Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cold Hardy Cacti

Live in a colder environment and want the joy of growing cacti outdoors? There are many varieties of cold hardy cacti that are accustomed to the harsh conditions of winter as well as the hot dry summers.
The Prickly Pear comes in numerous species. The one from the Mojave Desert is an excellent example of a cold hardy cactus.

This is a Hedgehog cactus or Clare Cup cactus. I have posted the photo before, but this specimen native to the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau is an excellent candidate for cultivation.
This is a picture of Wright's Fishhook Cactus. These species are found in areas of Eastern Utah and Colorado.  It is cold hardy but also endangered so check with local officials before getting one from the wild. It is also possible to cultivate from seed, though challenging.

This Barrel Cactus is from the Mojave Desert and can also be grown from seed. It is a slow growing plant and can get as tall as six feet.  Generally barrel cacti bloom at the crown for a short time and then the flowers dry into fruits that contain seeds. These may not bloom each summer, but do usually each year.

Again check with local authorities on this species. This cactus may need a bit more protection than planting in the open depending on where you live. Always check for fungus when this cactus comes out of dormancy and use a common shrub fungicide. Remove any winter rot or diseased areas if necessary. Generally though it will tough out most winters in the dry areas of the Western United States.

And finally this is my cholla. Cholla cacti are found in all the deserts of the West. This cholla was rescued from a fire. It may be a Walking Stick variety, but I could be wrong. Cholla from the western plains, Mojave Desert and lower Great Basin should survive unprotected. When in a garden though they need to be cut back frequently as pads grow fast and if not groomed properly as a shrub, they can grow out of control.

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