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What is a Finger Cactus?

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers

The finger cactus is a spiny plant that is native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, particularly Texas and Arizona. Not surprisingly, given its origins, it does well with little water and a lot of sunlight, and tends to rot during cold weather. Its flowers are magenta, with a yellow or white center, and are quite eye-catching despite the fact that they typically only bloom for about a week at time. This perennial shrub is also often referred to as either Echinocereus pentalophus, or a lady finger cactus.

For the best chances of success growing the finger cactus, it should be planted in dry soil in direct sunlight. It can be watered about every four to five weeks, and the soil should be dry for at least a few days before the plant is watered again. Fertilizing the area with a potassium-rich, nitrogen-poor product is recommended, and should be done about every three weeks. The finger cactus can be grown outside in dry soil, or inside in a potted plant or vase, as long as it has access to sunlight. It is also known as a good plant to hang on display.

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Man mowing the grass

This plant is a medium size in most cases, and tends to stay green year round, as long as there is constant sunlight. The large magenta flowers bloom in the spring, though the stems of the plant often become limp and purple temporarily in chilly weather. The stems of the finger cactus tend to branch out easily, so those looking for lots of flowers on one plant may be pleased with this type. It should be noted that like many species of cacti, the finger cactus is covered with sharp spines, so care should be taken when planting or maintaining it to avoid injury.

There are a few subspecies of the Echinocereus pentalophus, and each one has its own unique traits. The stems of the subspecies pentalophus are usually thicker, and of a lighter green, than similar subspecies, and may be either upright or flat. There are usually anywhere from three to five ribs on each areole, and three to seven spines. The subspecies Leonensis boasts up to nine spines and six to eight ribs for each areole, while the subspecies Procumbens features five to seven spines and four to five ribs. The flowers on all of these subspecies, however, look the same, as they are all magenta with either yellow or white centers.

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Discussion Comments


I have a huge Pentalophus (lady finger) cactus. I don't know why but it's growing roots out of its fingers. All over, every finger has roots coming out of it. I tried separating the plants when I first got them from a friend. (There were three cactus' in one pot.) They quickly started growing roots out of the fingers again and the roots get very long! It's a fast grower and I have repotted each of the three pots two times in the past six months. They are healthy and huge otherwise.

I was just wondering why they are growing roots like that. I've was thinking that that is where the bloom will come out but that doesn't seem to be the case. I've just been pinching them off. What do you think these are, why is it doing it and what should I be doing? I would appreciate any help you can give me. I haven't been able to find any answers.


I really liked having a finger cactus on display in my room, but unfortunately I ended up killing it. I placed it on my windowsill so it would get lots of sunlight, but didn't think about how the temperature of the glass would affect the plant.

We have some pretty harsh winters where I am from, and despite my room be heated, after I went away on vacation I came home to find my cactus dead and slightly frosted. Apparently the glass was not very well insulated and it let a lot of cold air in which led my cactus to a swift death.


I think that having a finger cactus in your home can be a fantastic accent. The flowers that bloom are gorgeous and since they are easy to maintain they can be great for those aspiring gardeners that lack green thumbs.

There are some precautions you should take though if you have pets or small children in the house. Finger cacti are beautiful but do have very sharp needles so you need to make sure your plant is out of reach. Nothing is worse than having your kid come to you with a handful of cactus needles. Apparently they can look soft and touchable to the young ones.


In my house there is a cactus plant that I gave to my wife one year for Valentines Day when we were first dating. That was over 8 years ago and the cactus is still alive and flowering.

This was kind of my plan the whole time. I always thought it was kind of strange to give roses or other flowers on Valentines Day because they start out beautiful and then wither and die. I thought if I could give her something that would last it would be a symbol for our relationship.

That's where the cactus came in. It has beautiful pink flowers and it has thrived for years with a minimum amount of maintenance. You wouldn't think that a thorny desert plant would be such an effective symbol of love but it has worked for my wife and I.


Cactus plant are usually really slow growing and you don't have to worry about transplanting them very often. I like to look at the different succulents that are sold at Home Depot year round.

Most of the time I will put them in some type of ceramic pot when I get them home and don't have to worry about moving them for a long time.

Just remember to protect your hands whenever you work with any kind of cacti. The needles of the cactus are very sharp and it doesn't take much to get stuck with one.


I have several cacti and enjoy growing them because they are fairly low maintenance. I am not the best at remembering to water, so maybe that is why I can grow cactus plants better than other plants I have tried. In fact, it is easy to over water cactus.

Sometimes you have to be pretty patient when waiting for the blooms though. I had one a friend gave me that she started from seed and it took about 2 years before it ever bloomed. When I went online to gather some cactus information about the best way to grow them, I read that this is normal.

If I am buying cactus plants from the store, I like to buy the ones that already have blooms on them.


Many cactus plants have bright, beautiful flowers and the finger cactus is one of them. When we were visiting family in Arizona, there were some in bloom and the magenta flowers were absolutely beautiful.

I live in a state that has very cold winters, so I really enjoyed learning about all the desert cacti and was surprised at how colorful many of them are. When we got home, I went to the garden center at Lowe's to buy a cactus to have and remind me of the Southwest.

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