How to Identify Cactus With White Flowers


When one thinks of cacti, desert, arid and green come to mind. Most people do not realize that a cactus can have a plethora of multihued blooms. Flowers on a cactus are not exceptional in themselves, but the actual flowers are. Discover white flowered cacti through recognition of the stem, spine size and shape of the succulent. Research and knowledge of origin can put you on the right track to identifying stunning white cacti blooms.

  • Take a look at the Saguaro cactus which is found in the Sonoran desert. Atop its tall, thick columnar stem several large branches curve upward. On these branches, large creamy-white flowers with waxy-to-the-touch petals bloom during May and June. Shaped nearly like a fluted champagne glass, blossoms open during the night and are approximately 3 inches wide. With yellow centers, they cluster near the end of the branches and the top of the trunk. Note that not all of the flowers bloom simultaneously.

  • Examine the Datil yucca cactus with its unyielding, spine tipped leaves that come to a point and can reach up to 30 inches long. Bell-shaped flowers barely peek out above the leaves. They hang like bunches of bananas, growing in a dense cluster from April to July with a flowering stalk up to 40 inches high. The creamy-white flowers have waxy coated petals and are approximately 1.5 to a maximum of 3.5 inches long. Lance-shaped blooms are positioned at the midpoint and are divided into six petal sections with three stigmas.

  • Investigate the heavily fragrant night-blooming Cereus cactus. This creamy-white trumpet or funnel-shaped flower only blooms one night of the year either in June or July. These nocturnal flowers are approximately 2.5- to- 3.5-inches in diameter. Blooms are similar in appearance to a zinnia with many, overlaying petals which are long and creamy, almost downy in appearance.

  • Explore one of the most common windowsill cactus plants, Rebutia albiflora. The white flowers have pale pinkish midribs or veins that bloom every spring from the base of each head. Blooms have 18 petals and are about 1.5 inches wide which makes them relatively large compared to the size of the cactus.

  • Notice the tropical Zygocactus or more familiarly called Christmas cactus, which is frequently found during the holiday season. Along its flat, scalloped stems bloom delicate white flowers during winter months. Similar to an orchid, Zygocactus grow their roots in another host. Flowers are also asymmetrical with satiny petals that cascade downward from branch tips in a blooming profusion. Flowers are approximately 2.5-to-4.5 inches long.

Tips & Warnings

  • Visit the Sonoran desert to view the spectacular Saguaro cacti. Purchase cactus with white flowers from specialty gardens and dealers. Encourage annual blooming by reducing watering and fertilization during the autumn and winter months.
  • Saguaro cactus are protected in the state of Arizona while yucca are protected in the state of Nevada. Look for reputable growers and dealers that have a licensed permit to remove or transport cacti. Make certain that you are given legal documentation upon delivery and payment.

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  • The Cactus Family; Edward F. Anderson; 2001; Timber Press
  • Sonoran Desert Wildflowers: A Field Guide to the Common Wildflowers; Dr. Richard Spellenberg; 2003; Globe Pequot Press
  • Desert USA
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