Cactus plants, or cacti, are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. They come in a staggering variety of shapes, sizes and textures but many also flower. Slow growing, cacti are perfect for potting up and leaving, and they need very little watering – they make the perfect, low-maintenance house plant.
Cactus plants 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 of a centrally heated home. They do best in a light, airy spot that’s warm but not too hot – around 18°C is ideal. Some can be moved outside in summer for a bit of extra light.
To encourage flowers to form you’ll need to mimic a desert drought, followed by rains. Most cacti will flower in summer if you stop watering in autumn and through winter, and then start watering again from spring onwards.
More on growing cacti:
Browse our list of beautiful cacti to grow, below.
Gymnocalycium oehnanthemum x horstii
This gymnocalycium is a squat, fleshy plant that has long, distinctive, almost curling spines. It develops large pink 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 cactus type, with a distinctive undulating shape. It rarely flowers.
Wool and spines cover the ribs of the distinctive globes of this cactus. Pop it outside in summer to give it a better chance of developing sulphur yellow flowers.
Astrophytum myriostigma is a star-shaped cactus 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 cactus 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 will form a small mound and bear 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.
Known as the old lady cactus, Mammillaria hahniana forms globe-shaped stems covered in fine white spines and white down, from which a circle of pretty pink flowers appears in spring.
Chin cactus, Gymnocalycium neuhuberi, is a rounded, blue-green cactus. It has slightly curved spines that are a rich amber colour when young, before fading to cream. It produces scented, fuchsia-coloured flowers in the summer months.
Ferocactus pilosus is a striking barrel cactus with thick red spines. Initially globe-shaped, plants eventually grow tall. Flowers are yellow or red but rarely appear on cultivated plants.
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