Succulents

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)

A gentle giant that stands up to incredible climate conditions, poor soil and desert critters. The edible fruit matures in the summer and is enjoyed by birds and other desert dwellers. These cacti can grow as tall as 40 feet, so allow a lot of space if you’re planning on using them in a desert landscape. This is the “typical” cactus you see in western movies, but these grow primarily throughout Arizona, California and parts of Northern Mexico.

Golden Barrel

The Golden Barrel cactus, also known as golden ball cactus with a botanical name Echinocactus is a popular slow growing desert plant known for its remarkable golden spines. The golden barrel is native to both South and North America. The plant is usually very scarce and endangered but can live for up to 30 years in the wild. It is usually found growing in volcanic rocks on slopes that has an altitude of about 1400 meters.

Desert Spoon

The Dasylirion wheeleri, popularly known as the Desert Spoon, is a species of plants in the asparagus family. It is native to Northern Mexico, and parts of Arizona and Texas in the United States.

It is an evergreen shrub characterized by a single unbranched trunk and a slender, grey-green leaf blade with a toothed margin. It also has a characteristic flowering stem which rises above the foliage and is topped by a plume if small, straw colored flowers. It is typically grown as an ornamental plant, and may be used in the production of an alcoholic drink called Sotol.

Medicinal Aloe

The Aloe vera is one of the most popular plants in the world. It is an evergreen perennial from the Arabian Peninsula, which has been cultivated around the world for medicinal and ornamental purposes. The used for a wide range of beauty products including skin lotions and ointments as a result of its medically active photochemically.

The plant itself is stemless, with thick, fleshy green leaves which have serrated leaves and pendulous flowers.It’s succulence makes it possible for the Aloe Vera to grow in arid regions, which has contributed to its worldwide popularity.

Prickly Pear Cactus

The Prickly Pear Cactus is a member of the cactus family most notable for its pink or reddish fruit. This fruit is known as tuna, and it is commonly eaten in  the Mediterranean region and Mexico.

The plant is native to the Americas, particularly in the central areas of Mexico as well as in the Carribean islands. The Prickly Pear Cactus has a characteristic segmented trunk with flat, rounded cladodes. The Prickly Pear Cactus is also used as dye, medicine and can be used to make a tasty candy.

Red Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus)

The Red Barrel Cactus, also known as the Ferocactus cylindraceus is a species of barrel cactus noted for its characteristic red, plentiful spines as well as its maroon and yellow flowers.

It is native to the Eastern Mojave Desert as well as the Sonoran regions and parts of Utah and Nevada. Because of its unique form, the Ferocactus cylindraceus is under threat of extinction from over enthusiastic collectors and habitat loss.

Mexican Fence Post Cactus

The Mexican Fence Post Cactus, also known as the Pachycereus marginatus, is a tall species from the cactus family sometimes used to make fences.

It is native to the Mexican States of Hidalgo, Queretaro, and Guanajuato, and is popular for its height and relationships very harmless spines. The Mexican Fence Post requires very little maintenance but will benefit from irrigation during very hot and dry months.

Totem Pole Cactus (Pachycereus schottii f. monstrosus)

The Totem Pole Cactus, also known as the Pachycereus schottii f. monstrosus, is a slow growing, smooth cactus which is popular for its size and the peculiar areoles running along its length.

It is native to Sonora and the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, but can be cultivated anywhere as an ornamental plant.The Totem Pole Cactus can grow up to 10 feet in length, and a medium green coloring offset by light pink blossoms when it blooms.

The Foxtail Agave (Agave attenuata)

The Foxtail Agave, also known as the foxtail or lion’s tail, is popular among plant enthusiasts for its development of a curved inflorescence.It is indigenous to the state of Jalisco in Central Mexico, and it is used as an ornamental plant in subtropical and warm climates.

The plant itself is about 20 to 60 inches in length, and is characterized by long tapering leaves that range from gray to yellowish-green in color.The Foxtail Agave can grow under poor soil and water conditions as long as it is protected from direct sunlight and frost.

Century Plant (Agave americana)

The Century Plant, also known as the Agave americana, is a flowering plant native to Mexico, and some states in the United States including New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

The Agave americana lives for about ten to thirty years, during which time it brings forth characteristic long, spiky leaves and a tall, branches stalk with yellow blossoms. It is a commonly cultivated ornamental plant due to its hardiness and unique look.

Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata)

The Yucca elata is a perennial plant native to southwestern North America, and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert. 

It is an angiosperm which grows to be about 3 meters tall, and it is characterized by its sparsely branched trunk as well as its leaves closely arranged in a tight spiral at the apex of the stems. The Yucca elata is hardy, and can survive in harsh conditions and is particularly suited to cold, dry regions with lots of sunlight.

Teddybear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii)

The Cylindropuntia bigelovii is a species of cactus native to Northwestern Mexico and some states in the United States including Arizona and Nevada.

The Cylindropuntia bigelovii has a distinctive soft appearance granted by an almost solid mass of spines completely covering the stem.

It stands at about 1.5 meters tall, and produces yellow-green flowers at the top of the stems in May and June, as well as fruits which are often tubercular and which may or may not have spines.

Ice Plant (Aizoaceae)

Ice plants are a large family of dicotyledons characterized by its glistening epidermal bladder cells which gives the family its name. It is native to the arid parts of South Africa as well as some parts of Australia and the Central Pacific Region.

They are popular as ornamental plants because of their stony appearance, as well as their use as firewalls in some parts of Southern California.It was also used at some point to stabilize soil along railroad tracks, and has since spread to become an invasive species.

Golden Torch Cactus (Echinopsis spachiana)

The Echinopsis spachiana is a species of cactus native to South Africa.  It is characterized by a columnar habit, and a cylindrical lime-green body with long golden spines.

Each column has up to 15 ribs, with large areolas about 1 cm apart, and wavy yellow hairs. The Echinopsis spachiana can grow up to 2 meters in length, and produced flowers in the months of June and July.

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

This southwestern cactus is relatively low-growing, and aptly named. The spikey spines are the reason this succulent is named a ‘Hedgehog’ cactus. The vibrant colored fruits that the flowers produce in the spring lend the other part of this plant’s name. It is said that these little fruits taste similar to strawberries, and are a favorite among birds.

The strawberry hedgehog cactus typically grows in 12” tall stems that can grow into multi-stemmed clusters up to 3’ wide. The strawberry hedgehog cactus thrives in dry, and arid climates. It needs loose soil that allows for water run-off to prevent root rot that can come from being too wet. They are great for indoor potted plants that are low maintenance. However, make sure to keep them in the sun as much as possible.

Peruvian Apple Cactus

The Peruvian apple cactus is a popular household cactus for collectors. The beautiful flowers grow in an exotic funnel shape, and only come open in full at night. Becoming reclusive during the day. These flower funnels can grow between 6” – 8” and grow in white or pink. In the wild the Peruvian apple cactus can grow up to 30’ fall. However, with proper pruning they can be kept manageable for indoor owners.

The fruit of the Peruvian apple cactus is popular among locals. The fruit bears a similar appearance to dragon fruit, with a white fleshy inside that is spotted with black seeds. The flavor is sweet, with a tartness that reminds many who eat it of the flavor of sugarcane.

Old Man Cactus

While the name might seem silly, the name of the old man cactus immediately becomes understood once you look at it. The wispy white hairs that grow along the cactus are reminiscent of a pleasant grandfather’s beard or hair. They are popular among cactus growers who love to add a bit of character to their collection. It’s a perfect conversation starter.

Being natively from Mexico, the old man cactus requires a hot and dry climate with a lot of sun. In the wild they can grow up to 45’ tall. However, in a pot they are generally extremely slow to grow. Even as cacti go, the old man cactus is very low maintenance.

Cardon Cactus

The cardon cactus comes in a few different varieties. The Cardon Grande or the Mexican Giant Cardon are perhaps the two most popular. They can be seen spotted around the landscape of the Baja desert in California, or throughout Sonora in Mexico. These might be the most recognizable species of cactus, as they have the typical tall and multi-armed look that is famous in cartoons.

The Cardon is the largest species of cactus in the world. They can reach up to 65’ tall, and age nearly 200 years.

Senita Cactus

The senita cactus can be seen growing in the wild in almost bush-like formations. These clusters can be up to 15’ tall, and 10’ wide. Often little hairy patches grow at the ends of the stems, giving them the name ‘senita’ which translates to ‘old one’ in Spanish. The fruit of the senita cactus has a strong tie to ancient inhabitants in the region.

Native Americans believed the fruit was a very spiritual food. While the inhabitants of Arizona and Mexico used to grind the seeds and use them for nutrition in many of their meals. It’s safe to say the senita cactus has a deep-rooted cultural history in the region that goes back generations.

Soft-tip Yucca

This evergreen succulent is native to the southeastern United States. They are sometimes called the ‘Spanish Dagger’ due to their blade like leaves which are stiff and come to a sharp point. They grow in a single stem, shrub like formation that will produce large columns of off-white bell-shaped flowers.

The soft-tip yucca is a relatively low maintenance succulent. However, they are very susceptible to over-watering. This can be evident in sagging leaves. They should be kept in a sunny, yet slightly humid environment. If you have them potted, they should only need to be repotted once every two years or so.

Elephant Bush

The Elephant Bush is a native to South Africa, and in the wild serves as a popular source of nutrition for Elephants and other local wildlife. They are an attractive succulent that can be a wonderful addition to your succulent garden.

Their reddish-brown stems, and creamy green leaves offer a very attractive look that appeals to many gardeners worldwide. However, when buying an Elephant bush, you should be careful that you are not accidentally. purchasing a Jade Plant. The two plants can often be mistaken for each other due to their similar appearance. However, they are in no way related, and will not yield the same growth you would expect when purchasing an Elephant Bush. Make sure you are purchasing your Elephant bush from a reputable source, who will not make this mistake.

Chaste Tree

The Chaste tree is cultivated primarily in China and has a wide variety of popular medicinal properties. This is the largest appeal to the Chaste tree. The chaste tree is especially famous for its historic nature that has been recorded throughout antiquity. Ancient scholars, and doctors would use the chaste tree for many things.

The most common of which is premenstrual syndrome, or cyclic breast pain. Some limited research even suggests it could be useful for treating symptoms of menopause. Aside from its medicinal uses, chaste tree is simply beautiful. Its lavender colored flowers provide an almost dreamlike beauty to the large tree. This is another reason they are popular in many gardens around the world.

Trichocereus grandifloras

Around the Puna de Atacama Desert in Argentina, you will find this beautiful little flowering plant. The fiery red flower is what makes this cactus so famous. Alongside the extremely harsh climate that it manages to survive in.

These small cacti can thrive almost anywhere that they can receive sunlight, with very little care on your part. When properly cared for, these cacti can provide you with a very rewarding yearly growth. Under the right circumstances, they can grow up to 4” each year, which makes caring for them very rewarding and fun to do.

Fishook Barrel Cactus

These thick, and stout cacti are aptly named. Sometimes growing nearly half as thick in diameter as they are in height. They grow vibrant yellow-red flowers in a crown formation along the top. These will sprout into fruits that can persist for up to a year after the flower has died.

The Fishook barrel cactus thrives in a very dry, and poor soil. You should only need to water it when planting, and otherwise only if you are experiencing an irregularly dry season in your region.

Eve’s Needle Cactus

Sometimes also referred to as Eve’s Pin Cactus, this large tree-like cactus can grow up to 13’ tall with a trunk that can reach up to 4” in diameter. These plants thrive in higher elevations and are native to Ecuador and Peru. If you live in a very arid, and warm area, these cacti can typically be planted outside, and left alone to enjoy.

You won’t need to provide any extra care. However, they can be potted, and kept in basic potting soil or rock gardens. Due to their need of a hot, and sunny environment, these do not typically thrive indoors. It’s advised to keep them outside where they can get the best quality of sunlight, and dry air.

Candelabra Cactus

The Candelabra cactus is named after its multi-branched and tall appearance. This cactus can grow up to 10’ tall by 10’ wide in the largest forms. During the spring and summer, the candelabra cactus will produce gorgeous white cup shaped flowers that will produce small red colored fruit.

These plants were historically used as fuel for fires by local inhabitants many years ago. As well as a food source provided by the fruit. The local inhabitants of the Baja peninsula, and surrounding areas were highly dependent on the growth of the candelabra cactus.

Chain Fruit Cholla

Throughout the Sonoran and Chihuahua deserts, the chain fruit cholla is often mistaken for a tree rather than a cactus. This is due to its wood-like trunk that sprouts many wide spreading branches. The chain fruit cholla is also commonly known to locals as ‘jumping cholla’. This is because when brushed up against, the needles will break off easily and stick to clothing and skin if you aren’t careful. The chain fruit cholla is especially important to wildlife, as during rough dry seasons and drought the fruit it bears can provide much needed hydration to local wildlife.

Octopus Agave

The octopus agave is another succulent that is named exactly how it looks. With its long tentacle like leaves that sprout from the central stem in exotic and wavy patterns.

These agave plants can be some of the lowest maintenance succulents you will ever own. If you enjoy taking extra care of your plants, I wouldn’t advise the octopus agave, as they thrive on less care. They can even handle quite a bit of neglect and still survive just fine. They are popular for their exotic rosette patterns, and almost curious appearance that makes them a fun conversation piece of any greenhouse or garden.

Desert Agave

The desert agave has a strong influence over human lives for nearly 10,000 years. Our distant ancestors figured out long ago how to use the desert agave plants for sweeteners, food additives, making clothes, and even rope.

Their hearty nature ensured that they were able to grow and thrive in nearly any hot and arid climate. As such, their iconic stout, and traditional agave appearance is possibly the most recognizable of the succulents. You can keep them potted inside, or in your garden or rock bed. The desert agave is a ‘plant and forget’ type of succulent that thrives on very little care.