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Make Your Point with Cacti

Last summer, the perennials I had planted in my home garden were managing well with daily watering, but the hanging baskets were suffering and wilting. I set out to find plants that could survive the intense summer heat, especially along my sunny garage wall. Desperate for a solution, and with desert images in mind, I ventured to Vandermeer Nursery and spoke to some of their gardening specialists to get some ideas. The first thing they pointed out to me were cacti.

Cacti are succulents—plants that have adapted to drought-like conditions by retaining water within thick, fleshy structures. Cacti are spiky or spiny with plump greenery underneath. The spines are actually their leaves—sharp and prickly to reduce surface area, they reduce water loss in hot, dry climates.

I bought an 18” spiky stapelia cactus and some non-spiky succulents, which I arranged in large pots. Placed near perennials along a light-drenched wall, these sun-worshippers looked impressive! I limited their watering to once per week—less often if it rained. They thrived.

Container gardens with cacti and other succulents work well for patios, decks, and balconies, as well as interspersed with in-ground plants in a garden.

Carrie Hill, designer at CMH Interiors uses succulents for both indoor and outdoor designs. “Container gardening for the outside has become huge in the last 20 years—and is perfect no matter what size or type of outdoor space you want to enhance. I have clients who use potted cacti around their pool.”

If you wish to enjoy the perennial flowers and spiky leaves of cacti planted in your garden, there are four species (e.g., the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus) that are native to southern regions of Canada—and can survive the winter. Many cacti do not survive well with temperature dips below 15°C, so you must plant them in containers if exposed to cooler, climates.

Through the late fall to early spring, they do well indoors in a sunny spot where they can become part of your interior design.

Succulents thrive indoors all year round. They are perfect if your schedule (or memory) does not permit frequent watering and continue to look plump and healthy.

Carrie encourages her busy, design-conscious clients to work with succulents because they “provide a chic way to enhance a design. With colourful flowers and interesting leaves, these plants can fit anywhere in your décor. I like to arrange them in low-lying, modern containers.”

You can now find succulents for sale in supermarkets and department stores. If, however, you want to enjoy greenery in your home, without any watering, Carrie suggests fake succulents, which look real enough to fool even your sharpest guests.

Enjoy using cacti and other succulents both indoors as an attractive design feature with minimum maintenance required.

By Zoe Waller

Do you need a little help designing your home garden? Check out and contact a local landscaping specialist.


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