How Many Years Does It Take for a Saguaro Cactus to Grow an Arm?

saguaro cactus growing time

Welcome to My Cactus Garden, which was first established by my grandparents.  Luckily, I discovered a saguaro cactus in my garden, inherited, and this plant was planted by my grandpa.  Gratitude to my grandparents who brought me the opportunity to be an owner of such a rare plant and get a chance to gather knowledge about the saguaro cactus. 

The saguaro cactus takes at least 75 years to grow a sidearm. Saguaro Cacti do not grow any arms until they are 70 to 100 years old, and can live for over two hundred (200) years.

Today,  I am going to share more information about my inherited tree. Let’s explore more about saguaro cactus arms, age, and lifespan.

How Many Arms Are First Grown from Saguaro Cactus?

Looking like a pillar, the saguaro cactus tree grows branches which are called arms. There is a correlation between the number of arms in saguaro and the volume of rainfall. On average, more than 50 arms grow on one plant after 75  years.

How Long Do Saguaro Cactus Arms Live?

For the first time, 75  years later, the saguaro cactus will start to produce arms. And that arm will live  50 to 70 years.

Along the mountain ridges, Across the desert floor;
Arms like verdant armor,  Stalwarts guard our door.
Shading for the lizard, Haven for the wren,
Source of inspiration, For past and present men.

~Earl Bloss, "Saguaros," in Arizona Highways, 1973

Why Do Some Saguaro Cactuses Have More Arms Than Others?

The plant hormone auxin retards the growth of bud development. However,  another plant hormone “cytokinin” which helps the bud to grow. So the less the retarder hormone and the more the promoter hormone, the greater chance to start developing more arms.

In addition, the second most essential requirement for the saguaro cactus to produce more arms is enough sunlight and enough nutrients. If the conditions are favorable, the saguaro branch starts to grow out. 

Why Does Saguaro Cactus Need Arms?

Saguaro cactus are desert plants. A hundred years old saguaro cactus is almost 25 to 30 feet tall.  This plant’s lifespan is almost 200 years and can survive in extreme drought because of its extra water storing capacity. The Older they are, the more they branch out.

Why Do Saguaro Cactus Arms Fall Off?

Though saguaro cacti are painstaking and more adaptive to a rude environment, they have a limit also. Extreme sunlight, drought, and ultra-heat cause dehydration. And that is the reason why saguaro cactus arms drop off.

Can You Replant a Broken Saguaro Arm?

Unlike other cacti, saguaro cacti don’t grow from cuttings or broken arms. It must need a rooted bottom to grow and to grow old.

What Determines the Number of Arms on a Saguaro Cactus?

Water is the most vital factor for any living plant on this earth, which is true for the saguaro cactus also. The more the water holds, the more the arms grow.

What Is a Saguaro Cactus Without Arms Called?

  • A “spear” saguaro which has no arm. 
  • “Crested” saguaro  or cristate saguaro  which  is rare.

What Saguaro Cactus Has the Most Arms?

“Shiva” the saguaro in Avra Valley has 78 arms. The name Shiva refers to the Hindu god Lord Shiva who has many arms.  

How Saguaros Grow

 The first age of its life, it grows and is protected by nurse trees like palo verde, mesquite, or ironwood tree. By and by, as saguaro starts to grow mature, the nurse tree sacrifices its life. According to cactus experts, the reason behind the death of nurse trees is the competition for water and nutrients.

Saguaro cactus grows very slowly and it depends on weather, sunlight, rainfall, and location. If it gets enough sunlight and rainfall, it starts to grow arms at the age of 70. However, if it doesn’t get enough, the arms growing process will delay up to 100 years.

How Long Does a Saguaro Cactus Take to Grow?

It is a unique and rare plant that grows very slowly. Since it grows in desert areas,  it can easily adapt to harsh environments like drought and extreme heat. In the first decade of its life, it grows only 1 inch. And, in three and a half decades, saguaro produces its first flowers and after celebrating the diamond jubilee (75 years) of its birthday, first grows arms.

What Do the Arms on a Saguaro Cactus Mean?

Height and age are correlated with the saguaro cactus. More age means more height of saguaro. And At the age of 75, saguaro reaches a height of 10 to 15 feet. That 15 foot determines that saguaro will begin to grow arms. In addition, more arms are interconnected with more blossoms and fruit.

Why is it Illegal to Cut down Saguaro Cactus Arms?

It takes a long time to grow an arm on the saguaro cactus. That’s why many states in the USA, especially in Arizona,  prohibit cutting down the saguaro arms. If anyone cuts it down, the law will fine $5000 or 25 years in jail.

Can I take Cuttings of Arms and Replant?

Recently, I was experimenting with rooting the saguaro cactus from its arms and cuttings. By trial and error method,I found that it is a 50/50 chance. 

Large and thick cacti will root and you need to care for this very patiently and consistently. Cut it from mother saguaro and give it to heal for 21 days.  Don’t forget to place it facing west or south-oriented so that it gets enough light. Within 3 to 4 weeks it will root.

Don’t pour any water when it is growing roots. After 4 weeks you should start watering. While preparing arms for cuttings, you should maintain the following process:

  1.  Make sure you are cutting  from the joint.
  2. Wait for  4 weeks to heal the cut and get hard and calloused.
  3. Prepare your soil with loam and coarse sand.
  4. Pour the soil in a 15 gallon container.
    Center the cutting in the pot, and fill the rest with silt, packing it around the cactus.
  5. If the cutting is not acclimated to the sun, cover it for the summer.
  6. Leave it potted for 1-2 years, so the roots can grow.

Can I Amputate this Saguaro Cactus Arm? Or Will it kill the Cactus?

You can cut the saguaro arms. just cut it with a proper sharpen knife and make sure it is sterilized beforehand.

Wrap it up

Saguaro cactus is a rare plant. It is able to live for more than a hundred and fifty years. And its first arms branch out at the age of 70. Only in the right conditions, it grow its arms.

Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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