Where Cacti Can’t Survive, Yucca Thrive


I’m fascinated by all types of cactus, although I don’t own many. I have a couple of indoor cacti that I love, plus a few succulents like Christmas cactus, aloe, and bromeliads. I would love to add a few more cactus if I can train myself not to overwater the poor things.

I lived in Phoenix, Arizona for two years and it was so much fun to see the huge Saguaro cactus wearing Santa hats when Christmas rolled around. Now, I live in the high desert, with hot, dry summers and long, cold winters. Sadly, no Saguaros are tough enough to survive here. 

Yuccas in the Garden

However, the previous homeowner left me a yard full of beautiful yuccas, as well as an abundance of Sempervivums (hens and chicks), so many in fact that I gave boxes of the little plants away to friends. 

Most of the previous landscaping was weird and made little sense to me (boxwood in the high desert?), but I’m so grateful for the yuccas. They’re interesting, year-round, and the tall spires of creamy yellow summertime blooms are spectacular.

As I write this in mid-December, I can see a few yuccas through my office window, their thick, swordlike leaves rising up above the snow. I have to admit that although I have lived most of my life here, I never realized that yuccas were hardy enough to survive the subfreezing cold. Who knew?

Types of Cactus for the Future

My goal is to plant more of these gorgeous plants. I have also been researching other cold-weather cactus that should do well here in USDA plant hardiness zone 6. For instance:

  • Escobaria (plain’s pincushion, foxtail, or beehive cactus), hardy to zone 3 
  • Opuntia (prickly pear cactus), hardy to zone 3
  • Echinocereus (hedgehog or porcupine cactus), hardy to zone 5
  • Pediocactus simpsonii (mountain ball cactus), hardy to zone 4 
  • Coryphantha vivipara (pincushion cactus), hardy to zone 2



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