Intimidated by the sheer size of the Saguaro? Don’t be! Carnegiea gigantea is slow growing and won’t reach maturity for at least 100 years. Plenty of time to enjoy cultivating it in your back garden or even as a potted houseplant.
Although Carnegiea gigantea is one of the most tallest cacti in the world, it’s not nearly as intimidating as its reputation would make you think. Even after 50 years in cultivation, a Saguaro cultivated at home will only reach 6 feet in height at most. Quite manageable if you think about it.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about growing Saguaros at home, keeping it happy and thriving for years to come.
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Carnegiea gigantea is one of the largest cactus species in the world. It’s also one of the most fascinating! At its largest, it can reach up to 50 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
Native to the Sonoran Desert, these cacti can be found in the wild throughout Arizona, California, and Mexico. Saguaros are extremely slow growing, taking more than 100 years to reach maturity. They usually live for about 150 years, but some specimens are thought to be over 200 years old!
Not only are they striking to behold, but they also produce edible, delicious fruit when fully mature. However, you might have to wait a lifetime to taste the fruit of a Saguaro grown from a seedling.
Related Article: Types of Cacti: Varieties, ID, and Photos
|Botanical Name||Carnegiea gigantea|
|Origin||Sonoran Desert (Arizona, California, Mexico)|
|Bloom season||Spring, Summer|
|Soil||Well-Drained, Loamy, Sandy|
|Tolerant||Deer, Drought, Salt|
They’re easy to grow and care for and can live for decades without needing much attention from their owners.
Saguaros are native to deserts and need full sun. They can tolerate partial shade but vastly prefer being out in the full sun for most of the day.
Provide at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily for your Saguaro to grow properly.
Carnegiea gigantea wants sandy, well-drained soil with a gravelly texture. If your soil is heavy or clay-like, consider adding sand or compost to lighten it. Avoid organic matter like manure or shredded leaves, as this cactus doesn’t appreciate the extra water retention.
Saguaros don’t like to be overwatered. They are drought tolerant, so it’s important not to overwater them, especially in the winter when temperatures get low.
In fact, overwatering can cause root rot which will kill your plant. If you can squeeze out some water from the soil around its roots with your fingers, then it probably doesn’t need more water.
Temperature and Humidity
Carnegiea gigantea is native to hot, sunny areas of the Sonoran Desert. They like warm temperatures year-round and don’t mind being outside as long as they aren’t exposed to freezing weather.
The ideal temperature range for Saguaros is between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Saguaros are slow-growing cacti that require very little fertilizer. If you want to fertilize them, it’s best to do so in the spring and early summer months when they are actively growing. You can use a balanced fertilizer at half the recommended strength for flowering plants once every two months in the seasons.
Carnegiea gigantea doesn’t need much pruning. However, if you want to keep your Saguaro small, you can pinch off new growth tips when they are about an inch long. This will prevent the cactus from growing too tall and lanky. You can also cut off any damaged or dead branches with a sharp knife or pruning shears at any time of year.
If you want to shape your cactus, wait until after flowering in the springtime when it’s still dormant so that it doesn’t take as long for new growth to appear again.
Potting and Repotting Saguaro
Saguaros should be potted in a large container with drainage holes. You can use a plastic planter or clay pot, but make sure it has plenty of room for the roots to grow.
Repot only when the plant has grown too big for its container, which usually happens every two years.
Spring is the ideal time for repotting as this gives the plant some time to get acquainted with its pot before winter.
How to Repot (Step-by-Step)
- Remove the Carnegiea gigantea from its pot by gently tapping it on the side with your gloved hand. If it doesn’t come out easily, try loosening the soil around its base with a trowel.
- Remove some of the old soil from the roots, being careful not to damage them. You can do this by gently running your fingers through them or by using a soft-bristled brush.
- Fill the new pot with soil, place the cactus in its new home, and pack down around its roots so that they are firmly in place.
- Water your cactus thoroughly, but make sure the water drains out immediately afterward.
Propagating Carnegiea gigantea by Seeds (Step-by-Step)
To begin, you’ll need to obtain a ripe and fresh Carnegiea gigantea seed pod.
- Remove the seeds from the pod and sow them in a well-draining substrate.
- Don’t bury the seeds too deep underground.
- Provide indirect, diffused sunlight, high humidity, and moist soil conditions.
- Seeds should germinate in a few weeks.
- Don’t disturb the seeds until they have developed well-established root systems.
- Then, transplant the seedlings to a larger pot and resume the normal care routine.
Only mature plants produce flowers, and Carnegiea gigantea cacti take over a century to reach maturity. For Saguaro grown in cultivation, blooms are not expected or strived for. These plants are almost always grown for their exotic value rather than the flowers.
In wild Saguaro, blooms occur from spring to summer. These white flowers are small, 4-5 inches long, and appear along the length of the stem. They last for over a day and ripen into edible fruits that are delicious and flavorful.
Carnegiea gigantea is non-toxic. However, sharp spines lining the plant body can cause injury if not handled with care.
NOTE: This page is not intended as a substitute for veterinary advice. The toxicity of an ingested substance varies depending on the amount ingested, the animal’s weight, and its sensitivity to specific allergens. Contact your veterinarian or local animal poison control center immediately if you think your pet may have ingested a toxic substance.
Mealybugs are common pests that can infest this cactus. These tiny insects suck sap from the plant and leave behind a powdery residue. In large numbers, they can cause significant damage to the health of your cactus.
Scale Insects are small, hard-shelled insects found on the stems and branches of your cactus. These pests suck sap from the plant and cause damage to the affected areas. Treat with neem oil.
These small insects are soft-bodied and come in various colors, including green, brown, red, and black. They can cause damage to cacti as they secrete honeydew onto the plant’s surface, which attracts ants. Aphids also sometimes transmit viruses from one plant to another through their saliva.
- Placing under harsh sunlight
- Using poorly drained potting mediums
- Fertilizing during dormancy