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LuEsther T. Mertz Library
Plant & Research Guides

Cacti Indoors: Some Popular Cacti to Grow Indoors

Echinocactus grusonii on display at NYBG
Echinocactus grusonii on display at NYBG

Desert Cacti

Cereus peruvianus (Peruvian apple cactus):

At one time, most columnar cacti were considered to be Cereus, but today more than 500 species and synonyms have been reclassified. Of those cacti now identified as C. peruvianus, many are actually cultivars of C. repandus or C. hildmannianus that may not even look similar. Common care needs make the lumping together a convenience. It is fast-growing and tolerant. Sunny spot in summer, feed monthly and sparingly water. Winter cool and almost dry. Repot annually.

Echinocactus grusonii (golden barrel cactus):

Growing quickly at first and then slowing, E. grusonii takes 15 years to reach about 11" tall. It will lose its attractive compact shape if not given direct, bright light all year and a winter's rest between 40 and 50°F. Yellow flowers in summer are very unusual unless taken outdoors in warmest months. Use tomato fertilizer monthly in growing season. Keep evenly moist in summer and do not water in winter.

Mammillaria hahniana (old lady cactus):

This small (10"), barrell-shaped cactus is covered in white down and spines that emerge from raised tubercles. Deep pink flowers can form a complete circle around the top, growing from second year growth in axils. Easy to care for, they respond to the standard care instructions on the desert cactus page.

Opuntia microdasys (bunny ear cactus); photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ William Herron
Opuntia microdasys (bunny ear cactus); photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ William Herron

Opuntia microdasys (prickly pear, bunny ears cactus):

This flattened segmented cactus has tufts of barbed bristles that stick to the skin and grows about a foot tall. They tolerate and prefer lower than typical temperatures in the winter (but above 35°F.) and require more than typical water in the summer, though go almost dry in winter. Bright warm rooms with summer months outside if possible. Feed weekly in growing season and repot annually in spring.

Schlumbergeria truncata (holiday cactus); photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Peter Barabas
Schlumbergeria truncata (holiday cactus); photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Peter Barabas

TROPICAL FOREST CACTI

Hatiora gaertneri (Easter cactus):

Easter cactus has no teeth on its leaf segments. In late April/ early May, stunning 3" blooms open. To induce flowers, move to a cooler space in January with days in 50 to 65º F. range and nights 45 to 55°. If the temperature must stay between 55° and 70°F,  cover plants with a black cloth during the night from 6pm to 7am daily to produce buds. Reduce water. After bloom, a resting period is essential. Restrict water to keep just barely moist and do not feed. Warm, household daytime temperatures the rest of the year.

Schlumbergera truncata (holiday cactus, Thanksgiving cactus):

Loved for its display of bright flowers that appear during the Thanksgiving to New Year season. Grow in bright light conditions,  but no direct sun in summer. In fall, flower buds will form if the night temperature is maintained at 50° to 55°F. regardless of day length. If the temperature is between 55° and 70°F, cover the plants with a black cloth from 6pm to 7am daily to produce buds. To prevent bud drop, avoid  large temperature fluctuations, keep humidity high and water correctly. Avoid moving plants from one site to another.