Not many plants can survive the extreme heat of a Phoenix summer, which is why many Arizonans turn to a more prickly solution to add some greenery to their yards: cactus.
Cacti are the perfect low-maintenance option for desert landscaping. But is planting and caring for a cactus the same as with any other yard plant?
Here are three big tips that will help you plant and care for your cactus properly.
1. Choose the right location.
Cacti are hardy plants, but they will do best under the right conditions. Cacti need:
- Plenty of sunlight and warmth (full sunlight is best)
- Dry, sandy soil with good drainage (adding crushed gravel or pea gravel to the soil can help with drainage)
- A large hole (at least one foot deep and one foot across; breaking up as much soil as possible around the plant allows it to establish itself better)
- Space: small cacti should be no closer than 1 foot from each other. Large cacti should have an even wider berth—up to 3 feet between them and the next cactus.
2. Water properly.
The reason that cacti do so well in a desert climate is that they do not need much water to survive. Of course, they do need some water!
Usually, the water from infrequent desert rain is enough to sustain a cactus. That said, occasional watering, especially for a newly planted cactus, can help it grow faster. And cacti that get a lot of direct sunlight might need more water than those that get indirect sun.
When you do water, water very occasionally, but thoroughly. Water at the soil level (rather than from above). Try to soak the soil down deep, so that the cactus can continually draw on the moisture from the soil as needed. You should always let the soil completely dry out between waterings.
3. Observe and maintain.
Once the cactus has been established in your yard, it will require virtually no work at all from you. But you should still keep an eye out for signs that the cactus isn’t thriving as it should. Watch for these signs of a dwindling cactus:
- Shrinking in size
- Pronounced “ribs”
- Looking wrinkly or “soft” beneath the spines
- Subtle leaning, sagging, or “folding”
If you see any of these signs in your cactus, it could probably use some attention. Consider giving it a good watering and make sure it is getting enough sun. If the location is bad for the cactus for whatever reason, it may need to be replanted.
Cactus can be the perfect low maintenance solution for desert landscaping, but that doesn’t mean they require no work at all. Of course, with just a few simple tips, you can plant and care for cactus that will thrive in the desert for years to come.