Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bach’s Cactus Nursery (Tucson, AZ)

Instead of dealing with the aftermath of the cold snap that has gripped us since Thursday of last week, I decided to write the first extended post from my trip to Arizona last week.

The first destination we’re going to revisit is Bach’s Cactus Nursery in Tucson. From a post Loree “Danger Garden” Bohl had written in December 2011 I already had an idea of what to expect. But I wasn’t prepared for the size of the nursery. It’s large! In fact, the friendly employee who gave me a ride on one of their electric carts told me that at 10 acres it’s the third largest cactus nursery in the country. (I don’t know what the largest two are.)

Let’s start at the entrance and work our way through the nursery.


I love the colorful clump of Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia ‘Santa Rita’) at the entrance


Desert silhouettes in metal gate


Cactus galore from the second you enter the parking lot…


…and talavera pots!


Mexican fencepost cactus (Pachycereus marginatus), $80 for 5 gallon plants


More columnar cacti


Assorted yuccas


Yucca decipiens—what a beauty


Yucca linearifolia—not shabby either

The employee took me to this silk-floss tree was still in bloom.


Silk-floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), assorted cacti, and petrified wood


Silk-floss tree flower (Ceiba speciosa)

The beautiful Aloe dichotoma in the next few photos was just getting ready to bloom. Being quite frost-sensitive, it gets wrapped when temperatures drop below freezing.


Flowering Aloe dichotoma and petrified wood


Aloe dichotoma

But plants aren’t the only exciting feature in this part of the nursery: Wherever you look there are huge pieces of petrified wood! Most of it came from an estate of a collector, and it is for sale. I didn’t ask about pricing, but I can’t imagine it’s cheap. Still, I would love to have a few pieces in my garden. The colors scream desert!


Petrified wood


Petrified wood close-up


More petrified wood


Petrified wood and organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi)

Among the many mature succulents planted throughout the nursery these were my favorites:


Queen Victoria agave (Agave regina-victoriae)


Agave parryi var. truncata


Dioon edule and azurite. I think cycads mix really well with succulents.


Cactus bed in display garden


Dioon edule and golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)


One of the largest golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) I’ve ever seen

131202_BachsTucson_045 131202_BachsTucson_044

LEFT: Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) with polished petrified wood
RIGHT: Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’ with rose quartz


Clump of unlabeled Mammillaria with volcanic (?) rock

One entire section of the nursery is dedicated to growing saguaros in the ground. I suppose customers pick the ones they want, and they are then dug up to order.


Saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) growing in the ground


Saguaros growing in the ground

Smaller ones were for sale in 5-gallon plants. Considering that saguaros are extremely slow-growing (it takes them about 100 years to grow their first arm), I‘d want to start out with something bigger.


Potted saguaro, $30 for 5-gallon plants

More cacti lined up outside the propagation greenhouses:


Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus peruvianus)


Prickly pear galore

Bach’s carries some agaves and other succulents, like ones below, but their focus clearly is on cacti.


Agave parryi


Sticks on fire (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’)

Here’s what you might find inside the propagation greenhouses:


Propagation greenhouse


Flats upon flats of what looks like Hoodia gordonii, a member of the stapeliad family


Baby golden barrels (Echinocactus grusonii)

Plants that are ready for sale go in a different greenhouse:


Greenhouse with cacti ready for sale


Cactus for sale in retail greenhouse


Sale table


Monstrose cacti (left: Cereus hildmannianus?, right: Lophocereus schottii)


Monstrose form of Cereus hildmannianus?

If the logistics of transporting plants back to California hadn’t been an issue, I would have bought a few of those monstrose cactus you see in the last couple of photos. I don’t know why, but I find them oddly intriguing.

Alas, they were too tall and too heavy to ship, so I drove off with nothing but my photos and memories. (That sounds a bit like a melodramatic country song in the making, doesn’t it?)

Bach’s Cactus Nursery is located at 8602 N Thornydale Rd, Tucson, AZ 85742. They don’t currently seem to have a web site, but you can reach them at (520) 744-3333.


Arizona 2013 trip index


  1. An amazing set of photo plant porn Gerhard! And all those goodies but not able to take home even a single plant, sigh...But to just be able to visit and see all those gorgeous plants is an amazing experience already!

    1. In a way, it was good I didn't have room to go shopping there. I wouldn't have known where to begin :-).

  2. Again, not sure I could actually do a trip like this knowing that I couldn't buy. That Yucca linearifolia is so nice!

    1. I thought it would be harder to resist, but knowing that I simply didn't have the room took away some of the temptation. Yucca linearifolia is beautiful indeed. I have one about the size of the plants you saw in the photo above, and I love it. And I got a Yucca queretaroensis from Greg Starr which is quite similar (see tomorrow's post).

  3. You made the right choice (take us back to the desert and avoid the cold), thank you! I had forgotten about the petrified wood, pretty cool. This was the very first place we stopped on that vacation (well besides getting lunch in Phoenix after picking up the rental car). I remember being giddy with excitement when we pulled into the parking lot. Can you imagine what damage you could have done on this trip if you'd been driving home!?

    1. The petrified wood was a nice surprise. I regretted not being able to buy a chunk--more so than not being able to buy plants.

      Someday I'll drive to Arizona. From Sacramento it's 11 hours to Phoenix, only about an hour more than to Portland! That's straight driving, though, with no stops, something I'd never be able to do.

  4. If the two of us alternated driving, we could do it, Gerhard..... Sue

  5. I was in Tucson 2 months ago. I googled nurseries nearby and Bach's popped up. I'm so glad I went. It's such a beautiful nursery. I loaded the back of my Jeep and drove back to Austin. I love that place.

    1. Glad to hear I'm not the only who loves Bach's. So many fantastic plants. And the grounds are pretty fantastic, too, even though it's a working nursery.