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Cactus Root System – Are Cactus Roots Invasive? (Explained)

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Cactus plants are known to live and adjust greatly to the desert environment. Even though they are found widely in dry regions, they can also be seen in tropical and subtropical areas. Their biggest support is the unique root system.

Cactus root systems are pretty different from other plants and they can grow in different styles to ensure the maximum water supply to the plants.

Cactus Root System Explained

Cacti have multiple types of root systems. They vary a lot depending on the type of cacti and the area they are living in. It’s the root system that helps the cacti survive in different conditions. The root system is as diverse as the plant itself. Different types of roots serve different purposes.

Not all cactus have the same root system. You need to identify what cactus you are dealing to know about their root system. Let’s get to know more about cactus root system.

Saguaro cactus:

Saguaro cactus are known for having taproots. They are the strongest among all the root types as they act as the backbone of the plant. Lateral branches spread out from the central taproot.

Christmas cactus:

Christmas cacti usually have aerial roots. It is an epiphytic plant and it grows in rocks or trees. The aerial roots growing out of it provide food and water to the plant.

Prickly pear cactus:

The prickly pear cactus has a fibrous root system. The widespread roots can get hold of all the rainwater from the surface. The stem of the plant can store water for later.

San Pedro cactus:

San Pedro is a fast-growing cactus. Its root system starts branching out from the base of the stem. This cactus can grow 30 cm in a year.

Pencil cactus:

Pencil cactus have thin widespread roots that work to provide necessary water and nutrients to the plant. In favorable conditions, pencil cactus can grow 2 to 20 inches in a year.

Barrel cactus:

The barrel cactus is a unique-looking plant with shallow roots spreading laterally away from the plant. The roots go only 2 inches below the soil and can gather water from the surface.

Totem pole cactus:

The totem pole is a weird-looking cactus that is slow-growing in nature. The roots of this cactus don’t go too far below the ground but stay near the surface to provide water to the plant.

Golden barrel cactus:

The golden barrel is a beautiful barrel-shaped cactus with lemon-yellow flowers. It has a shallow roots system where the root stays near the surface to provide nutrients to the plant.

Organ pipe cactus:

The root system of the organ pipe cactus has fibrous roots. The roots are thin and shallow and spread near the surface to collect all the moisture and nutrients and transfer them to the plant.

Cholla cactus:

Cholla cactus have a shallow root system. The roots collect rainwater and nutrients and store water in the succulent stems of the plant.

Moon cactus:

Moon cactus are colorful succulents. The beautiful bright colored plants look very attractive. The plants have somewhat of a cramped root system.

Does the Cactus have deep roots?

Some cacti have deep roots. Just like many other plants, the cactus is a diverse plant. Different species come with unique features and the root systems change with the environment as well as the diversity of the plant.

In some areas, the roots have to go deeper into the ground to provide water to the plant.

Even though most species of cactus grow shallow but extensive roots that spread near the surface to absorb rainwater and moisture from the air, some of them have deep roots that go underground to collect water.

How Deep Are Cactus Roots?

The cactus root can be pretty deep depending on the necessity of collecting water from the deeper parts of the ground. When the plants face water scarcities, their roots tend to go deep in search of water from the underground.

Most cactus species have shallow roots that spread near the surface.

Even there are some species of cactus whose roots go only 7 to 11cm deep inside the ground.

The shallow roots can go 4feet down the surface. These roots can collect and absorb water even during light rain. They are very useful to plants.

Do cacti have long or short roots?

The root system of the cactus varies a lot. It depends on the type of the plant as well as the area it is living in. It also changes a lot with the weather and water availability.

Most cactus plants have a widespread root system. The roots can be as wide as 15 feet but stay near the surface.

Many cacti grow thin and long fibrous roots that spread widely. They spread laterally away from the plants to collect water from a wide range of surfaces. Some roots grow big and go deep into the ground to collect water from underground.

How big are Cactus roots?

Most cactus species have shallow roots that stay near the surface. These roots spread laterally away from the plants but stay close to the ground to absorb all the moisture and water from the soil.

They can be as big as 15 feet but usually don’t go too deep into the ground.

Some cactus have fibrous roots that spread a lot. These roots look like strands of hair and spread all over the area near the base of the plant. Cactus roots can spread for a mean width and length of 3 feet each.

What kind of roots does a cactus have?

There are different root cactus available. Lets get to know them.


Taproots are the roots that grow and reach deep inside the ground in search of moist soil. Taproots are strong, and solid, and act as the anchorage to the plant. They help the plant stand strong against hostile conditions.

Fibrous roots:

Fibrous roots are a unique type of roots that can spread as wide as 15 feet from the plant. Fibrous roots don’t dive too deep inside the soil rather they spread near the surface to collect water from the soil.

Aerial roots:

Aerial roots are found mostly in epiphytic cactus plants that grow in tree branches. These roots grow to collect water from the humid atmosphere especially when the plant can’t get enough water from the soil.

Lateral roots:

Lateral or adventitious roots are hairy roots that grow in clusters. They usually branch out from the primary cactus roots, even the taproots but remain shallow.

They provide water and nutrients to the body and sometimes to the taproots for storage.

Are Cactus Roots Invasive?

Cactus plants are native to north and south America. Although these plants are mostly found in hot, dry, and harsh areas as their root systems grow up to deal with the harshest situations, you can find cacti all over the world.

Only a few cactus species are considered invasive in certain areas. South Africa, Spain, and Australia are three invasive hotspots for these species.

As cactus can tolerate harsh climate, many other areas are thought to be at risk of future invasion.

Can Cactus roots damage foundation or pipes?

Even though it’s not that common for cactus to grow near foundation areas or pipes, it can still happen given the fact that cactus is one of the most climate-resilient plants.

They have a unique root system that evolves to cater to the plant’s needs for water and nutrients.

Since cactus can grow even in a dry and harsh environment, if the seeds of the cactus travel and end up in a foundation area or pipes, plants can start growing and block the area.

Do Cactus spread or multiply?

Cactus can produce thousands of seeds around the year. These plants reproduce by seeds or cuttings.

Some cacti propagate by asexual reproduction. They often reproduce when segments of the plants fall off the mother plant and touch the ground.

Cactus seeds can be spread by birds and insects when they try to feed on the plant getting attracted by the bright color and scent of the flowers.

They can carry the seeds from one part to another part of the plant. Wind and rain can also play a vital role in spreading the seeds.

How fast do cactus roots grow?

The Cactus is a slow-growing plant. If you grow a cactus from seeds, it will reach only a few centimeters in height after two to three years. Most cactus plants grow only 1 to 3 cm in a year.

But cactus roots work differently. The roots are designed to provide food, water, and nutrients to the cactus plant.

They change themselves and start branching out when needed. Sometimes, cactus roots grow faster to provide water to the plants. Some roots grow for a short period when the water is available. They often shrink back when the need is over.

Final Thoughts

The root system of cactus mostly depends on the type of the cactus and the area it is living in. Sometimes, different types of roots grow to cater to the needs of the plant in different situations. You can see four types of roots in cactus – taproots, fibrous roots, aerial roots, and lateral roots.

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