When the word "cactus" is mentioned, the first couple of adjectives that usually come to mind are "dry" and "heat," but what most people don't realize is that cactus and other succulent plants can grow and actually thrive indoors in various amounts of light and humidity.
There are many different types, shapes, and sizes of cactus and succulent plants.
Cacti from desert areas are plump and spiny while cacti that originally grew in jungle areas are flat or thin and spineless.
Some cacti have leaves, and even flowers. For example, the pereskia, when full grown, looks like an orange or a grapefruit tree. The melocactus grows a cap on top at maturity, which later sprouts beautiful rosy-pink flowers.
Succulents are ideal plants for busy people since they need less humidity and water than most indoor plants and are very tolerant of variations in temperature.
These plants often feature thick, fleshy leaves that store water, and are constructed in such a way that they expose the least amount of surface to the sun and winds.
Many people find succulents to be of great beauty as well as an investment: the longer they grow the more magnificent they become.
Explore the following articles to learn more about cacti and succulents and why you'll want one for yourself:
Aeonium: Aeoniums are flowering cacti native to the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean region of North Africa. The flowers, which are usually yellow, come out of the growing points in the center of the rosette. In most cases, the plant dies after flowering when the seed matures.
Agave: Agaves have heavy, stiff leaves formed into basal rosettes and tall spikes of flowers. These plants are often used in the production of fiber for rope and string, and the sap is used in the production of pulque (a beerlike drink) and tequila.
Alluaudia procera: This succulent from southwest Madagascar can grow rather tall -- six feet high indoors and thirty-six feet tall in its native land. Its stems are covered with sharp, tapering thorns or spines, and when leaves appear, they are oval and two or more inches long.
Calibanus hookerii: This plant from Mexico is related to the agaves. It has tuberous roots and grasslike leaves. It's a tolerant, tough plant, but it does not cope too well with humid air, overwatering, and too much fertilizer.
Crassula: These succulent plants adjust well to growing indoors. Crassula have thick, glossy, fleshy, jade-green leaves. They prefer bright light and reproduce very easily from leaf and stem cuttings.
Echeveria: Echeveria, natives of Mexico and Central and South America, are rosette-forming succulent plants with foliage that comes in a variety of shapes and colors. They need bright light, heavy soil, and excellent drainage.
Elephant Bush: The elephant bush (portulacaria afra) is a succulent bush with thick grey or brownish stems and fat, juicy, bright green leaves. It's similar in appearance to a small-leafed jade plant, but it can grow to six feet tall indoors.
Eulychnia saint-pieana: This tall columnar cactus is native to the hills of Chile. It has many ribs with large, white, wooly tufts and long central spines. Its flowers remain open day and night, and its fleshy fruit is edible -- but not very tasty.
Ferocactus: The ferocactus, barrel-shaped cacti with prominent ribs, get their name from their long, heavy, often hooked spines. In Mexico, the skin and spines are peeled off and the flesh is diced and eaten raw or candied.
Foxtail Asparagus Fern: The foxtail asparagus fern (asparagus meyeri) looks like a fern, but it is a member of the lily family. It looks its best when it's given filtered light, moist heavy soil, cool temperatures, and good air circulation.
Gasteria: Gasteria get their name -- which means stomach in Greek -- from the shape of their flowers. They are similar in appearance to the aloes except that their leaves are flatter and have smooth edges.
Haageocereus chrysacranthus: This columnar, slow growing cactus from Peru features many ribs and fine needlelike spines. With plenty of food and drink, this cactus will grow much fatter with more ribs.
Holiday Cactus: The holiday cactus (the schlumbergera) get their common name from the time of year they flower -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc. Their flowers range in color from white through rose, red, lavender, and purple.
Kalanchoe: These natives of Madagascar are easy growing indoor plants. These compact plants feature shiny, succulent, dark green leaves and clusters of red-orange flowers that appear in winter or whenever there are short days.
Melocactus: The melocactus -- also known as Turk's head cactus, Turk's cap cactus, and melon cactus -- is a large, ribbed, ball-shaped or cylindrical plant that develops a cap ("cephalium") on the top of the plant at maturity. The melocactus originates from warm, moist, coastal areas, and can tolerate humidity.
Mountain Cereus: The mountain cereus (oreocereus hendriksenianus densilanatus) from the Andes of Bolivia and Peru is a strongly ribbed cactus with reddish spines and long, silky hair.
Nananthus schoonesii: This small, South African succulent has a compact, tuberous root system and opposite leaves. Its single, daisylike flowers open after noon and close again at nightfall.
Rat Tail Cactus: The Rat Tail Cactus (aporocactus flagelliformis) has thin weak stems that can grow five feet long and hang down over the sides of its pot, and its long red flowers can last for several days. In rural Mexico, the dried flowers are used medicinally.
Rebutia: These small ball or barrel-shaped cacti have small spines and their tubercles are arranged in spirals. Their flowers, which close at night, come in a variety of colors, are often larger than the plant, and can last up to four or five days.
Sedum: The name sedum comes from the Latin "sedeo; I sit," which suggests that many of these cacti will sit and grow anywhere. These hardy plants are perfect for rock gardens since they will grow for years in spots that other plants find inhospitable.
Senecio: The senecio, part of the daisy family, is a flowering plant that comes in a variety of shapes and colors. Most senecio plants can withstand colder temperatures, but some varieties will sulk if they are too warm.
Spider Cactus: The spider cactus (gymnocalycium denudatum) from Southern Brazil, is a globular plant that gets its common name from its spine arrangement. In very bright light, this cactus takes on a brownish cast.
Stapelia: These plants are quite short and branch up from their base. They feature star-shaped flowers (which often smell like rotting meat) and seeds with silky hairs. Although they prefer bright light, they can sunburn in the hot summer sun.
Tephrocactus: This South American cactus features thick, short globular or cylindrical joints, and its many glochids (barbed hairs or bristles) are very delicate and break off at the slightest touch. The plant's spines are usually long and give it character.
Torch Cactus: The torch cactus (cereus peruvianus) is a columnar cactus that can grow very large and is the stereotypical cactus for south-of-the-border cartoons. When mature, the plant has large, white flowers and blooms quite profusely.
Trichodiadema olearea: This shrubby succulent has long, slender, arched branches and short, plump, cylindrical leaves. The end of each leaf has a cluster of small, hairy bristles, giving this plant its scientific name "tricho; hair;" "diademea; crown."
Yucca: The yucca elephantipes from Mexico and Guatemala features sword-shaped, grass-green leaves. Over time, the plant loses its lower leaves and develops a trunk which can grow more than forty feet tall when grown outside; indoors, the plant can grow as tall as eight or nine feet high.