Teddy bear cholla in bloom

With their soft fuzzy appearance and resemblance to teddy-bear’s arms these shrubs or small trees have a strong visual appeal that belies their danger to passers-by. They grow up to 8′ tall and have a stout, upright trunk with many jointed branches that fall off with maturity leaving a tree like plant. The trunk and branches are green and densely covered with silvery white, 1″ long spines that create the soft fuzzy look. In spring and summer, yellow-green flowers appear at the tips of the stems and give way to fruits that contains few viable seeds. Pack rats use the stems that fall off the plant as a defense around their burrows. Teddy bear cholla does well in a xeriscape and is a popular choice for cactus, desert, rock, and Mediterranean gardens.

Type: Shrub or small tree

Height: 1-8′

Bloom Color: Yellow-green flowers sometimes tipped with red

Bloom Time: Spring to summer

Light: Full sun

Soil: Lean, dry, very well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 9-11

By Karen