How To Grow the Saguaro Cactus

How To Grow the Saguaro Cactus

If you’re searching “How to Grow the Saguaro Cactus” this post is for you.  The Saguaro Cactus is an iconic cactus common to Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico, also known as the Sonoran Desert.  The area these giants grow in and thrive is limited to regions that do not experience freezing temperatures during winter.  They are generally limited to areas below 4,000 feet above sea level but do grow on south facing slopes where sun is more plentiful higher than that.

How Saguaros Grow – Buying Your Saguaro – Watering Your Saguaro

How Saguaros Grow

The Saguaro is one of the most impressive and iconic cacti in the world and it grows under unique conditions which are common in Southern Arizona.  Read below to get information about where they grow, how quickly, when they flower, and their average lifespan.

Nurse Trees

In the wild the Saguaro Cactus typically grows next to a “nurse tree” such as the ironwood, mesquite, or palo verde.  When they first germinate and grow from a seed they can be quite tiny and hard to spot. Scientists have speculated that many times this nurse tree dies as it beings to compete with the Saguaro for water and nutrients in the surrounding soil.

Growth Rates

Studies done in the Saguaro National Park have shown that they grow about 1 to 1.5 inches per year for the first 8 years of life.  Growth rates for the Saguaro do depend on the climate they are planted in.  Studies have shown however that the most active growing is done before there are branches from the main trunk.  Branches typically begin to appear after the first 50 to 75 years in well saturated areas, and up to 100 years in more arid climates.

First Saguaro Cactus Flowers

The first flowers on the Saguaro begin to appear after 35 years of growth.  They generally appear at the terminal ends of the primary trunk, but can grow on the sides of the plant.  Once the flowers begin to appear you can expect to see them for the remainder of the Saguaro’s lifespan.

Saguaro Cactus Lifespan

While the adult age of a Saguaro is considered to be about 125 years they can live to be more than 200 years in the right conditions. Average lifespan varies from 150 to 175 years of age.  These impressive giants can grow as tall as 150 feet and weigh as much as 6 tons!

Buying Your Saguaro Cactus

It is best to choose a Saguaro to purchase which has not yet reached maturity as the transplant rate for mature Saguaro Cactus is not favorable.  It is also illegal to procure a Saguaro cactus from the desert to bring home, so purchasing your Saguaro from a Saguaro Cactus Nursery is the best way to one for your landscape.

Watering Your Saguaro Cactus

These giants require very little water to grow well.  They cannot however grow indefinitely without water, yet it should be given sparingly and owners should avoid excessive incidental watering while watering lawn and other plants. Read below for instructions on how to water at different stages of the cactus’ life and times of year.

New Saguaro Cactus Watering

When the new Saguaro is being planted some water is typically added to the hole prior to planting. After the soil is firmly packed around the saguaro it will not have a need for water for about 2 weeks. During the hotter summer months between May and October a deep watering should be done every 2 to 4 weeks.

The soil should be watered to a depth of around 1 foot. Never water when there are rainstorms and completely cease watering during the winter months. Generally the Saguaro will have good roots within 6 months yet is not completely established for another year or two.

Established Saguaro Cactus Watering

Once your cactus has been planted for a year or two the ribs will stay spread out.  This means that your Saguaro roots are established and have found water.  Established cactus build up a water store inside them so you can cut your watering down during the hot months to about once a month.  Again, don’t water if there has been rainstorms or during the fall or winter months.

Saguaro Cactus Watering Technique

The Saguaro’s root system is only about a foot below the surface of the soil which enables it to benefit from even small rainstorms. Due to how shallow the roots are for the Saguaro Cactus it is watered differently than other plants.

The best technique for the Saguaro Cactus is to place the hose on the ground about 5 or 10 feet from the trunk of the cactus and let the water flow for about 30 minutes.  Never water directly onto or around the base of the cactus as you want the roots to reach out around and grow to support the fully grown weight of the cactus.  Watering directly around it will prevent a stronger network of roots.

Root Rot & Overwatering

In residential and commercial landscaping that includes plants such as grass which need watering via sprinklers Saguaro Cactus should be planted at a distance from these elements to avoid overwatering.  Not only can the Saguaro Cactus experience root rot but it can steal water from other plants if placed too close.  Experts recommend about 10 feet from the base of the Saguaro and other plants and landscaping that need frequent watering.

Saguaro Cactus for Sale – Phoenix Valley

If you want to plant a new Saguaro Cactus in your landscape A&P Nursery has locally grown Saguaro Cactus at our nursery.  We offer wide selection of sizes and can have your Saguaro Cactus delivered to your home or business along with professional planting by our landscaping company partners.  We make it easy to include one of these iconic beauties in your landscape in the Phoenix Valley.

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