Plant Form: Cactus, Succulent

Water Use: Extremely low, Very low

Mature Size: 5-6 ft. tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun

Bloom Time: Spring (March – May)

Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 10°F

Native to: California, Baja California, northwestern Mexico

Pencil Cholla can be either erect and treelike, or trailing on the ground with rising branch tips. It also expresses its individuality in the number of spines it produces, with some plants having no spines, others sporting sparse spines, while still others are completely covered in long, thin spines. No matter their appearance, all Pencil Chollas have these things in common: they need very little or no added water or maintenance, they resist deer and rabbits, and the surface of their branches appears divided into flat, squarish or diamond-shaped tubercles – hence its other common name, Diamond Cholla. Its pink, orange or brownish flowers attract butterflies and other beneficial pollinators. This relatively tidy cactus drops far fewer joints or dried fruit segments than other chollas, but it is still best when planted away from foot traffic. Use this cactus to add sculptural interest to rock gardens, bird and butterfly gardens, succulent gardens, and any southwest design landscape.


Smart water-wise practices pay off now: Climate-adapted plants + Mulch + Deep Watering = Less water use

  • Check irrigation emitters, valves, and line for clogs, leaks, and breaks
  • Flush out line by removing end caps with your water system on; sand or deposits that build up in lines can clog emitters
  • If you water by hand, leave dripping hose at drip-line or trees and shrubs (at the outer edge or branches) to deeply soak soil once a month; set a time to remind you to move hose to next plant.
  • Keep adding to mulches as they decompose to conserve water, keep roots cool, and reduce frequency of watering
  • Encourage repeat blooming by pinching or cutting back annuals, perennials and shrubs