New Mexico’s semi-arid to arid climate and little rain make it ideal for growing cacti. Below are some of the most popular types of New Mexico cacti you can grow in the Land of Enchantment.
New Mexico Cacti
Here are 8 varieties of New Mexico Cacti:
Tulip Prickly Pear
Tulip prickly pear is a common cactus that grows all over New Mexico. It has large, fleshy pads that congregate in dense clusters. Not only will you get to enjoy brilliant 3-inch-wide yellow flowers from April to May, but you’ll get to eat this cactus’ sweet fruit that tastes similar to a watermelon.
These cacti thrive in New Mexico’s hot and dry climate. They’re easy to grow and spread fast if you don’t cut them back.
Cane cholla is a cactus that grows all over New Mexico, but you’ll encounter it in the greatest concentrations in the west. It can grow up to 15 feet high and has a shrub or tree-like appearance, depending on how you shape it.
White spines cover every inch of the cane cholla. Depending on the variety, it produces small purple, yellow, or white flowers.
The horse crippler gets its name because it only stands up to two inches above the ground but sprawls up to 12 inches wide, so it’s crippled many horses that have stepped on it.
You’ll most commonly encounter horse cripplers in southeast New Mexico. These cacti are attractive at the front of garden beds, for they produce pink, feathery flowers that offer a pleasant fragrance.
Nylon Hedgehog Cactus
The nylon hedgehog cactus is another low-lying cactus. It can tolerate frost, making it an excellent choice for growing in north and west New Mexico.
The globular-shaped nylon hedgehog can grow as an individual plant or in clumps. It has short, abundant spines that come in several colors. Unlike many cacti, nylon hedgehogs produce flowers along their stems instead of their tips.
Heyder Pincushion Cactus
It’s common to encounter the heyder pincushion cactus growing in grasslands throughout New Mexico, particularly in higher-elevation areas.
These cacti grow low to the ground, spread out flat against it, and sprawl up to six inches. Its spines are white with brown tips, and if you break open the heyder pincushion cactus, you’ll encounter a milky sap.
Mountain Ball Cactus
The delightful mountain ball cactus grows in cooler climates in north New Mexico. It resembles a round coral, with groups of dense white or gold-colored spines covering every inch of its dark green base.
In the springtime, you can enjoy colorful blooms on this cactus that come in shades of pink, coral, yellow, and white. The mountain ball cactus prefers afternoons with partial sun.
It’s easy to mistake the tree cholla for a non-cactus tree from afar. But this popular cactus grows all over New Mexico.
Tree chollas can reach anywhere from 3 to 15 feet tall, and their “trunk” can grow to nearly ten inches. The tree cholla’s candelabra-like stems sprawl in many different directions, and they boast long, pinkish-red spines.
Brown Flowered Cactus
The brown flowered cactus commonly grows in south New Mexico. It has a thick, tubular shape that can grow up to ten inches tall.
Despite its name, the brown flowered cactus often produces flowers that are closer to a deep red color rather than brown. It also has colorful spines, which can be red, brown, or white.
Planting Cacti in New Mexico
With so many sizes, shapes, and flower colors, it’s easy to fill your garden in New Mexico with unique cacti. While most cacti will grow anywhere in New Mexico, certain species grow best in specific parts of the state.