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What's the Difference Between Cactus Species and Tropical Plants? - Varnish + Vine

What's the Difference Between Cactus Species and Tropical Plants?

Most people know that cacti are hardy plants that are able to survive in relatively harsh conditions, often without water for extended periods of time. But is this true of all cacti? What are the main differences between different species of cactus? And how do cacti differ from other tropical plants?

This article will answer these questions, provide some general tips for caring for your cactus, and look at what makes cacti so unique in the plant kingdom.

What do all cacti have in common?

All cacti have a few things in common. They are all a specific type of plant known as succulents, which are characterized by their thick, fleshy parts and ability to absorb and retain water for long periods of time.

Another little-known fact is that all cacti have flowers with ovaries, but in most species, these flowers are beneath petals and sepals and, as such, can't always be seen. Also, all cacti have areoles, which are little shoots that produce spines.

So, all cacti have a few things in common, but there is also a ton of variety to be found amongst the different species of cacti. Let's look at the differences between the various types of cacti now so that you can see what makes each uniquely beautiful.

What are the differences between the various species of cacti?

There are many different cacti species. In fact, there are over 2000 known and cataloged species of cactus in the world, each with its own unique traits and distinct appearance. So, although they have much in common, there is a huge difference between the San Pedro Cactus and, say, the Monstera Adansonii, otherwise known as the Swiss Cheese plant.

Some of the most common differences between various cacti species include their size, shape, shoots, flowers, and in some cases, their fruits – yep, some cacti such as the Peruvian Apple Cactus produce delicious edible fruit.

How do cacti differ from other tropical plants?

Although many cacti flourish in tropical regions, they are markedly different from other tropical plants such as the Fiddle Leaf Fig. The main difference between a succulent such as a cactus and a tropical plant is that succulents are able to retain vast amounts of water which allows them to thrive during times of drought, where tropical plants would wither and eventually die from a lack of hydration.

Therefore, if you are a home garden enthusiast, it’s important to be aware of how to care for your different plants. If you are raising tropical plants, you'll need to water them much more frequently than you would need to water a cactus. Generally speaking, tropical plants require water every few days, whereas with a cactus, once per week is usually sufficient. In either case, both require adequate drainage; otherwise, root rot can set in and kill them both.


The 2000+ species of cacti in the world have a lot in common, but they also have a ton of differences, which is what makes each one unique and special. Many cacti thrive in tropical environments, but they shouldn't be confused with tropical plants. Cacti are succulents that can retain large quantities of water for extended periods, whereas tropical plants will perish quickly without adequate hydration.

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