Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to tell how old a cactus is just by looking at it?

Since there are over 2,000 species of cacti on the planet it can be nearly impossible to accurately pinpoint the age of every type of cacti.

But there is a way to make a fairly accurate guess.

How To Tell The Age of A Cactus

A 3 inch tall cactus

If you want to know how old that cactus plant is, you’re going to have to grab a measuring tape.

With most cacti, their age can be estimated by their height.

A cactus plant usually grows one inch every 10 years.

There’s a myth going around that you can tell the age of a cactus by the number of arms it has, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

To get an estimate of its age, you should always measure the main body of the cactus plant from its tallest point, as the additional arms have no bearing in determining its age.

For every inch of cactus you measure, it indicates a timeline of 10 years.

So, if you can manage to look after your baby cactus well enough for it to grow 3 inches in height, you’ll have a 30-year-old plant in your home that will have lived with you through a lot.

This can be a shock for someone who bought an indoor cactus expecting it to grow, as they will only see an inch of growth in a decade.

You won’t be able to determine the exact age of a cactus by measuring it, but you will get a really good estimate.

How Old Are Large Cactus Plants?

Some cacti plants can grow to be over 40 feet tall.

However, you might be surprised to know just how old a 40-foot cactus plant really is.

A 40-foot cactus plant is likely 480 years of age or maybe even older.

Related Article: Is A Cactus A Tree?

How Old Is The Tallest Cactus?

The tallest cactus that has ever been recorded was a 78-foot tall saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert.

That means that the cactus has been in the desert for many hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Can A Cactus Die Of Old Age?

Unlike people, cacti plants won’t die of old age.

These plants are notoriously hard to kill, so if they have the right environment they’ll likely live longer than scientists can predict.

On average, it could take 100 years for a cactus to grow around 15 feet tall.

By the time the plant reaches 200 years of age, it could be at its full height.

However, that hasn’t been the case for all cacti, as some will continuously grow throughout their entire lifespan.

Related Article: Are Cactus Spines Poisonous?

How Long Can A Cactus Plant Live For?

In the desert, cacti can live such a long life that humans can’t fully determine their natural lifespan.

Even the 1 inch per every 10 years theory is just an average estimate that should be taken with a grain of salt.

It’s almost impossible to determine the exact age of a cactus in the desert.

Cactus plants growing at home are a slightly different story.

While these plants are nearly impossible to kill, they can suffer damage that will shorten their lifespan.

A cactus plant will carry every scratch, bruise, or blemish it picks up for its entire life.

If you ever accidentally knock the plant, it will never fully recover. 

This can result in indoor cactus plants having a much shorter lifespan.

On average they will live for 10 or more years, depending on how they were treated.

If you are very careful not to let anything happen to your cactus plant then you may be able to pass it down to the next generation.

A cactus plant may die early if it experiences root rot.

Cactus plants don’t require water very often, so if you are watering this plant every week then you could be slowly killing it.

Always make sure the cactus plant’s soil is completely dry before giving it more water.

Do The Arms Of a Cactus Have Anything To Do With Its Age?

Contrary to popular belief, the arms of a cactus have nothing to do with their age.

When the cactus reaches a certain height they will grow spiky arms.

The arms are where the flowers or fruit can blossom, and they can help the plant propagate.

If anything ever happens to the plant, you can reroot the arms to grow new cacti plants.

How Much Does A Mature Cactus Cost?

Now that you know how long it takes for a cactus to grow, you might be interested in buying yourself a mature cactus.

The amount it will set you back will depend on the size and type of the cactus.

For example, the saguaro cactus will cost you about $100 per foot, with prices of some cacti reaching more than $2,000.

Final Thoughts 

While you may not be able to get the exact age of a cactus, you can get a good estimate by measuring how tall it is.

The average cactus plant should grow roughly 1 inch every ten years.

Since there are many types of cacti plants, this measurement can only be used to get the approximate age of a specific cactus.