How Long Do Cacti Live?

Picture via crateandbarrel

If you have ever wondered how long do cacti live, then you are not alone. Most people who grow up around cacti plants will never see the plant die.

The plant is quite easy to take care of thanks to its survival abilities, so rather than wondering how long cacti lives, enjoy the plant. But if you want to learn how long do cacti live, then you are in the right place, we will talk about that in detail here below.

Cactus plants come in all shapes and sizes; in fact, there are over 1,500 different species of the plant. The plants mostly can survive quite a while, but it varies between types.

The cactus lifespan can range from 10 years up to 200 years, but that all depends on the species. Cacti is an outdoor plant that requires good conditions to survive longer than those who have been cultivated as houseplants. Although, when you take good care of the plant, then indoor cactuses can live up to several decades longer than if poorly taken care of.

It is believed that the longest living cactus is the Saguaro cactus, it is native to both Arizona and Mexico. Standing 1800 cm (60 feet), this majestic cactus can survive between 150 years up to 200 years in the wild.

It is believed that one cactus that was found in Arizona was up to 300 years old, but it died in the mid-90s. The impressive cactus lived in the Saguaro National Park; it died due to bacterial infection, older cactus plants are more vulnerable to these types of issues. If the plant has at any time been weekend by injury, it is especially vulnerable.

Although, it should be said that not all cactus species live that long. For example, the Barrel Cactus only lives around 50 to 100 years, not so long when you compare it to the Saguaro cactus. But still outlives most people. There have been instances where the plant has survived a bit longer, up to 130 years, but those are rare.

If you want a cacti plant that survives for a shorter period of time, think about the Prickly Pear cacti (Opuntia) their life span is only around 20 to 30 years.

As I’m writing this article, researches are still trying to perform studies on numerous types of cacti to understand how long the plant can live. I have made a list of the records below.

Why Do Cacti Live So Long?

Several factors must be considered when thinking about cacti longevity first, that the plant lives in arid deserts, most often alone with few animals to interrupt the plant’s growth cycle or to eat it.

The typical desert conditions could easily be described as harsh. Cactuses need to be able to adapt to their surroundings and reproduce. To flower, is to reproduce for the cactus, but it does not happen too often in the plant’s life cycle. Most cacti have a slower metabolism and long lives.

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How Long Do Cactus Live Indoors?

When the cactus is taken from their natural habitats, it is up to you to care for the cactus and help it survive. Generally speaking, that should not be too hard as long as you remember a few things. Make sure that your cactus gets enough light and water (see our Watering Guide for help), and it will survive for years to come.

Most importantly, you need to make sure that the plant is not overwatered, and the soil used is a Well draining soil. When you are planning to plant the cacti, be sure that you have read all you need to know about your spesific species. We have a place on our site where we speak about Succulent Types and their needs.

Cactus Adaptations For Survival

Interestingly enough, living for a long time on its own is impressive, but to do so in the environment that the cactus does it is even more so. Living in the inhospitable area without much water in arid locations, you need to be tough to survive. The cacti have several adaptations that help then survive the dry, hot desert.

First, the Cacti likes to spread their roods all around the soil, but not so deep. It means that when some rain comes, it can easily collect more from the soil around it. Creating this wide absorbing area means more water, and when you are in the desert, water is rare, so the plant needs to be ready for droughts. Secondly, Cacti plants don’t have leaves or branches, meaning they don’t lose as much water like other plants.

Broad leaves and branches cause the water to be kept in the leave, not in the soil. The Cacti spines are usually quite large but contain no water, mostly they are made from tougher fiber material. Once it finally rains, the cacti can rapidly develop new fine root hairs all around the fibrous roots. Doing so allows the plant to maximize the water absorption each time it rains. When the soil dries up, the hair is not needed anymore and die that is until it rains again. 

How Long Do Cacti Live?

Picture via potterybarn

The cactus has a large thick and fleshy stem that has a waxy feeling to it making it waterproof. This feature allows the cactus to contain more volume of water within its steam, without losing water. Cactus plants have the ability to expand and reduce the size of the stem depending on the amount of water that is stored within; it only does so at night. Typical plants that have left open up their pores to collect water and transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide, doing so causes most plants to lose more water. One of the secrets to “how long do cacti live” is that the plant only opens up at night.

Meaning that water loss is about a fraction of what it would have been during the day. If you have ever seen a cactus, then you have seen the spines that are the plant’s natural defense mechanism, keeping animals at bay. It is most likely the reason why the succulents have so few predators, who would want to get hit with the spikes every time they eat.

Many of the factors mentioned above are a reason why the cacti can survive for so long while other plants cant. If you want to learn more about succulents plants in general, then have a look at some of our other articles here.