Creating a cactus garden

Creating a cactus garden

I’ve always liked cactus plants, and it was in fact, the first plant that I grew when I was young (a small barrel cactus). So the sight of cacti brings back fond memories to me, despite their thorny side. Cactus gardens are simply beautiful too, and if done right, would be the pride of place in any garden. If you live in a place where you can grow cacti, consider developing a small cactus garden (or at least a succulent garden – they are all related).

Rock or desert garden themes combine well with cacti, and during flowering season, the garden can transform into a brilliant showpiece. Cactus gardens do best if they are small, a suggested size might be 500-1000 sq feet in which there’s enough space for you can plant various species of cacti, both small and large. Cactus plants require little watering, but make sure your irrigation is excellent.

Set up a cactus garden

Mark out your garden perimeters, and dig about a foot deep and remove the top layer. This layer needs to be replaced with desert soil to mimic the cacti’s natural habitat. A low rock wall is not necessary, but it enhances the look and feel of the cactus garden. Beautiful rocks can be purchased or gathered, and after that cemented together to form the wall.

cactus garden

After planting, the surface of the cactus garden bed can then be covered in small pebbles and enhanced with boulders to divide up zones. Sandstone make excellent boulders. Other ideas:

  • Footpaths overlaid with fine gravel and lined with bricks or rocks are great, as are reflexology footpaths.
  • Planting date palms, Juniper, or Joshua trees help provide shade; many cactus gardens just don’t have any shade at all.
  • Fountains, ponds, gazebos, and even birdbaths give your cactus garden an “oasis feel”.
  • Special walls made from bamboo can be added to create reading or relaxation areas.

cacti and succulents

Many cacti species are much easier to care for than other regular plants. The large species need full sun and well drained soil. Some examples are Carnegiea (Saguaro cactus), Cephalocerus, Espostoa, Ferocactus, and Echinocactus. Smaller cacti can be planted in pots and then place in the soil which helps for easier handling when they need transporting; some suggested species are Coryphantha, Echinopsis, Lobivia, and Gymnocalycium. Plant them about a foot apart, and for larger species, about 2 feet apart. Other suggested plants that can be mixed in with cacti include Longwood Blue Bluebeard, Autumn Joy, Red Bottlebrush, Apache Plume, Aloes and Geranium.

colorful cactus garden
Cactus gardens can be colorful during flowering season. Many succulents and cacti do have big, colorful flowers.

The cactus garden can be enhanced with some beautiful succulents like Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana), Aloe Vera (Aloe vera), Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa), Whale’s Tongue Agave (Agave ovatifolia), and Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata).

For watering, you can manually water or use a drip irrigation system. Newly planted cacti should be watered VERY little, because their roots may rot. Only after more than a month later, when new roots start to become active, can you water more thoroughly. Even then, let the soil dry fully, before the next round of watering. Reduce watering during autumn and feed the cacti each month during spring and summer. As a general rule of thumb, feed well during warm weather, and taper off the feeding during cool weather.

cactus garden with footpath

After your cactus garden has settled down, it really doesn’t need much monitoring or maintenance. That’s part of the beauty. A cactus garden can be so much more rewarding in terms of creativity and flexing your aesthetic sense, to see how far it will go.

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