Cold Hardy Cactus: Cactus Plants For Zone 5 Gardens

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

If you live in USDA plant hardiness zone 5, you’re accustomed to dealing with some very cold winters. As a result, gardening choices are limited, but maybe not as limited as you think. For example, there are several types of cold hardy cactus that tolerate sub-zero winters. Want to learn more about cactus plants for zone 5? Keep reading.

Zone 5 Cactus Plants

Here are some of the best cactus plants for zone 5 landscapes:

Brittle Prickly Pear (Opuntia fragilis) provides creamy yellow blooms in summer.

Strawberry Cup (Echinocereus triglochidiatus), also known as King’s Crown, Mohave Mound or Claret Cup, has bright red blooms in late spring and early summer.

Beehive (Escobaria vivipara), also known as Spiny Star or Foxtail, produces pink blooms in late spring.

Tulip Prickly Pear (Opuntia macrorhiza), also known as Plains Prickly Pear or Bigroot Prickly Pear, also produces yellow blooms in summer.

Panhandle Prickly Pear (Opuntia polyacantha), also known as Tequila Sunrise, Hairspine Cactus, Starvation Prickly Pear, Navajo Bridge and others produces yellowish-orange blooms in late spring or early summer.

Fendler’s Cactus (Echinocereus fender v. kuenzleri) provides the garden with deep pink/magenta blooms in late spring and early summer.

Bailey’s Lace (Echinocereus reichenbachii v. baileyi), also known as Bailey’s Hedgehog, produces pink blooms in late spring and summer.

Mountain Spiny Star (Pediocactus simpsonii), also known as Mountain Ball, has pink blooms in late spring, early summer.

Tips on Growing Cactus in Zone 5

Cacti like lean soil with an alkaline or neutral pH. Don’t bother improving the soil with peat, manure or compost.

Plant cactus in well-drained soil. Cactus planted in moist, poorly drained soil will soon rot.

Raised or mounded beds will improve drainage if winter rain or snow is frequent. Mixing native soil generously with coarse sand will also improve drainage.

Don’t mulch the soil around cacti. However, you can top-dress the soil with a thin layer of pebbles or gravel.

Ensure the planting area receives plenty of sunlight year round.

Water cactus regularly during the summer months, but allow the soil to dry between waterings.
Discontinue watering in autumn so cacti have time to harden off and shrivel before winter.

If possible, plant your cactus near south- or west-facing walls, or near a concrete driveway or sidewalk (but safely away from play areas or other places where the spines can cause injury.

More Information about Zone 5
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