Cactus Desert Landscaping for a Stylish Yard

Have you ever considered the variety of cactus plants available when looking to brighten an area of the garden where it seems impossible to grow anything? If you live in a dry, desert environment, landscaping options may be limited, but a large number of cacti now available mean your garden does not need to lack vibrancy. Cacti (succulents with areoles) and other succulents store water in their stem or foliage, so they have developed a self-preservation system that will keep them safe from those of us who lack green fingers. They are uniquely suited to cactus desert landscaping.

Creating A Stylish Landscape

The cactus garden provides plenty of opportunities to create a gorgeous showpiece in dry and desert prone areas. This often-overlooked family offers something for every situation. Cacti are versatile and adaptable plants that suit a wide range of growing conditions, and they require much less water than most plants. Also, they are easy to care for, and most will even tolerate neglect.

When planning your cactus landscape, valuable considerations include your preferences for functionality, cost, maintenance requirements, and the desired aesthetic appearance. Consider the many different colors, textures and shapes, and sizes and take advantage of your own garden’s uniqueness to add something stylish to the current environment.

Work With What You’ve Got

Because of the diversity in shapes and sizes, cacti can serve various purposes, such as providing shade or seasonal color, natural walkways, or borders. You may even use some varieties to provide a screen for unsightly areas. If you have a sprawling yard, you may like to make some geometric patterns to show off the space. Showy succulents will completely revise your notion that desert landscaping tends to be dull. In recent years, choices have expanded to include an array of different shades from green, bluish-green, or brown-green.

Compact spaces suit varieties such as dwarf palms which can be accentuated by smaller shrubs and surrounded by rocks and colored pebbles. Container rock gardens also work well in smaller areas in your desert landscape. Consider placing one at the corner of a terrace or line up a row of matching pots along a wall. Big flat rocks make a good base for your cacti pots, and spreading smaller stones in between pots creates a nice ambiance. Don’t be afraid to use some of the beautiful colored pebbles now available and consider some solar lights to attract more interest. Your particular desert landscape design may suit those varieties which can be found cascading over large rocks or in hanging baskets. While many types of cactus are native to desert climates, most will tolerate several growing conditions.

As with many landscape designs, a mixture of plants and trees in different shapes and sizes with different heights adds interest while providing a relatively maintenance-free garden. The cactus garden is ideal for a sloping landscape that can be planted with a selection of plants in a range of different heights. Planting beautiful colorful succulents will also help prevent erosion in sloping gardens.

Depending on the type of cactus chosen, beds should be about 6-12 inches deep with well-drained soil specially formulated for this plant’s particular needs.

Barrel cactus plants are characterized by their ribbed, cylindrical shape. The cacti come in many sizes and may be low and squat or as tall as 10 feet. The Barrel cactus can be easily grown from seed.

Some outstanding gardens have been developed using the vertical garden as a feature, and desert landscaping provides opportunities to incorporate this exciting feature. Equally, adorable presentations have been established using an existing rocky environment where cacti can be seen growing between slabs of stone, gravel, and different sized boulders.  

Can Cactus Plants Grow Anywhere?

Desert plants have become popular because they are easy to take care of due to their drought-tolerant capabilities. Growing cacti in your outdoor space give your home a unique look by developing an intriguing desert landscape. Both forest and desert cactus can thrive outdoors.

Proper drainage is an integral part of growing cactus plants. Good cactus growing soil should have a mix of both organic and non-organic materials. The best way to plant cacti in the ground is to plant in a raised bed, as this will help with drainage. If you are opting to plant in containers, the choice of container may hugely affect the plant’s health too, so consider terracotta, clay, and concrete pots as your best alternative. Repot your plants annually or every two years.

Cacti have dormant periods and periods of intense growth and blossoming. Periods of growth require enough water and sunlight for this process. The cacti absorb a large amount of water and store it in the stem and roots for the periods of drought. Butterflies, bees, moths, bats, and hummingbirds are the main pollinators of cacti. The size and shape of their flowers depend on the species and the type of pollination. Flowers can be white, red, orange, pink, or blue. Interestingly many of these flowers are nocturnal.

Is Cactus Good For Inside The Home?

Just as your home decor will reflect your personality, so too can your choice of indoor plants. Desert cacti are the more “traditional” houseplants, but the forest cacti such as the Christmas cactus are popular too, and these make excellent hanging arrangements. You can choose from red, pink, purple and even yellow blooms in this variety.

Since cacti vary in shape and size, your cactus garden can easily come indoors. Small cacti can be placed on desks, shelves, or tables. Window sills are great, too, because there is often a lot of sunlight coming through. If your desert garden experiences low light for an extended period, it may develop root rot or attract pests such as mealybugs.

Cacti require even temperatures to grow well indoors. This means keeping them away from drafty areas and doorways and aim for temperatures between 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unglazed clay pots work best for indoor arrangements. Make sure the pot is large enough to allow for a few years’ of growth. Cacti prefer sandy, quick-draining soil and do enjoy some nutrients like compost or a bone meal/limestone mix. Aim to water your new addition once a week in spring and a little more in summer, and then you can cut back in winter.

Some further attractions for the indoor garden are that no pruning is required, no yellow leaves to remove, and generally, repotting is rarely needed. This is because they grow so slowly indoors, and little feeding is necessary. They practically take care of themselves!

To have a successful indoor garden, it is essential to buy healthy, robust plants. A healthy plant will have a firm base. Some easy to grow mini cactus plants include the Chin and Hedgehog cactus. The Ruby Ball cactus will add a dash of color with a striking red color at the top and a green bottom.

Further Varieties Available

The large variety of desert plants will surprise most newcomers to this landscaping option.

You don’t need many plants to fill a desert-inspired garden bed. Pick a few larger varieties of desert plants that have thinner and wider vegetative branches to provide a sense of fullness and greenery.

The Prickly Pear cactus is regarded as a staple of the desert and is versatile in its offerings. It is an attractive ornamental plant. It boasts several other features, including using the stems in certain culinary delights. 

Although most cactus plants don’t appear to have leaves, they do but call them spines. The leaves have evolved to defend the plant from thirsty desert animals. These spines also act as catching points for dew drops. Some cacti have so many spines they also serve as shade. The body of a cactus is technically its stem or trunk. The appearance of a cactus can vary enormously, from globe-shaped to column form, and some appear tree-like with branches. The flowers on some cactus plants can be quite stunning, although they are often short-lived. All of these things add to their versatility and ability to suit different garden shapes and gardener requirements.

A very large, distinctive cactus is the Saguaro Cactus. It has a relatively large root system and, with proper care, will eventually become quite tall, though it takes a long time to grow. These columnar-type plants develop branches or arms as they age, which bend upwards. They also develop protective spines and produce white flowers and red fruit.

Desert landscaping depends much upon the uses of shapes, textures, and colors of various materials and plants to provide a garden. Cacti are a great choice for harsh environments because they generally require less water than the average plant. Cacti look best in a garden that emphasizes their texture and shape.

Final Thoughts

Whether you keep your cactus indoors or out, the general rule is to let the soil completely dry before watering it again. It is generally a good idea to experiment and to break up the pattern a little to keep things visually appealing. Don’t be afraid to incorporate some props into your garden to help set the mood. Large jugs, gnarled tree branches, old wagon wheels, and water features may be used as dividers or to add that extra spark to your beautiful design.