DIY paper cactus

I taught a kid’s art class yesterday as a personal favour, but with little experience it was hard to come up with an activity that was fun for everyone, could be as easy or difficult as they wanted it to be (their age group varies from 6 to 9), was relatively mess-free and could easily be completed within 90 minutes. Enter these DIY paper cactuses. The younger ones can use a template (just draw the outline for them to minimise mistakes) of a simple two arm cactus, and the older ones might like to experiment with more complicated plant shapes. Although these 3D cactuses need at least 3 sides to be able to stand upright, you could give them as many sides as you like – just look at the yellow ‘aloe vera’ example below!

To give the kids some inspiration I drew some cactus plants on a piece of paper first, to give them a few ideas.

I also bought some small terracotta plant pots which are super cheap and easy to paint onto and decorate. To speed up the drying process (so they didn’t smudge the paint) I gave them a hairdryer to use.

You will need:

  • Coloured card – green was the most popular. You’ll need at least 3 pieces of card per person.
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • White wax crayon to draw the needles
  • Pink tissue paper for the flowers
  • Brown tissue paper for the ‘earth’
  • Plant pots to put them in
  • Acrylic paint to decorate the pots with


1. Paint your pots. Use acrylic paint, or even glue and tissue paper, shells, sequins etc.

2. Whilst the pots are drying, take 3 sheets of card, line them up on top of each other and then fold the pile in half lengthways.

Separate them and arrange them to have the fold point upwards – like the roof of a house.

3. Apply glue onto the top of the first two piece of card, and press the top left side of the second sheet onto the top right side of the first sheet to create a W.

Then press the last piece of card into the sticky V to create this:

4. Draw the outline of the shape you want onto each side of card and cut. For something simple, stick to a two-arm symmetrical cactus (draw half a cactus along one side of the fold, then cut all side of paper in one go). For something more complex, you can cut a different design from each side of card.

5. Use the white wax crayon to draw the needles.

6. Tear pieces from the pink tissue paper and scrunch them into ‘flowers’, then stick them on.


7. Tear up the brown tissue paper and scrunch them into ‘dirt’ balls.

Arrange them in the pots to help the 3D cactuses stay upright.

That’s it! Super fun to try with other shapes too, to create a selection for on the window sill or to decorate their bedrooms with. They could even make a cute gift?

Here are some other we made:

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