Mom gets a saguaro cactus

Saguaro Cactus (pronounced Suh-Wahr-Oh) are synomous with the desert. Although these giants only grow in one desert – the Sonoran, the saguaro cactus is the first image that pops into your head when you think of cactus. Adding a saguaro cactus to your landscape can be the perfect finishing touch. When my mom, (Tamara Merrill) decided she wanted one, she reached out to Dave at Morales Ranch. If you’re a fan of the show Dirty Jobs – you may have already heard about the Morales family ranch and what it takes to harvest, move and replant one of these desert giants.

Choosing the perfect place for a saguaro cactus

This is slightly more complicated than you might imagine. With other landscaping on the property, water is the first concern. The saguaro needs little to no additional watering – what mother nature provides it has learned to live with. Installing a saguaro where there is a drip system could mean certain death to the cactus.

The second concern is accessibility – a large saguaro needs to be transported on a truck that is equipped with a special boom/hoist designed just for cactus. Existing properties generally have limited truck access to backyards or even large front yard.

The final concern and possibly the most important is the orientation of the cactus. After choosing the location in the front yard, Dave made careful notes about the direction the cactus would face. As I mention in the video, it’s important that the cactus he choose from his ranch would be able to be harvested, transported, and then planted so it faced the same direction in it’s new home as it had in it’s original home. The skin on a cactus is significantly thicker on the side that faces the afternoon sun. Orientation to the sun when transplanting a cactus, not just a saguaro, but any cactus is really important to prevent the cactus from burning and scarring, or possibly even burning and dying.

The perfect location – away from irrigation, facing the correct direction and easily accessible for the truck.

Fun Saguaro Facts

Saguaro cactus grow very slowly – but actual growth rates vary. The common belief is that they about an inch a year for the first 10 years with a slight acceleration after that – a 4′ saguaro (48″) is believed to be about 25-30 years old.

If a saguaro is going to grow arms (they don’t all have/grow arms) the arms won’t appear until the cactus is around 70 years old.

Saguaros live long lives – somewhere between 150-200 years.

Saguaros bloom large, showy, white flowers – but you have to look quick – most cactus blooms will only last 1 day.

Saguaro Cactus root system

The saguaro root system consists of a tap root(s) and small roots that radiate out. The tap root can be a couple of feet deep. The smaller roots tend to be 4″- 6″ deep and can radiate out from the cactus as far as the cactus is tall. These roots have special hairs on them that are designed for the fast and efficient collection of water during a rainfall. It is believed that a saguaro can gather 200 gallons of water during a single monsoon rainfall.

Is it illegal to destroy or remove a saguaro?

Yes and no. There are a lot of details within the the Arizona native plants protection act. It is illegal to destroy or remove any plants on public lands, but destroying or removing plants from private lands is a different story. That’s a story for another Cactus Chronicles post. Did you miss the first CC post – you can read it here.

Thanks so much for stopping by today.
Do you have a favorite cactus? If so please tell me about it in the comment section below, I’d love to check it out!


  1. Tamara Merrill on August 3, 2021 at 1:05 am

    Gustavo feels like a movie star. Thanks for writing about him.❤

  2. Gary on March 22, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    I saw the Dirty jobs episode when first aired and now in 2022 I am streaming all the seasons. Seeing the planting again prompted me to search Internet for more information. On Dirty Jobs I believe the cactus was 19 feet so your saguaro was planted after that correct? When and what was the cost? Has it bloomed since planting? Recent pictures? Thanks for sharing!

    • Tiffany_ Spaulding on July 18, 2022 at 3:36 am

      Hi Gary – So sorry I missed your comment. Yes, moms saguaro was planted after the Dirty Jobs episode. It has not bloomed, nor has it changed in any noticeable way, they are such slow growers. Thanks for visiting the blog. T.

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