By Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Saguaro fall prey to a nasty infection called bacterial necrosis of saguaro. The importance of detecting and beginning treatment cannot be stressed, as the plant can live for some time with small spots of the disease, but will eventually succumb if left untreated. Learn more here.
By Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Saguaro cactus blossoms are the state flower of Arizona. Saugaro are very long lived and many found in the desert are 175 years old. Get growing information on saguaro cactus plants in this article.
Tucson, Arizona is home to the nation's largest cacti. The giant saguaro is the universal symbol of the American west. These majestic plants, found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park, to the east and west of the modern city of Tucson. Here you have a chance to see these enormous cacti, silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset.
Some of our most commonly asked questions.
Helpful information to help plan your visit before visiting the park.
Information on the different types of passes that allow entrance into the park.
Directions to both East and West Districts of Saguaro National Park
Loop drive and trail information for both West and East districts.
Camping at Saguaro National Park is available year-round but sites are first come first serve. Click here for more information.
Saguaro National Park is a beautiful park that sandwiches Tucson, Arizona. With two districts, there is more than enough opportunity to appreciate the majestic Saguaro Cactus that covers the park grounds. Unlike some of the other national parks, you can explore a lot of highlights of this park in just a few of days, which makes it a great weekend getaway.
What I found most interesting is that even though it’s technically one park, they seem to have a little bit of an east side – west side mentality, competing for which side is better. If you’re going for photography, this will help you decide where you need to be:
This hike is only 0.8 miles and relatively easy. There are a few stairs to traverse, but it leads you to an amazing view overlooking a valley full of Saguaro Cacti.
This 6-mile drive takes you through some of the most dense forest of cactus. It is unpaved, but you won’t need a four-wheel drive car to make it all the way around. Pro tip: The road is prone to flash flooding during the monsoon season (July and August), so be sure to check road conditions at the visitors center before making the drive.
The east district has an 8-mile paved loop that gives you a chance to see the beautiful landscape from the comfort of your car. It’s an easy drive and there are plenty of pullouts where you can snap photos. Rainbow not included on all drives.
If you’re looking for a good backpacking trip, make your way out to the summer home of Levi Manning. Once Tucson’s mayor, this was a popular gathering spot for the city’s elite. Depending on your route, it will be anywhere from 12-15.5 miles one way. Pro tip: If you’re not interested in hiking that distance, you can also reach the camp via horseback.
Visit sometime between late-May and June to see these white, waxy flowers that are Arizona’s state flower. Much of the animal population here loves snacking on these as little treats.
I know it sounds like a cheesy thing to do, but we love stopping by the visitor center. You can learn secret tidbits from rangers that you wouldn’t otherwise know about. Plus, we always pick a patch to help us remember our travels. The Red Hills Visitor Center in Saguaro West has a great view of the mountain and a cacti forest. The Rincon Mountain Visitor Center in Saguaro East is much smaller, but they still offer great information on how to make the most of your time at the park.
Turn off of the paved road and head towards the Mica View picnic area to see the park’s highest peak, Mica Mountain.
This short 0.3-mile hike takes you to ancient petroglyphs that are more than 800 years old.
This might be a given, but find the biggest Saguaro Cactus you can find and take a photo next to it! We didn’t realize how big these guys get and it became a bit of a game trying to find the biggest one. Did you know that these guys can live up to 250 years?! The largest living saguaro now is the Champion Saguaro in Maricopa County Arizona at 45.3 ft (13.8 m). The tallest one ever measured was 78 ft tall, but in 1986, it fell over in a windstorm. 
The full hike is 10 miles, but you don’t have to hike very far into this trail to get a great view of the sun setting over the mountains. After 5-8 minutes of hiking, look towards the west and see the sun glow over the cacti forest.
This museum is technically just outside of the park grounds but is still worth the stop when you’re exploring the National Park. Contrary to its name, it’s more of a zoo than a museum. You’ll get to see all the wildlife that reside in the Sonoran desert. Pro tip: Spend at least 3 hours here if you want to see everything. Full post coming soon!
Would you want to do the east or the west most?
Photos courtesy of (creative commons): 5. Ken Bosma (cropped) 8. Jim Roth (cropped)
|Family:||Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)|
|Genus:||Echinopsis (ek-in-OP-sis) (Info)|
|Species:||terscheckii (ter-SHEK-ee-eye) (Info)|
Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)
Plant has spines or sharp edges use extreme caution when handling
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting
From seed direct sow after last frost
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
Simpsonville, South Carolina
On Oct 4, 2018, williethehog from Lady Lake, FL wrote:
Our Argentine has been in our care approx. 16 years and was 2ft tall with two arms. Not sure of the actual age. He has spent his life thus far in a 16" pot in Ocean City. MD. Outdoors during spring and summer and indoors with indirect sunlight only every winter. He is now approx. 4.5ft tall with numerous arms. He has never flowered but does grow slowly during his periods outside. We recently moved him to central Florida and will be planting him in the ground this spring.
He is a very hardy plant and impressive with the long spikes(thus his name. spike).
Hope someone finds this useful.
On Feb 20, 2018, desertflowers from Albuquerque, NM wrote:
I am growing this plant in Albuquerque zone 7b. It is on the south side of my house about 1 ft. from a wall. It is about 20 years old and a little over 7 ft tall but is growing about a foot a year now. It made it through a bad freeze in 2011 when we got down to -16 F but has some scarring near the base as a result. I cover it on cold nights if it has a chance of going below 15 F. It still hasn’t bloomed or developed any branches but I hope it does soon.
On Jul 22, 2017, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:
Today I planted one I had bought a month ago in a 14" pot. When I took it out today- there was only about 1" of soil between it and the pot. So,its a hefty son of a gun and about 16" tall. I didn't see any large roots either..interesting they were all fine and white.
Its in spot that gets full sun for most of the day..as it grows the sun becomes more all day. No worrys on its cold tolerance or that it needs hot summers. It doesn't. As huge ones at UC Berkeley do just fine on 72f summers.
Its nice to start out with a bigger sized plant. Makes an impression now.
On Mar 18, 2015, thistlesifter from Vista, CA wrote:
Two specimens from Harry Johnson estate were planted in one of our hill gardens 28 years ago. These have thrived here on very little 'hose' water. We have had a history of two winters with 30" plus rain on these plants and they sucked it up. One has not flowered. the larger of the two has flowered many times and has large white flowers (fragrantly odoriferous). Flower opens after dark and before dawn.
Neither of these have branched in spite of the 10'+ height of the tall one.
These specimens here are surrounded by desert shrubs, cactii and trees and so it is difficult to capture complete digital images that illustrate their profiles.
The Harry Johnson estate Had two Huge specimens with transport custom built structures supporting wide arms on. read more each side of both plants. when last seen, the two of them stood erect and left no footprint space on a 25' "Lowboy" flatbed trailer. This cargo and transport made quite a dramatic and unique display of the cargo destined for a business landscape display in Texas from Harry Johnson's 10 acre nursery South of Fallbrook, California.
On Sep 11, 2013, Mudbug1960 from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:
E. Terscheckii is supposed to be OK in USDA zone 8b. Some Austin cactusheads would disagree. We has lows of 17 in 2010 and 2011, and many of our Terscheckiis have suffered burns, usually on top. One of mine sprouted a branch (or a cockeyed segment) right out of the damaged tissue. The other one is doing fine, but with brown hair.
On Apr 23, 2013, hampson from Kingman, AZ (Zone 8b) wrote:
We have had these growing in Kingman for the last 12 years. Beautiful blooms!
On Jul 28, 2010, acactus from Silverado, CA wrote:
This is a great cactus it grows like a Saguaro but it grows much faster, is more cold tolerant, & handles cold & moisture better. I have a 10 foot plant that has been growing in Hesperia, CA zone 8 (3500 feet) for 10 years. It has survived temperatures down to 15 degrees with little to no damage. However young plants are less cold tolerant.
On Feb 5, 2009, baiissatva from Dunedin,
New Zealand wrote:
Zone 9b coastal otago New Zealand
I have been assured that these tricho/echinopsis type cacti *are* hallucinogenic, and down here hippies steal them from your garden. However I predict that like most alleged hallucinogens, the only reliably freaky thing youre likely to see is the contents of your stomach about 20 mins after ingestion. Wow! Why not just eat something off the footpath?
Seriously though, I have one outside in a pot suffering complete neglect and it's come through the occasional -5C withough damage. That's with really soggy conditions thrown in. So they're pretty tough.
On Nov 24, 2007, ogrejelly from Gilbert, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:
Purchased this plant last year and have seen little to no growth. It is currently only receiving morning to early afternoon sun at its current heigth so perhaps this is the reason. It was reported to grow faster than the Arizona native but so far I have not seen it.
On Aug 6, 2007, oliverbutthead from Plantersville, TX wrote:
Beautiful and resilient large columnar cactus. Seems to handle a good amount of rain with good drainage of course. Here north of houston about 50 miles has withstood temps down to 17 degrees F for short duration without damage and in the last few months, it has been on the receiving end of record rain fall for this already high rainfall area. In the last 2 months, it has withstood nicely with over 20" of rain and is growing and looking very healthy and nice. I must add though that the bed it is planted in is built above existing groundlevel and prepared well for excellent drainage. One of my favorite cactus. Very robust and not too finicky.
On Jan 26, 2005, Xenomorf from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:
This species forms an 18 inch thick trunk with age and many branches. Grows up to about 40 feet high. Flowers are white and bloom at night (another night blooming ceroid).
On Mar 1, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:
Nice looking cactus from ARgentina- probably pretty cold tolerant, but not sure how cold tolerant. Grows up to 20' and is exported a lot for it's skin. Not sure why, either- looks, potpoiri. but used to be eaten by the Indians locally. Suspect there is something hallucinigenic about it.