Ideal in areas where there is very little rain fall or where the soil may be dry and sandy. These fleshy leaved or leafless plants are marvellously adapted to storing water against long periods of drought. Although cacti can be cultivated in pots or containers, they grow more freely when planted out and have a position ideally entirely to themselves.
Use the taller varieties of cacti in the garden as structural plants. Do under planting with smaller species of cacti, arrange with ample spaces between each plant. Place non spreading succulents at given intervals, with spreading varieties taking the place of more conventional ground cover plants. Doing this around the base of the plants, allowing space for them to grow and spread out like carpeting, provides a beautiful tapestry of vibrant colours and knitted rubbery textured leaves of green and grey.
Cacti are the only living plants possessing an areole, a miniature cushion which appears on the ribs or at the top of the tubercle and it is from these that the thorns, offshoots and flowers will appear.
All cacti and most succulents require perfect drainage, a few well placed rocks will provide all the shade that they need, ample light is most important.
It is also worth remembering that most succulents can be grown from seed or cultivated from leaf or stem cuttings.
The rock garden
A must in this type of garden, try to make sure they appear as natural as possible. Rocks and stones should be placed in such a way that they seem to follow a natural formation. If the stones are laid in a higgledy-piggledy manner, not only will the final result be unsightly, but it may create drainage problems.
For dramatic effect and low maintenance, the Aloe Striata, Aloe Cryptopoda and the Aloe Saponaria are all popular choices.
For Cacti use Old Man Cactus, which is densely clothed in white hairs, it is a nocturnal plant with funnel shaped cream flowers.
Cereus Peruvianus, a fast growing, tall branched cactus, flowers at night. Creamy white trumpet shaped flowers appear from the base to the top of the stems.
Cherridopsis Cigarettifera, a stem less clumpy plant, this succulent has greyish green foliage with a cigarette paper like covering to the leafs. This cactus has golden yellow flowers in spring and summer.
Enchinocereus Pentalophus, dumpy stems, fine ribs, flowers frequently with crimson purple flowers.
Crab cactus is widely grown, having attractive red, violet or pink flowers at the end of segmented stems.
Strawberry cactus is a smaller variety being in shape round and squat. It is very spiky but does have gorgeous buttercup yellow flowers sometimes marked with red centres.
Aizoaceae, a trailing succulent with angular leaves, bears crimson flowers.
By mixing Aloes, cactus and succulents we can create a very different type of garden, both rewarding and striking with its profusion of vivid colours, unusual shapes and textures. Create paths with gravel, pebbles or railway sleepers and decorate planting areas with drift wood and rustic type sculptures.