A cactus has a lifespan of between 10 and 200 years, but there are more than 1500 species of cacti that have been discovered, with each species having different traits and lifespans, resulting in a variety of adaptations that have contributed to unique survival abilities.
The most common cactus type you can expect to find in Arizona is the Saguaro species, whose average lifespan is 160 years, but many have been known to survive for up to 200 years.
If you’re planning to grow a cactus in your garden, you will likely not have to worry about maintenance and ensuring that it gets enough water since it can survive on very little as long as it has some exposure to the sun.
Outdoor plants, in general, have longer lifespans than their indoor counterparts, which is primarily due to the external conditions being more favorable for growth and survival.
However, if you take good care of your indoor plants, they can also survive for many years, making it important for you to do your research and know what conditions are necessary and optimal for survival.
Let’s explore details of cacti species and the Saguaro, which originates in Arizona and Mexico.
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The Saguaro – How Long Does It Live?
The Saguaro is known to be the longest surviving cactus species that can easily live for 200 years in Arizona and Mexico, belonging to the genus Carnegia.
Some observations have made it plausible that the Saguaro can survive for 300 years, which has become apparent due to the findings of the Saguaro National Park.
Their longest surviving Saguaro cactus succumbed to a bacterial infection in the 1990s, which is because older cacti are more susceptible to diseases and are therefore less resilient than younger cacti.
One of the unique aspects of the Saguaro cactus is the fact that it can grow up to 50 feet in height, which is quite a feat to witness for cactus lovers who wish to know more about what conditions and adaptations lead to specific traits.
However, it is not possible for the Saguaro to survive by itself in its early years because it needs protection from older species in order to survive.
This is why you will typically see a younger Saguaro cactus growing next to an adult, which provides it with the nutrition it needs to grow properly.
An interesting thing to note is that these young cacti do not grow bigger than 2 inches in the first decade of their life and many older cacti die by providing essential nutrients for growing babies.
Many people have been curious as to why cacti, in general, can survive for so long, and researchers have found that this is because they are primarily suited for survival in deserts, which means they have formed adaptations allowing them to survive with little to no water.
In deserts, you will not find any animals that feed on cacti, and they typically have spikes and thorns to deter predators from approaching.
Since cacti need to reproduce and survive, they manage to adapt to their harsh climate by developing certain mechanisms that aid their survival.
The fact that there aren’t any real predators that feast on cacti is also an advantage these plants have, allowing them to live comfortably in scarcity and arid conditions.
Although it is possible for cacti to flower and reproduce, most do not get the necessary conditions for this to occur, which leads to the slowing down of their metabolism to ensure a longer lifespan that is conducive to reproduction.
Average Lifespan of Indoor Cacti
Cacti that are grown indoors can live for several years, depending on the species, but they are more susceptible to diseases because they are forced to live outside of their habitat.
This is why if you’re looking to have an indoor cactus garden, you should do your research about the particular species you own, allowing you to provide it with the optimal conditions that contribute to its survival.
Water and exposure to the sun are the main contributors to growth and survival, which means that it’s not too complicated to look after your cacti and ensure that they stay resilient and survive for many years.
You may want to read up on the cacti species you own because there are slight variations in the amount of sun each cactus needs and the water requirements that are conducive to growth.
If you’re struggling to identify the species of your cactus, you may want to consult an expert for the most optimal nurturing strategy.
Aging Cacti – What to Expect
Although cacti can live for several decades, they do begin to show signs of aging in the form of blemishes and damage accumulated over time, which can affect their outward appearance and make it possible to identify how long the cactus has been around.
Too much exposure to the sun can result in sunburn on some cacti species, which is a little astonishing since they may originate in deserts where the sun is hottest and most severe in terms of ray exposure.
Cacti will also start to break off with time, and there’s not much you can do about it since it is a sign of aging and degradation.
If the stems fall into fresh soil, it can develop roots that result in another baby cactus forming, but this is not always the case.
If you’ve noticed that your cactus is showing signs of decay or age, you should give it more care and ensure that it is exposed to the most optimal conditions, such as less frequent exposure to the sun and carefully measured water intake.
When looking after your cactus, you should also try not to move it frequently since that can disturb its growth.
The Saguaro cactus is quite resilient and will likely outlive you if you treat it with care when growing it indoors.
Some advantages of growing a Saguaro cactus are described below.
- It does not need a lot of sunlight to survive but it can also live in conditions with extreme sun exposure without dying.
- It does not need a lot of water to survive and can live for prolonged periods without any access to water.
- It can develop fibrous roots during the rainfall season, which allows it to absorb and retain a maximum amount of water.
How Resilient Are Cacti Plants
All plants need sunlight and water to survive, which are the primary conditions you need to offer your cactus if it is to live a long and healthy life.
If you limit the exposure to the sun, you may find that it starts to wither away or look unhealthy, which can inhibit its growth and cause it to die.
Cacti are generally quite resilient without water and can survive periods of drought when living outdoors, but no water at all can also cause them to die quickly.
Since cacti typically originate in the desert and arid conditions, they have developed many adaptations that help them survive in the wilderness.
Their roots are shallow and spread outward from the plant, allowing for greater surface area in the soil, which helps them find water more easily.
The Saguaro cactus is particularly effective at this survival strategy and spreads its roots several inches away from the plant, allowing it to find water in the vicinity.
When Arizona experiences rainfall, these cacti develop fibrous roots that help them maximize their water intake and absorption, resulting in a greater chance of survival.
Since leaves and branches are the main parts of a plant that result in water loss through the processes of evaporation and transpiration, cacti do not develop these parts but instead have spines.
These spines prevent water loss because they’re made of tough fiber and protect the cactus against animals, ensuring longer lifespans.
The Saguaro cactus also has a waxy waterproof coating that prevents water loss and allows it to store a lot of water within, resulting in a change in physical appearance due to an expansion and reduction in size because of water storage capabilities.
Some cacti species can survive up to 2 years without any water, while others don’t last longer than two weeks, which is something all cactus lovers need to know.
The Saguaro cactus can survive for a long time without water, or else its average lifespan would certainly be less than 100 years.
If you’re growing a Saguaro cactus indoors, you may want to water it once every week or so and wait until the soil dries down completely before thinking of watering it again.
Even though the Saguaro cactus can survive in the shade for longer periods compared to the vast majority of cactus species, it still needs enough sun exposure to stay healthy and not become malnourished or deformed.
The Saguaro cactus is the most commonly found species in Arizona and also lives the longest out of all the cacti species that have been discovered, which means that its survival adaptations are highly effective in arid conditions such as the wilderness in Arizona.
If you’re thinking of growing the Saguaro indoors, you will want to do some research about the amount of sun it needs every day and its water requirements, allowing it to live a long and healthy life.
You can expect to find all kinds of cactus species with unique traits that allow them to survive better in specific conditions such as cold weather and arid conditions.
Although the average lifespan for most cacti species is less than 50 years, there are many species that live for longer than a century, which is really interesting to plant lovers and enthusiasts.