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Cactus Landscaping Ideas

By Karen Carter ; Updated September 21, 2017

Cactus landscaping showcases these sun-loving plants. This low-maintenance landscape design makes for a fascinating and enjoyable pastime. Start with a sunny location and sandy soil with good drainage; no areas should be boggy or have any standing water. Varieties of cactus can be purchased from nurseries or retail stores. Check the growing conditions in your area and select your cacti according to those factors. Plant cactus anytime throughout the year. Place most of your cacti in their permanent positions because transplanting a mature cactus is extremely difficult.

Edges and Centers

Border your cactus beds with rocks or bricks. This design is similar to a raised bed. Create a wall and then fill it full of cactus-friendly soil. This creates improved drainage and ideal growing conditions for your cacti. Growing cacti in raised areas in the landscape prevents standing water issues such as cacti rot. Place large rock slabs or boulders in the center of the landscape to make a contrasting focal point. Large sculptures, covered wagons, old wagon wheels or a piece of an old pole fence also add interest.

Large Cacti

Pick one or two of large cacti and place them near the center of the landscape to act as a centerpiece. Carnegiea gigantes (Saguaro) grows slowly to the height of 60 feet at maturity and produces white flowers. It does not branch until it has reached the height of 3 feet. Cleistocactus strausii (hairy old man) grows to 6 feet tall and produces purplish-red flowers. This non-branching cactus has furry needles. Opuntia imbricata (tree cholla) grows into a 10-foot column with branches and produces pink flowers.

Mid-Sized Cacti

Mid-sized cacti are showpieces that usually have beautiful, straw-like flowers in brilliant colors. Echinocactus grusonii (golden barrel) grows to 4 feet tall and 2.5 feet wide with yellow flowers. It produces round, clustering offsets. Ferocactus emoryi (red barrel) grows to 8 feet with yellow-red blossoms. Ferocactus glauquescens (blue barrel) grows 14 inches tall with a globe shape and yellow flowers. Ferocactus wislizeni (compass barrel) grows to 6 feet with yellow to orange blooms. The crown of this cactus always tilts to the south. Group barrel cacti together for a dramatic display in your landscape.

Unusual Cacti

Using unusual types of cacti brings an element of interest to your cactus landscape. Astrophytum myriostigma (bishop’s cap) grows to 10 inches tall with yellow flowers. This cactus is perfectly symmetrical and does not grow spines. Astrophytum aseterias (sand dollar) grows to 8 inches tall. This symmetrical, spineless cactus looks like a flattened globe with yellow flowers. Opuntia burbankii (Burbank spineless cactus) grows to 5 feet tall and spreads to 6 feet wide. It looks like a prickly pear cactus with no spines.

Clustering Cacti

Low-growing cacti can be used to cover areas that need a type of ground cover. Mammalaria elongata (golden stars) grows to 12 inches and clumps finger-like branches together. Rebutia Xanthocarpa (Rebutia) grows low along the ground at 3 inches tall. This spiny cactus produces blossoms in a variety of colors. Echinocereus englemannii (hedgehog) grows 12 inches tall and spreads 12 inches wide, producing white spiky clusters. Opuntia articulata-papyracantha (paper spine cholla cactus) grows 12 inches tall by 12 inches wide with spines that feel like stiff paper.


About the Author


Karen Carter spent three years as a technology specialist in the public school system and her writing has appeared in the "Willapa Harbor Herald" and the "Rogue College Byline." She has an Associate of Arts from Rogue Community College with a certificate in computer information systems.