Cactus Varieties in Arizona

Are there many cactus varieties in Arizona?

How common is it to see these types of cactus in Phoenix AZ and elsewhere in the state?

Are they difficult to grow?

There are several different varieties of cactus plants that grow and thrive in Arizona. You can spot several of them growing in the desert, but they can also be grown in lawns and landscapes.

In this article, you’ll learn more about types of cactus in Phoenix and the rest of Arizona. You can use this information to pick the best plants for your yard or identify those you see in the desert.

Read on to learn more about different types of cactus in Arizona.

1. Arizona Barrel Cactus

Scientific name: Ferocactus wislizeni

This small, round cactus is dark green in color and features white spines. It may sometimes grow a flower on top, and it requires well-draining soil and hot temperatures.


  • Drought tolerant
  • Easy to grow in containers


  • Not tolerant of cold temperatures at all

2. Arizona Claret Cup

Scientific name: Echinocereus arizonicus

This small, round cactus grows in clusters of dark green spheres or cylinders with white spines. It features bright red flowers on top of the plant and can usually be found in cooler climates than most other types of cactuses.


  • Tolerates high elevations
  • Tolerates cool temperatures and shade because they group together for heat


  • May not handle locations with bright, direct sunlight

3. Arizona Fishhook Cactus

Scientific name: Mammillaria grahamii

This little round cactus grows dark green and is covered in spines, which are usually white to pale yellow. It grows a crown of flowers around the top of the plant in shades of pink and red, and it requires slightly acidic soil.


  • Grows well indoors and in containers
  • Stays small enough to be a good office plant


  • May not flower under all conditions

4. Arizona Pencil Cholla

Scientific name: Cylindropuntia arbuscula

This tall, thin cactus grows long branches that attach to each other. It is dark green to gray-green and has some spines. The cactus requires well-draining soil and lots of bright, direct sunlight.


  • May sometimes flower in the right conditions
  • Easy to grow when established


  • May not be beginner friendly

5. Arizona Rainbow Cactus

Scientific name: Echinocereus rigidissimus

This unique cactus grows tall, thick cylinders or towers that are dark green in color. Its spines may be white or even pink, and it grows large pink flowers on top of the plant as well. It requires lots of bright, direct sunlight.


  • Excellent addition to an indoor or outdoor space
  • Lots of aesthetic appeal


  • Will not flower without a lot of bright sunlight

6. Golden Hedgehog

Scientific name: Erinaceus europaeus

This classic cactus is round and deep green with yellow spines. It can sometimes form a bright yellow flower on top of the plant. It requires well-draining soil with a neutral pH and lots of bright sunlight.


  • Easy to grow in a pot
  • Requires very little maintenance


  • Takes many years before it will form a flower

7. Jumping Cholla

Scientific name: Cylindropuntia fulgida

This cactus forms lots of cylindrical growths or branches from a central root system. It is covered in spines that may be white, brown, or green, and it requires several hours of full sunlight every day.


  • Easy to grow indoors or outside
  • Easy to transplant between pots or into the ground


  • Not cold tolerant at all

8. Mountain Ball Cactus

Scientific name: Pediocactus simpsonii

This round cactus is covered in spines and is dark green in color. Its spines are usually white or brown, and it grows a bright pink flower on its top in some cases. The cactus requires cooler climates than some of the others on this list.


  • Handles cold temperatures at night well
  • Small enough to grow in a pot


  • May drop its flower when cold temperatures are sustained

9. Night Blooming Cereus

Scientific name: Epiphyllum oxypetalum

This unique cactus grows long leaves similar to the fronds of a fern. The leaves are ridged or serrated and dark green in color. At night, the plant blooms with large white flowers. It requires temperatures of over 50 degrees Fahrenheit to thrive.


  • Can be hung in hanging pots for extra aesthetic appeal
  • Handles some shade


  • Will not bloom at night without lots of direct sunlight during the day

10.Organ Pipe Cactus

Scientific name: Stenocereus thurberi

This massive cactus is a large growth that forms with several small branches coming off of one main root system. It can grow up to 26 feet in height and is usually found growing wild in the Sonoran desert. This cactus requires monsoon seasons as well as dry seasons to grow.


  • Beautiful and stunning large cactus
  • Ideal for Arizona desert climates


  • Generally grows wild and isn’t kept as a lawn plant

11. Robust Spine Beehive Cactus

Scientific name: Coryphantha robustispina

This cactus is dark green in color and is covered in white to brown spines. It may sometimes grow a yellow flower on top. The cactus requires very well-draining soils and dry, hot conditions for best results.


  • Easy to grow
  • Adds a pop of color to any space


  • May not handle growth in a pot very well

12. Saguaro

Scientific name: Carnegiea gigantea

This classic cactus is a large, thick, green plant with a huge main trunk. It grows several bent branches from the main portion of the cactus and is covered in spines. This cactus requires hot, dry climates and lots of bright sunlight.


  • Easily recognizable sight known for thriving in desert conditions
  • Capable of growing very tall


  • May be too large and difficult to grow for lawns and gardens

13. Santa Cruz Beehive Cactus

Scientific name: Coryphantha recurvata

This little round cactus is covered in spines and grows yellow flowers on top. It sometimes forms in clusters, but can also be seen growing on its own. The cactus needs dry, sandy soil with a lot of drainage.


  • Colorful and aesthetically appealing
  • Easy to grow


  • May be easily overwatered

14. Teddy Bear Cholla

Scientific name: Cylindropuntia bigelovii

This cactus grows in long tubular branches that build on each other. It is green, but it is covered in so many spines that it looks like it has fur–hence its name. The cactus grows yellow to white spines and needs dry, warm conditions to grow.


  • Grows well in the desert
  • Makes a nice addition to any lawn or landscape


  • Can be difficult for beginners

15. Violet Prickly Pear

Scientific name: Opuntia gosseliniana

This stunning cactus is deep purple in color instead of green. It features paddle-shaped growth sections and may sometimes also grow bright yellow flowers that stand out boldly against the purple. This cactus, like most, requires arid conditions and cannot tolerate too much moisture.


  • Unique aesthetic addition to any space
  • Grows well indoors and outside


  • Can be tricky to get it to flower


Did you find the ideal cactus for your needs? With so many options, it’s easy to find several that may work for your Arizona home or garden.

Here are a few tips for growing your cacti in Arizona:

  • Never overwater. Your cactuses do not need much water at all and can die from overwatering.
  • Protect plants from cold. Cactuses usually need to be brought indoors or covered when it’s very cold out.
  • Provide lots of light. The more, the better!

Keep this information in mind and you’ll be well on your way to the perfect cactuses in no time!