Whether you own a mid-century modern home or another style, cacti and other succulents are a classic part of any yard in the Phoenix area and desert climates of the southwest. These desert plants are well suited to the local climate, and they’re a fairly low-maintenance component for your landscaping. But, to ensure they thrive, it’s important to acquaint yourself with the basics of planting and caring for them—especially if you’re new to the area. So, here are some cactus care tips to help you keep your yard looking its best.
Basic Cactus Care Tips
- Try to avoid greenhouse-grown cacti and succulents; they’re less resilient in the sun and the cold, and require acclimation and more proactive care for about the first year after planting.
- It’s best to transfer cacti to your yard from March through October, as warmer weather better promotes root development and plant growth.
- If you’re investing in larger cactus species like ocotillo or saguaro cacti, it’s worth it to have professionals plant them for you.
- If possible, note the sides of the cactus that have been exposed to direct sunlight where it was raised. Potted plants may have an “S” sticker on the pot identifying the side that was exposed to full sunlight. Try to maintain the same orientation when you plant it, as the side with more sun exposure will be toughened for it, while other sides may get sunburned or rot in full sunlight.
- Plant cacti in locations with loose, well-draining, sandy or gravelly soil and where water doesn’t pool; these plants don’t like to hang out in puddles. Also, don’t plant them up against south- or west-facing walls, as they can be exposed to too much reflected heat.
- Some small cacti species do best in partial shade.
- When transferring a cactus from a pot to your yard, dig the hole just asdeep as the container and significantly wider. Carefully press the soil down around the roots to eliminate air pockets.
- Don’t crowd cacti; they like plenty of air circulation around them.
- If you plant a cactus in cooler, damper weather, wait one month to water it; if you plant it in warmer, drier weather, wait one week to water it.
- Cacti and succulents only require shallow watering, as they have extensive roots that stay close to the surface. Once established, they generally don’t need supplemental watering.
- Early spring to late autumn is growing season for cacti. When watering be sure to research the specific type of cactus you have and water accordingly. The best way to kill a lot of cacti is too much water.
- An unhealthy-looking cactus may be infested with pests. Take a look, but just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there; pests like mealy bugs or spider mites aren’t visible to the naked human eye. Administer a cactus-friendly insecticide treatment.
- It’s fine to mulch around cacti, but don’t put down any material that reflects or intensifies heat. Also, don’t lay plastic weed barriers down around them.
- Refrain from cultivating or otherwise disturbing the soil within several feet of the base of a cactus, as you can easily damage its shallow root system.