The Types of Fast Growing Cacti - Best Detailed Guide

The Types of Fast Growing Cacti – Detailed Guide

The fast growing cacti, which falls under the family Cactaceae, is recognized for its capacity to endure extreme desert conditions through the retention of water within its robust, succulent stems.

Cacti are typically characterized by their unique appearances, with spines or thorns instead of leaves. There are different shapes, sizes, and colors of cacti available.

Some popular cactus varieties include the prickly pear, barrel cactus, saguaro, and golden barrel. Most cacti are native to the Americas, particularly in arid and desert regions.

Cacti have an intriguing adaptation called “crassulacean acid metabolism” (CAM) photosynthesis, which enables them to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds during the nighttime.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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By doing so, they can reduce water loss by opening their stomata at night when the weather is cooler and the air contains more moisture.

Cacti are popular as ornamental plants grown indoors and can be found in many gardens and households worldwide.

They require minimal care and can be a great choice for those with lack of time or who live in dry regions where other plants may struggle to survive. Additionally, some species of cacti produce beautiful flowers that bloom in vibrant colors.

However, this plant takes a very long time to grow, and many would like it to be faster. Luckily, some cacti grow quickly. In this article, we will introduce them.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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Rapidly developing cactus plants

Several fast-growing cacti species are known for their rapid growth. Here are a few examples of cactus plants:

  1. Golden Barrel Cactus plants (Echinocactus grusonii): This cactus species can grow up to 1 foot (30 cm) in diameter in just a few years. It has a rounded shape and is covered in golden spines. This cactus is drought tolerant.
  2. Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus thurberi): Native to the desert, this cactus can grow up to 20 feet (6 meters) tall. It has multiple vertical stems that resemble organ pipes, hence the name. This cactus is drought tolerant.
  3. Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea): This iconic cactus species can grow up to 1-2 feet tall (30-60 cm) in height in its first 10 years, and eventually reach a maximum height of 40-60 feet tall (12-18 meters). It is the tallest cactus. This cactus is drought tolerant.
  4. Easter Lily Cactus (Echinopsis oxygona): This cactus species is popular for its stunning flowers. It can grow several inches per year and reach a mature height of 3-4 feet tall (90-120 cm). It produces large white flowers with a sweet fragrance. This cactus is drought tolerant.
  5. Dragon Fruit Cactus (Hylocereus species): Dragon fruit cacti, renowned for their delectable fruits, can experience swift growth under favorable circumstances. These cacti exhibit either climbing or sprawling stems, which can extend up to a remarkable length of 20 feet tall (6 meters).
  6. Mexican giant cardon cactus (cardon grande cactus). This cactus is drought tolerant.
  7. Rat tail cactus: The Rat Tail cactus, also known as Aporocactus flagelliformis or Disocactus flagelliformis, is a unique and attractive trailing succulent plant native to Mexico. This cactus is drought tolerant. Rat Tail cactus belongs to the Cactaceae family and is named after its long, thin, and flexible stems that resemble the tail of a rat.
  8. Candelabra cactus: The Andelabra cactus, also known as Hatiora salicornioides or Drunkard’s Dream cactus, is a unique and interesting species of cactus native to Brazil. It belongs to the Cactaceae family and is popular among cactus enthusiasts for its distinctive appearance.
  9. San Pedro cactus: The San Pedro cactus, also known as Echinopsis pachanoi, is a fast-growing cactus native to the Andean Mountains in Peru and Ecuador. It is named after Saint Peter because it is believed to have hallucinogenic properties and is used in traditional shamanic rituals., etc.

It’s important to note that fast growth rates can vary depending on factors such as climate, soil conditions, and care provided.

Now we will talk about the main representatives of fast-growing cacti.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

The Echinocactus grusonii, commonly known as the Golden Barrel Cactus, is a well-liked and attractive cactus species that is indigenous to central Mexico. It is also commonly called the Golden Ball or Mother-in-Law’s Cushion. It is one of the fastest-growing cactus species.

In terms of its physical appearance, the cactus is recognized by its round shape and distinct ribbed pattern, covered with rows of sharp, golden-yellow spines.

The length of these spines varies depending on the age of the cactus, ranging from short to long. The cactus grows fast and can reach a height and diameter of up to 3 feet tall (1 meter), with mature plants producing a fluffy crown of pale yellow flowers during the summertime.

The сactus is renowned for its gradual yet steady growth, thriving for many decades when given optimal conditions. It flourishes in dry, arid regions with well-drained soil and ample sunlight.

Excessive watering should be avoided as it can lead to root rot; hence, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings is crucial. In regions with cooler climates, cultivating the Golden Barrel Cactus as an indoor potted plant is common.

The сactus is a sought-after choice for xeriscaping projects and rock gardens due to its distinctive appearance. It can also serve as a striking focal point or accent plant, both indoors and outdoors.

However, handling this cactus with caution is essential due to its sharp spines, which can cause injury.

In its original habitat, the cactus is classified as an endangered species due to illegal harvesting and excessive collection.

Agricultural activities and urban development contribute to the destruction of its natural habitat as well. However, it is widely cultivated and can be obtained from reputable nurseries and plant suppliers.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus thurberi)

Stenocereus thurberi, commonly referred to as the cactus, is a tall cactus species that originates from the desert in the southwest region of the United States and the northwestern part of Mexico.

The cactus earned its name due to its distinctive similarity to the pipes of a musical organ. It is one of the fastest-growing cactus species.


  • The Organ Pipe Cactus possesses a tall and cylindrical shape, growing as high as 20 feet (6 meters) or even taller. It has multiple branches extending from the base, often growing in a clustered arrangement.
  • The cactus grows with ribbed, cylindrical stems covered in small spines and hairs, which help protect it from excessive sun exposure and water loss.
  • In springtime, the cactus blossoms with exquisite white flowers that open after dusk, enticing a diverse range of pollinators such as bats, moths, and birds.
  • After pollination, the flowers give way to edible red or orange fruits that are enjoyed by wildlife, including birds and desert animals.

Habitat and Distribution:

  • The Organ Pipe Cactus is native to the desert in sandy soil, which spans parts of Arizona, California, and Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and Sonora state.
  • It prefers well-drained sandy or rocky soils and can withstand high temperatures and long periods of drought.
  • These cacti are adapted to arid environments, relying on their extensive root systems to absorb water from deep underground.

Conservation Status: 

The Organ Pipe Cactus is currently listed as a vulnerable species. It faces threats from habitat loss due to urbanization, agriculture expansion, and illegal collection.

Climate change, which could result in reduced rainfall and increased temperature extremes, poses additional risks to its survival.


  • The presence of the Organ Pipe Cactus in the desert ecosystem is essential as it serves as a home and a source of sustenance for various wildlife, including bats, birds, bees, and insects.
  • Indigenous cultures have traditionally utilized various parts of the cactus for food, medicine, and religious ceremonies.
  • Its unique appearance and beauty make it a popular subject for photography, tourism, and nature enthusiasts.
Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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While the Organ Pipe Cactus is an intriguing and beautiful plant, it is essential to admire it from a distance. The spines can cause discomfort or injury if touched or mishandled.

Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)

The сactus, scientifically named Carnegiea gigantea, is a prominent and sizable species of cacti that naturally grows in the desert located in the southwestern regions of the United States and northwestern parts of Mexico.

This cactus is recognized as a significant element of the desert scenery and is cherished as Arizona’s state flower. It is one of the fastest-growing types of cacti.


Saguaros that have reached full maturity can grow to heights surpassing 40 feet (12 meters).

They possess a unique and recognizable upright structure, resembling columns, adorned with branch-like arms that typically appear after the cactus has aged between 50 and 70 years.

The cactus’s outer layer is characterized by ribbed and pleated textures, usually adorned with lengthy, pointed spines.


The growth rate of Saguaro Cacti is quite sluggish, and they have an extensive lifespan. It requires approximately 10 years for the cactus to attain a mere 1 inch in height, and it might not develop arms until it reaches about 75 years of age.

These cacti can survive for over 150 years, and certain specimens are believed to be considerably older, surpassing the age of 200.


The сactus flourishes in extremely warm and dry desert habitats in sandy soil, primarily in the Sonoran Desert. It necessitates abundant sunlight and soil that drains well to thrive. It is predominantly present in areas of Southern Arizona and the Sonoran Desert in Mexico.


The сactus has several unique adaptations to survive in its harsh desert habitat. Its accordion-like pleats on the outer surface allow it to expand and contract based on water storage needs.

These cacti can store significant amounts of water during the brief rainy season to sustain themselves during dry periods.

Additionally, the spines on the cactus provide shade, protecting it from excessive sunlight and reducing water loss due to evaporation.

Wildlife and Ecological Importance

The сactus plays a vital role in the desert ecosystem, providing a habitat and food source for numerous species.

It offers shelter and nesting sites for birds, including the Gila Woodpecker and Gilded Flicker, which create cavities in the arms for nesting.

The cactus also produces large, white flowers that blossom at night, attracting nocturnal pollinators such as bats and moths.

Additionally, the sweet, juicy fruits that develop from the flowers provide sustenance for animals like desert tortoises, pack rats, and javelinas.

Cultural Significance

The сactus holds significant cultural value for the indigenous tribes of the Southwest, such as the Tohono O’odham and Pima peoples.

It is considered a sacred plant, representing sustenance and survival in the harsh desert environment. These tribes have traditionally used various parts of the cactus for food, medicine, and construction materials.

However, it is important to note that it’s a protected species and it is illegal to harm, remove, or collect it without proper authorization due to its ecological importance and slow growth rate.

Easter Lily Cactus (Echinopsis oxygona)

The Echinopsis oxygona, commonly referred to as the Easter Lily Cactus, is a fast growing cacti found naturally in South America, specifically in Argentina and Bolivia. This type of cacti is highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts due to its magnificent springtime blossoms. It is one of the fastest-growing cactus species.

With its distinct cylindrical shape and noticeable ridges, the Easter Lily Cactus can reach heights of up to 1 meter. Its spines, typically golden to brown, are relatively short compared to other cacti varieties.

The flowers of the Easter Lily Cactus are a major attraction, with their large, bold, trumpet-shaped design and a diameter of 8-12 centimeters. These flowers are available in a range of colors, including white, pink, red, and even yellow.

When it comes to taking care of the Easter Lily Cactus, it is relatively straightforward. It thrives in well-sandy soil and requires bright, indirect sunlight. It can also tolerate partial shade. Watering should be done sparingly to prevent root rot, avoiding overwatering.

You can propagate the Easter Lily Cactus by taking stem cuttings. After cutting a healthy stem, allow it to dry for a few days before planting it in well-draining soil. The cutting usually takes a few weeks to develop roots. Additionally, some growers choose to propagate the cactus from seeds.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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Dragon Fruit Cactus (Hylocereus species)

The Pitaya or Pitahaya, commonly referred to as the Dragon Fruit Cactus or scientifically termed as Hylocereus species, is a climbing cactus indigenous to Central America and regions of South America. It is one of the fastest-growing cactus’s species.

The Dragon Fruit Cactus has long, trailing, or climbing stems that can reach up to 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) in length. The stems have aerial roots and flat, triangular, or oblong-shaped segments that resemble large, green leaves. Some species have thorns or spines, while others have smooth stems.

The Dragon Cactus bears sizable, attractive blooms, typically in white or pale yellow shades. The blossoms unfurl during the night and rely on creatures that are active at night, such as bats or moths, for pollination. The flowers possess a delightful scent and can reach a remarkable size of 12 inches (30 centimeters) in diameter.

The most distinctive feature of the Dragon Fruit Cactus is its fruit. The fruit is oval or oblong-shaped, usually about 3 to 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters) long. The skin of the fruit may be pink, red, yellow, or white and is covered in scales or spiky protrusions.

Dragon Cacti are cultivated for their edible fruit and ornamental value. They require a warm, tropical, or subtropical climate with well-draining soil. These cacti prefer bright but indirect sunlight and are not frost-tolerant.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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Other types of fastest-growing cacti

Prickly pear cactus plant

The prickly pear cactus, also known as Opuntia, is a species of cactus native to the Americas.

It is characterized by its flat, paddle-shaped stems, which are covered in sharp spines and small, hair-like structures called glochids.

This cactus can grow in a wide range of climates, from deserts to coastal areas, and can thrive in dry conditions.

The prickly pear cactus is known for its vibrant flowers, which can be yellow, red, orange, or purple, depending on the species. Prickly pear cactus flowers typically bloom in the spring and are followed by edible fruit, known as prickly pears or tunas.

Peruvian apple cactus

The Peruvian Apple Cactus is a fast growing cactus, also known as the Peruvian Apple Cactus or Cereus repandus. It is a large, columnar cactus native to the arid regions of South America, particularly Peru. Columnar cactus is a member of the Cactaceae family and is known for its distinctive appearance and edible fruit.

Mexican fence post cactus

The Mexican fence post cactus is a fast growing cactus, scientifically known as Pachycereus marginatus, and is a species of cactus native to Mexico.

Mexican fence post cacti are called the “fence post cactus” due to its columnar shape, which resembles a fence post.

This Mexican fence post cactus can reach heights of up to 50 feet (15 meters) and has distinctive ribbed, upright stems.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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How to make a cactus grow faster?

Provide adequate sunlight: For cacti to flourish, they need ample, indirect sunlight. Find a spot close to a window or in an outdoor area where they can be exposed to at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day.

Use well-draining soil: To prevent their roots from being immersed in water, cacti favor well-draining soil.

Water appropriately: Cacti have evolved to thrive in dry environments and do not rely on regular watering.

Fertilize sparingly: Cacti typically do not need to be fertilized frequently.

Choose the right container: Choose a container that has drainage holes to permit excess water to be released.

Provide appropriate temperature conditions: Cacti flourish in warm climates with temperatures between 70-90°F (21-32°C).

Avoid excessive handling: Cactus spines serve as protection from the sun and predators. Avoid excessive touching or handling of the cactus, as it may cause damage or stress to the plant.

Prune or propagate when necessary: If your cactus becomes crowded or overgrown, you can prune it by removing excess stems or offshoots.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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Why do cacti grow slowly?

Cacti are slow growers due to several factors.

Adaptation to harsh environments

Cacti are native to arid and desert regions where resources like water and nutrients are scarce.

As a survival strategy, cacti have evolved to grow slowly to conserve energy and resources during periods of drought or unfavorable conditions.

Water storage and conservation

Cacti possess specialized tissues for storing water, notably their thick and succulent stems, which enable them to endure prolonged periods without water.

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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Slow metabolism

Cacti have relatively low metabolic rates compared to many other plants.

This means they require less energy and resources to sustain their growth and other physiological processes. Lower metabolic rates contribute to their slow growth rate.

Root system

Cacti have shallow and extensive root systems that help them quickly absorb rainfall or dew, even in desert environments.

While this enables them to take advantage of scarce water resources, it also limits their ability to explore and extract nutrients from the soil, which can affect their growth rate.

Recommended: ? How Deep Do Cactus Roots Go

Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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What is the fastest cactus to grow?

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The Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) is generally recognized as the cactus that experiences rapid growth.

Although it may take around a decade for a Saguaro cactus to ascend a few inches in height, it can eventually soar up to 40 feet (12 meters) within 30-40 years.

How long does it take to grow a 6-foot cactus?

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The duration required for a 6-foot cactus to grow may differ based on several factors such as the cactus species, growing conditions, and the level of care given.

Cacti are typically known for their slow growth rate, often taking several years to reach such height.

It is not uncommon for a cactus to take 10-20 years or more to grow to 6 feet in height.

What is the best cactus for a fence?

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The best cactus for a fence will depend on several factors, such as the climate and location of the fence, the desired aesthetic, and maintenance requirements. Here are a few recommendations:

The Golden Barrel Cactus, also known as Echinocactus grusonii, possesses a distinctive round shape and golden spines, making it an excellent choice for adding a unique touch to a fence.
The Torch Cactus, scientifically named Cleistocactus strausii, features an erect growth pattern and eye-catching red or orange flowers, making it a visually appealing addition to a fence line. It necessitates well-draining soil and protection from frost.
Hedgehog Cacti, belonging to the Echinocereus species, showcase cylinder-shaped stems adorned with spines, often accompanied by vibrant blossoms.
Prickly Pears, also known as Opuntia species, are recognized for their flat, paddle-like stems and large, colorful flowers.


In the article, we told you about the fastest-growing cacti among desert plants.

Most cacti species are native to the Americas, particularly in arid and desert regions.

If you want your cactus to grow quickly, it’s best to choose one of the species listed in this article. These cacti are different from the slow-growing plant, such as columnar cacti, totem pole cactus, or blue myrtle cactus.

The fastest-growing cacti will be your perfect choice. They grow quickly and you will be able to enjoy growing such a plant, not for many years, but only for a couple of years.

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Types of Fast Growing Cacti
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