A variety of cacti sporting red flowers grow in Mexico’s deserts and landscapes. The plants thrive in dry, arid areas where they’ve adapted by conserving water through a range of features unique to cactus. The perennial plants provide valuable resources for both people and wildlife and make great ornamental plants in the landscape or garden.
Prickly Pear (Genus Opuntia)
More than a dozen species of prickly pear cactus grow in Mexico where the fruit from the plant provides an important food source. Most prickly pear grow near the ground with several of the prickly pear cacti featuring red flowers. The Hedgehog prickly pear sports rose-colored blooms on a plant that grows up to 18 inches tall. Beavertail cactus features 2 to 3-inch red flowers on a plant that reaches 18 inches in height. All prickly pears have flat pads that resemble large leaves. Blooms appear in May and June. The plants grow in hardiness zones 9 to 10 in full sun.
Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa)
A shrubby cactus, Buckhorn cholla grows up to 6 feet tall in deserts in northwestern Mexico. In late spring or early summer, the cactus features 3-inch rusty red, purple or yellow blooms. Spiny, tan-colored fruit follow the flowers. Once the fruits dry, they drop off the plant before it blooms again in the spring. Aboriginal people removed the spines from unopened flower buds, then baked the fruits to use them for food. Buckhorn cholla thrives in full to partially sunny areas in hardiness zones 9 to 11.
Arizona Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia arbuscula)
The Arizona pencil cactus grows similar to a tree, sporting a trunk with branches. The perennial plant gets its name from the pencil-like stems that cover the tree. Pencil cholla thrives in northwestern Mexico, growing up to 9 feet in height in hardiness zones 9 to 11. Deep red flowers up to 1-1/2 inches wide appear in early spring followed by greenish-yellow fruits. The plant thrives in sandy, gravelly washes and valleys in full sun where it requires little water once established.
Peanut Cactus (Echinopsis Chamaecereus)
The peanut cactus gets its name from the side shoots resembling peanuts that grow from the cactus. The side shoots make great starter plants by simply removing and immediately planting the shoots. The plant thrives in the mountains of Mexico, growing up to 6 inches in height with 8 to 10 stubby stems. In the spring, 2-inch reddish-orange flowers bloom on each stem. Peanut cactus thrives in hardiness zone 10 as long as it receives light shade during the hottest part of the day. Once the plant gets established, it requires little water.
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