8 Easy Types of Cactus for Beginner Gardeners to Grow

Updated: Feb. 16, 2024

First time caring for a plant? Then you will love these low-maintenance varieties.

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Orchid Cacti (Epiphyllum Oxypetalum)

This gorgeous blooming variety is one of the easiest types of cactus to grow. Its leaves are beautifully colored, and it can grow up to 10 feet tall with enough space and the right conditions.

Andrew Gaumond, gardening expert and director of content for Petal Republic, says to “ensure you use a slightly acidic, well-draining potting soil mix and find a spot in your home with bright indirect light if possible, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful fragrant blooms.” One thing that makes this plant stand out: Its flowers bloom at night.

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Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus)

The barrel cactus is a more common type of cactus. They start off round, as shown in the above photo, growing upward into a cylinder or “barrel” shape. You’ll find them at most gardening stores, and they’re perfect for beginners.

Gaumond says “these hardy fellows have been known to live for years and years and will happily go without much care and attention as long you provide them with sufficient light exposure. A little spot on a south facing window ledge would be perfect.”

They don’t need much water — only when the soil is completely dry. And don’t let them sit in a saucer full of excess water. Consistently sopping soil can lead to mold growth and plant diseases.

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Hoya Heart Cactus (Hoya Kerrii)

This adorable plant is the perfect choice for Valentine’s Day. It’s a low-maintenance type of cactus, only requiring well-draining soil, some bright sun exposure and watering every three to four weeks. Although it’s technically a vining plant, Gaumond assures that “they’re typically sold as heart-shaped cuttings and will mature very slowly, so you needn’t worry about them climbing up your wall.”

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Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia)

Here’s another traditional type of cactus. Prickly pear does well indoors. If you have mild winters, you can also plant it in your yard, where some varieties grow to incredible heights. It’s a great drought-tolerant landscape plant for those who live in dry environments.

Whether you plant this cactus indoors or out, Gaumond recommends coarse, well-draining soil and ample sunlight.

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Fantastic Gardeners horticulturist Pol Bishop recommends mammillaria for beginners. “All they require in order to stay healthy and produce beautiful flowers is plenty of sunshine during summer and a good dry rest during winter,” Bishop says.

Some varieties stay small, while others might outgrow their pots over time. You’ll likely find mammillaria at your local garden center, so be sure to ask about the variety and its expected growth. To find a specific variety, try shopping from online plant stores.

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Bishop also suggests echinopsis, a.k.a. the sea urchin cacti, for new plant parents. These plants are special because they come in many colors. Let the soil dry between thorough waterings, and don’t let the pot sit in standing water. Echinopsis will flower throughout spring and summer if you “give them a cool and dry winter rest,” says Bishop.

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Tiger Jaws (Faucaria Tigrine)

This is one of the best types of cactus for low-light homes. It only needs four hours of sunlight per day, explains Jill Sandy, founder of Constant Delights. Like the other types of cactus on this list, a tiger jaws plant prefers a pot with drainage holes and well-draining soil. Despite its nearly care-free disposition, it has an impressive leaf pattern that adds edge to your décor.

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Kalanchoe plants are widely available — you can even pick them up at the supermarket. They’re also easy to grow. Sandy stresses their adaptability, meaning it will be okay if you forget to water your kalanchoe for a while. These colorful plants do need a lot of light. If you lack enough natural light in your home, consider buying a grow light to help your budding urban garden thrive.