How to Grow an Unconventional Cactus Garden
Growing an unconventional cactus garden can be a fun and creative way to add unique plants to your outdoor space. With a little planning and proper care, you can have a thriving cactus garden with interesting specimens that will stand out from typical greenery.
Selecting Unusual Cactus Varieties
When starting an unconventional cactus garden, look beyond the common cacti sold at most nurseries. There are thousands of cactus species to choose from, many with distinct shapes, colors, and features that make them unique. Here are some interesting types to consider:
Rare Fruit-Bearing Cacti
Dragon fruit cactus: This tropical cactus produces edible magenta fruit and has striking leaf-like stems. It needs warm temperatures and cannot survive freezing weather.
Prickly pear: The pads are edible and the fruits can be made into juice or jelly. There are many prickly pear varieties to select from.
Pitaya: Also known as dragon fruit, this stunning cactus has wispy trailing stems and produces sweet fruit. It thrives in arid climates.
Unusual Shapes and Textures
Brain cactus: Named for its wrinkled, brain-like shape, this small cactus is a conversation starter.
Coral cactus: Tiny protrusions give this plant a bumpy, coral-like appearance. It grows in small mounds.
Old man cactus: With its upright stems and fluffy white hair-like spines, this cactus resembles an old man’s beard.
Christmas cactus: This classic houseplant has brilliant red, pink, orange, or white flowers during the holiday season.
Rainbow hedgehog cactus: Spines on this mini cactus emerge in colorful hues like magenta, yellow, and cream.
Moon cactus: Grafted plants feature neon green, orange, or red globular tops atop a regular green cactus base.
Providing the Right Growing Conditions
To keep your unusual cacti healthy, give them the conditions they need to thrive. Here are some tips:
Sun: Most cacti require full sun for 6+ hours per day. Some, like Christmas cactus, prefer partial shade.
Soil: Use a very well-draining cactus/succulent soil mix. You can make your own with sand, gravel, and organic matter.
Pots: Choose containers with drainage holes and use terra cotta pots for better air circulation.
Water: Only water when the soil is completely dry, then soak the soil thoroughly. Avoid overwatering.
Temperature & humidity: Cacti prefer warm, dry air. Keep them away from cold drafts and high humidity.
Unique Design Ideas
An unconventional cactus garden doesn’t have to look like a traditional succulent bed. Get creative with these design options:
Mix With Other Plants
Incorporate your funky cacti into plantings with grasses, flowers, shrubs, and other greenery. The contrast of spiny cacti and soft textures creates visual interest.
Make Themed Vignettes
Group pots of cacti together based on shape, color, or other features to make a statement. For example, create an all-white vignette or rainbow palette.
Use as Accents
Use individual cacti in containers as accents on porches, patios, windowsills, and other small spaces. Choose specimens with striking shapes and colors.
Plant cacti in repurposed tea pots, boots, baskets, and other fun containers. Make sure they have drainage.
Paint and decorate pots, or showcase cacti in creative substrates like colored glass beads. Get artsy with garden décor like sculptures, wind chimes, and found objects.
Proper Care and Maintenance
Take steps to keep your exotic cacti looking their best:
Groom regularly – Carefully remove dead leaves, flowers, and collapsed stems with a gloved hand or brush.
Watch for pests – Check regularly for insects and treat promptly if found. Mealybugs and spider mites commonly affect cacti.
Fertilize in spring – Use a balanced fertilizer made for cacti and succulents. Do not over-fertilize.
Repot when necessary – Replant rootbound specimens in larger containers with fresh soil suited for cacti.
Protect from cold – Move potted cacti indoors before temperatures drop below freezing.
With proper selection, design, and care you can create a showstopping cactus garden that breaks the mold! Let your imagination run wild and have fun discovering new varieties beyond typical cacti.