Cactus are unique plants belonging to the family Cactaceae and order Caryophyllales. This is a huge family with more than 127 genera and around 2500 recorded species. Natives of America, Cacti occur in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some of these shapes are pretty unique and interesting, making it a widely collected plant genus.
In this article, we will share some basic information about the question ‘ how long does cactus live’ along with an introduction to the cacti.
The word ‘Cactus’ is derived from the Greek word ‘kaktos’ which refers to an unidentified spiky plant. Important features regarding the cactuses are shared below:
- Plants of the group cactus are found commonly in America, Canada, Asia, the UK, and other regions of the world.
- Cacti have a variety of sizes and appearances.
- The smallest cactus Blossfeldia liliputiana is only about 0.4 inches wide on maturity. On the other hand, the tallest cactus is Pachycereus pringlei. 63 feet is the maximum recorded height for this species.
- The majority of cacti are succulents. Succulents have thick parts (usually leaves) filled with a jelly-like watery substance. These fleshy parts are a storehouse of nutrients and add to the resilience of the plant.
- Many cacti don’t have true leaves. The food forming process i.e. the photosynthesis takes place in the stem of the plant.
- All Cacti have spikes or thorns throughout their leaves and stems. Made from ‘aeroles’, these thorns are the identifying feature of the plant. ‘Areoles’ are the reduced form of branches and are quite beneficial for the plant. They reduce air exposure, thus decreasing the chance of water loss. In addition, the thorns increase the life span and safety of the plant by becoming a guard against the herbivores.
- The flowers of the cacti are usually tubular and have many petals. Furthermore, they also grow from aeroles.
- The succulents are Xerophytes. This means they are well adapted to live in dry areas. The majority of cacti carry out a unique internal process known as the ‘crassulacean acid mechanism’. This mechanism takes place at night when the carbon dioxide gas enters the plant making the water leave. The plant stores the CO2 gas in the form of malic acid until the sun rises and the photosynthesis starts. Because of the transpiration at night time, water loss is reduced. This makes cacti resistant to water shortages and mild droughts.
Life Span of Cactus
In this section, we will discuss the details related to the lifespan of the cacti.
How long do cactus live?
Cactuses enjoy a longer life as compared to the majority of other plants. The life span of cacti ranges from 10 years to as long as 200 years. So if you want to know how long do cactus live? you should know that it depends upon many factors. These factors are mentioned below;
- Growth conditions
The lifespan of a Cactus in Outdoors
As a general idea, Cacti in outdoors and suitable environment live longer as compared to indoors. In ideal situations, this span can even go up to 2 centuries.
The lifespan of a Cactus in Indoors
On the other hand, indoor cacti can live an average life of a decade. Some indoor hybrids even die in a few months. However, with the help of suitable care; this life span may be increased.
To further enlighten the idea of ‘How long do cactus live’, we are going to discuss the general life span of a few famous species of cactuses.
How long do Saguaro Cactus live?
Before we discuss, how long do Saguaros live, it is better to get a brief introduction to the plant. Saguaro Cactus belongs to the genus Carnegiea and species gigantea. They are slow-growing yet gigantic. A Saguaro cactus may reach up to a height of 50 feet on maturity.
Saguaros are unable to live independently in their initial years. So, an adult tree nurse and protects the baby Saguaro giving it the basic nutrients. The nursing plant may die during the growth of the baby cactus. It is interesting to note that in the initial decade of the plant’s age, it grows not more than 2 inches. The Carnigea gigantea plants bloom when they are around 35 years. Furthermore, the first arm grows at around 75 to 100 years of age.
You will be pretty amazed to know about how long do saguaro cactus live. The age of an adult Saguaro is around 125 years. The total life span of saguaro is around 150 to 200 years.
How long do a Christmas Cactus live?
This is a beautiful indoor cactus ‘bridgesii’ that belongs to the genus Schlumbergera. Many biologists consider the true Christmas cactus as a hybrid between two cacti. It closely resembles Schlumbergera truncate (the false Christmas cactus or the thanksgiving cactus).
The characteristic of active blooming in the winter holiday season i.e. the Christmas season gives it the particular name. An average plant grows up to a decent height of about 24 inches. The green foliage and the fresh flowers in winter look beautiful, making it a common choice as a gift in the festive season. Additionally, the Brazilian native cactus is non-toxic and ranges in a large number of cultivars. They grow in cool temperature ranges and have no tolerance towards heat.
Did you get a Christmas cactus as a gift this holiday season and you want to know how long do a Christmas cactus live? The average life span of a Christmas cactus is around 20 to 30 years. Good care includes a cool humid environment, sunny location, and frequent watering. It may increase the life span and the blooming capacity of the plant. However, never overwater the plant, as it is a gateway to all the plant problems and diseases.
How long do a Moon Cactus live?
Moon Cactus is formed by grafting the mutant varieties of the species Gymnocalycium mihanovichii on to the species Hylocereus cactus. Moon cacti are popular houseplants.
They have many common names like Ruby ball, Red Cap, and Hibotan cacti. Moon Cacti have an attractive appearance somewhat resembling a lollipop. The lower green part (from the Hylocereus) carries the upper round moon-like part( the mihanovichii). This upper moon can be of any bright color mainly red, yellow and orange, or even purple and white.
How long does a moon cactus live, is somewhat tricky? This plant is a combination of two totally different cacti. Gymnocalycium doesn’t grow more than a few inches and the majority of cultivars are mutants lacking chlorophyll.
On the other hand, Hylocereus gets up to 30 feet tall and is green cacti. Both these parent cactuses have entirely different appearances, requirements, and growth habitats. Consequently, the moon cactus becomes a confused combination of incompatible parents. It generally lives a smaller life, ranging between few months to few years. It may die in 3 months or may live happily for up to 10 years. They require bright indirect light and watering when the soil gets dry. Good care and a suitable environment increase the life span of the plant.
Resilience of Cactus
Water and sunlight are the basic necessities of plants. The lack of water and sunlight not only disturbs the appearance and growth of the plant but can also eventually kill the plant. Very few plants are resilient enough to withstand the shortage for long. In this section, we will discuss how long can a cactus live without the basic necessities like water and sunlight.
How long can a cactus live without water?
People generally want to know how long can a cactus live without water. Cactus can live without water for a considerable time. However, this span varies among species ranging from about a week to around 2 years. Outdoor varieties are more resilient towards water shortage as compared to indoor dwellers.
For the indoor cactus, you need to keep an eye on the plant. Watering your cactus once a week is a nice frequency. Additionally, always make sure to let the soil dry before you water the plant again.
How long can cactus live without sunlight?
All green plants need sunlight to produce their food through photosynthesis. Depriving the plant of sunlight will eventually kill it. However, there is always some resistance in every plant depending upon its nature and habitat.
Cacti are succulents and are resilient plants. They can tolerate shade for longer durations as compared to other plants. The sunlight requirement of the cacti plant also varies according to the type and nature of the plant. Common cacti will turn weak and loose in absence of the sunlight for a longer duration. The cacti which are considered shade-tolerant will not die in absence of light. However, they will not live a healthy life as well. They will not flourish and may even not bloom at all.
Sunlight Requirement of Cactus:
To discuss ‘How long can cactus live without sunlight? it is important to get an idea about the sunlight requirement of ordinary Cacti.
A small cactus needs about 4 hours of direct sunlight every day. On the other hand, spiny succulents like Opuntia, require bright indirect light for a longer duration. Ferocactus (BarrelCacti) are dessert cacti and dwell great in direct intense sunlight. The Mistletoe are Christmas Cacti are shade tolerant cactuses. They do well in lighted shades. Furthermore, Indoor cacti can do pretty well in artificial light exposure.
- The cacti of cooler regions can survive without sunlight for about 3 to 4 months. For example, the cacti of snowy areas of America. The plants get covered with snow and sunlight can’t reach the surface of the plant. This is the dormant stage of the plant’s life. Photosynthesis activity is pretty reduced, so the plant can even survive without light.
- If the cactus is kept dry and cool, it increases the shade tolerance in the plant. The majority of cacti of warmer areas can survive in shade. However, it is important to follow some conditions which are mentioned below:
The temperature should be cool but above freezing (40 F). Additionally, humidity should be low and soil should be dry before placing the plant in shade.
Cactus belongs to the family Cactaceae. This family has around 127 genera and 2500 species. These species are extensively hybridized to form thousands of cultivars. Furthermore, cacti have a wide range of structures, nature, color, and size.
The average life span of cacti also varies widely among the species. Species like Saguaros have an average lifespan of 175 years. Christmas cactus lives around 20 to 30 years while a cultivar like Moon cactus may live up to a decade or even die in just a few months.
However, the level of care for indoor plants and the environment of outdoor species have great impacts on the life span of the plant. Cacti are succulents and resilient in nature. While the tolerance to the lack of necessities like water and sunlight also varies among the species.