Since most indoor-grown plants are tropical species, one of the challenges of keeping them healthy is maintaining the humid environment they require in order to thrive. You move them around to get enough sun, you worry you’ve not given them enough water, and you’re frantically searching the web for a humidifier good enough to keep your Calathea Ornata alive – quite demanding, isn’t it?
None of these, however, are issues for cactus enthusiasts, as these desert plants need dry air and moderate temperatures and will do well in any room of your house. Although they need some sun to be healthy, several cacti species survive with only three hours of sunlight each day, and a bit of supplemental illumination can help you grow even the most pretentious cacti in north-facing windows.
If a cactus is happy, it may even bloom a little colourful blossom, and if you’ve ever seen a cactus flower, you know how surprisingly beautiful they are, especially on these plants that already wow you with their alien forms and thorny textures.
Cacti are one-of-a-kind plants that come in a wide range of sizes. Some are gigantic, reaching up to 40 feet in height, while others are tiny enough to fit into little pots at home. Because cacti grow very slow, especially indoors, even medium species will remain at a small size for quite some time, making them perfect for succulent gardens, as well as for growing alone in containers.
Small cacti have lately exploded in popularity as indoor plants. They come in a wide range of colours and forms, and when combined with other house plants, they make for a lovely plant collection. While many of these tiny cactus types are designed for deserts, most of them will flourish as indoor plants as well.
So, which little cacti are the best to grow indoors? We think the following species will brighten up your home and won’t give you a headache by being too pretentious.
1. Moon Cactus – Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii
The moon cactus is among the most easily recognized indoor cacti, owing to its distinctive ball-like shape and a spectrum of hues that includes yellow, pink, red, and orange. These brilliant neon hues are especially noticeable since they’re generally attached on top of another green-coloured cactus, which makes for great contrast.
One particularly interesting thing about the moon cactus is that it is a mutant strain developed by humans and combines two types of cacti – Gymnocalycium mihanovichii and Hylocereus undatus.
Because the coloured cacti ball completely lacks chlorophyll, it cannot survive on its own and must be grafted onto another green cactus that can provide enough nourishment for it to create food. It’s effectively two plants in one!
Moon cactus is an excellent indoor cactus for beginners as well since it requires little upkeep. Place them next to a window, on the living room table, or even in the bedroom on a nightstand to brighten the area. When it comes to water requirements, moon cactus, like any other desert-adapted cactus, does not require much. Overwatering can cause root rot and, in the end, death of the cactus, so be careful.
Moon cactus, when planted inside, can improve the interior décor because of its wide range of neon hues. You can choose a single shade or mix and match more moon cacti together. Furthermore, moon cacti are slow-growing, reaching a maximum height of around six inches. Keep in mind that the health of the moon cactus is strongly dependent on the green plant it is attached to. As a result, selecting the right stock cactus to blend well with your moon cactus is very important. Learn more about growing and caring for these fascinating plants by reading our complete Moon Cactus guide.
2. Star Cactus – Astrophytum Asterias
The star cactus is one of the few species of spineless cactus. It stands out because of its plump spherical body, which resembles a sand dollar. Besides its appearance, this little cactus is a great choice for an indoor plant because it’s easy to grow and undemanding. Its spherical body can reach a width of 6 inches, is speckled with small white spots, and has softly ridged sides.
Between March and late April, the star cactus can grow some beautiful yellow flowers with a tiny bit of orange in the centre. In late April, the flowers will fade away to make place for grey, green, or pink berries or drupes. This cactus does not require much care when grown inside, except for sporadic watering and access to full sunshine. Because of its form, the star cactus can hold a lot of water, which means you don’t have to worry about it being thirsty. In fact, overwatering can actually do more damage than underwatering, as it can cause the roots to rot.
One thing you may not know about this cactus is that it is quite resilient, being able to withstand even temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit, albeit for a limited time. The cactus star owes its resilience to the cold desert nights that it has to withstand.
Pet owners will be happy to know this plant is non-toxic, so it may be one of the few options to keep around cats and dogs. We won’t promise your four-legged friends won’t be tempted to chew on it, but at least you know it won’t poison them. However, the star cactus is rather prickly, so it may hurt those who don’t handle it with care, regardless of species. Learn more by reading our complete Star Cactus guide.
3. Christmas Cactus – Schlumbergera
Most people know this plant as the Christmas cactus because it is supposed to bloom just in time for the winter holidays, but there are regions in which it is known as Easter or Thanksgiving cactus. Name a more festive plant than this, we dare you! Its easy maintenance makes it a popular choice for beginner plant enthusiasts who want a stress-free companion.
The Christmas cactus is resilient and will thrive indoors, in moderate temperature and light. Keeping it in direct sunlight will eventually cause its leaves to burn. The Christmas cactus usually blooms in vibrant hues of red, pink, and orange, but extreme temperature changes and a lack of water can cause flower buds to wither prematurely. With its smooth segmented leaves and gentle, rounded spines, the Christmas cactus is among the toothless members of the cactus family.
This cactus species deviates from traditional cactus care because the plant is native to the Brazilian rain forests, where it grows as an epiphyte on other tree branches. Maintain ideal temperatures of around 65 degrees and keep the soil wet during the flowering season to help increase the plant’s blooming period. Using a high potassium fertilizer every two weeks can also help keep the plant happy. Report once a year after the flowering season to give this plant room to grow. While it starts out as a tiny cactus and stays that way for a while, these plants can live for many, many years and can grow quite significantly, draping over the pot. When this happens, consider hanging from the ceiling or placing it on a high shelf. Find out how to grow and care for this beautiful plant by reading our complete Christmas Cactus guide.
4. Bunny Ear Cactus – Opuntia microdasys
The bunny ear cactus is another tiny desert plant that thrives in enclosed spaces. While it is native to Mexico, it is also found in dry and semi-arid regions all over the world. Because of its distinctive look, which includes pads that resemble rabbit ears, it has become one of the favourites of plant lovers. It’s easy to grow bunny ears as an indoor plant; all you have to do is make sure the growing conditions resemble its natural environment – dry, sunny, and low in humidity. Plant the cactus in sandy soil to help provide enough moisture while also allowing excess water to drain quickly.
The bunny ear cacti may reach a height of 3 feet in their native environment but develop to a maximum of 24 inches when cultivated indoors. This plant is also slow-growing, allowing you plenty of time to appreciate its cuteness. Instead of spines, the rabbit ears acquire glochids in the shape of pale brown prickles, which give them a whimsical appearance.
This adorable cacti species is also called angel’s wings cactus or polka-dot cactus and has a cousin with a name that is just as whimsical – the prickly pear cactus. Talk about a quicky family!
As a rule of thumb, bunny ears should be repotted every one or two years so that they can grow healthy. If you want to propagate it, you can easily do so by cutting some mature pads. Leave the pads to fry for a few days, then plant them in a pot beneath one inch of cactus soil mix. Place the pot in a sunny area and wait for the roots to develop. Water it regularly to promote root growth. Curious to learn more about this cactus? Read our full guide and find out how to grow and care for Bunny Ear Cacti.
5. Rat Tail Cactus – Aporocactus Flagelliformis
The rat tail cactus is a fascinating plant that may be found in Central America and southwest Mexico. It gets its name from its long, “leggy” stems that resemble a rat’s tail. These stems can reach about 4 feet in their natural habitat but grown inside, they will take very long to reach that length. When cultivated indoors, this cactus does best in hanging pots.
Normal room temperature is ideal for the spring, summer, and fall seasons. To induce a rest time in the winter, maintain the plant in a reasonably chillier environment. Overall, this is a tough cactus that can withstand temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but it is not frost-hardy, so don’t let it freeze.
Rattail cacti come in a variety of colours and blooms, with violet-red blossoms throughout the spring and early summer. Some varieties can also grow orange and pink-coloured blooms. The blooms are huge and tubular in shape, although they only resist for a few days. In Mexico, the flowers have been traditionally used to create medication for heart issues.
The stems of the rat rail cactus can be used to reproduce the plant. However, you need to be cautious while touching it since the spines may easily prick your hand. Using gloves can help you avoid a painful moment.
6. Old Lady Cactus – Mammillaria Hahniana
The old lady cactus is a popular powder puff cactus that may be cultivated inside. It is distinguished by its single spherical stems, which may reach a height of 4 inches and a width of 8 inches. When cultivated indoors, these cacti should be placed in a bright environment for optimal growth, as they love to bathe in the sun. Provide some outside time throughout the summer months if you can, and this little cactus will be very grateful. Even if you don’t have a yard, the balcony or an exterior windowsill will suffice to help it thrive.
The ideal place to put your old lady cactus indoors is near a south or east-facing window, as these areas get plenty of light for the best part of the day. If you can’t locate a good position with enough light, you may use grow lights to meet the needs of this light-demanding cactus.
The old lady cactus is named this way for its white, thin hairs, which are very flexible and may grow up to 2 inches in length. These hairs get denser and thicker as the cactus matures, curling in a way that is hiding the actual body of the plant. The cactus itself will grow to be about four inches, which makes it perfect for growing indoors, even in the tiniest of spaces. To learn more about growing and caring for the Old Lady Cactus, read our full guide.
Getting a cactus sounds like a simple way to get a burst of colour with no effort when you’re just starting your own home garden—and it can be. While the list of tiny, adorable cacti that can grow indoors is almost endless, the ones above are a few that can live in most settings and are very easy to find.
The rest of your journey as an indoor cacti grower is pretty easy after you’ve chosen the cacti species that suit your home best. All you have to do is follow the maintenance instructions that came with your plants, and you’ll be able to enjoy your garden and even gaze at some colourful cactus flowers for years to come.