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Cactus: Meaning And Symbolism


Cacti are native to any location that is dry and has sandy soil. These unusual plants in the succulent family come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors. Some cacti (called air cacti) grow without soil and the saguaro cactus in the Arizona desert can reach a height of 20-feet and live to be 175 years old.

Some cactus produce blooms, some have sharp protruding spines, some grow straight up and others spill over the planter and grow downward. All store water and can survive for long periods without added moisture.

Before giving a cactus as a gift, discover the meaning of these attractive, easy-care plants so you won’t stick someone with the wrong plant.

You’re Tough


Cacti are tough and able to endure some of the harshest growing conditions and still thrive. Someone who is going through a difficult time would be a good recipient of a cactus. It will symbolize to them that you think they are strong in the face of adversity and they will survive.

Resilient Fighter

meaning of cactus

Being given a cactus symbolizes that the giver considers you to be a resilient fighter. That after everything you have gone through you can bounce back and come out a winner. Having a cactus as a houseplant so it can be frequently seen symbolizes encouragement and a reminder that you can handle whatever life throws your way.

Motherly Love

prickly pear

Cacti are strong, enduring, protective, and symbolize the love of a mother. Cactus also has been used for medicinal purposes down through the centuries and is associated with healing and nurturing like a mother’s love.

Aloe vera is a member of the succulent family and is well-known for its properties that promote the healing of minor burns. The gel harvested from the inside of aloe vera is used in many health remedies and so is the gel and juice from other cacti.


cactus with red flowers

A cactus symbolizes protection and means that you want to protect the recipient. In Feng Shui, a cactus placed in a window or on a back patio will protect your home from negative energy entering.

On the other hand, if the cactus is placed near a front entrance it will attract bad energy into the home. If you receive a cactus as a gift, place it far away from the front entrance just to be on the safe side.

The spines on a cactus protect it from desert predators that would devour it for food and moisture. The plant spines can be round, needle-like, curved, hair-like, or hooked and all serve as a defense for the plant.


In Japanese culture, a flowering cactus means you are attracted to the person you’re giving it to. It symbolizes giving the person a lusty love letter without writing a word.

In Western society, the meaning of a flowering cactus is quite the opposite. The spines on a cactus symbolize the protection of the flower and the purity of the recipient.

Since many people don’t know the symbolic meaning of a cactus, don’t read too much into receiving one as a gift unless there are other indications of the giver’s feeling towards you.

Bloom Colors

* A cactus that produces bright red blooms is often given as a birthday gift. The red blooms symbolize pure love and birth, like those produced by the Christmas cactus around Christmas time.

* Yellow blooms symbolize strength and endurance, but a non-blooming cactus also symbolizes that.

* White, orange, and purple blooming cacti have no separate meaning other than that of the plant itself – strength and endurance.

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