the potted cacti

This is interesting.

No, really, it is.

In dry-winter climates, hardy cacti can be left outside in pots all winter. Their roots are hardy enough to withstand subzero temperatures, if it has to be that way. They don’t need any watering, and, in fact, will not take up water once they begin to shrivel which is a sign of losing water in order to endure cold temperatures.

I grow most of these in Mexican clay dishes about five inches deep; the dishes last for about ten years and are cheaper than the glazed pots so popular these days. The glazed pots have been cracking in the last several winters so I switched to clay.

Picking out all the leaves was too much trouble so you just have to imagine they’re gone. I suppose I should re-hire Tania, my imaginary garden assistant, to make the cacti look all spiffy, but meanwhile, here they are, dressed with fallen leaves.

Opuntia fragilis; I think this is called ‘Brown Bear’ or something like that.

Opuntia fragilis ‘Black Cat’

Opuntia debreczyi; this is supposed to be spineless but I guess the plant doesn’t know that.

Got this one labeled “Tephrocactus Sp.”, but people tell me it isn’t a tephrocactus. Don’t know what it is. Completely prostrate, and if it ever flowered I didn’t notice it.

Maihueniopsis darwinii. This was floating in ice water last winter.

a few echinocereus from Mesa Garden

Most people don’t think of cacti as foliage plants, but they have a lot to offer in the way of something to look at after the flowers are gone.

this has a name, but I didn’t feel like rummaging around among the spines looking for a label

A beautiful mountain wave sunset this evening.

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8 Responses to the potted cacti

  1. Loree says:

    I actually kind of like the leaves, they’re small enough to not obstruct but they add another layer of texture. Most excellent collection.

    That sunset, wow. Haven’t seen that much sky in weeks.

    • paridevita says:

      those were only the most photogenic. About half the potted collection. I’m curious if any agaves will tolerate this treatment. I left some outdoors in pots a few winters ago and they were mush within weeks of being exposed to cold. The larger the volume of soil, the safer the roots are, but I think no one knows anything about the root hardiness of agaves, or, for that matter, any other succulents that might do well in pots.
      There was a mountain wave all day yesterday; they make the most gorgeous sunsets. (Most people here in Denver would gladly take some of your rain….)


  2. I must have missed that sunset: it is grand! And I am intrigued by your putative “tephro”: I assume it hasn’t bloomed yet. I would think it is a fragilis form–none of the Maihueniopsis I’ve grown look like it–I must try a piece next spring. How have I missed that. I do recall your pot of ‘Potato’–very fetching (I saw it in bloom)! Do let me know if Tania still insists on wearing those skimpy outfits that reveal so much as she crouches and leans provocatively here and there around your garden! Maybe I should hire her?

    • paridevita says:

      as you well know, Tania got fired for not showing up. (When I tell this to some people they look at me blankly and say “What? I don’t get it.”).
      The tephrocactus has been in the pot for at least twenty years. Well, it broke one pot and had to be repotted. Very un-fragilis-like in that the joints refuse to detach, and it shows no willingness to grow any way but sideways.


  3. Pam says:

    I saw that sunset yesterday, unfortunately through the windows of the ARC store in Lakewood. The sacred and the profane! –Beautiful picture.

    • paridevita says:

      I was hoping that section near the top would turn into a perfect helix, but it didn’t. Don’t know why the colors came out less vivid; I should take a class in sunset photography.

  4. This is an interesting post! I always thought that cactus were strictly for warm, dry places- that was until I saw some growing in the garden of the president of our local garden club. He leaves his cactus in the garden year round. I was very impressed!

    • paridevita says:

      Most species of cacti do come from warm parts of the New World, bu there are lots of cacti native to cold places in the Rockies and west of there, as well as the Andes, too, like the maihueniopsis in the post.


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