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Carnegiea gigantea (Saguaro)


Scientific Name

Carnegiea gigantea (Engelm.) Britton & Rose

Common Names

Saguaro, Saguaro Cactus, Sahuaro, Giant Cactus, Sage of the Desert


Cereus giganteus (basionym), Pilocereus engelmannii, Pilocereus giganteus

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Echinocereeae
Genus: Carnegiea


Carnegiea gigantea is a tree-like cactus with a ribbed stem that grows up to 65 feet (20 m) tall and up to 2.5 feet (75 cm) in diameter. It is the largest columnar cactus native to the United States but is extremely slowly-growing, reaching only 0.25 inches (0.6 cm) in height after two years. It flowers once it has reached about 30 to 35 years of age and a height of about 6.6 feet (2 m). The first branches appear after it has reached a height of about 16.5 feet (5 m) and an age of 50 to 70 years. Flowers are white and appear just below the top of the stem. They are up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) long and up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) in diameter. Fleshy edible fruits are red are up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. The Saguaro blossom is the State Wildflower of Arizona.

Carnegiea gigantea (Saguaro)

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USDA hardiness zone 8a to 11b: from 10 °F (−12.2 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

It is not legal to procure a Saguaro Cactus for home cultivation by digging it out of the desert. Beyond that, mature Saguaros almost always die when transplanted.

Saguaro Cactus babies grow under the protection of nurse trees. The cactus will continue to grow, and often its nurse tree will expire. It is thought the cactus may cause the nurse tree to die by competing for resources. The nurse trees shelter Saguaro Cactus babies from the sun's harsh rays and dispersing moisture from evaporation.

Saguaro Cactus needs to grow in well-drained grit and receive low water levels, with the soil drying out completely between watering. Annually fertilizing with cactus food in spring will help the plant complete its growth cycle. See more at How to Grow and Care for a Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea).


Carnegiea gigantea is native to the Sonoran Desert in the United States, Arizona, the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California, and the Mexican state of Sonora.



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