Bach's Cactus Nursery, a must-see destination in Tucson, AZ (May 2021)

I've been to Bach's Cactus Nursery in Tucson, AZ multiple times, but until my visit in May, it had been always been in the winter. What a difference: No frost cloth wrapped around tender plants and no Styrofoam cups slipped over cactus tops! People dressed in T-shirts and shorts and talking about the  heat instead of the cold. The May heat, mind you, was nothing like last week when temperatures in Tucson were above 110°F/43°C all week, topping out at 115°F/46°C on June 15. In fact, on the day of my visit, May 21, the high was 89°F/32°C.

Entrance to the nursery off N Thornydale Road

A friend of mine had put me in touch with an employee at Bach's, Jordan. When I arrived, Jordan was busy helping another customer so I walked around and took these photos of the outside sales area.



Desert ironwood tree (Olneya tesota) in full flower



NFS specimens of Dioon edule (stock plants), but the smaller plants on the top left were quite reasonable, considering their age and size

This hanging plant (Cynanchum marnierianum) was not for sale, otherwise I would have been tempted. From a distance, I thought it was a cactus, but it's actually a succulent from Madagascar with super cool flowers.

Echinopsis terscheckii, sometimes called the Argentine saguaro, blooming in the outside sale area

Assorted 1-gallon cactus. all $12. Unfortunately, none were labeled.

Yes, browsing is as much fun as it looks



Yucca rostrata for $150

Argentine toothpick cactus (Stetsonia coryne) in the foreground, another flowering ironwood tree in the background

Huge selection of fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus)

Perfect specimens of Agave ocahui. I got one of them, but unfortunately it sustained damage from agave edema on the way home. I talked to Randy Baldwin of San Marcos Growers about this when he visited my garden a few weeks ago, and he thinks agave edema following transportation in an enclosed vehicle is primarily caused by poor air circulation—exactly the conditions my plants were subjected to in the back of my car.


A small shade house off the outside sales area contains a collection of spectacular plants, which, according to the sign, are used for research, propagation, and seed production. As per request, I didn't touch any of them, but of course I took pictures:









By the time I was done drooling over the NFS plants in the shade house, Jordan was able to get away for a little bit and show me around. I got to ride on one of Bach's electric carts (always fun!) and received a behind-the-scenes look at the propagation and production greenhouses. I can't even begin to guess how many plants are growing in those greenhouses!

I've seen plenty of carts, but nothing as bad-ass as this one!







Golden barrels in the ground...

.... and in a greenhouse








Propagation plants outside

Totem pole cactus (monstrose form of Pachycereus schottii) for propagation

One of my favorite columnar cactus, the very blue Pilosocereus pachycladus

Something I'd never seen in person: variegated Aloe vera (aka Aloe barbadensis)

Not the most spectacular aloe, but a rare sight nonetheless

Echinopsis 'First Light' flowering in one of the propagation greenhouses. While these plants were not for sale, Bach's had for-sale plants outside, and one of them came home with me—and promptly flowered in our garden.

Echinopsis 'First Light' 

Echinopsis 'First Light' 

Echinopsis 'Flying Saucer' 

Echinopsis 'Volcanic Sunset' 

Echinopsis 'Apricot Glow' 


After I'd said goodbye to Jordan, I walked around the nursery grounds on my own to photograph many of the sights Jordan had pointed out earlier while he was driving me around on the electric cart.


Senita (Pachycereus schottii, the non-monstrose form of the totem pole cactus) and desert ironwood (Olneya tesota)

The nursery grounds are dotted with pieces of petrified wood in all sizes, including entire logs

The petrified wood is for sale, although way outside my price range

Fortunately, there are lots of cool plants to focus on beyond the petrified wood

But there's no denying that for a rock lover, this is about as good as it gets




Aloe hybrid created by Dan Bach (Aloe aculeata × Aloe wickensii). I spotted several plants in the ground, but Bach's is not propagating this hybrid for sale. I wish they did—it really is beautiful with its two-tone aculeata-type flowers.




Stately Aloidendron dichotomum. I saw it in bloom in December 2013.


Aloidendron 'Hercules'

Aloe suzannae. This is one of the most challenging tree-type aloes (it rots easily), and yet Bach's has several in the ground...

...all looking happy (well, as happy as A. suzannae ever looks).

Saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) growing in the ground...

...ready to be dug and transported to a new home

An unexpected sight: Brachychiton bidwillii or little kurrajong, a small tree native to tropical eastern Australia.

Clump of totem pole cactus (monstrose form of Pachycereus schottii)

Another Echinopsis terscheckii, this one with many new arms forming

Stenocereus thurberi var. littoralis, a diminutive relative of the organ pipe cactus. It's native to the southern tip of Baja California Sur.


Bach's Cactus Nursery has been around for over 40 years, and it's still owned by the same family. In a city with no shortage of great nurseries, it's a standout—not only because of its huge selection, but also because of the many mature specimens of cacti, agaves and other succulents growing on the 10-acre grounds. Not to mention all that petrified wood!

Bach's Cactus Nursery is located at 8602 N Thornydale Road, Tucson, AZ 85742. They're open 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.


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Comments

  1. If I ever get back to Tucson (I was there once as a child), I'm definitely going to visit that nursery! It was possibly the most diverse, well-stocked and meticulously maintained succulent nursery I've ever seen. $12 for just about any one-gallon cactus is a terrific deal and I loved all those beautiful flowering Echinopsis.

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    1. Bach's is almost like a nursery with a miniature botanical garden :-)

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  2. I would have never imagined that I'd read what sound like horrific temperatures in Tucson (above 110°F topping out at 115°F) and know that over the next couple of days my garden will be in that territory.

    The nursery looks very similar to I how I remember it from my 2011 visit. Someday I hope to return. Oh, by the way. I have an Aloe suzannae I've managed to keep alive in a container for years (at least I think that's what it is). Next time your up here take a look and if you want it... it's yours!

    BTW today is Hortlandia. I'm so glad you didn't book the trip. Me with a broken ankle and insane record breaking temps for the weekend would have meant a rotten visit I'm afraid.

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    1. I'll gladly take a look at your Aloe suzannae--and give it a new home if you're serious about parting with it. I'm always up for a new challenge.

      Hortlandia must have been miserable in 110+ degree temps! I feel so bad for the organizers and vendors.

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  3. Would be a fun place to wander. The Echinopsis flowers are gorgeous especially first light. Looks very similar to a waterlily. How did they acquire so many pieces of petrified wood? They are definitely much sought after by rock hounds.

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