California Cactus Center, Pasadena's premier succulent nursery

After a morning of frenzied shopping at the Inter-City Show, my friend Theresa and I took a little break—to do some more shopping. At least in Theresa's case. I was just along for the ride and to provide scintillating conversation.

Our destination was California Cactus Center in Pasadena, conveniently located less than 2 miles from the Los Angeles County Arboretum where the Inter-City was held and less than 4 miles from the Huntington. It comes as no surprise that the California Cactus Center has some very nice plants.

Yucca rostrata specimens under one of those ubiquitous personal injury lawyer billboards. They're everywhere in Southern California and Nevada. People sure seem to get hurt a lot.

The nursery was established in 1976 by Thai immigrants Zhalermwudh and Maleenee Thongthiraj and is still owned by the family. The nursery is on a relatively small 12,000 sq. ft. lot on busy Rosemead Blvd, but it's packed with plants. Parking is tight (just a handful of small spaces) so you may need to leave your car elsewhere and walk a few hundred yards. Starbucks is right next door, hint hint.

Ocotillo canes that are very much alive! I've seen a lot of ocotillos sold like this at big box stores in Southern California and Arizona, and most of them looked very dead.

The outside sales area at California Cactus Center is packed with cacti, agaves, aloes, yuccas, and other succulents in sizes ranging from 1-gallon pots to 24-inch boxes. It's not a large area, but there are lots of plants nonetheless. Poking around is a lot of fun.

Real saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea)

And many other kinds of columnar cacti

The biggest of them all was this cardón (Pachycereus pringlei), sometimes called the saguaro of Baja California. It likes our growing conditions much better than the real saguaro from the Sonoran Desert.

Small spaces, many plants

Agave attenuata galore

My co-explorer Theresa was particularly taken by this umbrella shading an Adenium obesum. I think she'll do something similar in her garden. Me, I'm wondering if they make umbrellas with an agave design?

A pretty darn impressive Myrtillocactus geometrizans crest

Pumice by the bag! I'm always happy to see pumice readily available. There's nothing quite like it when it comes to improving the soil for cactus and other water-sensitive succulents.

Pachypodium namaquanum, one of the pachypodiums from Southern Africa

Not-for-sale plants from the collection of the California Cactus Center apparently have names. At least some of them. I wonder what the story is here?

Dorstenia gigas with spectacular branching. Why doesn't it have a name?

Ariocarpus collection

Impressive Deuterocohnia brevifolia polsters. The large one in the center is decades old.

The plants inside the shop are an eclectic mix of collector plants and commonly available succulents. Prices range from under $10 to....I don't even know. The cheapest plants are labeled with a specific price. Most plants, though, have a letter. Signs displayed throughout the nursery indicate the price of each letter. I believe A was $14.95. I was interested in a cactus marked L, and I believe it was in the mid-$80 range. You get the idea.

I'm not one to go gaga over cutesy succulent displays or arrangements, but I took a few photos of this succulent tree. This might be a good hands-on project for a winter meeting of the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society!

California Cactus Center isn't the kind of nursery you visit to find bargains, although many common succulents are competitively priced. It's a cool place to explore, with many treasures displayed throughout the nursery. The letter scheme instead of actual prices is a reflection of the clientele the nursery attracts. If you need to ask how much a plant costs, you probably can't afford it.

California Cactus Center is located at 216 South Rosemead Boulevard in Pasadena. They're open 10 am to 3pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

© Gerhard Bock, 2022. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. A small nursery, but packs a punch! That crested Myrtillocactus geometrizans is gorgeous.
    I've been using an umbrella for occasional shading with varying results. I like the succulent tree: it could stand in for a Christmas tree in a water-wise world.

    1. Theresa and I got Christmas tree vibes, too. A good craft project for a November succulent club meeting!

  2. Another "local" nursery I've never visited. I think labeling with letters instead of prices is clever given the ever escalating price of, well, everything. That way the owners only need to change one sign ;)

    1. Yes!!! So much easier than constantly changing prices on thousands of plants. Their system reminded me of Annie's Annuals' color-coded plant tags, except CCC has far more categories than Annie's.

  3. Ages ago, CCC was the first in town to have large quantities of Sansevieria cylindrica -- caused quite a stir! You are a very tactful man, Gerhard. I've heard their prices discussed a little more heatedly! I love browsing their plants, thanks for sharing your visit.

    1. Ha ha, I try to be diplomatic. Plus, who am I to criticize their pricing? They've clearly established a formula that works for them and their clients.

  4. Gosh... been a long time since I've been there, but it's still looking about the same. Fun to wander...

    1. Right? It looks like it hasn't changed much at all over the years. Not that it needed to.

  5. A nice place to visit. No purchases?

    1. Theresa bought some terracotta pots and a special kind of rock for top dressing that she likes. Me, I only took photos.


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