Expert Guide: Red Cactus Flower

The deep shade of a red flower on a cactus is inviting and draws the eye. This depends on the species of cactus as well since some have a higher chance of producing red flowers. Red is such a beautiful and powerful color that it grabs your attention as soon as you see it. In America, red represents love and desire, but in China, it represents happiness and prosperity.

Let’s have a look at the red cactus flower and the different species of cacti that produce them. Some of the cactus species that produce red flowers include:

  • Prickly pear cactus 
  • Christmas cactus
  • Barrel cactus
  • Moon cactus
  • Claret cup cactus
  • Fishhook cactus
  • Fire barrel cactus
  • Peanut cactus

The flower on each cactus will vary depending on the species. I personally find some of the cactus flowers more beautiful than others. Some of the flowers will happen more frequently whereas others will take more time. It depends on the species of cactus and oftentimes, a red flower isn’t guaranteed since it may be yellow, pink or orange in many cases. It depends on each cactus. 

Prickly Pear Cactus

Believe it or not, the prickly pear cactus can survive the freezing temperatures in the north because of the special antifreeze chemicals found in its cells.

Along with producing a red flower, the prickly pear cactus produces a delicious reddish-pink fruit as well. The flower on a prickly pear cactus could be red, yellow or purple. Interestingly, the fruits will vary in color, too, and they may be red, yellow-orange or even green in some cases. 

They even have a specific species of red flower prickly pear known as the red flower prickly pear or the opuntia elatior for its botanical name. This invasive prickly pear species is less widespread than most, however. Typically, it will produce either a red flower or an orange flower. They usually bloom from May to July. The cactus grows up to 6 inches tall.

The flowers on a prickly pear are known for their cup shape. You can find the prickly pear growing throughout North America and down into parts of South America. This cactus grows easily, and it will usually produce a flower at the three to the four-year mark. Once it starts producing flowers it will produce fruits. 

Prickly pear fruits will usually produce fruit in the late summer through to the early winter. We would say that the peak season for the fruits happen from September to December in the Northern hemisphere.

Christmas Cactus

You can buy the Christmas cactus in a variety of flower colors including red. Other colors include yellow, salmon, white and bi-color. The red Christmas cactus can adapt to low-light conditions, but it starts producing blooms as soon as you expose it to bright light. You might set them in an east-facing window to let their branches bloom with red. 

As the name suggests, the Christmas cactus will produce its red flowers right around the Christmas season. Keep in mind, this may not be exactly on Christmas. Typically, they will start to flower from the early winter through to the mid-winter. 

This popular houseplant has a few secrets to get it to bloom. First, let’s understand a bit about the Christmas cactus. All of the species originated in the humid and shady forests of Brazil, and they live above ground in the trees where decomposing leaves and moss meet. 

When the Christmas cactus starts to bloom, you want to increase the water given because this keeps its beautiful blooms as stunning as possible. If you have ever seen how a flower wilts without water, the same is true of a Christmas cactus when it doesn’t receive enough water. It requires water to produce the energy for its flowers. 

Christmas cactuses prefer indirect sunlight since direct sunlight can cause the leaves to burn dark red.

Light and temperature are the two keys to beautiful blooms on your Christmas cactus. You want a cool and shady area where it will experience indirect light. They require about eight hours of sunlight per day to flower. 

Expert Tip: Wherever you place the Christmas cactus, don’t turn on the light at night since this can interfere with it flowering. Beware of hot and cold drafts as well. 

Barrel Cactus

Did you know that the barrel cactus has an average lifespan of between 50 to 100 years? It commonly grows from 2 to 4 feet tall. We wouldn’t recommend that you buy this one to watch it flower as a beginner since it can take up to 15 years to produce its first flower, or it will need to be a minimum of 6 inches wide. In some cases, it will take up to 20 years before it flowers.

Personally, I don’t find the barrel cactus to produce the prettiest of red flowers either. They sit on the top as smaller flowers that blend in with the cactus. I wouldn’t buy this one strictly to watch it flower. The flowers will appear in a ring at the top. The petals produced are many, and they’re very unlike the other flowers for cacti. 

Many people know of the barrel cactus as an emergency source of water in the desert. This cactus originates in the deserts of Mexico, and it’s used to getting an intense amount of sunlight. It will need an abundance of sunlight to produce its flowers. 

The flowers will be red, orange or yellow. Depending on the species, most of them bloom from April to June. 

Moon Cactus

Known as a grafted specimen of cactus, this means that one plant was formed from two species of cactus that they fused together. They nearly always grow the moon cactus in a pot as opposed to in the garden, and it produces a small red, pink, yellow or white flower in the late spring to early summer. 

The moon cactus almost looks like a ruby red ball, and their distinct look makes it impossible to mistake them for anything else. When we say moon cactus, it usually refers to a yellow or orange variety, but it can include the red flower moon cactus as well. 

Once this cactus blooms, it will typically last for 12 hours. More wetness will usually produce more flowering since most species of cactus use water and sunlight as energy to bloom. Moon cactus bloom once a year, and people shouldn’t mistake the colored thing at the top as the flower since the flower will grow over the top of even that. 

Check this video for a demonstration of what a moon cactus with a flower looks like:

We will say that the pink color flower is more common with moon cactuses than red, but we have heard of red flowers as well. We pointed this one out, particularly because of its red color at the top of the plant.

Claret Cup Cactus

I would call the red flowers of the claret cup cactus one of the most beautiful flowers of the cactus species. For me, personally, it’s my favorite next to the Christmas cactus. We would also consider this one of the most attractive hedgehog cacti. It grows in clumps, and it can grow as much as 3 to 4 feet across. In most cases, however, it will be smaller. 

Along with its beauty, this has also received praise as one of the easiest cactuses to grow. The color of the flower will range from light pink and lavender to a dark red rose. 

Don’t be thrown off if you hear it called by another name since this cactus has been called other names as well. Some of the other names that you might hear it called include:

  • Kingcup cactus
  • Mojave mound cactus
  • Scarlet hedgehog cactus
  • King’s crown cactus
  • Strawberry cactus 
  • Spineless hedgehog

You can find the Claret cup cactus growing in the southwestern part of the United States and the northern regions of Mexico. This cactus can also grow in colder climates because it clumps together to hold in the heat. 

Hummingbirds and bees love to pollinate this cactus, and if you planted it in your garden, you would see them visit from time to time. 

The Native Americans used to gather this cactus, burn off its spines and mash its stems. Next, they would add sugar and bake it to make a sweet cake with it.

If you’d like to see what this plant looks like with its red flowers, check it out here:

Fishhook Cactus

The fishhook cactus gives you another example of a cactus that produces a bright red flower. You can find this cactus growing in the deserts of New Mexico, and the flowers aren’t always red. They range in color from pink to lavender. They reach around 1.6 inches in diameter, and they produce a fleshy red fruit that has many black seeds in it. 

This cactus will have a smaller body than many of the others. Still, they become increasingly visible especially during the spring and summer season as the flowers open up in greeting. 

They call this cactus the fishhook cactus because of how it has spines on it that look like fishhooks near the top of it. 

Fire Barrel Cactus

The flowers on the fire barrel cactus will range from darker red to golden yellow. Many times, the flowers on the fire barrel cactus will have a red stripe straight down the middle of it. They bloom from the spring to fall in the American Southwest. This cactus will also have red spines on it, and it produces a fruit on it that feeds the local wildlife. 

Most often when it blooms it will have red flowers, but I’ve seen orange flowers on it as well. This is an especially common species found in Baja California. In some cases in the wild, they will grow up to 6 feet tall. 

Unfortunately, with this cactus, the flowers only last a day in most cases. Interestingly enough, this cactus has formed a symbiotic relationship with native ant populations who protect the fruit of the plant from herbivores who might eat it. They, in turn, are allowed into the nectaries of the plant’s apex. 

Occasionally, you will hear people call this cactus the Mexican lime cactus. This cactus is also frost-hardy and can manage the cold better than some of the other species. 

Peanut Cactus

Another one of the beautiful red flowers from a cactus, the peanut cactus can also produce an orange flower in some cases. The peanut cactus flower has a long lifespan of one week, but they, unfortunately, don’t always appear either. You need to care for the cactus well for the flowers to appear. 

You will also want to bring this plant indoors whenever the temperatures drop to freezing since this plant can’t handle the cold as well as some of the other cactus that we mentioned. 

You can check out the peanut cactus with its red-orange flowers here:

This plant is native to Argentina in the rocky Argentinian mountains, and it has creeping long stems. Giving it strong sunlight is one of the best ways to encourage it to flower. You typically want six to eight hours of sunlight per day for it. In poor lighting conditions, the cactus will grow long and thin stems. It does need some shade, but you have to be careful with this one because it tends to be more finicky. 

Some of the states where it will grow well outdoors include California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Many of the flowers on this cactus will have a more orange-red type of color to it. It may be more difficult to get it to bloom, but once it blooms, it shows a beautiful flower. 

The peanut cactus has become a popular houseplant over the years because of its beautiful flower, and it grows well in gardens in hot climates. 

What Kind of Cactus Has Red Flowers?

Some of the cactus species that will have red flowers include the prickly pear cactus, Christmas cactus, barrel cactus, claret cup cactus, fishhook cactus, fire barrel cactus and peanut cactus. Keep in mind that they won’t always have a red flower. Some of them will produce a red flower, but it can also be a yellow, white or pink flower. It depends on the species.

With the Christmas cactus, you can buy the red Christmas cactus species. 

How Long Does a Cactus Flower Last?

Cactus flowers will last anywhere from a single day to six weeks depending on the species of cactus, how much sunlight it receives and how much water it receives. They will last longer under the right conditions. You can give it extra water during its flowering season to make it last as long as possible. Keep the soil moist at least and mist it frequently. 

Whenever the top couple of inches dry out, you will want to add water to give it the best chances at keeping its blooms for as long as possible. 

How Cacti Will Bloom

Most cacti will bloom during the rainy season. Many species are used to going through droughts since this is common in the deserts. You often have feast or famine in the deserts. Many times, you will see a cactus totally drowned in the flooding from the rain, but it will take in all this water to store it away for the drought season. 

The only exception to the flowering might be the tropical cactus species, but there are far more desert cacti with over 2,000 species. 

How to Water a Cactus for Blooming

We can’t give you a golden rule on how often to water a cactus because each species will prefer a different watering schedule, but you do have a couple of golden rules that you want to follow to promote its blooming. Over the growing season, cacti will require fertilizer and watering it at least once a week. If you want to know where to get fertilizer, check out Schultz Cactus Plus Fertilizer. This makes a great choice, especially for the Christmas cactus. Also, be aware of how too little water, and they won’t flower. 

The growing season takes place from March to September. When they go dormant, you only want to water them when completely dry. 

The smaller and younger cactus usually require more water because they use it as energy to grow more. You want to water a younger cactus more frequently than older ones. 

Exercise care not to overwater the cactus either since this can cause irreversible effects. One of the signs of a cactus being overwatered is that it will be mushy. You may see it start to turn black. The roots of the cactus are the most sensitive, and they will quickly kill the cactus from root rot if you don’t pay attention. Too much moisture in the roots will cause root rot. Once the roots rot, they can no longer absorb nutrients or water, which will impact their flowering.

Final Thoughts

The red cactus flower is one of the most beautiful colors of the cactus because it stands out so much more than the pink or yellow flower. You especially want to create the right conditions for the blooming stages of the cactus since this will heavily influence whether it blooms, and it will play a role in how long the cactus keeps its flowers. Especially with the Christmas cactus that we mentioned above, you want to take extra measures. 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about cactuses with yellow flowers, we wrote about that here

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