10+ Rare Cactus Plants

Acquiring and growing succulents, including cactus plants are gaining popularity throughout the world, recently. However, this growing interest is adversely affecting various wildly available rare succulents.

Many rare succulents are unethically gathered from the wild and are traded to accumulators all over the world.

A number of succulents are facing extinction in their natural surroundings and some are almost extinct. So while it will be fine to value these rare succulents highly, make sure that you procure your collection rightly.

Irrespective of whether you are an accustomed to the cacti or new to them, you would find that acquiring the rarest and unusual cacti can be something that you would never want to miss out on. The list of the rare cacti featured here should indeed prove to be quite effective in more than one ways.

10 Rare Cactus Plants

Cacti are gaining popularity as house plants adornment as their unique appearances distinguish them and make them seem like a colossus. Simply put, they are easy to grow as they require less water,  sunlight and will flourish even if abandoned for some time. 

Let’s explore more about the rare cactus plants and find the 10 rare cactus plants that are as follows:

Red Cap or Ruby Ball cactus or the Hibotan cactus 

Red cap cactus is a gaudy and colorful form of the moon cactus that is mostly red in color but is also available in different shades like purple, yellow, orange, or white.

The stem is spherical, colored, and has firm ribs with several segments. The ribs have white inscribing with brown spines that can grow up to 1 cm long. The Ruby Ball produces pale pink flowers and gray-green fruits.

The Red cap cactus is without chlorophyll or chlorophyll is so little that it should be grafted to another species usually, a Hylocereus cactus that is the bottom green part. It is a parasitic association in which the top red cap is dependent on the bottom Hylocereus cactus for food and support. They like partial shades but can be kept in bright, direct sunlight for a few hours. In summer, it is best to keep them away from the hot day to avoid injury to the soft flowers. A commercial cacti mix that is well-draining is good for ruby balls. Water sparingly for the better survival of the plant and only water it again when the soil is completely dry.

Stenocereus Hollianus Cristata

Stenocereus Hollianus Cristata is a thorny, unusual cactus that is very undemanding and can be grown both as an indoor and outdoor plant. With a dense and curvy presentation, this cactus incorporates true adaptability among the rare cacti and can exist everywhere either in full sun or partial shade.

The spines are white or cinnamon-brown in color to reduce water loss. Water thoroughly and allow the soil to dry out fully in between the watering. A well-draining cacti mix is best for Stenocereus. Proper air circulation around it is required for maximum growth.

Dinosaur Back Plant (Myrtillocactus geometrizans forma cristata)

The Dinosaur Back Plant, also called Myrtillocactus geometrizans cristata, is an attractive plant and is native to the northern and central parts of Mexico. It can grow huge up to a height of 5 meters or 16 feet. As young plants, these can be grown indoors, although they can become very huge when they mature. It is blue in colour and has a unique appearance with a fused tree trunk that is cluster forming. This semi-rigid cactus has a waxy frame and will be distressed at a temperature lower than 25°F.

Like most cacti, the Dinosaur Back Plant needs less water. Use a well-draining cacti mix to avoid root rot. Place it in bright direct sunlight. This cactus blooms with creamy flowers and small fruits in spring or summer.

Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus rigidissimus rubrispinus)

The Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus is certainly one of the most beautiful and the pinkest hedgehogs to be ever seen and is native to central Mexico and the western United States. 

Echinocereus Rigidissimus Rubrispinus is a fancy, spherical cactus with attractive pink spines covering its entire body and bears reddish pink flowers with white centers , 4″ in diameter in late spring. It loves the full sun and although it is frost resistant, this cactus doesn’t thrive in frost and can be distressed.

Highly draining soil fortified with perlite is best for Rainbow Hedgehog cactus that need less water in winters and avoid watering  when humidity is high.

Emerald Idol— Opuntia Cylindrica Cristata

A member of the prickly pear family, the Emerald Idol is a charming rare cactus with an archaic appearance. It has a twisted form, with white ribs  covered with small spines.

Water only when the soil is parched, as giving more water can rot the cactus. Keep it in bright indirect sunlight. A porous potting mix is good for this cactus and  place it in a ventilated space. The emerald idol cannot survive in frost so avoid keeping outside in winters.

Use a spray bottle to control the watering of a small cactus.

Lophocereus Schottii— Totem Pole

The Totem Pole cactus is a rare cactus different from other cacti and is spineless, smooth and tall. Although it has sluggish growth, Lophocereus Schottii grows huge and remains alive for many years.

Native to the Baja California Peninsula, the Totem Pole flourishes in full sun. To keep it indoors, place it in a south-facing window for maximum bright sunlight. 

Propagation is done by cuttings as Totem Poles don’t bloom or produce seeds. Giving it too much water will attract pests and diseases, so water cautiously.

Echinopsis cv. Haku-Jo Maru

 The Haku-Jo cactus is a Japanese variety believed to have genes of different species. It is fussy and spherical in shape, having wooly areoles with sharp, brown spines that grow in clusters.

This plant hardly blooms but rarely it bears lightly-scented white flowers resembling trumpets.  Haku-jo plant is easy to care for, keep them out in the full sun in summers and prevent them from getting wet in winters.

Orange Cob – Lobivia Famatimensis Cristata

Commonly known as the Orange Cob cactus, it has a green round body densely covered with dark orange spines. It is famous for its bright, big and stunning pink, orange or red flowers that bloom in the spring and summer months. They bloom during the day and fall during the nighttime. This cactus can easily rot, so avoid watering in winters. You can grow it outdoors as it can endure frost and remember to plant it in well draining soil. 

Opuntia Subulata – Eve’s Needle

It is a bristly cactus that is tall and can grow upto a height of 60 cm. Opuntia Subulata is a native of the Andes of Peru that grows well in lots of sunlight. This rare and charming cactus has a tree-like structure with deep green, cylindrical and unsegmented stems that can be 2” – 3” inches in diameter and is covered with tubercles along the upper stems. 

 Like other cacti, it needs less water for survival, thus growing best in hot, dry and desert areas.

The plant has been given names such as common pin or Eve’s needles as these needles are very sharp and semi-cylindrical. Its leaves are resilient, awl-like, and are at right angles to the plant’s branches and last for a year or more. 

The edible leaves are sold as vegetables in various South American places and Mexican markets in the United States.

Eve’s Needle takes a long time to bloom and the flowers are red cup-shaped with red fruits underneath.

This plant cannot survive in frost, so avoid keeping it outdoors in winters.

Sand Dollar Cactus ( Astrophytum Asterias)

The Sand Dollar Cactus is also called star cactus, sea-urchin cactus, or star peyote and is a rare spineless cactus native to some parts of Texas and Mexico. This small but adorable cactus is largely grown by cacti lovers. 

However, as it is very popular among people, it is illegally collected from the wild and is sold to people around the world. In 2015, it was estimated that there were only about 2,000 individual plants left. Environmentalists discourage people from collecting the Sand Dollar Cactus from the wild as it is quite easy to propagate it from seeds and cuttings.

Melocactus matanzanus ‘Dwarf Turk’s Cap’

It can be a small and cute addition to your cactus garden. It will grow to the height of just around 3.5 inches in height and around 3 inches in diameter. You would find the stunning deep flowers when they bloom. It grows quite efficiently in the sun and may not tolerate too cold a season.

It is the self fertile cactus plant and is a solitary cactus. It is one of the smallest species which develops a cephalium. Thee kernel of the plant is used for medicinal  purposes. The rare succulent also has a religious importance and is used for a host of religious purposes. If you are cultivating it as an indoor plant, make sure that you are watering it moderately.

Espostoa ‘Peruvian Old Lady’

The rare cactus looks more like the Peeruvian Old man. But the difference here is that Peruvian old man has longer hair than the Peruvian old lady. The cactus is quite charming and greatt looking in its appearance. The wooly spines just appear quite unique and interesting.

If grown in the natural  habitat, the Peruvian old lady can grow to a height of up to seven feet. But, in a pot in an indoor environment, you would find it growing to up to a height of 10 inches. The cactus does not bloom much often, but whenever you find the flower blooming,, they would be white in color and will bloom at night.

Other Rare Succulents

Due to growing interest in succulents, they are collected and sold illegally and hence, succulents are decreasing in number. Some of the other rare succulents are:

The Aeonium gorgoneum

The Aeonium gorgoneum, also known as Salao, on the Cape Verde Islands, is a succulent that is overharvested, thus making it rare. Salao is used in traditional medicine to treat cough as well as other medical problems. As per IUCN Red List, there are less than 1,000 Salao plants left.

Salao grows on Cape Verde Islands, Santo Antao, Sao Vicente and Sao Nicolau Islands. Each island where the Salao grows is on protected land such as Parque Natural de Morocos, Parque Natural de Monte Verde, Parque Natural Cova / Ribeira da Torre/ Paul, but harvesting the Salao needs to be managed properly.

Pelotilla de Chinamada

 There are less than 600 Pelotilla de Chinamada found in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. Its scientific name is wildpretii

Pelotilla de Chinamada is a rare succulent. In 2009, the number of Pelotilla de Chinamada was 593 out of these 504 were mature plants.

Pelotilla de Chinamada grows in cracks and crevices. It is often seen growing near other succulents of the Monanthes genus. The small population of Pelotilla de Chinamada is affected badly due to its closeness to a constantly traveled road. The habitats of the Pelotilla de Chinamada have degraded considerably and the succulent is collected and sold as a rare plant.

Rose Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria zeilmanniana)

Although the Rose Pincushion Cactus is widely cultivated for its beautiful crown of pink flowers, this succulent is rare and seriously endangered in its natural habitat. The Rose Pincushion is illegally collected, thus reducing in number. The Rose Pincushion Cactus grows in a very small area of 1 km² in San Miguel de Allende in Canada Virgen, Mexico. As per IUCN Red List, there are less than 250 wild Rose Pincushion Cacti left.

Vahondrandra (Aloe helenae)

 The Aloe helenae, also known as the Vahondrandra on the IUCN Red list, is an endangered succulent with only 200 – 500 Vahondrandras left wildly and the population is further decreasing and it is native to southern Madagascar.  The diminishing number is due to the destruction of its habitats that are emptied for agriculture and mining.

Vahondranda may not survive for long as it is sometimes sold for cultivation, but is still very rare both in its natural habitat and in other parts of the world.

Estevesia alex-bragae

The Estevesia alex-bragae is the only common species of succulents in its genus. Little is known about this very rare flowering cactus and was described only in 2009 by Pierre J. Braun. Unfortunately, this  rare succulent is seriously endangered and there are about 200 plants left. 

In 2009, during the studies of Estevesia alex-bragae, it was found by the researchers that the land had been cleared for soya production. The IUCN Red List suggests that 90% of the remaining Estevesia alex-bragae population will be eradicated if the adjacent land is used for soya production.

Giant Quiver Tree (Aloidendron pillansii (Initially Aloe pillansii)

The Giant Quiver Tree, the rarest of three aloe trees native to southern Africa, doesn’t appear like most succulents. As per the IUCN Red List, there are less than 200 individual Giant Quiver Trees left.

Initially, the Giant Quiver Tree and the other aloe trees were classified as aloes, but a new genus, Aloidendron is used for these unique succulent trees. The Giant Quiver Tree grows very tall, upto a height of about 10 m. The biggest threats to the Giant Quiver Tree are its small population, illegal collection and loss of habitat due to mining and livestock farming.

Aichryson Dumosum

 The Aichryson dumosum doesn’t have a common name as it is a very rare succulent native to one place in Madeira, Portugal. Critically endangered, there are about 50 to 250 Aichryson dumosum plants left and their numbers are still decreasing. Though the Aichryson dumosum is found only in about 100 m² protected areas, the succulent is still in danger due to some prying species, landslides, treading, fires and drought. Making people aware  about the Aichryson dumosum can conserve the plant.

Parodia rechensis

 The Parodia rechensis is rare as it is hard to grow and its natural habitat is in danger. Although the Parodia, also known as the Notocactus rechensis, is listed as seriously endangered in the Rio Grande do Sul endangered species list, the area where this succulent naturally grows is not protected.

In 2012, the scientists found that the Parodia rechensis is approaching extinction in the wild and that there are only 42 Parodia rechensis and as per the IUCN Red List, there are about 70 plants left now.

Discocactus subterraneo-proliferans

 Discocactus subterraneo-proliferans don’t  have a common name and may have become extinct in the wild. It is listed on the IUCN list as seriously endangered and there may be less than 50 plants grown privately around the world. So, the Discocactus subterraneo-proliferans is the rarest succulent in the world.

This Discocactus is native to one area in Brazil and is near extinction as its natural habitat was cleared for small-scale agriculture and animal farming. All species of Discocactus are hard to cultivate and are rare; the Discocactus subterraneo-proliferans is the rarest of all. Succulent admirers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom are growing Discocactus subterraneo-proliferans.

The Closing Thoughts

Getting a good knowledge about the rare cacti can be quite a tougher choice, as obviously enough, they are “rare”! That is where a compilation like this can prove to be handy and practical in many ways. Check out the best rare cacti that you can explore from among the best that have been outlined above.


Nikita is a Succulent lover. She really enjoys planting and nourishing them. She loves to share information about various Succulents on this blog to aware people more about these awesome plants.

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