Silver or Golden Cholla
1 gallon; 5 gallon
A common plant in much of the Sonoran and Mojave desert this is our native cholla. Silver cholla can be a low densely branched shrub or a tree-like cactus with a thick short trunk. The stems are covered with either white (silver cholla) or yellowish tan (golden cholla) spines up to 1 inch long. With a tiny bit of supplemental irrigation the spines glow beautifully. Especially against the sunset. Yellow flowers with red tips bloom in the spring.
The species resembles cylindropuntia bigelovii (teddy bear cholla), but that has spines of more equal length, less obvious tubercles, and more easily detached segments. Spines of the silver cholla are variable in length, with one noticeably longer than the rest (up to 1.2 inches).
An important nesting site for many birds. I have multiple cactus wren nests every year.
It's a spectacular addition to a desert garden where it's sculptural shape lends year-round interest and contrast. Care should be used in planting near walkways or access areas.
Growing Plants in the Desert — Important Information
The information presented here is, to the best of my knowledge, accurate and based on my research from reliable sources, observations I have made of plants growing in my, and other gardens I have visited, and observations of the plants in their native habitats. I would appreciate your feedback and experience to help me educate others!
Cacti: In my experience, cacti are much happier in the filtered shade here in the low desert of the Coachella Valley. Colors are more vibrant and they bloom more profusely, especially the non-native varieties. If you pay attention to how our native barrel and beavertail opuntia grow in the wild, it is frequently tucked in the rocks under creosote or another shrub.
Light Requirements: I have found that in our desert (Sonoran/Colorado) “full sun” plants can take and appreciate the late afternoon filtered sun, especially in the hot summer months.