By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Cacti and succulents make outstanding landscaping plants. They require little maintenance, grow in a variety of climates, and are easy to care for and grow. Most will even tolerate neglect. These plants are also well adapted to potted environments, making them excellent candidates for growing indoors as well.
Types of Cacti
Cacti vary in size, color, shape and growing habits. They may grow in upright columns, spreading clumps or spiny balls. They might even be found cascading over large rocks or in hanging baskets. Cacti are available in numerous varieties too, many of which produce stunning flowers. While many types of cactus are native to desert climates, most will tolerate a number of growing conditions. This versatility makes cactus landscaping possible nearly anywhere.
Some popular types of cacti found in landscape settings include:
- Prickly pear cactus - known for its broad, flat prickly stems, of which the tips turn coral colored in bright sun.
- Barrel cactus - resembles spine-covered barrels.
- Cholla cactus – has thin round stems and is quite attractive when used as a focal point within the landscape.
- Pincushion cactus – resembling a small pincushion with its tiny spines sticking out from its round ball-like shape, it makes an interesting addition to the garden.
- Totem pole cactus - characterized by their large height and spineless column shape.
- Organ pipe cactus – grows in clusters that look similar to its name-organ pipes.
Cactus Landscaping Tips
When landscaping with cactus and succulent plants, you should always do your homework first. Learn more about their individual growing requirements and try to match these requirements to that of your landscape.
Cactus plants have a number of survival tactics that allow them to adapt to a particular environment; however, it’s always better to choose those that are more likely to thrive in your particular area. Including a variety of cacti that share similar growing needs but with different heights and textures will add interest to the cactus garden.
Growing Cactus Outdoors
When growing cactus outdoors, choose a sunny, sloped location whenever possible. Locating cactus on a slope allows for better drainage, which is vital when dealing with these plants.
Depending on the types of cactus chosen, beds should be about 6-12 inches deep with well-drained soil specially formulated for cactus plants. This can be purchased or mixed yourself using two parts potting soil, two parts sand, and one part gravel. Cactus plants also enjoy a moderate layer of mulch such as pebbles, rocks, or similar substance.
Once established, cacti require little maintenance and very little, if any, water.