Cacti are enjoying a resurgence in popularity and if you think they’re not for you, take another look. They come in a staggering variety of shapes, sizes and textures but many will also burst into bloom year after year. Cacti are slow growing, so there’s little risk of them outgrowing their welcome.
Watch our video guide to three golden rules for growing cacti.
These remarkable curiosities are perfectly adapted to live in the intense heat and harsh environment of the desert, so they’re more than capable of surviving the warm and dry conditions in a centrally heated home. They’ll thrive in a light, airy spot that’s warm but not too hot – around 18°C is ideal. Do move them outdoors in summer as they’ll appreciate the boost in light levels.
To get the best flowers, mimic a desert drought followed by rains. Most cacti will flower in summer if you give them a dry period over the winter then water from spring onwards.
They’re fun and easy to grow from seed, too – find out how to grow cacti from seed.
Here are some beautiful cacti to grow.
This freely flowering and densely spined cactus has a compact, cylindrical body. It will very quickly form large clumps.
Gymnocalycium oehnanthemum x horstii
This gymnocalycium is a squat, fleshy plant that has long, distinctive, almost curling spines. It bursts into large flowers in summer.
Mammillaria spinosissima is a pincushion cactus, up to 30cm tall, that grows in clusters or alone. Red fruit may follow the small pink flowers.
Chamaelobivia ‘Lincoln Gem’
A fast-growing, freely flowering cactus that produces compact clumps of long, columnar plants.
A mass of tightly crisscrossing spines on a small, compact plant. It bursts into an abundance of vivid pink flowers in summer.
Mammillaria geminispina nobilis f. cristata
A popular, fast-growing, crested type, with a distinctive undulating shape. It rarely flowers.
Wool and spines cover the ribs of the distinctive globes. In summer it likes to be kept outside and will erupt into sulphur yellow flowers.
Astrophytum myriostigma is a star-shaped plant with attractive patterns and markings and short, spiky spines. It flowers briefly in summer.
Astrophytum ornatum is a fast-growing cactus with yellow flowers. White flakes on its ribbed stem protect it from intense sunlight and will fade in shadier conditions.
Mammillaria laui dasyacantha
Covered in woolly, white spines, this flowers freely in May with a second, even third, flush later in the year.
Large, pink flowers smother the small, circular plants in early spring and seed freely to produce pretty, clumping groups.
Rebutia heliosa is a small, globular cactus that readily produces offsets. In time it’ll form a small mound and will produce hot orange-red flowers.
This large cactus is aptly named the golden barrel cactus, and can eventually reach a metre across. A brilliant cactus for growing as a feature plant in a pot. For a similar cactus but with red spines, consider Ferocactus pilosus or Ferocactus latispinus.
Tips for cactus care
- Grow in cactus or free-draining compost
- Grow them in unglazed terracotta pots and containers with plenty of drainage holes
- Let the compost dry out between watering
- Remove dust using a soft paintbrush
- Repot every three to four years
- Move outdoors in summer to a warm, sunny spot