Cacti are very useful plant for landscaping. They are hardy, do not require much maintenance and grow in many different climatic conditions. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes making them nice accent plants in a landscape design.
Browse these beautiful examples of landscaping with cacti and see how unique a landscape design can be.
A beautiful example of cacti being used as living fence.
Leuchtenbergia principis is one of the most unusual forms of cactus. Though it closely resembles an Agave but the plant actually belongs to the family of cactus, thus justifying its common name, Cactus Agave. It does not have usual spines or typical globular or cylindrical formation of a cactus. It is characterized by its long and triangular tubercles that actually look like leaves of the plant. The tubercles of Leuchtenbergia principis grow on a corky stem. Each tubercle is 4 to 5 cm long and produces papery spines at the tip.
Leuchtenbergia principis/ Imahe by Manuel M. Ramos
Leuchtenbergia principis produces showy yellow flower in spring and summer. However, flowering is not really frequent.
Leuchtenbergia principis is significantly slow growing plant and grows up to 10 cm in wild. The plant has a strong tap root that requires deep soil. Like other species of cacti, Leuchtenbergia principis is not fussy about requirements. It requires occasional watering and fertilizer. The plant prefers hot and sunny location but protection from winter frost.
Leuchtenbergia principis can be easily propagated from seeds that can be collected from its fruit. Young seedlings can be grafted for quicker and healthy growth of plants.
Mammillaria is a large genus of globular or cylindrical spiny plants from Mexico and south-western part of the USA. It is also one of the best representatives of the Cactus family because of its beautiful formation and flowering.
Mammillaria sheldonii/ Image by Manuel M. Ramos
Most species of Mammillaria have small bristles-like spines that cover the globular or cylindrical body of the plant. Flowers appear near top of the plant and form a beautiful crown of silky and sometimes fragrant flowers. Flowering is followed by formation of colorful seed capsules that can be plucked and dried to obtain tiny seeds. Mature plants produce many offsets that usually appear at the bottom of the plant.
Mammillaria geminispina/ Image J Brew (flickr)
Mammillaria are quite easy to maintain as they only require bright sunlight, well-drained soil and regular watering. Since it is the largest genus of the Cactus family, Mammillaria offers a wide range of ornamental plants for container gardening. Some Mammillarias remain solitary whereas some form large clumps. Some Mammillarias grow in cylindrical shape, and some attain globular shape. Some Mammillarias have long and hooked spines whereas some have tiny bristles.
Most species of Mammillaria grow easily from seeds or offsets. Like other plants in the Cactus family, Mammillarias are quite slow growers but easy to maintain and propagate. These drought-tolerant plants only require hibernation in winter and protection from frost and high level of humidity.
Mammillaria candida/ Image by Blossfeldiana (flickr)
Pereskia is a genus of shrub-like cacti that are naturally found in tropical regions of Mexico and Brazil. The genus is believed to belong to ancient species of cacti that managed to keep their leaves and shrub like structure and did not evolve in to other cacti that we know today.
Though the genus of Pereskia is not much popular in horticulture, many members of this small genus make interesting specimen plants. They have woody stems with clusters of long and sharp spines. The leaves are fleshy and elliptic to oblong in shape. Most species produce large and showy flowers of pink color in late spring or early summer. These species vary greatly in size and growing habit. Some Pereskias can gain the height of 15 meters or more whereas some grow as small succulent shrub of 1 meter.
Pereskia grandiflora var voilacea/ Image by Erick Lux
How to Grow Pereskia
Most species of Pereskia are not fussy about growing conditions – they just require average water (though regular watering in spring and summer encourage vigorous growth), a well-drained soil, and sunny exposure (though they can survive dark shady spots as well).
Popular species of include:
P. grandiflora (Rose Cactus) – Evergreen to deciduous plant that can grow up to 5 meters. The plant produces clusters of pink flowers followed by fruits.
P. grandiflora var. voilacea – A purple flowering species that closely resembles Pereskia grandiflora.
Echinopsis is the most popular and widely grown genus from the family of cactus. This genus includes more than 100 species varying in size, shape and growing habits. Most of the species in the genus of Echinopsis grow in clusters of globular heads. In some species, these globular heads remain solitary whereas some species produce several offspring around globular heads.
Echinopsis are fast growing plants, and with age they change their shape from globular heads to elongated succulent stems. Old plants can grow into large clumps measuring more than 60 cm in diameter. At this age, most species of Echinopsis produce profuse flowers in spring and summer. The funnel-shaped flowers come in all shades of yellow, white, pink and orange. The best known flowers are borne on Echinopsis multiplex (sometimes described as Echinopsis oxygana).
Echinopsis Huntigton Hybrid, Image by epiforums(flickr)
Originally native to South America, Echinopsis multiplex is widely cultivated is many parts of the work for its lovely flowers. Though flowers last for a day or two, they appear in flushes several time during spring and summer – producing many flowers in each cycle. It is quite hardy plant that does not require special attention or growing conditions to thrive. Moderate watering, a regular soil mix with good drainage, and bright sunlight are more than sufficient for this hardy plant to grow. If kept dry, Echinopsis can easily withstand frost and cold.
Echinopsis multiplex, Image by pizzodisevo (flickr)
Echinopsis can be propagated from offspring sown in spring or summer. The best and most sought after varieties of Echinopsis are Schick hybrids produced by the Huntington garden. These include (my favorites):
Echinopsis ‘Antares’, Echinopsis ‘Bacarole’, Echinopsis ‘Brigitte’s Beauty’, Echinopsis ‘Desdemona’ and many more.
Echinopsis Schick Hybrid, Image by epiforums(flickr)
Common names of Echinopsis are Hedgehog cacti, Sea-Urchin cactus or Easter lily cactus.
Opuntia Ficus Indica or Prickly Pear is an excellent plant for beginners, master gardeners and professionals alike. It makes a striking accent plant and adds dramatic effects in gardens, landscapes and plantation schemes. The plant is known for typical wide, succulent, pad-like leaves that bear needle-like spines. Large spines have tufts of tiny bristles at their base that are usually known as glochids.
Opuntia Ficus Indica, Image by Catalina Gracia
Opuntia Ficus Indica can be grown as ornamental plant in containers, landscapes or rock gardens where it grows as unusual shrub up to 6 meters. Cup shaped flowers of yellow, red or purple colors appear at edges of succulent pads. Flowering is followed by fruition. The fruit is called ‘tuna’ and is covered in a thick, spiny skin which is why the plant is called prickly pear. Fruits are edible and taste like watermelon. Opuntia Ficus Indica is grown in many parts of Mexico as a crop as both leaves and fruits are used in many traditional recipes (leaves serve as vegetable and are also used in preparation of jams and jellies) and medicines (for diabetic patients). In fact, Mexico is the largest producer of Opuntia Ficus Indica.
How to Grow Opuntia Ficus Indica ‘Prickly Pear’
Opuntia Ficus Indica has been acclimatized in almost all parts of the world where it grows without requiring any special care. Opuntia Ficus Indica grows in a well drained soil under bright sunlight. The plant can withstand long spells of drought and cold. Water only when the soil is completely dry. When growing on containers or garden, handle Prickly Pear plant with care for its spines and bristles.
Today we are featuring 7 ornamental houseplants for beginners who want to brighten up empty spaces in their homes with lustrous greenery or bright flowers – but with minimal care and limited time to pamper, feed, prune and water. The plants listed here are recommended for beginners because of their ability to survive without requiring any special care. In fact, these are hard-to-kill plants that would not mind being ignored for some time.
Asparagus densiflorus ‘sprengeri’: This is one of the most cultivated species of its genus. Commonly sold as Asparagus Fern, this low growing plant is both easy and quick to grow. As an attractive houseplant, Asparagus Fern ‘Sprengeri’ bears richly green leaves on delicate branches that spread quickly and bear small inconspicuous flowers of white or pale pink colors. Flowers turn into red ornamental berries.
Asparagus Fern (Buy Asparagus sprengeri online) requires bright but filtered sunlight (protect it from scorching sun) and regular water during summer. Provide just barely necessary water in winter. Propagation is easy from divisions. Asparagus Fern makes an excellent houseplant grown in hanging baskets or as ground cover.
Asparagus Fern, Image by SupremeMystery(flickr)
Silver Inch Plant /Tradescantia zebrina (Buy Tradescantia zebrina online): This is perhaps the easiest foliage plant to grow for beginners. Suitable for hanging baskets, Silver Inch plant bears silver-white leaves with a central band of bright green color. Flowers are purple-pink that usually bloom in late summer. Silver Inch plant requires filtered sunlight and can be grown under shade or near well-lit windows. This beautiful foliage plant prefers ventilated conditions and withstands spells of drought. However, it is recommended that provide it with sufficient water and allow the soil to dry completely before next watering.
Silver Inch Plant
Bunny Ear Cactus /Opuntia microdasys (Buy Opuntia microdasys online): Bunny Ear cactus is a hardy and drought tolerant plant that would grow in almost any condition and withstand neglect. The plant bears succulent leaves that look like thick fleshy pads with small bristles on it. Native to Mexican desert, Bunny Ear Cactus grows well in full sun and dry conditions. When grown as houseplant, provide it with ample water and allow the soil to dry completely before next watering. Feed once a month with a regular fertilizer to encourage succulent growth of leaves/pads.
Bunny Ears Cactus, Image by Leslie Errin
Elephant Bush / Portlucaria afra ‘variegata’ (Buy Portlucaria afra ‘variegata’ online): Elephant Bush is a low growing, foliage plant. Suitable for growing as ground cover or in hanging baskets, this lovely plant bears small attractive leaves on thick and red branches. Small flowers of white or pink color appear rarely (usually after long periods of drought). Elephant Bush can be grown easily both indoor and outdoor where it receives bright sunlight and sufficient water in summer – though it can withstand spells of drought easily. Feed with a regular fertilizer in spring and summer and pot in a well-drained soil.
Elephant Bush, Image by wikipedia
Wandering Jew / Setcreasea purpurea (Setcreasea purpurea online): Wandering Jew is an excellent choice as ground cover or as a showy plant for hanging baskets. Propagated from divisions, Wandering Jew would grow in sunny as well as shady locations. It requires moderate watering and bears purple flowers throughout the year.
Wandering Jew Plant, Image from rgbmail.com.br
Tree Ivy / x Fatshedera lizei (Buy Fatshedera lizei online): Tree Ivy is a versatile plant that can be grown as evergreen ground cover, as climbing plant against walls and trellis, as evergreen shrub in garden or as pot plant grown both indoor or outdoor. It requires a shady spot, moderate watering and protection from frost.
Tree Ivy, Evergreen Ornamental Plant, Image by S John Davey
Pothos / Epipremnum aureum (Buy Epipremnum aureum online): Pothos is widely cultivated plant in almost all parts of the world. It makes an excellent houseplant that does not require much care. It makes an excellent foliage plant especially in warm climates where it produces showy green and sometimes variegated leaves. Pothos requires partial sunlight in outdoor locations or bright light in indoor spots. This ornamental plant should be provided with moderate amount of water and general purpose liquid fertilizer in spring.
I am a big fan of miniature gardens. They allow you a lot of freedom in a very limited space to grow your gardens the way you want – Japanese tea garden, a traditional Italian garden, a mini succulent garden or whatever creative or unusual you can imagine.
Best Plants for a Miniature Succulent Garden
Being a lover of cacti and succulents, I have compiled a list of unusual plants that I am going to use in my next miniature succulent garden experiment. These plants are unusual as well as slow growing, so they can live together for quite a long time.
Epithelantha Micromeris (Button Cactus)
Epithelanthais a really slow growing, miniature succulent. It grows in rocky and well drained soil, requires very little amount of water and usually remains solitary. The plant bears white or pink flowers in summer. Epithelantha requires a sunny spot to grow but does not like direct harsh sunlight. It is also known as Ping Pong cacti for its unusual formation and resemblance with the Ping Pong ball.
Epithelantha micromeris (Button Cactus), Image from www.drogen.bz
Lithops (Living Stones)
You would hardly find these unusual plants visible in their habitat because of their unusual formation and colors that make them look like pebbles. These miniature plants of South Africa are an excellent choice for a miniature garden. These are relatively easy to grow when provided with proper sunlight, regular fertilizer and grown in well drained soil. Lithopsbear white and yellow flowers that look like dandelion flowers.
Lithops (Living Stones), Image from lithops.net
Fenestraria (Baby Toes)
Another group of miniature and unusual succulents, Fenestrariabelong to extremely dry regions of South Africa where they rely on rainfall for survival and hide themselves in sand for protection against harsh climate. They are excellent choice for a miniature succulent garden and form a soft, green mat of succulent leaves. This unusual plant bears white and yellow flowers in winter. Fenestraria is also known as Baby Toes plants.
Fenestraria Rhopalophylla (Baby Toes), Image from wikipedia.org
Almost all species in this group are suitable for a miniature succulent garden. These attractive plants are known for their colorful foliage and unusual, tiny flowers. These are drought tolerant plants and do not require plenty of water. These unusual succulents need protection against direct/harsh sunlight and frost. The most unusual of all Crassula is Crassula ‘Buddha’s Temple’ which is a hybrid of Crassula Pyramidalis and Crassula Perfoliata var. minor. This unusual plant actually looks like a mini pagoda.
Crassula (Buddha’s Temple), Image from ilgiardinosullago.blogspot.com
Another unusual, lovely and rare succulent plant that belongs to Brazil, Discocactus horstii is known for its unusual white flowers that bloom in the night and spread intoxicating fragrance. This unusual plant grows solitary and forms a nice and symmetrical globose body. Mature plants produce woolly cephalium covered by bristles. This plant is sensitive to frost, requires partial sunlight and moderate watering.
Discocactus horstii, Image from www.discocactus.nl
April is about to end and temperature is going to rise as high as 109° F in the coming weeks. Almost all of my cacti and succulents are now under the shade (up to 60% filtered sunlight) on my roof top succulent garden. Haworthias will continue to blooms for some time. Cacti especially Astrophytums have already started blooming profusely. Today’s bloomers are:
Astrophytum Senile is bearing a large yellow flower with silky sheen.
Astrophytum Capricorne with a yellow flower.
Notocactus Mammulosus with a nice yellow-pink flower. This plant has been flowering vigorously for many years.