Some of my favorite cacti for landscaping.

Cacti are amazing.

I like to think of designing a xeriscape with cacti like setting up a sculpture display in an art gallery. Obviously, you can’t use only cacti if you want the landscape to look natural, but cacti are the unique plants that make our desert landscapes so interesting.

Here are a few categories of cacti to consider.

Columnar cacti

Large saguaro


Saguaros are iconic to Arizona. (No, Texas doesn’t have any!) They are not the only columnar cacti, though. Organ pipe cactus and totem pole cactus are also medium to large columnar cacti that grow multiple stems.


Mexican fence post cacti. Image from


Totem pole cactus. Image from pinterest.

Unusual form cacti

Ocotillo in bloom


Ocotillo have spiny unbranching sticks with edible leaves along the edges. In the spring, they have trumpet shaped orange-red blossoms that attract hummingbirds. I love the urn shape of ocotillos, somewhere between a bush and a tree.

Segmented cacti

Prickly pear and cholla make great landscape plants. They are easy to propagate from cuttings, making them the most inexpensive cacti. Some prickly pear have bright blossoms, and the Santa Rita prickly pear has a lovely lavender pad. Cholla make a statement with their spines, and make great living fences.

Indian fig prickly pear

Indian fig prickly pear


Indian fig prickly pear. Image from flickr.

Santa Rita prickly pear

Santa Rita prickly pear

staghorn cholla

staghorn cholla

Teddy bear cholla

Teddy bear cholla

Barrel cacti

I love the smaller cacti, including barrels, hedgehogs, and mammillaria. There are tons of different colors, including blossom colors. Barrels are great for landscaping in small spaces. Their drought and heat tolerance puts them among the most resilient of cacti.

golden barrel cactus

golden barrel cactus

Fishhook barrel cactus

Fishhook barrel cactus

hedgehog cactus

hedgehog cactus


Mammillaria pilcayensis. Image from

Have fun experimenting with various cacti in your own landscape!


2 thoughts on “Cacti

  1. Can you tell me what the bushes/small trees are that kinda look like a Joshua tree, but are many more tentacled and have feathery white or yellow bushy ends on them, growing up to maybe 6 feet tall. Saw them near Tucson and up toward Phoenix, alongside the highways? Thanks,

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