The growth rate of cacti usually varies depending on various factors including the species, growing conditions, and care provided. Some species of cacti notably grow quite faster in ideal conditions, while others may take several years to show any significant increase in height or branching.
Generally, cacti have adapted to a slow growth rate due to the scarce resources in their native habitats. The slow growth rate typically helps them survive in harsh conditions. However, there are cacti that grow relatively quickly in the right conditions of light, soil moisture, and temperatures.
The fastest-growing cactus plants
Here is a collection of fast-growing cactus plants.
1. Holiday cacti (Schlumbergera)
Holiday cacti plants have a relatively faster growth rate compared to other cacti species. In ideal conditions, they can grow up to 5 inches per year and reach maturity in 2 – 3 years. Under good care, they can live for more than 30 years.
Schlumbergeras are naturally epiphytic plants and they prefer bright indirect light, a temperature range of 60-70°F (15-21°C), and well-draining soil that is constantly moist, but not waterlogged. These plants also benefit from a humid environment, constantly dry air may cause slow growth.
2. Bunny Ear Cactus
The growth rate of a bunny ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is incredibly faster in the right growth conditions. On average, it can grow to about 1 to 2 inches per year. This plant may take 10 to 20 years to reach a height of 2 to 3 feet. However, this depends on environmental conditions and the care provided.
Opuntia cactus species prefer warm, dry conditions, plenty of bright indirect sunlight, and well-draining soil. Bunny ear cactus grows long and skinny when not receiving enough light. Growth can also be slowed when the plant is not receiving enough nutrients.
When grown indoors, be sure to place it near the south-facing window or under a grow light. Additionally, water deeply when the soil is completely dry, and don’t overwater as the plant is prone to root rot. Feeding with a balanced cactus during spring and summer will also stimulate growth.
3. Moon cactus
Moon cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii) is a relatively slow-growing plant. Its growth rate can vary depending on factors such as the amount of light, temperature, humidity, and soil quality. On average, a moon cactus will grow about 1 to 2 inches in height per year.
Popular moon cactus cultivators are typically varied mutants that completely lack chlorophyll. This means they cannot produce their own food through photosynthesis. Grafting a moon cactus on a rootstock is the only way to ensure the survival of this plant.
Moon cactus prefers bright indirect light to thrive. The plant should be placed near a sunny window or under a grow light for 6-8 hours a day. Additionally, water it sparingly, about once every 2-3 weeks, and allow the soil to dry out completely between watering
To stimulate growth, it’s important to feed the cactus once monthly during the growing season (spring and summer). Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half-strength.
4. Rat tail cactus
The Rat rail cactus has a relatively faster growth rate but this can vary depending on various factors such as the amount of sunlight, water, nutrients, and temperature it receives. Under optimal conditions, it can grow to 1 foot per year.
This epiphytic cactus prefers moderate to bright indirect sunlight and well-draining soil. Warm temperatures between 65-80°F (18-27°C) and regular watering during the growing season are important to its growth. The soil should dry completely before watering to prevent root rot.
Fertilizing the Rat tail cactus every 2 – 4 weeks during spring and summer can help promote quicker growth. Use a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 diluted to half strength. Occasionally prune the long trailing stems to promote bushier growth and prevent the plant from becoming too leggy.
5. Peruvian apple cactus
The Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus repandus) is known to be a relatively fast-growing species, especially when it is young. This columnar tree-like cactus will grow at about 2 – 4 feet per year when provided good care and optimal growth conditions.
Peruvian apple cactus needs plenty of direct sunlight to grow faster. It is important to grow it in a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Regular watering is also essential to its growth but make sure the soil is not waterlogged.
If the Peruvian apple cactus outgrows its container, it may be necessary to repot it into a larger container to allow for faster growth. Be sure to use well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes.
6. Fishbone cactus
Fishbone cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger) grows quite faster than most desert cacti. It is a popular houseplant due to its unique appearance, which features long, flat stems in a zigzag pattern that makes the plant resemble a fishbone.
To encourage faster growth, grow fishbone cactus in well-draining soil. Provide bright indirect light and some direct sunlight, water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch, and fertilize with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season.
While the Fishbone cactus may not grow too quickly, it can become quite large over time. Regular pruning may be necessary to keep the plant at a manageable size and promote branching. It may take several years for this cactus to reach its full size.
7. Lace cactus
Lace cactus (lace hedgehog cactus), is a popular ornamental plant native to Mexico and the southwestern parts of the United States. It is named after its long, slender spines that are arranged in a lace-like pattern.
Lace cactus prefers full sun and well-draining soil. It should be watered sparingly, only when the soil feels completely dry. It is not necessary to fertilize lace cactus often.
8. Crown cactus
The crown cactus is a small type of cactus that can grow up to 6 inches in diameter. It has a unique stem that is fully covered in short, sharp spines. It blooms in spring and summer producing bright flowers in shades of red, orange, or yellow.
The crown cactus grows relatively fast and it is an easy plant to care for. It prefers full sun and well-draining soil. Water sparingly, only when the soil is completely dry. Crown cactus does not require much fertilizer to thrive but you feed it during spring and summer with a cactus fertilizer to stimulate growth.
Tips for making a cactus grow faster
- Grow your cactus in a location that receives direct sunlight for at least 4 to 6 hours a day. Be aware of some cacti that prefer indirect sunlight.
- Water your cactus deeply in the spring and summer, and less often in the fall and winter.
- Fertilize with a cactus fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer to stimulate more growth and blooming.
- Repot every 2-3 years in a pot that is one size larger than the current one.
- Protect cactus plants from frost in the winter. You can bring them indoors or cover them with a protective material.
- Prune as needed to maintain the cactus shape or remove dead or damaged growth. Spring and summer are the best time to prune.
- Regularly inspect a cactus for pest infestation and diseases and treat it as needed.
Cacti are generally slow-growing plants and it years for them to reach their maximum height. It’s common that some species will grow relatively faster than others. To stimulate quick growth, provide your cactus with full sun, well-draining soil, and minimal watering, and fertilize lightly during the growing season.
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.