Is Cactus A Good Outdoor Plant?

Cacti plants are not only great houseplants but also thrive when grown outdoors. However, great care needs to be observed when growing these succulents outdoors

Many gardeners believe that growing cacti plants outdoors is almost impossible or that these succulents can only do well in dry and hot areas. Fortunately, that is not the case. Cacti plants and other succulents make incredible landscaping plants. They can thrive in different climates, require little maintenance, and are always easy to grow and care for.

So, is cactus a good outdoor plant? Yes. While cacti plants tend to thrive in indoor environments, many varieties can also do well when planted outside. No matter the climatic conditions of the region where you live, you can always find an ideal cactus species that can thrive outdoors.

While some cacti species are adapted to intense light and heat, other varieties do well in cold-winter climates. Therefore, it is upon you to find the right species that will do well in your area.

In this post, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about growing cacti plants outdoors.  What is the process like? How do you find an ideal cactus species that will thrive in the outdoor environment? How do you take care of your cactus garden? Read on to find out everything you need to know.

Growing Cacti Plants Outdoors

The moment you decide to grow your precious succulents outdoors, make sure you choose a relatively sunny and sloppy location in your garden for better results. Planting cacti on a sloppy area allows for much better drainage, which is critical when cultivating these desert plants.

Also, depending on the type of cactus species that you have selected, make sure your beds are approximately 6-15 inches deep. The soil should be well-drained and specially formulated for cacti plants.

Santa rita cactus exposed to sunlight.
Make sure you choose a relatively sunny and sloppy location in your garden for better results.

You can either purchase the soil and mix it with your natural garden soil or mix it yourself using two parts sand, two parts potting soil, and one part gravel. You should also consider adding a moderate layer of mulch, such as pebbles, rocks, or a similar substance. 

Here are some more gardening tips to follow when planting cacti outdoors:

  • These plants don’t do well when they are allowed to sit in water. Keep in mind that you are dealing with a desert plant, so there is a need to avoid exposing it to excessive water

The best way to ensure that your garden is not waterlogged is to choose a sloppy area with good drainage. Adding a layer of mulch to the soil, as mentioned above, is also critical.

  • During the warm summer months, your plants may need frequent watering because the rate of evaporation is quite high. Always inspect the topsoil of your garden and consider watering your plants whenever you realize the soil is dry.
  • However, during the cold winter months, cut down on the number of watering sessions and only water your garden when you feel it is necessary. Some cacti species don’t need to be watered at all during the cold months until a new growth cycle starts in spring.
  • Sand mulch is always a great type of soil to use in your cacti garden since it allows water to drain away pretty quickly.
  • Allow sufficient space between cacti plants in your garden. You do not want to deal with an overcrowded garden since the risk of losing some of your plants will be too high.
A cactus outside exposed to sunlight.
During the warm summer months, your plants may need frequent watering

Crucial Steps to Growing Cactus Plants Outdoors Successfully

If you are planning to create a cacti garden in your backyard, then you need to learn how to do it right. Otherwise, you risk suffering significant amounts of losses if you do things in a hurry and without a proper plan.

Follow these steps if you want to grow cacti plants outside your house successfully:

  • Plant selection: The most crucial step to growing cacti plants outdoors successfully is choosing the right cacti species. Keep in mind that not every cactus species is well-suited for growing outside.

Before choosing your plants, be sure to check their hardness rating. The rating usually indicates the ability of the cacti species to tolerate cold conditions. Plants will generally be categorized as zone 4, 5, or 6.

Many of the cacti species in the prickly or Opuntia family are known to be cold-hardy and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Opuntia fragilis or the famous brittle prickly bear, is the toughest in the family and is capable of withstanding cold freezing temperatures as low as -35oF. Several species in the Cylindropuntia family also do well outdoors.

Several kinds of cactus.
Keep in mind that not every cactus species is well-suited for growing outside

Even in dry climates, not all cacti species thrive. Therefore, it is always good to pay close attention to each plant’s unique needs. When selecting your plants, consider choosing a multi-colored cactus without any visible bruises and scars.

You should also check the plant’s flesh for thickness and firmness. You want to feel a nice firm flesh before you decide to take the plant away.

Learn the optimal conditions for growing cactus plants outside:

Basically, cacti plants that thrive outdoors tend to have the same basic needs as those that grow indoors.

First, every cactus plant requires sufficient exposure to sunlight to bloom. Therefore, you will need to ensure the garden section where you choose to grow these plants receives plenty of sunlight.  

Good drainage is also critical. Refer to our previous points to understand how you can boost the drainage in your garden. Feel free to use container gardens to make it easier to move your plants if need be.

  • Planting: Because of its relatively shallow root system, a cactus plant is always susceptible to root rot. Therefore, it is always good to plant the succulent in a location where the base can easily dry out.

Consider elevating the plant on a berm, setting it up on rocks, or placing extra gravel underneath it.  Take two small stones and carefully put them together and plant your cacti in-between such that the base of the plant is sitting on top of the rocks, but its roots are in the soil.  This way, you can be sure that the base will dry out as soon as possible.

  • Learn how to take care of your plants: When growing cacti plants outdoors, you should always do your homework first. Take time to learn more about the growing requirement for each plant and try as hard as possible to match these requirements to that of your landscape.

Even though cacti plants have developed a wide range of tactics that helps them to adapt to different environments, it is always better to provide the ideal environments for fast growth.  

Small cactus plant near the window.
Every cactus plant requires sufficient exposure to sunlight to bloom.

If you are growing more than one cacti species in your garden, group them according to their needs and find ways of taking care of each species. There are lots of other things you can do to take care of your plants. 

Watering Outdoor Cacti

Do outdoor cacti plants require watering? The simple answer is yes. Never fail to water your plants even if you think it is unnecessary. During the warm summer months, consider watering your plants at least twice a week.

Water slow and deep until you are sure the plants have received sufficient water supply. Some experts recommend using the “deep soaking” method to water your outdoor cacti plants.

Deep soaking is a relatively slow but steady drip from a garden hose over a 2 to 6-hour period. Typically, the overall size of the plant will determine the duration for deep soaking.

The larger and more established plants may require less watering since the plant has larger storage capacity and can go longer between waterings. For instance, a full-grown Saguaro species may never need frequent watering, but a tiny mammillaria species may need frequent watering.

However, do not water newly planted cacti plants. Always wait for a few days after planting before you start watering. Since watering depends on the weather, the cooler it is, the longer you might have to wait before you give your succulents that first drink.

Plant experts recommend waiting for at least one week before you start watering newly planted cacti plants. This waiting period gives the roots sufficient time to heal before being exposed to water. Only water again once the soil is completely dry at the roots.

 No matter how you choose to water your outdoor cacti plants, one thing you need to avoid at all cost is overwatering since it can spell doom for your plants. Cactus plants easily succumb to root rot, so it is always advisable to know when to water them.

During winter, mother nature may take care of the plants’ watering needs in the form of rain, but you should consider watering your plants thoroughly during the hotter months.

Different kinds of cactus in one pot.
Water slow and deep until you are sure the plants have received sufficient water supply

Summary

Cacti plants are not only great houseplants but also thrive when grown outdoors. However, great care needs to be observed when growing these succulents outdoors since they are exposed to a wide range of destructive elements. 

The most important thing to keep in mind if you want to grow cacti plants outdoors is to choose the right species that can withstand the climatic conditions in your area.  Failure starts with poor plant selection.  

Some of the common types of outdoor cacti plant species include the eastern prickly pear cactus, pipe organ cactus, crow’s claw cactus, and the candelabra cactus.

We hope this post has provided you with some good information that can help you set up your outdoor cactus garden successfully.

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