Landscaping with cacti is a way to adorn your yard with beautiful, exotic plants that require little care or effort to maintain. They thrive under many conditions. Different types of cacti have unique textures and various colors. Many have exotic blooms. There are many shapes and sizes. By combining these different qualities and some imagination and planning you can create a bold, beautiful landscape.
Once they have been established you can virtually leave them alone except for the rare watering in the driest season. Although cacti are usually thought of growing only in the hottest climates, they are actually very resistant to the cold.
Most species are adapted to a dry desert climate. They have developed the ability to store water in their stems so they need very little watering. Using cacti will decrease the amount of your water consumption when compared to other types of foliage. This is especially true if you use sand or gravel for mulch. This southwestern style will eliminate the use of grass and make watering pretty much unnecessary. What they cannot tolerate is too much water. If the climate is not arid enough, your cacti will die. They require at least twelve inches of well draining sandy soil.
Cacti are perfect for potting. This will enable you to move them around and if necessary bring them inside for over wintering.
Types of Cacti
Cactus, for singular or cacti, for plural belong to the plant family Cactaceae. There are over 2000 known species of cacti. The majority are native to North, Central and South America. Selling cacti has become a big business. They are sold as ornamental plants for homes and gardens.
Barrel cactus varieties all have the appearance of a spiny barrel. They average between four and eight feet tall. They all flower in a circular formation on the top. The flowers range from yellow to red.
Beavertail are spineless and as the name suggests, are shaped like a beaver’s tail. Although spineless, it does have sharp, hair-like features that can prick you. It usually grows in clumps that range from one to two feet tall.
Cholla includes about thirty species of cacti. They have thin round stems. They produce a wide variety flower colors. They do make excellent landscaping plants.
Claret Cup Cactus produces a red, cup shaped flower. It is a common subject in photography. It is a small, spiny, ribbed shaped cactus. It attracts a variety of hummingbird species.
Fishhooks get their name from their hook shaped spines. They are small and grow close to the ground and resemble pincushions.
Hedgehog Cactus is the name given to a group of cacti that grow in clusters of cylinder shaped stems. They grow to a foot or less. They produce brilliant flowers. They are a popular choice for landscaping.
Ocotillo grows in clusters of long thin branches that can grow twenty five feet or more. They produce red flowers at the top. They are very drought resistant. They also attract hummingbirds.
Organ Pipe Cactus is very large, ribbed and spiny. They are related to but smaller than the Saguaro Cactus. They bloom at night and are pollinated by bats.
Pin Cushion cacti are small round cacti that resemble a pin cushion. They are able to survive in a variety of habitats.
Prickly Pear cacti are the most common cacti found in the United States. They are recognizable by their flat stems and fruiting flowers. They range in size from one to six feet. They also vary in color.
Saguaro cacti are the largest in the United States. They can grow over sixty feet high but the average height is twenty feet. They make excellent replacements for trees in a cactus landscape.
Totem Pole cacti are extremely tall. They are mostly spineless and grow in small clusters. They are a common cacti for landscaping in the Southwest United States.
Many species of cacti grow quite large very quickly. It is important to space them so as to allow room for them when they mature. With all the different shapes, colors, textures, sizes and other unique characteristics, a cactus landscape can be quite a work of art.
Photos by alycat, PlassPhoto, and kretyen- Creative Commons Attribution License