Types of Cylindropuntia (Cholla Cactus)

Cylindropuntia is a popular genus of cactus plants, which are also known as Cholla cactus.

These cacti are native to the south-central or southwestern regions of the USA, Mexico, and the West Indies.

This genus was previously considered a sub-genus of the Opuntia genus, but later, it was found that Opuntia species have flattened stems, while Cylindropuntia species have cylindrical stems.

Cylindropuntia species are segmented and have several joints that separate the cylindrical stems. Also, the spines of these cacti are quite nasty.

The cholla cactus has several tubular branches that stretch outward. This plant will produce greenish-yellow flowers in late spring.

It is coated in sharp, barbed spines known to “jump” onto passing individuals. This is how the cholla cactus will propagate and spread.

These spines are covered with a notable papery sheath, which may drop off after a certain period.

Remember that these succulents are the only cactus that have a papery sheath. Some of these species may reach up to 10 feet tall, and hence, they look like small trees.

The stems of the Cholla cactus perform several functions, including photosynthesis, water storage, and flower production.

Like the other cactus plants, cholla plants have wart-like small projections on their stems, and from these structures, sharp spines come out. Remember that only Chollas have papery sheaths on their spines.

The sheaths look colorful and bright, which gives these cacti a distinctive appearance.

There are more than 20 species in the genus Cylindropuntia, and in this article, we will focus on the most popular species in the Cylindropuntia genus.

Types of Cylindropuntia Cactus Plants

There are many different types of cylindropuntia cactus, also known as cholla. The most popular types are the teddy bear cholla, the jumping cholla, and the chain fruit cholla among others.

Read on below for many other types of cholla plants that you may not have heard of.

Cylindropuntia abyssi

Cylindropuntia abyssi is commonly known as the Peach Springs Cholla Cactus. These species are native to the northwestern region of Arizona.

It is also found across the Grand Canyon and the Peach Springs Canyon, and hence, it has got its other name, the Peach Springs Cholla.

Its ideal growing spots are the hilltops and limestone ledges of the desert.

Cylindropuntia abyssi has multiple branches, and its stem can reach up to 40 inches tall. Stem segments can be detached easily for propagation.

From spring to early summer, this plant produces beautiful pale green-yellow blooms.

After flowering, the succulent produces yellow-colored and spineless fruits.

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa (Buckhorn Cholla)


Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa, or Buckhorn Cholla cactus, is native to the Colorado, Sonoran, or Mojave deserts.

This specimen is one of the most common cacti that are found in the North American deserts.

These species are popular mainly because of their colorful flowers and spines.

The sharp spines can be 0.5-1.5 inches tall. So, you have to be careful while handling them.

There are two other species of Cylindropuntia that look like this Cholla, and they are Cane Cholla and Staghorn Cholla, but they have differences.

During the spring to summer months, Buckhorn Cholla cactus produces red-orange colored flowers.

Cylindropuntia alcahes


Cylindropuntia alcahes is another flowering Cholla cactus that belongs to the Cactaceae cactus family.

You will find them widely distributed across Baja California and Mexico. This plant grows in a compact and dense form.

The stems are covered with barbed spines, and the branches may reach around 9–10 feet tall.

The areolas of this cactus have a yellow, brown, or cream color, which changes to gray as the plant matures.

Most areolas contain 5 to 21 spines, which may be absent sometimes.

During the blooming time, this plant produces magenta, red, green, or yellowish flowers, followed by soft, fleshy, and yellow fruits.

Cylindropuntia bigelovii (Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus)


Cylindropuntia bigelovii, alternatively known as teddy bear cholla cactus, is one of the most popular varieties on this list.

You can easily identify these species by their gold-colored, thick, and dense spines that cover their green stems.

That’s why they have a fuzzy appearance, which becomes dark with age. For propagation purposes, you can easily detach their stems.

Cylindropuntia bigelovii is native to western Texas and the northwest United States. Besides, you can also find them in the desert areas of Nevada and Arizona.

Teddy bear Cholla succulents may reach a maximum of 5 feet tall. From May to June, you will see its bright yellow flowers that bloom at the end of the stems.

Cylindropuntia californica (California Cholla cactus)


Cylindropuntia californica specimens are also known as the Snake cholla and, more popularly, the California Cholla.

These species are native to Baja California and the southern region of California.

They have a sprawling nature and may spread around 9 to 10 feet. The stems are fleshy and have a purple to green color.

Cylindropuntia californica comes up in several varieties, including Cylindropuntia californica var. californica, Cylindropuntia californica var. parkeri, etc.

All these varieties have a beautiful and distinctive appearance. This cactus produces yellow to green flowers from May to June, followed by dry and yellowish fruits.

Cylindropuntia calmalliana


Cylindropuntia calmalliana is a rare species of Cholla cactus. They are native to Mexico and the southwestern region of the USA, such as Baja California.

This rare cactus variety is popular for its beautiful reddish flowers that appear from spring to midsummer. After this period, you will notice fleshy fruits.

To grow these species indoors, you must make sure that the growing location receives full sun.

They are heat-tolerant, so you don’t have to worry about the light intensity. The temperature should be warm and dry.

Prepare a well-drained soil mix for planting them. You can make a few drainage holes beneath the container to facilitate the draining process.

Cylindropuntia Cholla (Chain Link Cholla)


Cylindropuntia Cholla, or the Chain-link Cholla cactus is a popular cactus across the Mexican deserts and American southwest regions such as California and Baja California.

These shrubby cacti may reach around 1 to 9 feet depending on the location. The stems have cylindrical joints and are full of spines.

However, with age, the plant loses the spines and the stems become smooth.

The stems of this plant are thick and have a pale to blue-green color. The flowers are relatively small and have a deep purple to pale pink color.

The fruits have a green color that appears after the flowering period. These plants are quite cold-hardy.

For propagating these cacti, you should follow the stem cutting methods.

Cylindropuntia fulgida (Jumping Cholla cactus, Chain Fruit Cholla)


Cylindropuntia fulgida is alternatively known as Jumping Cholla or Chain Fruit Cholla.

These species are native to the southwestern regions of the U.S., such as California and Arizona, and in the Sonoran desert.

These cactus plants have received the name “Jumping Cholla” because the spines detach easily from the stems.

These cacti have a low-branching, thick trunk and may grow over 10 feet tall. The stems have a light green color and have tubercles.

The spines of this cactus are actually modified leaves, and each of these silvery-yellow spines reaches around 1 inch tall.

Over time, these spines become rough. From the spring to mid-summer, you will notice white to pink flowers.

Cylindropuntia fulgida var. mammillata


Cylindropuntia mammillata is a variety of Cylindropuntia fulgida. You can easily differentiate this variety from the other ones by the spines and stems.

The spines on the stems are a little interlaced with areoles. The longest ones may grow to around an inch tall. Sometimes the stem segments are spineless.

These cacti are native to northern Mexico, but you can also find them across the southwestern part of the USA.

The cactus may reach up to 10 feet tall if it receives favorable conditions and is grown outdoors.

It produces flowers from April to June. The flowers have a beautiful pink, purple to green color.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla)


Cylindropuntia imbricata is also known as the Tree Cholla or Walking Stick Cholla. This cactus is widely found in the American southwest as well as in northern Mexico.

Due to its tree-like appearance, many people often confuse it with a tree. The cylindrical stems have a diameter of around 1 to 2 inches.

A mature cactus may grow about 3 feet tall, but in some cases, the height may exceed 10–12 feet.

The stem segments of this cactus plant are quite hard to separate. During the blooming period, these succulents produce pink to red flowers.

Remember that they have barbed spines, so you should beware of those as these spines can cause injury.

Prepare a well-draining soil mixture as these cacti cannot tolerate waterlogged conditions.

Cylindropuntia leptocaulis


Cylindropuntia leptocaulis is commonly known as the Desert Christmas Cholla.

You can find them widely distributed across the grasslands and desert areas of California, Baja California, and Mexico.

This cactus has a shrubby nature and may grow to be around 2 to 6 feet tall. The branches have a narrow appearance.

These cacti have up to 1 spine per areole. During the flowering period (April to June), you will notice pale yellow to greenish yellow flowers that will open in the afternoon.

During December, beautiful red berries appear. These fruits are often used to prepare Apache and Mescalero as they create narcotic effects.

Cylindropuntia molesta


Cylindropuntia molesta is native to the southwestern regions of the United States, like Baja California, California, and Mexico.

These succulents are widely distributed across the coastal and desert areas. They can grow around 2 to 8 feet tall and may spread 2 to 5 feet wide. Beware of the barbed spines that may be injurious.

This cactus has a distinctive trunk and multiple branches that have cylindrical joints.

During the flowering period, this plant produces yellow-to-purple or bronze flowers that are 1 inch tall and 2 inches in diameter.

After the flowering period, green and yellow-colored fruits appear. These Cholla species can be grown easily indoors for gardening purposes.

Cylindropuntia Ramosissima (Diamond Cholla)


Cylindropuntia ramosissima is commonly known as Diamond Cholla and, more popularly, Pencil Cholla.

These cactus species are native to the North American deserts, like the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, and South American deserts, such as California and Baja California.

There are several narrow branches that have cylindrical segments in green to gray.

This cactus variety doesn’t have regular spines, but you may notice a few that are an inch long. The flowers are small and have an orange color.

After the flowering period, the plant produces small fruits. To grow these plants indoors, you can propagate them either by seeds or by following the stem cutting method from the original plant.

Cylindropuntia rosea


Cylindropuntia rosea cholla cactus is native to the desert areas of Sonora in Arizona as well as in New Mexico.

In Australia, these succulents are considered invasive species. Animals may get injured because of the cacti’s white-colored spines, which are long and strong. These shrubs may get up to 3-4 feet tall.

To grow these cacti indoors, you need to make sure that they receive full sun throughout the day.

Overwatering can be deadly as it can cause root rot and eventually kill the plants. You should always keep an eye on every rotting sign.

Although they are cold-hardy, you can protect them from the heavy frost by moving them inside.

Cylindropuntia santamaria

Cylindropuntia santamaria is another variety of Cholla cactus that belongs to the Cactaceae cactus family.

These cacti are native to the New Mexico and Californian deserts. Like the other Cylindropuntia species, this one has cylindrical stems, which may reach around 2 to 3 feet tall and have 1 to 2 inches in diameter.

The spines are strong and covered by papery sheaths. The areolas have grayish to pale yellow colors, and you will find around 20 to 26 spines on each areola.

So, this specimen has dense spines on its skin. In the spring to mid-summer, beautiful cup-shaped yellow flowers with a pink touch appear.

Cylindropuntia Spinosior


Cylindropuntia spinosior is commonly known as Spiny Cholla or Walkingstick Cactus. These species are native to the North American desert areas, like Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, California, Sonora, etc.

They are covered with dense spines and look similar to the staghorn species. But you can easily identify this variety by its thicker stems.

Beautiful rose pink or purple colored and cup shaped flowers appear during the spring to mid-summer.

Every ripe fruit has a yellow color with purple to red tinges. A mature Cylindropuntia spinosior succulent may grow between 1 and 3 feet tall. The stem segments often detach easily, like the other Chollas.

Cylindropuntia thurberi


Cylindropuntia thurberi is often called the Sonoran cardigan. You can identify this variety by its green-yellow blooms and barbed spines.

This Cholla cactus is native to the Sonoran desert as well as New Mexico.

It has a bushy appearance, and the main stem may reach around 9–12 feet tall, and each stem segment can be 12 inches long.

Each of the areolas of this Cholla cactus contains 3 to 7 barbed spines, which can grow up to 0.5 inches long.

The beautiful yellow-to-green colored flowers appear in the spring. The fruit doesn’t contain any thorns.

While growing indoors, make sure that you don’t overwater it as excess moisture can damage the roots of this plant.

Cylindropuntia tunicata


Cylindropuntia tunicata is another variety of Cholla cactus that is densely branched and spreads from the base. The trunk is fleshy and has a cylindrical shape.

This specimen can be identified. Its spines completely cover the skin of the stems. This cactus plant is native to the southwestern region of the USA and northern Mexico.

The stem segments have a green to pale green color and may reach up to 1 foot in length. The spines are quite large and grow to around 1-2 inches long.

During the late spring, this cactus plant produces yellowish flowers with red tinges.

If you want to grow it in your garden, then you must prepare a well-draining potting soil because waterlogged conditions can damage its roots.

Cylindropuntia versicolor (Staghorn Cholla)


Cylindropuntia versicolor is a popular cactus variety that is grown mainly for its long-lasting colorful flowers.

The color of the flowers may range from red, orange, or yellow. The stems of these Cholla cacti may reach around 7 inches tall and are covered with 6 to 8 bristle-like spines. This variety is native to the California deserts.

Although it looks similar to the Buck-horn cactus at first sight, there are differences.

The spines of Staghorn Cholla don’t overlap, and the fruit is spineless, rounded, and smooth. On the other hand, the fruit of the Buckhorn species is spiny.

If you are growing them indoors, you need to protect them from pests, excess moisture, and too cold temperatures, although they are cold-hardy.

You can prune them sometimes to maintain their shrub-like shape.

Cylindropuntia whipplei


Cylindropuntia whipplei is commonly known as the Whipple Cholla cactus. It is an upright variety and grows more than 6 feet.

Each stem segment can be 3 to 6 inches tall, and they branch from a thick woody trunk.

When grown in a non-favorable environment, the bright green colored stems become shorter.

The stems of this variety contain clusters of around 4 to 8 yellow or whitish spines that are up to 2 inches long.

Like the other species of the Cylindropuntia genus, this Cholla cactus is native to the North American deserts.

During the late spring to early summer, this plant produces green to yellowish flowers. This cactus grows well in sandy soil.

Cylindropuntia wolfii (Wolf Cholla)


Cylindropuntia wolfii is one of the most beautiful varieties on this list. This densely-branched specimen may reach approximately 6 feet tall.

The most amazing feature of this variety is its wooly and cylindrical stems that bear up to 30 spines per areole [1].

From the mid-spring, this cactus produces brownish purple flowers that have a green-colored center.

Growing these cacti indoors is quite easy. You only have to make sure that the plants receive enough sunlight and that they get a warm temperature with less moisture.

You can feed them during the spring to facilitate the flowering process. The potting soil must be well-drained as they are prone to root rot.

Cylindropuntia Cactus Care Guide

Cylindropuntia cacti are known as hardy plants. If you can provide them with the ideal growing conditions, they will grow happily. Remember that these plants don’t bloom when grown indoors.

If they produce flowers, then you will notice them from April to July. In this section, we will discuss how you can create an ideal environment for growing these cacti.



Cholla cactus requires direct sunlight for a prolonged period. These cacti grow to their full potential if they receive 5-7 hours of direct sun.

Therefore, you should choose a place that receives full sun for this duration. We suggest you place them near the south-facing window, as this spot receives sun almost the entire day.

Temperature and Humidity

Since Cylindropuntia species are native to the arid or semi-arid regions, they prefer warm and dry climates.

If you’re growing these plants indoors, then make sure that the room is warm and that the air is dry or less humid.

Most species of Cylindropuntia are heat-tolerant, and some of them can withstand cold temperatures (as low as 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit).

However, it is better to avoid exposing them to cold temperatures.



Cholla succulents need well-draining and dry potting mix. Therefore, sandy soils are considered the best for growing them.

If you want to grow them indoors, we suggest you prepare a cactus potting mix first.

Use inorganic and coarse materials, sandy soil, and organic materials to prepare such a mix. These materials will improve the drainage system.

To facilitate the drainage, you can make multiple holes beneath the container.

Water and Fertilizer

Cylindropuntia species are susceptible to root rot. Excessive moisture will damage the roots, which will eventually kill the plants.

Like other cacti, these species are drought-tolerant. So, you don’t have to worry about watering them too frequently. Let the topsoil completely dry before watering.

During the spring to late summer, you need to feed these cacti with organic fertilizers, as these fertilizers release nutrients slowly.

Feeding the plants will encourage flower production.



Propagating the Cholla cactus is very easy. You can easily propagate these plants by stem cuttings.

Use a sharp and sterile pruner and take a healthy cutting from the stem segments.

Keep the stem in a dry place for a day, and then plant it in the potting soil. You can use rooting hormones or a little honey to facilitate root growth.

Cylindropuntia Cactus Common Problems


Although Cholla cacti are quite hardy species, there are a few problems that one may face. These problems include pest attacks or diseases.

A common enemy of these plants is the mealybug. These insects are very hard to control, so you must be careful about them.

These bugs reside on the fleshy stems. If you ever notice these bugs, treat them with alcohol, as it is the most effective way to eliminate them.

Apart from the mealybugs, there are a few common problems that can damage or even kill your Cholla cactus.

Let’s take a look at these problems so that you can easily take care of your plants if you notice any symptoms.

Drooping Stems

Drooping stems indicate that your Cholla cacti are stressed. It can be due to temperature shock, water stress, repotting, or any sudden environmental changes. If you notice dropping branches, then take care of the plant properly by providing it with the right temperature, light, and water. The cactus will recover if the environment seems alright to them.

Mushy stems

Mushy stems are a sign that your Cholla cactus is in danger. It happens when the root system starts rotting due to overwatering. If you notice mushy stems, then stop watering the plant. Even if it is not possible, remove the excess moisture or move the plant to another potting mix. If the condition gets worse, then cut a healthy part from the branches and use it for propagation.

Shriveled stems

Shriveled stems appear when these cacti don’t receive sufficient water. Although these plants are drought-tolerant, they need water to thrive. If you notice shriveled stems, then water the plants sufficiently, and it will solve the problem.


Does Cholla cactus grow fast?

Cholla cactus grow fast. In the wild, dropped pads (leaves) or stem of a cholla cactus will quickly grow into a new plant that can invade your garden. Chollas can be spread by planting their dropped stems or pads, which have roots. It’ll take 3 to 4 years for the thick trunks to form 300 feet away from the parent plant.

How often do Cholla Cactus bloom?

The majority of cholla cactus (prickly pear plants) bloom at the same time every year, which is from the spring to late summer. The life span of flowers is typically between two and three days. Due to the fact that they are able to store moisture within their stems, they are not as reliant on precipitation for flowering as leafy plants are.

How can I propagate Cholla Cactus?

Cholla cactus are propagated through the vegetative stem or pad planting, or through the division of their stems, which occurs naturally as they fall from the plant’s branches. If you propagate them manually, cut the stems and transplant them into sandy, dry soil, being careful not to harm them too much.

Can You eat cholla Cactus?

Yes, all of the cholla’s buds and fruits are edible. However, be careful as the plants are coated in with dense needle-sharp spines. They are very high in calcium; in just two teaspoons, cholla buds provide more calcium than a glass of milk.


To sum up, the above-mentioned Cylindropuntia species are the most popular varieties that anyone can grow in his/her indoor garden.

Each of these species has different appearances, although they are native to the same desert areas.

Remember that a few of the Cylindropuntia species are hybrids and resemble the parent plants, but still, you can easily identify every individual.

For growing them in gardens, you must protect these cacti from pests and root rot diseases, which can easily kill them.


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