Most cacti are thought of as desert dwellers that thrive in baking hot sun and punishing, nutrient poor soils. While much of this is true, many cacti can thrive where brief freezes occur and some even in areas with snow. Cacti for zone 9 will find average low temperatures of 20 to 30 degrees F. (-7 to -1 C.). There are many specimens of zone 9 cacti available for such extremes. Some of the hardier groups are Echinocereus, Mammilaria, and Opuntia, but there are many more subspecies in semi-hardy families which are useful to zone 9 gardeners.
Zone 9 Cactus Info
Cactus and other succulents are easy to maintain and have few special care requirements once established. They perform beautifully either in the ground in warmer climates, in containers outdoors in summer, or indoors year-round.
Using cactus for zone 9 can provides a desert themed landscape with drought tolerance and often brightly colored flowers and fruits. Most specimens suited for the region are smaller plants but mixed with yucca or agave for vertical appeal, they can bring a note of Saharan splendor to your backyard.
Before even selecting plants, the right conditions need to be developed for growing cacti in zone 9. Cacti need freely draining soil and do nicely in gritty mediums. In garden beds, you can add horticultural sand, gravel, or other gritty material to enhance drainage. Potted plants prefer a cactus mixture or a 50% mix of sand and potting soil.
Most prefer sun all day long but should be protected from the hottest rays of the day to prevent sunburn. Contrary to popular belief, cacti do need water. Plants with pads will wither and pucker when cacti are drought stressed. Barrel cacti and those with needles that fare better due to adaptations in the skin and needles that help conserve moisture and prevent burning. Most cacti for zone 9 should be watered once a week in summer and once or twice per month in winter.
Choosing Zone 9 Cacti
Pretty much any containerized cactus can be grown indoors in zone 9. It’s the varieties for outdoors that need to be vetted. Some of the better cactus for zone 9 might be in families from regions that do experience some freezing and are often higher elevation.
Monk’s Hood is a cute little barrel cactus with spirally arranged spines. Over time it will achieve 4 feet in height (1 m.). A super cold tolerant plant from the Sonoran Desert is the Saguaro cactus. This classic example can grow to 50 feet tall (15 m.), adding elegant height to the cactus garden.
Several Cholla are very cold hardy such as Chain Fruit, Bush Pencil, and Giant Tree cholla. Echinocereus is another group of plants that can withstand freezing temperatures. Try Claret Cup, Golden Barrel, or Lady Finger.
When growing cacti in zone 9 you cannot go wrong with specimens from certain families. Many of the Opuntia, Ferocactus, Euphorbia, Stenocereus, and Trichocereus will thrive right in the ground in zone 9 regions. Below are some of the more popular varieties:
- Engelman Prickly Pear
- Tiger Tongue
- Orange Bunny Ears
- Cow’s Tongue
- Elephant Ear
- Pencil Bush
- Moroccan Mound
- Wax Plant
Mix in some ice plants, aloe, or low growing succulents and you will create a dreamy desert landscape.