Eye On Life Magazine

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Growing Cacti and Where To Plant Cactus

Different types of cacti (Cactaceae) - Artist: Jerilee WeiOne fun element in garden design is to grow what doesn’t naturally grow in your region. That can be a challenge, but it can lend itself to more creativity.  For example, while some succulents grow naturally in Florida, one of the design elements in our backyard garden is the cacti that we grow.  As a native Californian, and someone who lived among cactus for a good part of my life, growing cacti was not my first choice.  Yet, my husband was apparently completely captivated by the idea of growing them.  So when he found that a neighbor had chopped down significant sized pieces of cactus, he “rescued” them from a trip to the local landfill.

Cactus showing growth after only a month - Photo source: Jerilee Wei

Now, he never does anything half-way and when it comes to gardening his enthusiasm combined with his West Virginia farmboy ways can lead to some interesting garden design surprises.  As with any couple who has been together over twenty years, I’m well aware that my ideas and suggestions are often ignored.  

My suggestion for planting cactus was to put some of them outside each bedroom window on two sides of the house, especially under the bedroom of our fifteen year old granddaughter.  In case you think that is a curious suggestion, I will point out that planting cactus under low windows is a great deterent for safety concerns in terms of break-ins and for curbing teenaged moments of immaturity for sneaking out or having a boyfriend steak in.  Not that our lovely granddaughter or her boyfriend would do that — but having raised other teenagers, it is a cheap alternative to putting bars on the windows or alarms.  

I have no doubts about this theory since somewhere there is a young man who must well remember the time he came out of the bedroom that two of my girls shared and landed in the cacti outside.  I later heard his mother had to take him to the emergency room to remove the cactus needles and that it took several hours to cure him. The visual image of that young man wearing only his tidy-whities is one that I laugh about now, but as a mother wasn’t quite amusing at the time of creation.

Cacti Forest - Photo Source: Jason Vasquez via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

Anyway, my discarded suggestion wasn’t as creative a garden design as the one that my husband came up with.  We have a large very sunny yard with a stucco faced four foot wall separating the traffic off a very busy main road and our property.  The cactus he rescued were not small in number or in size.  What we ended up with was a row of cacti statues that at night resemble a very modern sculpture of the eery looking kind.  It’s a lot like being at Joshua Tree National Park looking out upon them with the moon and street lights.  I should mention at this point that we love them!

All About Cactaceae

The cactus family is a huge group of succulent, mostly spiny, desert plants found in many parts of the world.  There are at least one hundred genera and almost fifteen hundred different species, many of which are highly prized and cultivated for their grotesque forms, showy flowers, and as a food source (the fruits) and their ease of growing and starting in gardens if you have a compatible climate. 

Cacti (plural of cactus) grow native in the United States primarily in the southwestern states and nearby Mexico and south.  They, of course, do best in regions where scant rainfall, sandy or well-drained soil, and very warm temperatures are the norm.  However, that doesn’t mean that some varieties can’t grow in places, like Florida, for example.  They also do well in rocky or gravelly soil.  

Totem Pole Cactus - Photo: Cody Hough via Wikimedia Commons, Creative CommonsMany growers limit their cacti collections to growing them in pots.  This is especially a good idea if you live where it is too cold during the winter to have them outside and have room for them inside or have a greenhouse.  They will survive inside if it is warm and sunny enough, although they will not thrive inside as a rule.

Propagation and Grafting Cactus

Cacti make it easy to grow unusual looking and deliberate cacti sculptures simply because their tissue will renew itself and knit when injured.  Cuttings are the easiest method of propagation.  It’s a miracle in the eyes of my West Virginia farm boy to just stick them in the ground and they seem to grow overnight. The real secret to success is to let them dry out for a couple of days and then plant them.  You will only need to water them about every third day lightly for them to take root.  

If You’d Like To Know More About Growing Cacti!

How to Successfully Grow Your Cactus Cuttings

 Propagating Your Cactus - Desert Gardens

 Where To Plant Cactus