactus is a type of pincushion cactus in the mammillaria family, which has 250 species. It is a sun-loving cactus that forms large groups. It grows up to 10 inches (25 cm) tall and up to 20 inches (50 cm) broad. The solitary spherical stems, up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) in diameter, are covered in white down and white spines. Reddish purple flowers, up to 0.6 inches (15 mm) in diameter, are borne in spring and summer, sometimes forming a complete ring around the apex of the plant.


Light: Mammillaria species appreciate strong light, but many species dislike more than four hours of direct summer sunlight. Provide bright, even light for the best results.
Water: Allow the soil mix to become nearly dry between waterings, but then water thoroughly. Immaculate drainage is essential, so never let the pots sit in water. Suspend watering in the winter, but mist occasionally.
Soil: A rich, fast-draining cactus mix is ideal.
Fertilizer: During the growing season, fertilize with a cacti fertilizer mix. Suspend feeding during the dormant winter period.


Mammillaria cacti can be propagated easily from offsets, which readily form in clusters around the base of the mother plant. To propagate, carefully remove the offset and allow the cut to dry on a paper towel for a few days. Depending on the size of the cut area, a callous will form over the cut surface.

Once the callous has formed, place the new plant in a pot with a potting soil mixture and keep in a warm place until new roots emerge.

Tip:To encourage better flowering, allow the plants to enjoy a cooling period in the winter and suspend watering.


Repot as needed, preferably during the warm season. To repot a cacti, make sure the soil is dry before repotting, then gently remove the pot. Knock away the old soil from the roots, making sure to remove any rotted or dead roots in the process. Treat any cuts with a fungicide. Place the plant in its new pot and backfill with potting soil, spreading the roots out as you repot. Leave the plant dry for a week or so, then begin to water lightly to reduce the risk of root rot.

Fairy castle cactus

Acanthocereus tetragonus ‘Fairy Castles’ is a dwarf, columnar, branching, slow growing cactus with spiny, five-sided, mid-green stems producing numerous smaller offsets. It will reach about 6 feet (1.8 m) tall with great age. Nocturnal, white or yellow flowers are rarely produced.


Make sure they receive enough water without becoming waterlogged, especially during the summer
If the roots have become black or overly soft, the cactus could be experiencing root rot – cut away the affected parts and replant.
Give them lots of direct sunlight, especially during the summer.
Well-drained soil is best, and perform well in a soil that contains some organic material.
It may become necessary to repot if it outgrows its container. If so, make sure the soil is dry and then remove the pot. Knock away old soil and prune away any rotted or dead roots, then replace it in a new pot and backfill with new soil


Cereus cacti propagate quite easily from cuttings; simply sever a branch and replant in moist, well-drained soil. It helps to allow the cut end dry out and harden before you replant it; this makes it easier for the new cactus to form roots.

Hedgehog cactus

It is a cactus with dark reddish-green stems underneath white or brownish spidery-spines, flowers are mostly white . These plants generally form clusters from basal branching. The stems are globose to cylindrical, often slender up to 4,5 cm long or more and 4-6 cm in diameter, dark reddish-green or blackish.It is a good beginner cactus and easy to grow and flower.


Minimum avg. temperature: 50°F (10°C)
Heat tolerance: Light shade
Sun exposure: Outside full sun or afternoon shade, inside needs bright light, and some direct sun.
Watering needs: Little water, needs good drainage
Propagation: Seeds or offsets that appear at the base; leave them attached to form a cluster, or wait until they are 1/3 the size of the parent and then detach and plant.

Forest Cacti

Christmas cactus

Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera bridgesii) or (Zygocactus bridgesii) are traditionally purchased in December whilst in full bloom but are available all year round. They are easy to care for.Originally from the mountains of Brazil, Christmas cacti are epiphytes. These are plants which grow on other plants, trees or rocks.


Position the cactus in a cool but bright position away from radiators and direct sunlight.

While your cactus is flowering, water it regularly so that the soil does not dry out between waterings.

Top tip
Don’t feed your cactus while it is in flower


For propagation, take cuttings 2 to 3 segments long and place them in a cool place to dry out for a couple of days so that they start to heal and scab over. Place your cuttings into small pots filled with a 50/50 mix of moist peat and sand. Push the healed end of the cutting only about 1cm into the soil mix to prevent rot.(fungicide preferred to prevent fungal rot)

Young cuttings should be kept in kept in a bright, cool place out of direct sunlight. It can take up to 12 weeks for their roots to fully develop – during this time only water very sparingly. Once they have developed a good root system, they can be transplanted into individual pots.

Encouraging your Christmas cactus to rebloom

To encourage your Christmas cactus to rebloom, it needs two rest periods, one in late winter and another in autumn. Once it has finished flowering in winter, move it to a cool place, with a temperature of between 12-15 °C and water it less frequently, just enough so that the soil does not completely dry out.

From April to September, when your Christmas cactus is growing, move it to a warmer spot (the ideal temperature is between 18-20°C), increase the watering and feed regularly with a liquid houseplant feed.

From mid-September, when the flower buds are starting to develop, move your plant back into a cool place for its second rest period, and reduce the watering as before. Once the flower buds have formed, you can move it back into the warmth and water regularly again.

If your Christmas cactus is kept happy, flowering will last for about 2 months. The individual flowers don’t last for a long time but you should see lots of new buds appearing right through the festive period.

Easter cactus

Native to Brazil, the easter cactus blooms in late winter and early spring. Its flowers vary from whites to oranges to lavenders. The plant’s spines are stacked on top of each other, giving it a unique shape.


These plants perform best in bright light, but not direct sunlight.
Unlike dessert cacti, these plants need cooler temperatures, even during the day, and will bloom for months in nighttime temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees F. (13-16 C.).
Keep the soil lightly moist.
Good Easter cactus care means repotting the plant every two years in spring. (but they are ok with lack of repotting)
Fertilize monthly after the bloom period with a 10-10-10 or food with a low nitrogen count.
Keep the environment humid by misting the plant once or twice a day.


These delightful plants actually need cool temperatures and long nights to set buds. First stop feeding them. Then move the plant where it has 12 to 14 hours of darkness. Best bud set occurs when temperatures are 50 F, (10 C.). Water sparingly from October to November. By December, you can move the plant somewhere warmer with a 60 to 65 degree range (16-18 C.). The plant will flower in February to March.

Outdoor cacti

Barrel cactus

Golden barrel cactus.Truly a behemoth

The favourite classic!Its large size says it all.Just be sure not to sit on it.

The barrel cactus is named after its barrel or circular shape. Ribs line the sides of the plant and spiky spines grow from them. Some popular varieties include the golden barrel, california barrel, fishhook cactus, blue barrel and colviller’s barrel. Flowers bloom in May and June, showing off red or yellow colors.


Well draining soil.A standard cactus mix will do, or combine potting soil and sand and/or perlite 50/50.
Strong sunlight preferred but direct southern sunlight may burn it.
Once your young golden barrel cactus is about six inches in diameter, it’s mature enough to handle outdoor conditions. You can plant your cactus in a relatively shallow hole after loosening the roots. Water well during the first month following planting, then settle into a more conservative irrigation routine. If you live in an area with regular rainfall, your plant may require little to no irrigation on your part.

Prickly pear cactus

The prickly pear cactus is a genus that is very popular in drought-prone areas. Some common variations are the beavertail prickly pear and the Indian fig prickly pear. The prickly pear does well in backyards, but sheds its spines, so may not be for everyone. This cactus produces yellow, red or purple flowers.

Care is about the same as bunny ears cactus.

Cholla cactus

Cholla is a jointed cactus in the Opuntia family, which includes prickly pears. The plant has wicked spines with a nasty habit of getting stuck in skin. The painful barbs are covered in a paper-like sheath which may be very colorful and attractive. In spite of the barbs, the plant makes an excellent addition to a southwest style garden.

They are composed of cylindrical stems arranged in segments and topped with inch long spines. There are more than 20 species of the plant. An interesting bit of Cholla cactus information is its diversity of shape. The plant may be a creeper, shrub or tree. Sizes vary from just a few feet tall to 15 feet in height. Flowers are green or orange, depending upon species, and bloom April through June.


Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches at planting time and add extra sand or grit to increase the porosity. Make the planting hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the roots of the plant and pack well around the roots. Cholla cactus will need supplemental water until established but will need very little irrigation once mature, except in cases of extreme drough

Cholla survive temperatures down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit/-15 degrees Celcius for short periods but prefer an average minimum temperature of 50 degrees (10 C) and bloom and thrive best in temperatures of 70 degrees F. (21 C) or more.


Vegetative stem or pad planting.


The main problems for this plant are excess moisture and mealybugs. Mealybugs are dealt with by using insecticidal soap or simply blasting the majority of the bugs off with a garden hose. Plants that sit in standing water can get stem and root rot. To combat this, it is best to lift the plant and allow the roots to dry and callus. Prune off any damaged plant material with sterilized pruners. Replant the cactus in a mixture of top soil or loam heavily amended by at least 30% grit, such as play sand.

Totem pole cactus

Tall monstrosity.
This plant grows in an upright habit with long branches up to 12 foot tall.The whole plant is covered in lumps and bumps. The folds and curves of the skin help the plant preserve moisture in its native region of Baja to Mexico. One of the more interesting bits of totem pole cactus information is that is does not have spines.


Use a good cactus mix for planting totem pole cactus. It should have a high presence of grit, such as sand or small crushed rock.
Place the plant in a brightly lit window but avoid one where searing noon sun can shine in and burn the plant.
Water deeply, but infrequently, and allow the soil to completely dry out before adding moisture.
Fertilize monthly with a good cacti food.
The plant can be brought outdoors in summer but must come back in before any cold temperatures threaten.
If you live in USDA zones 9-11,then congrats as you can grow it outdoors without any problems!


The monstrous form of Pachycereus doesn’t flower or seed, so it must propagate vegetatively. This is a bonus for growers, since cuttings root and grow quickly, while cactus seed is slow to produce specimens of any note. Take softwood or new cuttings with a good clean, sharp blade at an angle. Make sure you include at least one good areole, or the apical meristem, where new growth begins. Allow the cut end to callus or dry out for at least a week. Plant the cut end into good cactus soil and do not water for several weeks when planting totem pole cactus cuttings.


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