By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
When we think of cacti, they are usually set in our mind’s eye in the scene of a desert. While many varieties of cactus are actually tropical, the classic desert cacti capture the imagination. For gardeners in dry regions, flowering cactus plants further add to the sensory pleasure of the landscape.
Succulent Cacti Flowers for Dry Gardens
Hot, arid zones can be troublesome to landscape. Finding plants that thrive in such punishing conditions may be difficult unless one opts for native plants or those whose wild situation is similar. That’s where flowering cacti are particularly useful. Cacti that flower will thrive in such sites and add their amazing blooms to brighten the landscape.
Plants need water but that is not always an easy resource to provide in plenty. If you live in a dry region or simply have a zone of the garden where the irrigation doesn’t reach, you might consider using flowering cactus plants.
Landscaping with cacti that flower will match the dry site in both nature and nurture, making them ideal installations for such troubled areas. There are many flowering cactus types, from little creepers to big, showy specimens. Most of these flowers for dry gardens arrive in spring but a few will bloom throughout the season.
Flowering Cactus Types
Flowering cactus produce some of the most astounding flowers available. Added to their blooms, each has a unique and diverse form year-round, with different shapes and colors to enhance your garden. There are clumping forms, cacti with large and impressive pads, ones with columnar bodies, stacked varieties, little ground covers, and much more.
There are so may flowering cactus types from which to choose, that at least a few should be perfect for your dry garden situation. Here are some interesting and varietal flowering cacti to choose:
- Saguaro – white, waxy blooms lead to red fruits
- Prickly Pear – hot pink flowers
- Cereus – night bloomers with moony, white flowers
- Arizona Rainbow Cactus – yellow and red blooms
- Echinopsis – many varieties and colors from red, pink, yellow, white, and more
- Echinocacti – barrel forms, usually magenta blooms
- Kingcup – brilliant orange flowers
- Buckhorn Cholla – even more orange blooms and neat skeleton form
- Mammillaria – many forms and even more bloom colors
- Rat Tail – pink or red flowers
- Peanut Cactus – hot pink flowers
Plants with Similar Cultural Needs to Intermix
If you want some different textures to use around your blooming cactus, but need plants that will thrive in the heat, look to succulents.
Agave have immense impact and love a good dry zone. Any of the sedums or sempervivum will enjoy arid sites. Many ornamental grasses would make good companions, as would blue chalk sticks or most varieties of spurge.
Dewflower or ice plant will finish things off nicely, providing bright flowers that fit into any nook and cranny.
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Read more about General Cactus Care
There're a few fast rules, which are easy to remember and abide by:
Look at the leaves. Choose ones that feel like felt, are furry, waxy or silvery in colour. The latter reflects light, the first ones mentioned are all tougher and less susceptible to damage by sunlight.
Plant according to what you've got, check out where the sunniest corner is on your patch, likewise the shadiest, and use these natural locations wisely.
Mulch. A layer of bark will protect he roots from the drying effects of the sun, keep in any water, and look pretty and neat into the bargain.
See what the neighbours are up to! Have a peek over the fence and see what grows best before you splash out your hard earned cash at the garden centre.
Some plants to look out for are as follows:
17 Best Flowering Succulents To Grow Indoors & Outdoors
Succulents and cacti are not just about glossy fat foliage, thorns, and textures. There are succulents that flower as well.
1. Christmas Cactus
Botanical Name: Schlumbergera x buckleyi
Common Names: Holiday cactus, Crab cactus
A blooming Christmas cactus plant can be a great gift for the holiday season. If properly cared, it bears beautiful warm colored flowers in the shade of purple, pink and red. Keep this plant slightly root bound, do watering when the topsoil is dry. Check out more growing tips here.
2. Crown of Thorns
Botanical Name: Euphorbia milii
Common Names: Crown of Thorns, Christ Plant, Christ Thorns, Siamese Lucky Plant
This prolific bloomer is probably one of the best flowering succulents in our list. It requires minimal care to look well, grows successfully as a houseplant, it can be grown outdoors easily in frost-free climates. Learn everything you need to maintain it here.
3. Pincushion Cactus
Botanical Name: Mammillaria crinita
Pincushion Cactus is a drought tolerant plant and very easy to grow. Add it to your succulent collection for its flowers and overall ball-shaped look. When growing indoors, provide the plant at least 4 hours of direct sunlight.
Note: It has hooked spines so handle this plant cautiously and keep it out of the reach of children and pets.
4. Rock Purslane
Botanical Name: Calandrinia spectabilis
Tall stems protrude above the dense foliage and produce a bunch of lovely magenta flowers. Although the flowers last only one day, new ones are ready to take their place soon in the blooming season.
Botanical Name: Echeveria Afterglow
Other Flowering Varieties: Fred Ives, Black Prince, Frank Reinelt, Echeveria Imbricata, Perle Von Nurnberg, Purple Pearl, Ruffles, Mexican Snowball
Among other echeverias, afterglow has prettiest blooms and attractive lavender shade rosette of leaves. Outer edges of the leaves are splashed with beautiful pink. Cheerful-reddish blooms give this plant an otherworldly look. Growing requirements are similar to echeveria, for best color, keep it in full sun.
6. Marble Buttons
Botanical Name: Conophytum calculus
Common Names: Marble Buttons, Cone Plants, Dumplings, Button Plants, Living Pebbles
The unusual marble like shape piques up the interest of many. The leaves fuse to form a special spherical dome that possesses a chalky, hairless and smooth texture. In autumn, clove-scented yellow to golden to dark orange nocturnal flowers adorn it and make it more charming.
7. Flowering Kalanchoe
Common Names: Flaming Katy, Christmas Kalanchoe, Florist Kalanchoe, Madagascar Widow’s Thrill
This evergreen plant is available in a variety of sizes and flower colors. Ovate shaped dark green foliage makes it attractive, but that is not enough, the colorful blossoms make it a must-have houseplant. Keep it in a slightly root bound state near a window that receives plenty of sun, avoid wet feet and it’ll bloom often. Also, check out our article on best flowering houseplants.
8. Jade Plant
Botanical Name: Crassula ovata
Common Names: Money Tree, Money Plant, Jade Plant, Jade Tree, Friendship Tree, Lucky Plant, Dollar Plant, Pink Joy
Jade plant is one of the best houseplants for beginners. It can be 3-4 feet tall indoors when kept in the ideal condition. Glossy, oval-shaped, dark green leaves are its main asset but flowers as well. Getting a jade plant bloom is tricky indoors but not so difficult. The star-shaped flowers range from white to pink in color appear in late winter or early spring.
9. Purple Ice Plant
Botanical Name: Delosperma cooperi
Common Names: Hardy Ice Plant, Trailing Ice Plant, Pink Carpet, Purple Ice Plant, Hardy Purple Ice Plant, Cooper’s Ice Plant, Cooper’s Hardy Ice Plant
Not only notable for its needle-like leaves but also for the daisy-like purple flowers blooming all summer long and fall. Growing about 3-4 inches tall, it spreads quickly. An excellent choice for a ground cover! Choose well-drained dry soil and sunny spot to grow it.
10. Red Yucca
Botanical Name: Hesperaloe parviflora
Common Names: Red Yucca, Texas Red Yucca, Hummingbird Yucca, Red-flowered False Yucca, Redflower False Yucca, Coral Yucca, Samandoque
This agave family succulent plant is more like an ornamental grass in appearance, but due to its beautiful flower stalks and flowers and low requirements, it’s a better alternative. Extremely drought and heat tolerant, it grows best outside in hot climates. However, if you’ve got access to a sunny window, grow it indoors.
11. Peanut Cactus
Botanical Name: Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Westfield Alba’
Compact in size, this plant looks like peanut shells. With large flower heads, it blooms in abundance in the stunning shade of white and orange. Unlike other cacti, the spines of this cactus are smooth, so pets and children are safe from any harm. To grow, keep it in part sun in hot climates and full sun in cool climates.
12. Emily Cobweb Houseleek
Common Names: Emily Cobweb Houseleek, Spider Web Hens and Chicks
This rosette-forming small succulent is unique, the red and green colored leaves are covered with spiderweb-like cilia. The flowers are star-shaped and pink in color and appear on the raised stems. Grow it in a rock garden, scree bed, wall crevice, alpine house, trough or simply in a container indoors or outdoors.
Botanical Name: Aloe genus
Flowering Varieties: Aloe Vera, Karoo Aloe, Aloe Albiflora, Baker Aloe, Tiger Tooth Aloe, Toothless Torch Aloe, Christmas Sleigh, Coral Fire
There are many species in the aloe genus that display attractive flowers. Some of the names are written above. Must check out our article here to find the best aloe plants for containers.
14. Desert Rose Plant
Botanical Name: Adenium obesum
Common Names: Adenium, Sabi Star, Kudu, Mock Azalea, Impala Lily
This show-stopper succulent can also be displayed as a bonsai specimen due to its fat trunk. The flowers appear in spring and summer in the cold climate, and year-round in a warm climate in the glorious shades of red, white or pink if kept in full sun. This flowering succulent can grow up to 10 feet tall with a very slow pace but can be maintained in small to medium containers.
Caveat: The sap of this plant is toxic, and ingestion may cause stomach upset and lethargy.
15. Lifesaver Cactus
Botanical Name: Huernia zebrina
Common Names: Carrion flower, Little owl eyes, Owl eyes, Zebra-Stripped Huernia
The star-shaped flowers are articulated with beautiful zebra stripes and a donut-shaped ring at the center. Doing equally well in both indoor and outdoor conditions, it doesn’t tolerate cold drafts and frost. Mealybugs are detrimental for this plant, be on a constant lookout for them.
16. Orchid Cactus
Botanical name: Epiphyllum hybrids
This relative of Christmas cactus looks best in hanging baskets. Long stems are broad and serrated, look so aesthetic when sloping down from the basket with big showy flowers forming at the end. The flowers can range from pink, red, white, yellow, orange, purple to bicolored. Check out this informative growing guide for more information.
17. Ruby Ball
Botanical Name: Gymnocalycium mihanovichi
Common Names: Red Cap Cactus, Red Hibotan, Hibotan, Moon Cactus ‘Hibotan’
A unique addition to your office desk or indoor tabletop because of the unusual chlorophyll less top colorful bodies. Other than red and orange there are variants of 15 different colors including purple, yellow, and white. Learn more about this grafted specimen here.
A low-growing plant, Creeping Phlox makes an excellent ground cover. They love full sunshine and do very well in dry environments. They’re also resistant to deer and have a high tolerance for salty soil. They grow relatively slowly but, once established, are incredibly hardy and stay green year-round. They also grow well in colder climates and require very little care or maintenance.
Adding a vertical accent is easy with Crossvine and just as beautiful. Even better, they present their color right at eye level and can add eye-candy to any xeriscape garden. One thing to keep in mind is that they spread quite far, up to 50 feet high and 9 feet wide! They flower very heavily and, adding to their allure, their flowers are very fragrant with a distinctive mocha scent. Drought tolerant once established, Crossvine is very hardy.