Cactus Plant Facts

A cactus is a plant that grows where the soil is dry and rocky—most usually in the desert.

A cactus doesn’t have leaves like other plants do.

A cactus has spines or thorns.

The plural word for cactus is cacti.

There are about 2,000 different types of cactuses found in the world.

Some are thin and very, very tall, and others are short and round like a ball…a very spikey ball.

There are even cacti that look like bushes and some that look like ping pong paddles.

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Cactus Facts for Kids

  • There are about 2000 types of cacti
  • Cactus are xerophytes, specializing in hot, dry climates.
  • Cactus lifespan is somewhere in the ranges from 10 to 200 years
  • Many cacti live in dry places, such as deserts
  • A cactus plant can be very small or very big
  • The saguaro cactus is the largest cactus in the United States
  • The tallest saguaro cactus ever was over 78 feet tall
  • You will find lots of cacti in Arizona and California.
  • The spikes on the outside can be very sharp.
  • Some spikes can be even poisonous to humans.
  • Some cacti are edible especially from the 200+ Opuntia species
  • They are very good at conserving water, especially during long dry periods.
  • The outside of a cactus is a waxy skin texture that helps it hold in water.
  • Cactus flowers can be yellow, red, pink, white, orange, or blue.
  • Some cactus can be eaten and some grow fruit.
  • The vast majority of cacti have no visible leaves.
  • Scientists have discovered fossils of cacti dating back 25 million years.
  • The cactus can also be used for fodder for animals once the spines have been removed.
  • In some countries like India, they will use to cut this in herbal medicine.
  • Some cactus have been found in rainforests and even in countries like Canada.

Succulent Plants

Cacti are a type of succulent plant that can store water, helping them survive in dry environments. Unique to cacti are structures called areoles, from which grow the plant’s spines and flowers. These features, along with their diverse shapes, make cacti a fascinating group within the succulent family.

Desert Ecosystems

Cacti are essential in desert ecosystems. They are adapted to conserve water and withstand heat, and their spines deter herbivores. Cacti also support desert biodiversity by providing food and shelter for various creatures. Their flowers feed pollinators, and their fruits, consumed by animals, assist in seed dispersal. In this way, cacti contribute significantly to the balance of life in deserts.

Drought Tolerant Gardening

Cacti are ideal for drought-tolerant gardening due to their adaptations to arid environments. They store water in their stems and minimize evaporation with their small leaf surface, enhancing their drought resistance. Their roots efficiently absorb rainwater, while their variety in shape, size, and color adds visual appeal. Using cacti in such gardens reduces water use and promotes biodiversity, bringing a touch of desert beauty.


Cacti are examples of xerophytes, plants adapted to environments with little water. They have succulent stems for water storage, spines instead of leaves to limit water loss, and thick skins that retain moisture. Their wide, shallow root systems absorb water from rare rains. These strategies show how xerophytes like cacti adapt to thrive in harsh conditions.

Photosynthesis and Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM)

Cacti use a unique form of photosynthesis called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) to adapt to arid environments. Unlike most plants, cacti open their stomata at night to take in CO2, minimizing water loss. The CO2 is stored as malic acid and used for photosynthesis during the day when the stomata are closed. This adaptation allows cacti to survive in extremely dry conditions.

Desert Wildlife

Cacti play a key role in supporting desert wildlife. They provide hydration for various creatures and serve as nesting sites for birds like the cactus wren. Their flowers attract pollinators, aiding in plant reproduction and enhancing desert biodiversity. Even in death, cacti foster other life forms, reflecting the interconnectedness of the desert ecosystem.

Cacti in Culture and Symbolism

Cacti carry significant cultural and symbolic meanings. They symbolize strength and endurance in Native American cultures, and resilience and isolation in art and literature. Feng Shui sees cacti as protectors due to their spines, and they have become symbols of the American Southwest. This diversity in symbolism mirrors the varied resilience and beauty of cacti.

Indigenous Uses of Cacti

Cacti have been vital to indigenous peoples for food, medicine, building materials, and spiritual rituals. The fruit of species like the prickly pear is eaten, and the flesh is used medicinally. The sturdy saguaro cactus has been used for construction, while the San Pedro and peyote cacti, containing mescaline, are used in spiritual ceremonies. These varied uses highlight the adaptability and value of cacti.

Cacti and Conservation

Cacti are under threat from overharvesting, habitat destruction, and climate change, making their conservation critical. Efforts include legal protection, habitat restoration, and seed banking. Community-based conservation also plays a role. The aim is to preserve cacti and the unique biodiversity they support in their ecosystems.

What is a Cactus Plant? 

The cactus plural word is cacti. It’s a tap-rooted plant; however, its root is stronger and longer compared to other related plants’ roots. This enables it to find and drink water deep in the ground. 

After soaking water, the taproot holds on to it and sends a little at a time to the rest of the plant. Cactus has some other small roots that run close to the ground surface; they soak up any rainwater that falls. 

Cacti are tasty perpetual plants containing woody chlorophyll or thick herbaceous stems. This type of plant adapts to dry and hot climates. It is distinguished from other juicy plants by their small cushion-like structures, barbed or spine bristles, and areoles presence. 

Cactus stores water in its leaves, roots, and stems; therefore, even if it doesn’t rain for long, it has enough water to help it develop. This plant can go without rain for over a year. Thanks to its water storage ability. 

Cacti is from the Cactaceae family. It has 127 genera, with more than 1750 known species, of which most of them are American natives. Some cacti genera include:

  • Myrtillocactus 
  • Schlumbergera 
  • Gymnocalycium 

The plant reproduces by seed method. Its flowers are colorful, large, beautiful, and generally solitary. They are pollinated by moths, bats, and butterflies. The fruit is typically a berry and comprises many seeds. 

Its leaves aren’t like other plants’ leaves.

There are many sizes and shapes of cacti. Some are thin and tall, and others are round and short. 

What Are Some Uses Of Cacti?

Cacti are usually grown as houseplants and broadly cultivated as ornaments. In various species, particularly chollas and prickly pears (Cylindopuntia and Opuntia, respectively) are brightly colored and good to eat. The prickly pear juice and pads are high in vitamins and fiber and low in calories. They can help in the cutting down of your weight. 

Cacti can be boiled, fried, served in soup or salad. In countries like Mexico, it is packed and stored in grocery as food. 

In South and Central America, Opuntia species and others are used as living hedges. In some desert areas, columnar cacti wood is used as fuel. 

In the drought period, cacti spines, such as mandacaru, are removed and used as hay for livestock. 

You can use cactus to make needles, hooks, and combs. 

Generally, various cactus species are used as traditional medicine and herbs. 

How Does The Cactus Plant Look Like?

Cacti are of different types, and they come in diverse sizes, colors, and shapes. The majority are in green color, while some may be brown-green or bluish. Some are flat like a pancake, while others are round in shape. You’ll find several shaped like starfish or snakes. 

A cactus plant may grow as big as an elephant or as small as a rat. The largest cacti type can grow to 66 feet tall and weigh up to 4800 pounds. Wow! That means it can grow as tall as a giraffe and be as heavy as a car!

Many people have described a cactus plant, that it is as ugly as a dirty pig, covered with spikes; but do you know what, this plant is beautiful! Its flowers are of color red, yellow, orange, blue or white. Aren’t these wonderful colors? 

Some of these flowers blossom for a day, but others last for weeks. Other flowers are nocturnal; this means they blossom only during the night. 

Cactus indeed have spikes, but they are generally known as spines, and they act as leaves. The spines help the cactus survive. The sharp spines distract birds and animals away from the plant. They also help retain the plant’s stored water from escaping.

Although cactus spines may be unpleasant to look at, they are important to the plant. You need to be careful with some cacti spines since they are not only poky and sharp but also toxic! 

Some various forms of spines include:

  • Needle-like 
  • Curved 
  • Bristle-like
  • Straight 
  • Hooked
  • Hair-like 
  • Round 
  • Awl-like 

Spines play an important role in plants, including:

Air Trapping

Spines help break airflow around a cactus plant by creating a buffer that hinders water evaporation. Airflow leads to water loss.

Water Collection 

Spines help in collecting water in foggy deserts. How? The fog that lands on the spines later turns into water that drops down on the ground beneath. The roots of the plant then absorb this water for storage. 


In the desert, many herbivores feed on desert plants. Cactus isn’t an exception. Due to its fleshy appearance, cactus attracts many animals, and this is where the importance of spines come in. 

To the cactus, spines act as a defense mechanism. Upon close contact, its needles pierce the skin deeply. A cacti puncture is tremendously painful for any animal or human being to endure. If an animal or even human beings are pierced by the cacti prickly needles, it’s hard to remove the spine from the skin, and this may lead to major infections. 

Where Do Cactus Plants Grow?

If your answer is “the desert,” Then you are correct. The majority of cacti grow in deserts or hostile regions / dry areas. Reason – they like rocky, dry soil. Nevertheless, a few species are found in Northern states like Canada and in rainforest regions. 

The most known states for cacti are California, Texas, and Arizona. Reason – in these states, there are plenty of national parks and deserts, where many cactus can grow. When flowers begin to blossom between March and May, visitors come from different regions to see the magic experience of cactus as they look smart and welcoming. 

What Are Some Factors That Can Affect Your Cactus Blooming Performance?

  • Watering
  • Lightning 
  • Fertilization 
  • Temperature 
  • Planting method (whether from rooting a branch or seed)

How does the cactus plant survive in the desert areas? The cacti have waxy skin, which helps them hold water that aids in their survival in dry areas/hostile climates.  

Is The Cacti Water Safe For Drinking?

Cacti water is thicker than the normal water you drink.

Though it’s tasteless, it’s safe for drinking. Drinking cactus water has saved many people’s lives – those who come to tour in the desert or live therein. 

Are Cacti Easy To Grow?

Growing and caring for a cactus plant is easy since they require very little water. They like sunny weather, so if you live in areas where it gets cold during the winter, you need to keep the plant inside the house to get enough warmth for them to survive outside.

It’s essential to understand that growing a cactus plant can be a waiting game. Unlike some potted plants, which sprout within few weeks, the cactus needs patience. It grows slowly since it doesn’t have chlorophyll leaves, which helps in quick plant food production. 

The plant’s main focus is not on reproduction but on survival. The fact is that if it had real leaves like other plants, it would lose a lot of moisture in the process of food production hence it wouldn’t survive in harsh environments. 

What Should You Do To Keep The Cacti Happy And Prolong Its Life? 

  • Avoid overwatering. This may lead to root decay. Water the plant once per week in summer, then once per two/three weeks in other seasons.
  • Place them in areas with natural lighting. Avoid window sills as they may cause discoloration and sunburns. 
  • Grow your plant in clay containers. Plastic containers hold water for a long time and this may be harmful to the plant.
  • Consider the right temperatures. For cactus to stay strong and healthy, opt for optimum temperatures. During fall and winter, the right temperatures would be between 45 and 55 degrees, while in summer the plant will do good in temp of between 65 and 95 degrees.  
  • Let the roots breathe by perlite, small gravel, or coarse sand.  
  • Use proper potting soil that is rich in nutrients and well-drained for the plant to thrive and appear healthy. 

How Long Can A Cactus Plant Live? 

Cacti can live for fifteen years, but some may live for even 300 years. It depends on how you care for the plant. 

Is a Cactus a Succulent?

A cactus is a succulent.

A succulent is a plant that has spongy roots and leaves.

They have spongy roots and leaves so they can hold the water they get and save it for later.

They have to be able to do this because most cacti live in hot, dry areas that don’t get much rain.

The taproot (main root) on a cactus is longer and stronger than the taproot of most plants.

This lets a cactus find and drink water that is deep down in the ground.

The taproot soaks up the water and holds on to it; sending little drinks at a time to the rest of the plant.

Cactus also has lots and lots of small roots that run close to the surface of the ground.

This lets the roots soak up any rain that falls quickly.

Do Cacti Flower?

Most cacti produce flowers.

The flowers a cactus produces can be as small as a dime or as large as a dinner plate.

Cactus flowers are also very colorful; bright yellow and pink, deep red and orange.

Some even have white flowers or striped flowers.

Some cactus flowers last for a few days or even weeks like other flowers do.

But some cactus flowers only last for a few hours.

The spines or thorns on many cacti are poisonous.

Getting poked by them can make you feel dizzy, cause you to lose feeling where you were poked, or even make you sick.

Can You Eat Cacti?

Many kinds of cacti are edible.

This means you can eat them.

The juice and pads of the prickly pear (minus the spines, of course) is a favorite food for people living in Mexico and other countries in Central and South America.

The juice and pads of prickly pear are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins.

They fill you up without making you gain weight.

The juice is full of vitamin C—just like oranges.

Figs Fruit

Are Cacti Easy to Grow?

Cacti are easy to grow and take care of because they need so little water.

They love the sun, but if you live somewhere where it gets cold in the winter, you can bring them into your house, and they will be fine until it gets warm enough for them to go back outside.

Cacti can live for many, many years, though, so be sure you are willing to take care of them for a long, long time.

What does a cactus look like

Cacti are plants that have adapted to live in dry environments. They grow slowly but produce lots of flowers. The most common type of cactus is called prickly pear. It grows on rocks and soil.

The name comes from the spines which cover its body. These spines help protect the plant against animals who might eat it.

Cacti are also known as succulents because they store water in their leaves. This helps them survive when there isn’t enough rain.

How do cacti reproduce

For the cactus to reproduce, it needs to be pollinated. Bees or other insects visit the flower and transfer pollen between the male and female parts.

This process can take several days. When the pollen has been transferred, the stamens fall off, and the pistil begins to swell. Then the fruit develops inside the flower.

When the fruits ripen, they split open and release seeds. Some of these seeds will germinate and form new plants.

Why do cactus have thorns?

The spines are there for protection from predators. They also help the plant conserve water by keeping its leaves dry.

The spines also make the plants easier to harvest.

How many spikes does a cactus have

Big cacti can have thousands of spikes. 

How long does a cactus live

In the wild, cacti can live for hundreds of years. In captivity, they can live up to 50 years.

How does a cactus survive in the desert?

Cacti are very resilient plants. They have adapted over time to live in harsh conditions.

They have developed thick skins which protect them from the sun’s rays. Their spines help them resist predators such as birds and lizards. Their roots grow deep into the ground, and they store water for use during dry periods.

What does a cactus feel like

A cactus feels prickly, dry, and hard. It also looks like a rock.

Why are cactus important

Cacti are an important part of our desert ecosystem. They also help control erosion by holding the soil together. Cacti have been around since prehistoric times. Many desert animals rely on them for food and water.

Are all cacti succulents?

Not all cacti are succulents, but all succulents have some similarities with cacti. Succulents are plants that store water in their leaves, stems, or roots to survive in arid environments. Cacti are a specific type of succulent that have unique features such as spines and areoles.

What are the different types of cacti?

Cacti come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with over 2,000 species worldwide. Some common types include the saguaro, prickly pear, and barrel cactus. Each type has unique characteristics, such as the saguaro’s tall stature and the prickly pear’s edible fruit.

Where do cacti grow?

Cacti grow in various regions around the world, including deserts, grasslands, and forests. They are commonly found in North and South America, but can also be found in Africa, Asia, and Australia. Cacti are well-adapted to arid environments and can thrive in harsh conditions with little water.

What are the benefits of cacti?

Cacti have several benefits, including their ability to store water and survive in harsh environments. They can also be used for medicinal purposes, such as treating wounds and inflammation. Additionally, some species of cacti produce edible fruits and can be used for landscaping and ornamental purposes.

What are the challenges of growing cacti?

Growing cacti presents several challenges, including providing the right amount of sunlight, water, and soil conditions. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while insufficient sunlight can cause stunted growth. Additionally, cacti are susceptible to pests and diseases, making proper care and maintenance crucial for their survival.

How do cacti store water?

Cacti store water in their stems and leaves, which are thick and fleshy. These structures are designed to hold large amounts of water, allowing the cactus to survive in arid environments where water is scarce. Some cacti also have shallow roots that can quickly absorb water when it does become available.

How do cacti reproduce?

Cacti reproduce through pollination, which occurs when pollen from the male flower is transferred to the female flower. This can happen through wind or through pollinators such as bees or birds. Once pollinated, the female flower will produce fruit containing seeds that can grow into new cacti plants.

What are the different ways to propagate cacti?

Cacti can be propagated through various methods such as stem cuttings, offsets, and seeds. Stem cuttings involve cutting a piece of stem and allowing it to dry before planting. Offsets are small plants that grow from the base of the parent plant and can be separated and replanted. Seeds can also be collected and planted to grow new cacti.

How often do cacti need to be watered?

Cacti are desert plants that have adapted to survive in dry conditions. As a result, they do not require frequent watering and can actually be harmed by overwatering. Generally, cacti should be watered only when the soil is completely dry, which can range from every two to four weeks depending on the environment and the type of cactus.

What is the best soil for cacti?

The best soil for cacti is well-draining and low in organic matter, such as a mixture of sand, perlite, and gravel. This type of soil allows for proper drainage and prevents the cactus from sitting in water, which can lead to root rot.

How much sunlight do cacti need?

Cacti require a lot of sunlight to thrive. They need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, but some species can handle up to 14 hours. Without enough sunlight, cacti can become weak and susceptible to disease.

What are the signs of overwatering and underwatering in cacti?

Overwatering in cacti can lead to yellowing and softness of the plant, as well as root rot and mold growth. Underwatering can cause shriveling and wrinkling of the cactus, as well as a lack of growth and flowering. Proper watering techniques are crucial for the health of cacti.

How do you fertilize cacti?

To fertilize cacti, one should use a balanced fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It is important to dilute the fertilizer to half strength and apply it during the growing season, typically from spring to fall. Over-fertilizing can harm the cactus, so it is best to err on the side of caution and fertilize sparingly.

How do you protect cacti from pests and diseases?

To protect cacti from pests and diseases, it is important to keep them in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering. Regularly inspecting the plants for signs of infestation or disease can also help catch and treat any issues early on. Additionally, using natural pest control methods such as neem oil or introducing beneficial insects can help keep cacti healthy.

How do you winterize cacti?

To winterize cacti, one should gradually reduce watering frequency and stop fertilizing in the fall. Move the cacti to a cooler, dry location with bright but indirect sunlight. Avoid exposing them to freezing temperatures and protect them from drafts. Resume regular watering and fertilizing in the spring.

What are some common mistakes people make when caring for cacti?

Overwatering and using the wrong type of soil are common mistakes people make when caring for cacti. It’s important to let the soil dry out completely before watering and to use a well-draining soil mix specifically designed for cacti.

What are some interesting facts about cacti?

Cacti are fascinating plants that have adapted to survive in harsh desert environments. They can live for decades or even centuries and some species can grow up to 66 feet tall. Cacti also have unique features such as spines, which protect them from predators, and the ability to store water in their thick stems.

What are some edible cacti?

Some edible cacti include the prickly pear, which has sweet and juicy fruit, and the nopal, which is the pad of the cactus and can be cooked and eaten like a vegetable. Other edible cacti include the saguaro, barrel, and cholla, which have edible fruit and seeds.

What are some uses for cacti besides decoration?

Cacti have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, with some species being used to treat ailments such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Additionally, certain cacti can be used as a food source, with the prickly pear cactus producing edible fruit and pads that can be cooked and eaten.

What are some famous cacti?

Some famous cacti include the Saguaro cactus, which can grow up to 40 feet tall and is found in the Sonoran Desert, and the Prickly Pear cactus, which produces edible fruit and is found throughout North and South America. The Barrel cactus, with its distinctive round shape, is also a well-known species found in the southwestern United States and Mexico.

What are some cacti that are endangered or threatened?

Several species of cacti are currently endangered or threatened, including the Saguaro cactus, the Peyote cactus, and the Organ Pipe cactus. These cacti face threats such as habitat loss, over-harvesting, and climate change, highlighting the importance of conservation efforts to protect these unique and valuable plants.

What are some organizations that are working to conserve cacti?

Several organizations are dedicated to conserving cacti, including the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Center for Biological Diversity. These organizations work to protect cacti habitats, promote conservation efforts, and raise awareness about the importance of preserving these unique plants.

What is the largest cactus species?

The largest cactus species is the saguaro cactus, which can grow up to 40 feet tall and weigh over a ton. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States and Mexico, and is known for its iconic appearance with multiple arms and white flowers in the spring.

What is the smallest cactus species?

The smallest cactus species is Blossfeldia liliputiana, which is native to South America. It grows to be only about 1cm in diameter and 1cm in height, making it one of the tiniest plants in the world. Despite its small size, it is able to survive in harsh desert conditions and has adapted unique features, such as a thick waxy coating to retain moisture.

What is the oldest cactus species?

The oldest known cactus species is the Pereskia, which dates back to over 25 million years ago. Unlike most cacti, Pereskia has leaves and lacks the water-storing adaptations that are characteristic of other cacti. It is believed that the evolution of cacti into their more familiar form occurred around 10-15 million years ago.

What is the most poisonous cactus species?

The most poisonous cactus species is the Echinocactus texensis, also known as the horse crippler cactus. Its spines contain a potent neurotoxin that can cause paralysis and even death in humans and animals. It is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico and is considered a dangerous plant to encounter in the wild.

What is the most common cactus species?

The most common cactus species is the prickly pear cactus, also known as Opuntia. It is found in various regions around the world, including North and South America, Africa, and Australia. Its distinctive flat pads and spiky thorns make it easily recognizable.

What is the most popular cactus species for decoration?

The most popular cactus species for decoration is the Echinocactus grusonii, also known as the Golden Barrel Cactus. It is a slow-growing, spherical cactus with golden spines that can reach up to three feet in height and width. Its unique appearance and low maintenance requirements make it a favorite among cactus enthusiasts and homeowners alike.

What is the most difficult cactus species to care for?

The Saguaro cactus, native to the Sonoran Desert, is considered one of the most difficult cactus species to care for due to its slow growth rate, specific soil and watering requirements, and susceptibility to disease. It can take up to 10 years for a Saguaro to reach just one inch in height, making it a challenging plant to cultivate.

What is the most interesting cactus species?

The saguaro cactus is considered one of the most interesting cactus species due to its iconic appearance and unique adaptations to its desert environment. It can grow up to 40 feet tall and live for over 200 years, while also providing shelter and food for a variety of desert animals.

What is the most unusual cactus species?

The most unusual cactus species is the Saguaro cactus, which can grow up to 40 feet tall and live for over 200 years. It is also the largest cactus species in the United States and can store up to 200 gallons of water in its trunk during droughts.

What is the most endangered cactus species?

The most endangered cactus species is the Sclerocactus brevihamatus ssp. tobuschii, also known as Tobusch fishhook cactus. It is native to Texas and has been listed as endangered since 1979 due to habitat loss, overgrazing, and illegal collection.

What is the most threatened cactus species?

The most threatened cactus species is the Sclerocactus brevihamatus ssp. tobuschii, also known as the Tobusch fishhook cactus. It is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and is only found in a small area of Texas, making conservation efforts crucial for its survival.

What is the most common way to propagate cacti?

The most common way to propagate cacti is through stem cuttings. This involves cutting a healthy stem from the parent plant and allowing it to dry out for a few days before planting it in well-draining soil. With proper care, the cutting will develop roots and grow into a new cactus plant.

What is the most effective way to water cacti?

The most effective way to water cacti is to do so sparingly and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out completely between watering sessions. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues, so it’s important to be mindful of the cactus’s natural environment and adjust watering accordingly.

What is the best way to fertilize cacti?

To fertilize cacti, it is best to use a low-nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season. This can be applied every two to four weeks, depending on the type of cactus and its growth rate. Over-fertilizing can harm the plant, so it is important to follow instructions carefully.