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Ultimate Guide for Alligator Cactus [Don’t Kill Your Plant]

Have you encountered an alligator cactus before? What makes this succulent unique is its tiny plantlets growing along the edges of its leaves. The succulent’s distinct look gives its other known name – mother of thousand plants. A single leaf can produce 50 tiny plantlets and the whole plant can make thousands of new alligator plants. Despite this unique and fascinating character, it also carries a negative effect as it makes the plant invasive and displaces other plants.

However, this plant is also commonly known as the alligator cactus because of the tiny plantlets growing on the edges of its leaves that look like an alligator tail. Also, these plantlets develop tiny roots that allow them to survive whenever they fall to the ground. Aside from its common name such as alligator cactus and mother of thousands, this succulent also comes with names like the Devil’s Backbone, Mexican Hat Plant and Evil Genius. The alligator cactus first came from Madagascar but now grows in arid places such as South Africa and South America.

Alligator Cactus Appearance  

The alligator cactus has a fleshy green stem like other succulents. A fully mature alligator cactus grows up to 39 inches tall. The leaves are thick and dark green. What makes this plant unique is its tiny plantlets growing at the edge of its leaves. These plantlets acquire roots – the reason why they grow well once dropped on the ground. This uniqueness gives them an illusion of an alligator tail appearance.

The alligator cactus blooms from late December to March. The flowers come in a variety of colors such as pink, purple and red. However, you rarely see this succulent bloom – especially when kept indoors. The flowers come in clusters per branch and protrude from the whole plant.

Caring Needs of Alligator Cactus

Although alligator cactus is easy to grow, its survival depends on what kind of care you give – especially if you have this plant in places far from its natural habitat. To help your alligator cactus thrive, consider the following factors discussed below.

Sunlight Exposure

If you’re growing an alligator cactus indoors, don’t forget to put it outside or on your window for four to six hours in the morning. Since this plant belongs to the family of succulents, it requires sunlight exposure because these plants are already adapted to the arid environment as their natural habitat. Sunlight plays a vital role in their survival. It allows them to produce their food through photosynthesis.

However, sunlight is scarcely available during winter. Don’t worry because you can use artificial lights like LED lights. LED lights imitate the sunlight and give succulents the light they need. These lights come with advantages such as lasting long, energy efficient and you don’t have to worry about your alligator plants getting burned. In using artificial lights as a substitute for sunlight, allow your alligator cactus to bask daily for 13 to 18 hours as this timespan equates to six-hour long exposure to sunlight.

Soil and Pot Requirements

Just like other succulents, the alligator cactus needs well-draining soil and a well-draining pot. When it comes to well-draining soil, four potting mixes are usually used. You can follow the ratio provided below:

  • Cactus Mix (2 parts)
  • Coarse sand ( 1 part)
  • Pumice (1/2 part)
  • Perlite (1/2 part)

The above ratio provided is just the basics and you don’t have to strictly follow it. For example, if your alligator cactus experiences slow draining of water, you can put an additional mixture of perlite. One problem that most succulents encounter is root rot due to poor water drainage, so make sure you don’t overlook this factor by using a well-draining soil mixture in a well-draining pot as well.

When to Fertilize Alligator Cactus

You can start fertilizing your alligator cactus in the second year after repotting it. It takes a year for your cactus mix soil to lose its nutrients. However, remember to fertilize your succulent during its active months starting from March to September. Your alligator cactus stays dormant after those months when winter starts. This plant undergoes dormancy to survive the extreme cold and bounces back when the normal temperature starts again.

Fertilizing your alligator cactus during its dormancy period will cause rotting. When succulents hibernate, they stop absorbing the available nutrients provided by the fertilizer. If you put in fertilizer during this phase, it will disrupt their natural growth cycle. Fertilizer will soften their leaves so that they slowly start to rot.

On the other hand, fertilize your alligator cactus during its active season. You may ask – how often? Some people would fertilize this succulent once a month during the summer months. Some say every two to three months and some would say every year. The University of Minnesota Extension suggests fertilizing cacti once or twice a year when they are actively growing.

They also suggest using fertilizers with higher phosphorus content than nitrogen. Diluting the fertilizer in half was the recommended rate.

Water Requirements

If you’re growing alligator cactus indoors, water it once every two weeks. This succulent doesn’t require frequent watering because it can live without water for a long period. Succulents can drink and store water in their leaves and stem through their widespread root system. The reserved water gets tapped when needed.

If your alligator cactus grows outdoors, check the soil by sticking your finger in it. Don’t water it if it feels damp. Give it two days or more, because it varies in the temperature. When the time comes that you need to water it, use water that has a temperature of 68 degrees to 77 degrees Fahrenheit – or simply the same as your room temperature.

However, the best way to water your alligator cactus is the soak and dry method. The soak and dry watering method involves drenching the cactus soil in water and waiting for it to completely dry between watering. What makes this watering method the most recommended one is that succulents develop an extensive root system that allows them to thrive during longer periods of the dry season. The soak and dry method helps your alligator cactus produce larger roots for more water storage.

During the alligator cactus’ dormancy period, give less water. The dormancy period starts during the winter season. As mentioned earlier, succulents like the alligator cactus ingest less water and nutrients when they go dormant so be careful with the amount you give them. It will lead to the rotting of your alligator cactus.

Environmental Requirements

Aside from the light and temperature requirements, growing an alligator cactus requires a safe environment. This succulent contains toxicity that’s dangerous to pets and children. It contains a toxin called bufadienolides that causes paralysis, cardiac poisoning, gastrointestinal distress and even death. Ingestion symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Studies show that the alligator cactus possesses toxins for humans instead of potential medical use. Keeping this plant away from kids’ reach is strictly recommended. This succulent possesses a reputation for being a killer of dogs and livestock. It adversely affects the nervous system and muscular systems of animals. If you own pets and livestock at home, it’s best to keep the alligator cactus out of reach.

If you plan to grow alligator cacti outdoors, place them in a pot. Letting this kind of succulent grow on the ground isn’t recommended as it becomes invasive over time. The tiny plantlets easily fall off from their leaves. Putting your alligator cactus in a pot helps prevent this problem because you can catch them and dispose of them properly. Don’t throw the plantlets elsewhere because they multiply faster, displacing other plants from their natural habitat.

Propagating Alligator Cactus

Due to the large number of plantlets found at the edge of its leaves, propagating alligator cactus seems easy. These plantlets already acquire roots while still attached to the leaf holding them. They easily fall off when touched lightly. All you have to do is pick some of the plantlets and place them on a mixture of cactus soil, pumice or perlite (refer to the soil pot requirements mentioned above).

When putting the plantlets on their soil mixture, use a stick to create a shallow hole in the ground. Using a stick makes it easier to adjust the holes that could fit the roots. Remember not to bury the plantlet leaves. The leaves should barely touch the soil. Gently cover the roots with soil and give them enough water.

Ideally, plant them in several pots to make sure you get extra plantlets when others couldn’t make it. If you’re having alligator plants indoors, put them in the brightest corner of your apartment where the sun directly hits them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Remove Babies From Mother of Thousands?

The plantlets naturally drop themselves on the ground so you don’t have to remove them. If you’d like to, you can remove them by gently picking up each baby. They easily detach themselves from the mother leaf.

How Fast Do Alligator Plants Grow?

The tiny plantlet detached from its mother plants takes two to five years to fully grow. It grows up to three feet tall – given that it grows outdoors with the sufficient sunlight it needs. When planted indoors, expect them to grow shorter than three feet.

What Is the Difference Between Mother of Thousands and Mother of Millions?

Mother of thousands grows a single stem that grows upwards following the direction of sunlight. A mother of millions has several stems in contrast to a mother of thousands. Another distinct difference between the two plants is their leaves. A mother of thousands has wider leaves compared to a mother of millions with narrow leaves.

Conclusion

Alligator Cactus is one of the most unique succulents due to its way of reproducing. It’s easy to grow and in fact, an invasive species. Despite its interesting appearance, it’s toxic to both humans and pets. Make sure to keep this plant away from your kids’ and pets’ reach. 

If you enjoyed this article, maybe you will enjoy another article we wrote on why your cactus isn’t growing

Can Rabbits Eat Christmas Cactus? [+Pet Safety Tips]

Many rabbits will see houseplants as a source of curiosity, but with the knowledge that most houseplants can poison your rabbit, you may wonder if a Christmas cactus can prove deadly to your bunny. You want to keep most houseplants out of reach since it will often lead to poisoning. Rabbits are very sensitive this way, and they can be poisoned easily. Can rabbits eat Christmas cactus? 

Christmas cactus has needle-shaped leaves with spines that contain toxins called saponin, and in high concentrations, it will destroy the red blood cells of your rabbit causing anemia, weakness and diarrhea. Unfortunately, many rabbits will be determined to get at it. 

What to Do if Your Rabbit Ate Christmas Cactus

Your safest bet is to take them to the vet since they will know the best way to help your rabbit. Rabbits eating something poisonous poses a danger since you can’t induce them to vomit up the Christmas cactus like other animals. 

Rabbits have a very tight sphincter in the esophagus, and the position of the stomach makes self-induced vomiting more limited.

Instead, the vet usually tries to block the toxic absorption to prevent poisoning. After that, they will provide supportive care. Some vets recommend that you administer charcoal to bind the toxins in the stomach. They usually give 4 grams per pound every eight hours. 

You can mix this in with food or water to syringe feed the rabbit. Encourage the rabbit to eat hay to add extra fiber to his diet and safely push out the toxins. To best treat a rabbit that has eaten Christmas cactus, it would be wise to take them to a vet. I’m not a vet, so I can’t give expert advice, and you need to take the rabbit to the vet for the best care. 

Will Christmas Cactus Kill a Rabbit?

Saponin in high concentrations will destroy the red blood cells of your rabbit, which can cause anemia, weakness and diarrhea. Some say it isn’t fatal, but you still wouldn’t want your rabbit to get a hold of it. It’s still mildly toxic and can hurt the liver. It will cause GI upset if the rabbit ingests it. Be aware of how your rabbit will have curiosity about the Christmas cactus and houseplants, in general, can get them into trouble.

Keep them all out of reach of your rabbit to keep him safe. In some cases, the rabbit won’t exhibit symptoms of poisoning right away. His condition may unfold over a period of days or weeks. 

Generally speaking with the Christmas cactus, the signs of poisoning will show up within the first six hours of ingestion, or they won’t show up at all. 

Eating Christmas cactus in large quantities can still prove fatal to your rabbit. It wouldn’t be wise to let them eat it even though it probably won’t kill them in most cases. 

Don’t Trust Your Rabbit Not to Eat the Plant

One of the most harmful beliefs that pet owners can have is to think that their rabbit won’t eat the plant because they will know it is poisonous. Unfortunately, as many saddened pet owners have found out, you can’t trust that your rabbit will know what is and isn’t poisonous. Keep the poisonous plants out of their reach. 

In the wild, rabbits learn eating habits from the older warren members. Unfortunately, they don’t receive the same training in captivity, and in many cases, they will eat it if it’s green—even if it kills them. Rabbits in captivity don’t have a great survival instinct compared to rabbits in the wild because they received no training on what to eat and what not to eat. This can make the life of pet owners more tricky. 

Treat All Houseplants as Toxic

The best way that you can keep your rabbit safe is to treat all houseplants as if toxic since they will often be toxic. You have such a huge variety of houseplants that can poison that it’s nearly impossible to list them all. Up to 78 different houseplants can prove toxic to your rabbit, which shows you why it’s better to be safe than sorry. Treat them all as toxic plants to protect your rabbit. 

In the outdoors, you have a little leniency, but you still don’t want them nibbling on anything since they can still munch on a poisonous plant. Check to see that the plant isn’t poisonous first. 

Signs of Poisoning in Your Rabbit

Look for odd changes in the behavior of your rabbit, such as a change in eating, defecating or regular activity levels. You should take your rabbit in to see a vet immediately if you notice these signs and see if they nibbled on your Christmas cactus. Your rabbit may exhibit other signs as well, such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Obvious abdominal pain

Unfortunately, rabbits that display the symptoms above may die regardless of treatment. In most cases, if they ate Christmas cactus, they will do fine. You have many other houseplants that can poison a rabbit, however, and it’s always wise to keep the plants out of their reach. Apples and pears are notorious examples due to the trace amounts of cyanide found in the fruit. 

Appropriate Diet

Good pet care comes down to a great diet and making sure that your rabbit eats the appropriate things. You don’t want him eating Christmas cactus. Instead, you will feed him pellets, hay, fresh vegetables and clean water. Up until a rabbit reaches adulthood at seven months, you should continue to feed it alfalfa hay since it contains all the required protein and calories.

The hay should always be fresh since eating anything moldy can sicken your rabbit.

Final Thoughts

Like with all houseplants, you need to exercise caution with them around your rabbit. Don’t put the Christmas cactus out to where he can nibble on it. While eating Christmas cactus will rarely prove fatal to your rabbit, you still don’t want him eating it. You may want to spend time with your rabbit each day to observe him and make sure that he hasn’t eaten anything that he shouldn’t have eaten. 

If you suspect an emergency, call your local veterinarian as soon as possible. A quick response time with poisoning can mean the difference between death and survival. Unfortunately, many things can prove dangerous and even tree branches treated with fire retardant can be toxic. It can also be helpful to have some charcoal on hand in the event of a poisoning. You can check out this Activated Charcoal Powder for Pets.

10 Stunning Cactus with Pink Flowers

Are you looking for a cactus plant that bears pink flowers? We got you covered. Cacti with pink flowers aren’t hard to find. Upon doing research, we found different species of cacti that produce pink flowers – with Opuntia, or also known as the prickly pear cactus, as the most common one. To know more about these cacti that bloom with vibrant pink flowers, keep on reading.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

The most common cactus that produces pink flowers is the prickly pear cactus. It starts to blossom from early June to September. These flowers come in vibrant pink blossoms but may also bear yellow, red, orange, white or purple. The flowers appear to have uniform-looking petals and sepals. The innermost part of each flower mostly comes with an orange smear. You can see these flowers grow on top of the cactus pads.

The prickly pear pink flowers later develop into edible fruits. These fruits, also called tunas, are cooked in various ways. This cactus is well-sought in Mexican cuisine as 95% of its production’s purpose is for domestic consumption. Each year, the country produces approximately 800,000 tons. In fact, this cactus has become Mexico’s well-known symbol.

Moon Cactus

Who isn’t fascinated by the moon cactus? This succulent needs to be grafted, usually to the stem of dragon fruit, and comes in different colors. Moon cactus bloom with vibrant pink flowers starting from March to June. Aside from pink, you can also see this cactus producing white, yellow and bright red flowers. The flowers grow up to four inches wide and come in funnel shapes. However, the flowers only live for 12 hours. Sometimes, the buds fall off from their scion before they even open.

Moon Cactus Pink Flowers

As mentioned, moon cactus is known as a grafted plant. Since this plant alone doesn’t possess any chlorophyll or green pigments, it can’t photosynthesize to produce its own food and thus, can’t survive. Photosynthesis plays a vital role in a plant’s life. This process allows plants to produce glucose which supplies energy to plants necessary for their survival. This explains why moon cactus needs a graft host – which is usually a dragon fruit stem.

Star Rock Cactus

The star rock cactus derived its name from its appearance which looks like a star. This succulent from the cactus family produces pink flowers right from the youngest areoles found at the center of the plant. Areoles refer to the center of a plant where flowers, spines or new branches emerge. These flowers come in funnel shapes that grow between one to two inches in diameter. The flowers usually bloom from August to November. However, like other cacti, it comes in various species. This means, aside from pink flowers, this succulent also bears white, yellow or purple flowers.

Star Rock Cactus

A native of Texas and Mexico, the star rock cactus grows well in soil with a generous amount of limestone content. To encourage this succulent to bloom more pink flowers, place your plant in a place with direct morning sunlight. The temperature should range from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with providing sunlight, make sure your star rock cactus gets enough watering. However, make sure that the soil is dry before watering it. Also, give your cactus a fertilizer rich in phosphorus as it supports transporting the energy throughout your cactus for effective blooming.

Dwarf Easter Cactus

The Dwarf Easter Cactus starts blooming between March and May. The buds begin to appear when the days become warmer and longer. After spring, move your succulent outside to locations with a generous amount of shade to encourage its blooming in the next year. On rare occasions, it flowers again from September to November or during the autumn. This cactus bears rich rose-pink flowers with a pleasant smell. The flowers have sizes between one to two inches in diameter and when the flowers come in mass, they look even more stunning. 

Dwarf Easter Cactus

Although related, the Dwarf Easter Cactus slightly differs from the regular Easter Cactus. As the name suggests, the Dwarf Easter Cactus come with smaller flowers and joints compared to the regular Easter Cactus. Also, you can more easily grow the regular Easter Cactus than its mini counterpart – which is the Dwarf Easter Cactus. While the Dwarf Easter Cactus becomes known for its pink flowers, the regular Easter Cactus flowers come in bright red color.

Dwarf Turk’s Cap Cactus

Known for its cephalium, the Dwarf Turk’s Cap Cactus blooms pink flowers. Cephalium refers to the cap-like feature of the succulent that sticks out on top and comes in red-orange or pink color. It doesn’t just offer a distinct look to the succulent but it has a purpose. This cephalium, commonly known as its cap, produces pink flowers that later develop into edible fruits with shapes that look like peppers. The flowers start to appear in July to August and the size reaches two inches long inside the mass of the succulent’s famous cap. 

Dwarf Turk’s Cap Cactus’ Cephalium with Pink Flowers

The Dwarf Turk’s Cap Cactus derives its name from its unique feature – its cap. The cap resembles the fez or hat worn by the Turkish people that can be traced back to during the Ottoman Empire. This cactus is challenging to grow because it requires specific care that is best left in the hands of experts. 

The Dwarf Turk’s Cap Cactus requires a temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It won’t flourish well under minimum sunlight exposure, it requires direct sunlight for at least six hours. This succulent also needs plenty of water but not too much that it might cause the root to rot. However, growing this type of cactus feels rewarding once you see those vibrant pink flowers that give it a more attractive look.

Ball Cactus Flower

Ball cactus bears pink flowers from late June to September or during the summer. Aside from the pink color, the ball cactus flower comes in different colors such as red, orange or yellow. Let your succulent relish the winter period and stop watering it to stimulate better-blooming flowers. In addition, ensure your ball cactus gets fertilized during its growing season for better results.

Ball cactus has two types – both bear pink flowers. The first one is the powder puff cactus. The reason for its name comes from the fine hairs that cover its spines. Another type is called the golden ball cactus. As its name suggests, the golden ball cactus has a round shape with golden spines. The golden ball cactus reaches up to six feet when it matures.

Ball Cactus Flower

Pink Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus blooms from November to January or during the fall season. Its flowers always come in shades of pink with shapes that look like tubes. The petals appear in a double-layer manner – the inner petals grow further up near the stamen while the outer petals come shorter and curl down to the base of the flower. The Christmas cactus blooming stage can reach up to eight weeks if the temperature maintains 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pink Christmas Cactus Flower

To encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom, focus on the light and temperature you provide to your plant. Temperature-wise, place your plant in a cool environment not exceeding 61 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid putting your Christmas cactus in places with direct cold air or hot air. When it comes to light, the Christmas cactus needs an exposure of eight hours of light and 16 hours of darkness every day. 

Take note that light and temperature are the key factors in hacking the blooming season of this plant – yes, you can trick your Christmas cactus to flower even outside its flowering season by mainly focusing on these two factors.

Pink Flower Hedgehog Cactus

The pink flower hedgehog cactus starts to bloom from March to June. Tepals refer to the outer part of the flower when it is not distinguishable if it is a petal or a sepal. The flowers appear anywhere from rose pink to magenta, and the tepals appear rose-pink to magenta. Each plant bears six to 10 large flowers. The flowers are funnel-shaped and grow on the upper part of the plant. They bloom during the day and close at night.

Pink Flower Hedgehog Cactus

The pink flower hedgehog cactus’ name gets coined due to its short and spiny stems that look like a hedgehog. Just like any other cacti, it comes in varieties of species. Aside from its pink flowers, this cactus also comes in different colors like violet. Eventually, these pink flowers turn into edible fruits that appear spiny and red.

Walking Stick Cholla Cactus

Walking Stick Cholla

The walking stick cholla cactus varies in colored flowers depending on its location. In Bandelier, New Mexico, the walking stick cholla always bears pink flowers. This cactus starts to bloom from April to June. It has small flowers with striking pink petals and a touch of magenta. These pink flowers come in bow shapes and range from two to three inches in diameter. Aside from the pink flowers, the walking stick cholla flowers come in a wide array of colors such as yellow, red or purple.

Many people convey a fascination with this walking stick cholla because of its unique features. It possesses arms that get detached easily from its main body. This cactus plant gets its reputation as the jumping cholla because of its segmented arms that easily stick to the clothes or skin of a passerby. 

Pincushion Cactus

You can always find a pincushion cactus bloom with pink flowers since it’s the most common. It also bears white or striking reddish-orange flowers aside from pink. This cactus is a native of the Sonoran Desert, located in southern Arizona and a small area in southeastern California, but largely in Mexico. 

Pincushion cactus blooms from May to August. One fascinating thing about the pincushion cactus flowers is that they grow around the cactus’ apex – forming a flower-crown-like appearance. 

The pincushion cactus has a very spiny surface that entirely covers its surface – the reason why it is called that way. In other words, it looks like a cushion full of pins. When handling this cactus, it’s best to use gloves because this cactus possesses fine tiny spines that stick to your skin and are hard to remove. 

Pincushion Cactus

This cactus remains small as it never grows more than six inches in height. If you want an indoor cactus that bears beautiful pink flowers, the pincushion cactus makes an ideal choice for its small size, aesthetic and low-maintenance. In keeping this cactus indoors, maintain a warm temperature between 60 to 71 degrees Fahrenheit.

Does a Cactus Have Pink Flowers or Yellow Flowers?

Cactus flowers come in an array of colors – that includes pink and yellow. However, the mentioned two colors are more common as you can easily spot different cacti that bear pink and yellow colors. Aside from pink and yellow, you can also find cactus that bears flowers in various colors such as red, orange and white. 

What dictates the flower color is the plant’s DNA. For example, when a cactus produces a pink flower, the petals produce pigments that absorb pink light. This phenomenon happens when the DNA of the plant’s cell produces pigments of a specific color. To sum it up, the plant pigmentation and the genetics of the cactus species direct the color of the flower.

What Kind of Cactus has a Pink Flower?

Not all pink cactus flowers are the same kind. Cacti with pink flowers come in different species – chollas are an example. However, not all chollas bear pink flowers; the flowers come in a wide variety of colors too. The pincushion cactus is another kind of cactus that bears pink flowers.

How Do You Take Care of a Pink Flower Cactus?

Taking care of cactus with pink flowers is similar to other cacti with different flowers. Make sure the cactus grows on well-drained soil, provide enough sunlight exposure of at least eight hours, but do not overwater your cactus and keep the temperature between 60 to 71 degrees Fahrenheit.

Conclusion

Cacti with pink flowers are not rare to find. You only have to look for the right species as each species comes with flowers in different colors. These vibrant pink cactus flowers feel rewarding once in full bloom. Most importantly, pick a cactus that is suitable for your knowledge because not all cactus are the same in caring needs. Some cactus require special needs that might need more of an expert care.

Do Deer Eat Irises? [How to Stop Them]

Most love the sight of a deer leaping and gallivanting about in the flower-covered meadows, but when it comes to your irises or other garden plants, they can become quite the nuisance. Many of the plants in the garden turn into a deer’s all-you-can-eat buffet. You look one morning to find that your irises were eaten clean off and wonder about the greedy culprit. Do deer eat irises?

When the deer have no other choice, they will eat irises, but they usually prefer to target other plants in the garden. Deer will usually avoid eating bearded irises unless starving. Still, irises survive the deer better than some of the other plants in the garden. 

Do Deer Eat Bearded Irises?

The deer don’t like bearded irises. They’re a stinky plant to deer. They will usually avoid eating them, but some gardeners report how deer will graze their other irises to the ground. Most often, they target other plants before they will attack the irises. Only in cases where they have nothing else to eat such as in the early spring of the year will they go after the irises. Rarely do you ever see them attack the bearded irises unless starving such as in the early spring of the year or close to the end of fall.  

Most of the time, they go after the bearded irises that weren’t planted by seed. Unfortunately, deer will target most plants, and you have few that they won’t eat. For those who planted bearded irises, they can call themselves lucky because this is one of those plants that they don’t usually eat unless forced to it. 

Once the food sources grow scarcer, everything is up for grabs—even the bearded irises. 

Never Lost Irises to Deer? Lucky Indeed…

You could consider yourself lucky indeed if you never had a deer come in and eat the buds of your irises. This animal is well known as a garden grazer. In many cases, they will destroy your garden if you don’t put them in check. You have different products that you can buy to keep them away. 

Do Deer Eat Japanese Irises?

Along with bearded irises, deer dislike the taste of Japanese irises, and they will usually avoid them. This is because of how Japanese irises have grass-like leaves, and deer don’t like them. German irises are another type of iris that the deer won’t go after. They dislike this one because of the tough leaves on it. 

You may find this information helpful if you live in an area full of deer. Instead of planting regular irises, you might try to plant Japanese, German or bearded irises to stop the deer from grazing them down. Most gardeners when dealing with deer will simply swallow hard and keep moving forward. 

Do Deer Eat Siberian Irises?

The deer will usually avoid Siberian irises except in extreme circumstances. You can trust that they needed it badly if they ate them. They dislike the bitter flavor and the strong fragrance of Siberian irises. For someone looking for deer-resistant irises, this makes for an awesome choice. 

How to Keep Deer Away from Your Irises

In some regions of the United States, gardeners report that the deer have no qualms about eating the irises to the ground. How do you keep the deer away if they have taken a liking to your irises? I would recommend American Heritage Industries 16 oz Coyote Urine. Now, this may not work every time, but you don’t have anything that will keep the deer away 100 percent of the time. Keep experimenting to see what works and switch between a couple of strategies that work.

Black mesh deer netting is another strategy that works, but you will need to make it at least seven feet high to keep the deer out of it 100 percent of the time. You may still struggle with other critters in the garden. The deer and other creatures will often figure out ways around your strategy as many disheartened gardeners have reported. 

Try to mix undesirable plants like the bearded and Japanese irises with the more desirable plants to keep the deer away. Many deer will avoid the area to keep from biting into a plant that they dislike. Tulips give you an example of another plant that the deer dislike. You can protect your cucumbers and tomatoes by keeping them near the tulips. 

I would recommend this strategy, especially with vegetables since deer love to go after vegetables. 

Believe it or not, even simple windchimes can do the trick to scare the deer out of your garden. They dislike anything unfamiliar to them since they are animals of prey.

Are All Irises Deer Resistant?

Most irises are deer resistant on some level, but they will go after some types more when starving. It may depend on the region as well because some gardeners report the deer as eating their irises despite their best efforts to keep them away. Most deer avoid them because these plants are either toxic or taste bad. 

Once they become hungry, all bets are off, and they will eat anything. The biggest reason that deer avoid a plant comes down to it being poisonous. Strong scents put deer off as well, and you might use it as a way to keep the deer away. Along with Siberian irises, deer will usually avoid peonies and lavender for the same reason. 

Most animals have a stronger sense of smell than humans, and the overwhelming aroma can be off-putting to them. With that in mind, they will target your garden if hungry enough regardless. 

In some cases, even a toxic plant won’t keep a deer from eating it. For example, poppies, foxgloves and daffodils pose a threat to deer when eaten, but they will usually only feel uncomfortable and nauseous. They don’t always die if they eat them. In general, they avoid them because of their toxic properties. You could say that even when starving, they won’t eat them unless it becomes a matter of life and death. 

When to Exercise the Most Caution

The deer will especially target your plants in the first few weeks of growth. When you first plant them, the high nitrogen levels in the plants will make them particularly vulnerable because of a decreased resistance. Given half a chance, the deer will target them, especially during this time as will other animals looking for food. 

Deer: The Worst Garden Pest

It depends on the region, but in most cases, gardeners rank deer close to or at the top as a garden pest. They will utterly destroy some plants. This is why it may make sense to plant some bearded irises, Japanese irises or plants in general that they dislike. You will want to use a multi-layered approach to keep them from attacking your garden. 

Think of it as a type of computer security system. You create multiple layers of protection in case the deer can slip past the first layer of protection. Irises may serve as one layer of protection against them. 

You may spray deterrent on the garden, but in many cases, the deer will adjust to it. It works at first until the deer learn how to adapt to it. In addition, a desperate deer will eat regardless of the consequences. They will eat almost anything. 

To lower the risk that it won’t work, you will want to rotate between different products that worked in the past. Don’t overuse one because they can eventually adapt to it. 

Use a Motion Sensor Sprinkler System

Having a motion sensor sprinkler system, they will often combine sound, motion and water to scare away the deer from your garden. Not only will it scare off deer, but it can scare away other animals, such as:

  • Possums
  • Skunks
  • Birds
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Pests

A motion sensor sprinkler system protects your garden in a humane way because it will send the deer running from the garden. You will want to buy one with day and night protection since you never know when the deer will strike. I would recommend the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer since it gives you one of the few choices that protect your garden day and night. 

Are Irises Poisonous to Deer? 

Some irises such as the purple iris is toxic to deer, which explains why they avoid it. Deer usually try to avoid eating anything poisonous unless desperate. Just because a plant is poisonous doesn’t necessarily mean that it will kill the deer, however. In many cases, it will simply give the deer an upset stomach and cause enough discomfort to make them avoid those plants. 

Irises cause tissue irritation when consumed or handled. When ingested, the deer may experience drooling, vomiting, diarrhea or fatigue. While rarely a fatal poisoning in deer, the flower may still cause harm if it ingests it. Even touching an iris can cause poisoning, which explains why most deer avoid the flowers altogether. Irises can also be poisonous to dogs and cats, so you may want to think twice about planting them if you have pets. 

Things That Attract Deer to the Garden

Nothing, not even your irises, will be safe if you overstock your garden with tasty plants that they love. Generally, they won’t target your irises, but if you have enough deer around, one or two of them may nibble on your prized flowers. To eliminate the risk and protect all the plants in your garden, you may want to limit some of the plants that attract them, such as:

  • English ivy
  • Beans
  • Hostas
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Pansies 
  • Impatiens

Deer will often target fruit trees as well. For example, they love to eat apple trees. Having too many of these things around can bring a bunch of deer into your garden. If you struggle with deer eating your plants, you may want to first look at the things that attract them. 

Electric Fencing

The only thing that will 100-percent work every time in keeping the deer out of your garden is to make electric fencing. Then they won’t bother your irises or anything else. For those who live in rural areas of the country, they may find electric fencing to be a great choice. In the city, you have to be careful because you can only put electric fencing up in certain ways and it depends on the city. 

Generally, it can’t be anywhere near where the public might accidentally touch it, but you need to look at your own local laws. 

Final Thoughts

Deer will eat irises, but they usually don’t target them because they like other plants better and some varieties of irises are poisonous to them. If you see a deer that ate your irises, you can usually trust that it was starving. In some cases, you have many deer around, and this can make it more common that they would eat the irises. 

If you wonder about the other animals that might eat your irises, check out the article that I wrote here called, “What Animals Eat Irises?

Expert Guide: Orange Flower Cactuses

When it comes to cacti, an orange flower isn’t entirely uncommon. You have several species of cacti that can grow orange flowers. The striking color and the pleasant aroma of a cactus flower has led to it becoming a favorite. Meanwhile, they attract pollinators such as bats and bees. Yes, you read that right, bats serve as quintessential pollinators in tropical and desert climates where they will free the cacti from pests by feeding on them. Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination.

Types of Cactus with Orange Flowers

  • Prickly pear cactus
  • Barrel cactus
  • Christmas cactus
  • Organ pipe cactus
  • Moon cactus
  • Desert gem
  • Crown cactus
  • Orange snowball cactus
  • Claret cup cactus
  • Red Tom Thumb Cactus
  • Easter cactus

What Determines Flower Color?

The color of the flower occurs due to the reflected light of various chemical compounds known as plant pigments. You may see a cactus with a red flower turn orange over time. Color changes in a flower indicate that the flower has matured past the pollination stage. 

Hot temperatures and direct sunlight can fade flower color, which explains why the flower occasionally changes from red to orange. Contrasted with cool weather, the flower colors may become more intense. 

With each cactus, when they flower and how they flower will depend on the species of cactus. The orange color may vary as well. Stay tuned as we cover each of these cactuses and how their orange flower looks. 

Prickly Pear Cactus

The prickly pear cactus will occasionally produce a beautiful orange-yellow flower. While many love it for its flower and its fruit, they fear it for its fearsome spines. You may see the prickly pear cactus turn color over time. For example, it may start out yellow and grow orange over time. Once the prickly pear reaches maturity, you may see a bright red flower. The prickly pear produces wonderful flowers, but it will later give you an equally delicious fruit. 

You typically see the prickly pear cactus bloom in the spring to early summer. The blossoms will usually be large and breathtaking. 

Even if the flower looks yellow, check the inside of the flower to see if it doesn’t look orange or red on the inside. Prickly pear refers to a plant genus of about 100 species, so it’s a broad topic to cover. Two examples of the prickly pear cacti species with orange flowers include Englemann’s Prickly Pear and the Desert Gem, but you have many others.

Barrel Cactus

The Barrel Cactus has different flowers from that of the prickly pear in that the reddish-orange petals will form at the crown of the cactus. If you want true orange flowers from the barrel cactus, choose the Mexican Flame Cactus since this gives you the only clumping barrel cactus that has a true orange flower. 

The other ones do have orange, but it mixes in with a lot of red or yellow. In some cases, the barrel cactus may even have a purple flower. While rare, the barrel cactus will occasionally produce a fruit that you can eat. You can even eat this fruit raw. It has a light and lemony flavor with shiny black seeds. Still, you probably choose this over Saguaro cactus fruit or the prickly pear fruit.

You will typically see blooms on the barrel cactus starting in April. In some cases, the Barrel Cactus will flower up until September, but you rarely see it flower after October.

Orange and yellow flowers are the most common, but pink and red do occur from time to time. Once the flowers begin to wilt around May, you may see the flower change to another color. 

Christmas Cactus

The Christmas Cactus has a reputation for its bright blooms and it blooms in a variety of colors including orange. They bloom during the Christmas season, which was how this plant received its name. In some cases, you may see this plant flower with a yellow-orange flower. 

While this plant readily adapts to conditions with low light, they bloom best in bright and indirect sunlight. You don’t want to place it in full sunlight because it produces a dark red on its leaves when burnt. Pay attention to the light and the temperature to see orange blossoms. The perfect temperature for blooming sits between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Beware of too hot or too cold of drafts since this can damage the blooms. 

Keep the Christmas Cactus away from heated vents and leaky doors. The drafts can prevent flowers.

Organ Pipe Cactus

Blooming from April to June, the organ pipe cactus often has white flowers. This cactus is known for the large and bright orange flowers that it produces. Many times, this cactus produces a bright reddish-orange flower. The orange flowers on this cactus develop in the center of the plant. The organ pipe cactus can live for up to 150 years, and it doesn’t produce its first flower until the age of 35 when it matures.

This shows us the second largest cactus species in the United States, which can grow up to 24 feet tall. The first largest species is the Mexican giant Cardon cactus, which can reach up to 63 feet tall. 

Most of the time, this cactus will bloom at night, and the flowers grow at the tip of the stems. You can find this cactus in its native habitat in southern Arizona in the Sonora Desert. Just keep in mind that the orange flowers aren’t as common as the white or lavender with this one. 

The Moon Cactus

Many love the moon cactus, and you can buy this one in a variety of colors including orange. Oftentimes, newcomers to the moon cactus will mistake the top-colored part for the flower. In fact, that is grafted onto the plant. While one moon cactus might be short and fat, you have others that are thin and tall. 

In some cases, the moon cactus prospers and you will get flowers out of it. Orange and yellow give us the most common color of moon cactus. 

When this cactus blooms, the flower will usually only last for 12 hours. About once a year after the plant matures, it will produce flowers. You may want to give it more moisture during this time since it will produce more blossoms. Like most cacti, the moon cactus uses water and sunlight as energy to produce blossoms. 

This is a slow-growing cactus compared to other species. You wouldn’t buy this one for its miraculous growth, but many cacti don’t grow quickly. 

Related Article: Expert Guide: Red Cactus Flower

Desert Gem

Considered a small variety of the prickly pear cactus, you will see this cactus produce orange flowers from time to time. When it blooms, the desert gem has vibrant orange flowers. This cactus blooms in the spring and summer season. In its native habitat in Mexico, it can grow up to 24 inches tall. 

You would categorize the desert gem as an indoor cactus species. They don’t require much care, and they need minimal amount of water to produce flowers. Using some tomato fertilizer, however, will encourage it to produce its vibrant orange blossoms. You want to keep this cactus in the light to help it produce its flowers since it loves the sunlight. 

Crown Cactus

The orange flowers on the crown cactus are very beautiful and appealing. Once it produces a flower, you will see it make bright orange and daisy-like flowers. They call this cactus a free-flowering species, which means that it has a continuous flowering cycle throughout the growing season. They bloom throughout the spring of the year. 

Many times, the stems will be covered in thorns, and they produce a delicate flower. 

Orange Snowball Cactus

You can choose to put the orange snowball cactus either inside or outdoors. Place it in an area where it can absorb the morning sun. The gorgeous orange blossoms on the orange snowball cactus will catch your attention right away. Younger orange snowball cactus will often produce a big and yellow flower, but the older plants tend to produce red, pink and orange flowers.

Many consider the orange snowball cactus a highly ornamental plant because of its bright colors. This plant grows its best when you position it in full sunlight. The sunlight will help it to produce energy for flowers as well. 

You can typically expect to see this cactus bloom in the spring. They call this a snowball cactus because the thick, white spines on it make it appear like a snowball.  

Claret Cup Cactus

The claret cup cactus produces a flower that looks orange or red, but it looks like one of the most beautiful of flowers. The bright red and orange flowers will often cover this cactus. This cylindrical and low-growing plant has a dense and spiny surface. The spines on this one fall off seasonally. 

Many people cultivate the claret cup cactus because of its beautiful orange flowers. This cactus can thrive in conditions with little water and extreme temperatures. You will see it bloom after five to 10 years, and the blooming usually happens from April to June. 

You can find this native plant growing wild in the southwestern part of the United States like California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. You will find this cactus growing in Mexico as well. This desert dweller likes to grow in gravelly soil.

Red Tom Thumb Cactus

This small globe-shaped cactus has red, pink or orange flowers depending on the plant. It produces them in the spring and summer of the year. Most of the time, the flowers will be orange with a red tinge. This plant can reach up to 15 cm in height. The flowers will usually be about 3 cm across. 

The cactus grows its best in bright sunlight. You will want to use well-drained soil to prevent root rot, which is common for any cactus with poor drainage. 

Beware of this cactus because it does have some sharp spines on it that you don’t want to touch. Many times, you will see this cactus used as filler for rocky gardens. 

Easter Cactus

The Easter Cactus got its name because it usually blooms around the Easter season. The orange blooms will usually be about 2 inches across. You can expect this cactus to bloom anywhere from March to May. This cactus is interesting in that its orange blooms will open each morning, and they will close every night. 

You can expect the Easter Cactus to flower once a year, but they have been known to flower twice in a year. Usually, drier and cooler conditions of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit will suit it best at night. Don’t place this cactus near cool drafts or directly next to a heat source since it can prevent it from producing its soft orange flowers. 

Usually, a warmer home will do better because the blooming season will start earlier for the cactus. This isn’t like a desert cactus, and the Easter Cactus does better in cooler temperatures. 

How long the blooms continue for will depend on the growing conditions of your plant. Many people like to buy an Easter Cactus even during its blooming season. It’s not uncommon. 

What Triggers the Orange Flowers on a Cactus?

What makes a cactus bloom so well has to do with three factors: water deprivation, bright light and semi-dormancy in the winter. All of this contributes to the cactus producing bright orange flowers in abundance come the spring of the year. Many cacti will produce flowers in the spring season as they come out of dormancy. Once the spring season hits and you start to water them again more frequently, it brings them out of that stage to produce beautiful flowers. 

Final Thoughts

I have highlighted 11 cacti here that produce orange flowers. That doesn’t cover all of them, but it gives you an idea. Some of them will flower easier than others, and you may struggle to get an orange bloom with some since most cacti never produce just a single color. You usually have the potential for them to produce a variety of flower colors. 

If you’d like to learn more about the cactus and its flowers, I wrote another one here about yellow cactus flowers. Learn about the different varieties of cacti that produce yellow flowers to help you on your quest to collect different flower colors.

Expert Guide: Cactus of New Mexico

Despite it commonly depicted as a land of desert full of cactuses, New Mexico has one of the most diverse landscapes out of all the states. You will see everything from the auburn-colored deserts and broken mesas to the wide-open grasslands and snow-capped mountain peaks. They even have a few extinct volcanoes here. With that in mind, cactus life is just as diverse here, and you have 38 cactus species in New Mexico. 

Types of Cactus in New Mexico

We put together this helpful table about the cacti of New Mexico to help you to better understand each species. This is an extensive list, and we don’t expect anyone to look at everything all at once, but it can give you the necessary information for each cactus if you have any questions. 

Keep in mind, when we talk about the range, we’re only covering New Mexico to simplify the information, but you can find some of the cacti in other states:

Common NameCommon RangeHabitat
Horse crippler Southeast New MexicoGrasslands, scrublands, deserts flats
Smallflower fishhook cactusNorthwest New MexicoCanyons, grasslands, sandstone plateaus
Night-blooming cereus Southwest New MexicoGrasslands, scrublands
Mountain ball cactusNorth New MexicoPinyon-juniper woodland, grasslands, elevation up to 11,000 feet
Plains prickly pearMiddle to high-range new MexicoWoodlands, hillsides, grasslands
Tulip prickly pearThroughout New MexicoCanyons, scrublands, grasslands 
Purple prickly pearSouth New MexicoWell-drained sand and gravel soils
Texas prickly pearSoutheast New MexicoWoodlands, grasslands
Brittle prickly pearEast New MexicoChihuahua desert, scrublands, limestone hills
Barbary figThroughout New MexicoGravely flats, scrublands
Mojave prickly pearNorthwest New MexicoJoshua tree communities, scrublands, pinyon-juniper woodland
Pancake prickly pearSouthwest New MexicoMountain foothills, rocky slopes, scrublands
Heyder pincushion cactusMany parts of New MexicoGrassland, scrubland
Arizona fishhook cactusSouthwest New MexicoGrassland, scrubland
Graham’s cholla cactusSouth New MexicoDry washes, sandy plains, gravel flats
Devil chollaSouthwest New MexicoScrublands, desert flats, hillsides that reach to 4,000 feet
Club chollaCentral and Northwest New MexicoPinyon-juniper woodlands, grasslands, hillsides
Arizona barrel cactusSouthwest New MexicoGravel or sand plains
Texas barrel cactusSouth New MexicoLimestone cliffs and hillsides
Common beehive cactusThroughout New MexicoAll environments up to 8,500 feet
Cob beehive cactusSouth New MexicoPine-oak woodland, scrubland, grasslands
Nylon hedgehog cactusNorth and West New MexicoPrairies, grasslands, Chihuahuan desert plains 
Claret cup cactusThroughout New MexicoSandy deserts, grasslands, gravel slopes, canyon sides
Strawberry hedgehog cactusChihuahuan desertsRocky and gravelly slopes, sunny areas
Arizona rainbow cactusSouthwest New MexicoCanyon walls, arid grasslands, rocky hillsides
Lace hedgehog cactusEast New MexicoChihuahuan desert grasslands, pine and oak woods, scrublands
Fendler’s hedgehogCentral and East New MexicoBushy plateaus, hillsides, woodlands, grasslands
Robust hedgehog cactusSouthwest New MexicoHillsides, scrublands, rocky deserts
Green strawberry hedgehogSouth New MexicoScrublands, low elevation areas, open areas
Texas rainbow cactus South New MexicoCanyon sides, grassy plains, scrublands, limestone terraces
Brown flowered cactusSouth New MexicoPrefers full sun, gravely slopes
Arizona claret cup cactusSouthwest New MexicoScrublands, grasslands, limestone canyons
Whipple chollaWest New MexicoWoodlands, grasslands, scrublands
Cane chollaWest New MexicoDesert plains, grasslands
Christmas chollaThroughout New MexicoCanyon sides, scrublands, grasslands
Tree chollaThroughout New MexicoHillsides, scrublands, woodlands, grasslands
Robust spine beehive cactusScattered in areas throughout New MexicoDry washes, grasslands, scrublands
Nipple beehive cactusSoutheast New MexicoHillsides and gravelly flats

Most Common Cactus in New Mexico

In terms of cholla cactus species, the cane cholla, also known as the tree cholla, is the most common cholla here. Some have even interestingly named it the chainlink cactus—picture that! This tree-like cactus has the potential to grow up to 8 feet tall and has spiny, fleshy stems. When the plant dies, it looks like a woody skeleton. 

You can see this cactus wild at Petroglyph National Monument and White Sands National Park. Especially when it flowers, it becomes one of the most beautiful plants in the desert. The best time to see them flower is from April to June. Most chollas will bloom once a year, and you can usually see the flower for two to three days. 

After it flowers, it produces a conical yellow fruit. While the fruits are edible, the plant is covered in spines requiring some heavy preparation if you wanted to eat it. Most people only consider it a survival fruit because you waste more time and energy preparing than what you get out of it for its small size. 

The other danger comes from this one’s reputation for its painful spines making the fruit less worth the effort unless you were in a dire situation.

Along with being common in New Mexico, it can be found as a native species throughout the American Southwest. In the past, Native American tribes would harvest the fruit to eat it raw, stew it or ground it into flour. Whenever the cholla dies, it creates this elaborate pattern of wood that has become popular in furniture. 

In case you’d like to see the process of processing dead cholla wood and what it looks like, check it out here:

If you’d like an interesting plant holder made out of cholla wood, we’d recommend going with the Cholla Air Plant Holder. Check it out and see how unique it looks. Another bonus is that they made it in the USA. It serves as a great conversation-starter piece in the home for anyone who has never seen cholla wood before. 

Cane cholla are the largest cacti in New Mexico, and if you wanted to see the biggest cane cholla, we would recommend checking out White Sands National Park. The cane cholla has the potential to grow between 3 to 5 feet tall, and it will live for roughly 20 years. 

Where Would You Look for Cactus in New Mexico?

If you want to see cactus in New Mexico, you need to know where to look to have the best results. Come especially in the late spring to early summer season to see the cactus light up the desert with their blooms. The northern part of New Mexico is probably one of the worst areas to find cactus. You can find some cholla, prickly pear and other small cacti growing in Taos and Santa Fe, but it doesn’t have as many opportunities as in the southern parts of New Mexico. You may see some but not as many. 

A large part of the northern regions of New Mexico is either forest or high desert. Check more in the desert areas for the best opportunities. One time passing through the grassland parts of northeastern New Mexico, I don’t remember seeing any cactus in that area. It was mostly open grasslands, so it depends on where you go in New Mexico, but the deserts will offer you the best opportunities. 

Desert Spoon 

Right away, the name draws your attention, and they call it this because of its spoon-shaped leaves. This cactus can reach a height of 4 to 5 feet tall in diameter, and at the seven to 10-year mark, it starts to produce flowers. They only flower once every few years, but you can spot a desert spoon easily for its unique appearance. The female plant produces purplish-pink flowers, which have a creamy yellow color.

If you’d like to attract hummingbirds and bees, they love the desert spoon cactus, so you might plant it in your cactus garden. In some cases, you will hear people call it the spoon yucca plant. Keep in mind if you were to take in this plant, it’s a slow grower. 

Claret Cup Cactus

Producing some of the most beautiful red flowers, you can find this cactus in the White Sands region of South Central New Mexico. Growing it as a cactus, you have one of the easiest growing cacti around. People have called it several names over the years that include:

  • Hedgehog cactus
  • Strawberry cactus
  • King’s crown cactus
  • Spineless hedgehog
  • Scarlet Hedgehog cactus
  • Kingcup cactus

Along with it growing in New Mexico, you will find this cactus in Arizona and the northern regions of Mexico. Head to the southern regions of New Mexico to the Chihuahuan deserts, and you will find the species commonly growing here. You can often find the claret cup cactus growing at the base of juniper trees in New Mexico since this cactus is an example of one cactus that prefers a little shade. 

Some of the other areas where you might look for it in New Mexico include mountain woodlands, rocky slopes and lower desert areas. Claret cup cactus flowers have a nectar chamber inside the base of the flower and the hummingbird has to stick its whole head into the flower to pollinate it. 

Many people like to cultivate this cactus because of its beautiful red flowers. In case you’d like to learn more about red cactus flowers, I wrote about a few different types of cactus species that have red flowers here

Horse Crippler

The horse crippler cactus got its name from its strong spines that lay hidden like a landmine in wait of any creatures that might stand on it. Many horses have been crippled from stepping on it. Commonly found in Big Bend National Park, it remains rare in most other areas. Look in southeast New Mexico for the best results in the state.

This cactus species can tolerate frost well, and its body is twice as wide as it is high. Hence the reason that animals will often stand on it before they see it, including humans. Normally, it only stands 1 to 2 inches above the ground, but it can reach up to 1 foot across. The issue comes from how the grass will often cover it until your horse stands right on it. 

I find the pink flowers on this cactus not only beautiful but unique. The flower has a deep red center, and it blooms in the spring of the year. When you take good care of this cactus, it will look stunning in a garden. You want to be aware of where you put it, however, but don’t leave it in an area where it might get covered up so that you would accidentally step on it. 

You can see this plant take root in mountain foothills and rocky slopes, but it adapts best to the scrublands of deserts. If you see this plant out in the desert, look at it, but don’t touch it. 

You can check out the horse crippler among some other New Mexico cactus species in the video here:

Prickly Pear Cactus

There are seven species of prickly pear cactus in New Mexico. Although to put that into perspective, they have over 200 species of prickly pear cactus, so it’s a broad species with many twists and turns. Let’s have a look at the species that they have in New Mexico. 

The plains prickly pear cactus is native to New Mexico, and it has been eaten in both Native American and Mexican dishes. Their fruits have been used in jellies, jams and juices. 

The shallow roots of this cactus allow it to capture rainfall easily, and it stores the water throughout the pads of the plant. This cactus can handle the cold better than most species, and because of that, you can find it further north than other species.

Next, you have the tulip prickly pear cactus. The bright and showy flowers of this cactus will eventually develop into a fruit called tunas. This prickly pear prefers the sun, but it can periodically withstand freezes and do fine. In general, this cactus prefers to be hot and dry.

The purple prickly pear cactus has become a popular species for its purple color. In some cases, other cacti can turn purple as well, but it isn’t always a good thing. This one does it naturally, and aside from the color, it looks like a regular prickly pear cactus. The purple prickly pear would make for a great choice to add some color to a cactus garden. 

The pancake prickly pear has spines that become blackish as they age. In all honesty, this isn’t one of my favorite cacti in terms of beauty—it doesn’t look good. This cactus, however, can have hundreds of pads that all come from a single trunk. In some cases, you may see no spines on the pancake prickly pear. They have been known to reach heights of up to 8 feet tall. The pads on this one are fast-growing stems, and it’s one of the faster-growing prickly pear cactus species. 

Night-Blooming Cereus

If you want to know where to find the night-blooming cereus in New Mexico, check Hidalgo County in southern New Mexico. It’s the southernmost county in all of New Mexico, and it’s a rare and endangered cactus that sometimes occurs in the Chihuahuan desert. Most of the time, this cactus looks like a dead bush, but it has one of the more beautiful flowers when it blooms. 

Usually, it will bloom from May to June, but it has gone all the way to October and even later in rare cases. The blooming happens sporadically, rather than continuously. Also, they don’t bloom until they reach maturity at four to five years old. 

Unlike some of the other cacti, the night-bloom cereus blooms after dark usually from 8 pm to 9 pm. They wilt before sunrise. The buds will open slowly, and they release a sweet fragrance worth the wait for plant lovers. For new night–blooming cereus, they will usually only produce a couple of flowers for their first time blooming. 

In fact, they have several different types of night-blooming cereus, and the species will determine how often and when it will bloom at night. 

Devil Cholla

Found in the Chihuahuan desert and southwestern New Mexico, it got its name because of their well-defined tubercles. They’re dagger-sharp as anyone knows who may have been unlucky enough to step on them. In many cases, they appear as simple ground creepers, but you will ruin your day if you step on them.

The spines from this cactus come in all colors, and it has many regional names depending on the area. You will find this plant scattered around in the low elevation regions like the Chihuahuan desert. 

In most of New Mexico, you can find the devil cholla even if you don’t see as much of it in certain parts. Cholla in general are some of the most widespread cacti throughout the state.

Do They Have the Saguaro Cactus in New Mexico?

You can find the Saguaro cactus in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico. The cactus cannot be found growing wild in New Mexico since it isn’t native there, but some have found a few stray plants of it in southeast California. All in all, Saguaro only grows in the Sonoran desert, and they only grow in parts of the Sonoran desert. 

The Saguaro is, however, common to the Sonoran desert, and the government doesn’t list it as an endangered plant. 

Final Thoughts

New Mexico holds 38 species of cactus within the state, and we covered some of the more interesting species within the state. The one that you will find most commonly here is the many species of cholla. If you’d like to see the earliest flowering cactus in Central New Mexico, look for the Chihuahuan Pineapple Cactus. The flowers are mostly white with cream-colored anthers. 

If you have any thoughts or comments about the cacti in New Mexico, please free to leave a comment below for open discussion. What’s your favorite cactus in this state?