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Unique Characteristics of 10 Amazing Types of Cactus Plants

types of cactus plants

Cactus? That prickly desert plant? Who would keep such an unappealing plant in their homes? Want to know the types of cactus plants?

Hold on a minute!

Cactus plants may look rough and dry, but pictures can be deceiving, and so can be surface-level knowledge. There are actually many cactuses that look amazing, and I’m sure you didn’t even know they were cactuses!

Really? 

Yes! And in case you haven’t seen exotic cactuses, this guide will show you 10 different types of Cactus Plants. 

And do you know what’s more interesting? Many types of Cactus plants can be grown at home! 

So, if you’re a houseplant enthusiast, adding a bristly plant to your collection of velvety green-leafed plants would make a striking contrast!

A Quick Look at the Cacti Familia

The Cactus (also known as Cacti and Cactuses) belongs to the Cactaceae plant family. It has almost 1700 species and 127 different genera. The cactus plants come in numerous sizes and shapes, like the Saguaro cactus that can grow up to a whopping 40 feet to the Fish-hook cactus that grows a mere 3-inches.

However, there’s one massive confusion when it comes to cactus plants – The difference between cacti and succulents. 

Let’s clear this ambiguity once and for all!

Succulents Vs. Cactus Plants – The Difference You Should Know!

All cactus plants are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus plants; that’s the main difference. 

Succulents have the ability to absorb moisture and become engorged with water, like the gorgeous Jade Plant, Baby Rubber Plant, and Echeveria Peacockii. 

However, cactuses have a tough, thick skin with a cushion-like appearance and are engorged with moisture.

Therefore, if a succulent doesn’t have any of these characteristics, it doesn’t count as a cactus.

Now, let’s have a look at the characteristics of 10 amazing types of cactus plants. 

Types of Cactus Plants

1. Aloe Vera

Originating from the Arabian Peninsula, the Aloe Vera plant breeds best in tropical climates. I’m sure you must have seen this beautiful plant adorned in many homes with its thick, pointy, and fleshy leaves. Also, it’s presented with spiral leaves called ‘ Spiral Aloe‘ in many homes. One reason for this plant being a common houseplant is the various benefits it offers for hair, skin, and overall health. 

The leaves are filled with a gel-like substance that has antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It is beneficial for:

  • Healing wounds
  • Reducing dental plaque
  • Treating mouth ulcers
  • Regulating blood sugar levels
  • Improving skin tone
  • Aiding in hair growth

Having almost 500 species, Aloe is the world’s most popular plant that people grow to reap its benefits. Also, this plant needs a lot of care otherwise Aloe plant will turn brown. Here is complete guidance about why the Aloe plant turning brown and how to fix it.

Characteristics of the Aloe Vera Plant

FamilyAsphodelaceae
TypeSucculent
Size24-39 inches
LightShady
WaterDoes not need too much water because of its dry nature
Required Temperature0 degree C
Available ColorsGreen and Yellow
Soiling Potting mix

2. Acanthocalycium Thionanthum

If you’re looking for a blooming cactus, the Acanthocalycium Thionanthum cactus should be your number one choice. Originating from Argentina, this cactus variant grows well on mountain slopes and rocky soil. Thionanthum means “sulfur-yellow flowers,” and that’s exactly what you get from it, making it a popular houseplant. However, the flowers can be pink and red as well. 

Although the Acanthocalycium Thionanthum is a great ornamental plant, there’s one drawback: All its common names could easily pass off as tongue twisters!

Characteristics of Acanthocalycium Thionanthum

FamilyCactaceae Family
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size1 – 6 inches
LightBright
WaterDoes not need too much water because of its dry nature
Required Temperature-12 degrees C
Available ColorsPink, Red, Orange, Yellow, White
Soiling Basic soiling mix for Cactus family

3. The Living Rock Cactus

Scientifically known as Ariocarpus Lloydii, the Living Rock Cactus is also known as Star Rock. It comes from Central Mexico and has the shape, color, and texture resembling limestone chips. The round shape is quite unusual for the Cacti Familia. Perhaps, its shape is what makes it stand out amongst other types of cactus plants. It blooms pinkish flowers that add beauty and vibrancy to your home if kept as an indoor plant.  

Characteristics of the Living Rock Cactus

FamilyCactaceae Familia
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size1 – 6 inches
LightBright
WaterDoes not require too much water
Required Temperature-10 degrees C
Available ColorsPink
Soiling Mineral Soil works best

4. Armatocereus Godingianus

Finally, a cactus that looks like a cactus! The Armatocereus Godingianus originates from Ecuador and Peru and looks like a small tree. It propagates white flowers and has the ability to grow spines and fruits as well. These species need ample sunlight to grow, but their water requirements are quite low compared to other plants, only 0.8 cups every 12 days!

So, if you’re keeping the Armatocereus Godingianus as a houseplant, make sure to place it 3 feet or less from a south-facing window and set a reminder to water it. 

However, you need to be very careful while handling this plant because it has a thorny texture.  

Characteristics of Armatocereus Godingianus

FamilyCactaceae Family
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size38 – 48 inches
LightBright light is preferable, but shady light works well too
WaterDoes not require much water 
Required Temperature-10 degrees C
Available ColorsWhite
Soiling Non-organic but draining soil

5. Bishop’s Cap

Originating from mountains of Northern Mexico, the Bishop’s Cap, as the name suggests, is a star-shaped cactus that looks like a tall headdress worn by bishops. It has delicate lobes and produces yellow cup-like flowers with red or orange centers. Apart from cute little flowers, the Bishop’s Cap propagates distinct fruits, leaves, and embryos; however, these characteristics vary and are not constant. It grows well in chalky soil and is known to be a hard-to-kill plant, but heavy watering and rich soil prove otherwise. 

Characteristics of The Bishop’s Cap

FamilyCactaceae Family
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size6 – 12 inches
LightBright and shady lights work well
WaterNot too much water
Required Temperature-10 degrees C
Available ColorsRed and Yellow
Soiling Well-draining mineral soil and loose soil

6. Medusa Cactus

How about a cactus straight out of a creepy-crawly movie? The Medusa cactus, also known as Medusa’s Head, is a plant with a reptilian appearance. It has a central caudex and leaves that look like snakes growing out of Medusa’s head! As new leaves grow, the old ones curl up and die.

The Medusa cactus requires weekly watering; otherwise, the leaves tend to shrivel up. If the plant is well taken care of, it produces tiny chartreuse flowers that complement its name.  

Characteristics of Medusa Cactus

FamilyCactaceae Family
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size1 – 6 inches
LightGrows well with bright and shady light
WaterIt needs a little water
Required Temperature0 to 25 degrees C
Available ColorsYellow
Soiling Draining Soil (Non-organic)

7. Shafer’s Opuntia

Shafer’s Opuntia, also known as the Prickly Pear, is sure to take you back to the famous Disney song “The Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book.” This cactus plant, found in abundance in the Caribbean Islands, has perpendicular clumps that can grow up to 30 centimeters long. It is 15 centimeters broad and can easily cover a vacant place at your home. Its sharp edges or spines give it a cactus-ey look that distinguishes it from other houseplants. 

Characteristics of Shafer’s Opuntia

FamilyCactaceae Family
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size6 – 12 inches
LightGrows well with bright and shady light
WaterDoes not require too much water
Required Temperature-10 degrees C
Available ColorsRed
Soiling If the soil gets dry, regular watering is preferable.

8. Blue Barrel

Most of the cactus plants have a dry green look, but not the Blue Barrel! As the name suggests, this cactus has a bluish shade and grows in a round shape, giving it the look of a barrel. Native to Mexico, the Blue Barrel cactus grows up to 2 feet tall and wide. When kept as a houseplant, this cacti species are quite easy to maintain and grow well in light shade and well-drained soil. It is considered an ornamental plant due to its eye-catching color and shape, which adds spectacularity to any room where it’s placed.

Characteristics of Blue Barrel Cactus

FamilyCactaceae Family
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size12 – 24 inches
LightBright light works well. It can live in shady light as well
WaterIt requires watering once a day
Required TemperatureAbove 10 degrees C
Available ColorsRed and Yellow
Soiling Well-draining

9. Pineapple Cactus (Bird’s Nest)

The Pineapple Cactus, also known as Bird’s Nest, is an interesting plant. Native to Texas, this prickly fruit-shaped cactus can grow in rocky soil, deserts, grasslands, and even sandy beaches. So, keeping it as a houseplant is quite a possibility. It can propagate 10-50 branches, clustering from a tender age.

The clusters can be 15 centimeters wide, making it an amazing option to decorate your living room. It blooms in February and March, with beautiful white and pink flowers. So get this exotic beauty to add colors of life and vibrancy to your living room.

Characteristics of Pineapple Cactus

FamilyCactaceae Family
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size3 – 9 inches
LightBright and shady light go well
WaterDoes not need much water 
Required Temperature0 degree C
Available ColorsYellow
Soiling Mineral soiling mix

10. Beavertail Cactus

The Beavertail Cactus is native to the Mojave deserts of Southeast California. It has greyish blue, flat, fleshy leaves that look like a beaver’s tail, hence the name! It also looks like a Bunny Ear cactus plant. It grows up to 6 inches tall and 4 feet wide and produces dazzling purplish flowers and brownish grey fruits, making it quite an attraction. As a houseplant, it can be used in rock gardens and adorned on the patio in containers. Make sure to give the Beavertail plenty of bright sunlight and well-drained soil to see it thrive to its fullest.

Characteristics of Beavertail Cactus

FamilyCactaceae family
TypeSucculent and Cactus
Size6 – 36 inches
LightShady or full-bright light
WaterIt does not require too much water
Required Temperature-5 degrees C
Available ColorsPink
Soiling Mineral soil and sand soil work well

Cacti are known for being desert plants, but many species can easily be grown at home. They are easy to care for and don’t require much time. Just water them according to their need, give them the required amount of sunlight, and you will see them grow in all their glory.

Also, some variants have distinguished shapes and colors that make them a perfect addition to your houseplants collection. So, give a fresh and sophisticated look to your indoor garden or rockeries with the 10 amazing types of cactus plants discussed in this blog.

If you’re looking for other succulents and valuable tips to grow indoor plants, check out our blogs!

Written by Chris Buckland

Hello, I’m Chris. I’m a houseplant expert. I have been Cultivating and Growing Houseplants for 20 years. Plants are like my children. I love to write about Indoor plants and share my experience. That's why I started writing everything I know about houseplants.

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