Gardening with Cactus: Colors and Shapes

With so many shapes and colors, these plants are a must for your desert garden

Not all color in your garden has to come from flowers. While many gray-leaved or variegated perennials and shrubs offer contrast and interest, some of the most exquisite color and contrast in a desert garden come from cacti.

An Array of Colors and Textures

The thin, delicate skin of a cactus ranges from light to dark green, shades of gray and nearly blue. Their spines provide vivid contrast to the body of the plant and, though fierce-looking, are often one of the most beautiful parts of a cactus. Some cacti have papery coverings or long fine hairs surrounding their spines, which enhances their beauty even further.

» For your desert garden, find out about agaves

The Secret to Cacti is When to Water

When, how much, and whether or not to water a cactus baffles many gardeners new to desert gardening. Like all living plants, cacti need water to survive, but the trick is in understanding the special way they store and use it. Cacti have shallow root systems, storing water in their stems and succulent leaves. Still, cacti will take up water through their roots continuously when the soil is moist - and will continue to do so until too much soil moisture forces the plant's skin to break. Therefore, it's important to space waterings at long intervals so that the soil has time to dry before the next watering. Water with lukewarm water to prevent shock.

» Find out about what soil to use for planting cacti

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