The peak time for saguaro blooms is normally mid-May to mid-June. The flowers have a short life span of typically no longer than a day.

Last year was Tucson’s driest year on record, which has so far created a pretty lackluster wildflower season this spring.

But there’s good news: Saguaro blossoms have little to do with our disappointing rain levels last year, which means we should see those milky white blooms as normal this year. 

"I think you can say that saguaros, and cacti in general, do not need to have a timely and abundant rain for their flowering," says Massimo Boscolo, horticulturist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. "I expect them to flower as normal." 

"Wildflowers are completely dependent on the rain because they are annuals," Boscolo says.

On the other hand, cacti store water, which makes them less dependent on precipitation — though wetter years can produce more flowers.

A close-up of a saguaro flower.

Boscolo says Arizona's drought has less of an impact on adult saguaros and more of an impact on baby saguaros and the growth of new ones. And if you didn't know, adult saguaros — on average, age 55 years old and between 6 and 8 feet in the Tucson Mountains — are the ones that flower.

The peak time for saguaro blooms is typically mid-May to mid-June, though a few are already blooming around the Tucson area. Boscolo expects the peak of saguaro blooms to be around the same time this year.

"Generally speaking, a saguaro can flower almost any time of the year, apart from when it's really cold, so usually December and January, you usually don't see any flowers," Boscolo says. "As early as March and February, there will always be a few here and there with flowers on them — it's part of their genetic variation. But the majority flower in May and June."

Other cacti, such as prickly pear and hedgehog cacti, have also been seen with colorful blooms in Tucson neighborhoods.

To catch saguaros in bloom this year, Boscolo suggests visiting places such as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which has already seen some blooms this year; Sabino Canyon; and the Tucson Mountains and Gates Pass area.

"There's no need to go on any particular, difficult hikes to see cactus blooms," Boscolo says. "There are many places close to town."

And now for some random facts about saguaro flowers that you may not know: Bats love them and so do doves — Boscolo says that doves are really important because they spread the seeds wherever they fly. 

The flowers also have a short life span of typically no longer than a day. Read more fun facts about the desert flower here.


Subscribe to stay connected to Tucson. A subscription helps you access more of the local stories that keep you connected to the community.