The warnings are in, we are heading for one of our coldest winters in a long time. But yes, you can still grow cacti in winter.
Cacti are found as native plants only in the Western hemisphere. Occurring throughout North and South America, the greatest concentration of species is found in Mexico northward into Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. Additional cold-hardy species are also found in the mountains of southern most Argentina and Patagonia.
Although we think of cacti as being strictly low desert plants many species are found in some very cold, harsh environments. As more and more gardeners experiment with the various cold-hardy species, we can look to plant them more widely expanding their usefulness as drought tolerant and attractive garden plants.
The largest genus of cold-hardy cacti is Echinocereus, commonly known as hedgehog cactus. Native to the Southern United Stated and Mexico there are about 70 species in the family. They are ribbed, bushy, globular and usually small to medium sized cylindrical cacti with tight spines which are often colourful and decorative. The flowers range to electric pink to deep scarlet to translucent browns, greens, bright yellow and even two toned. These plants are best suited to pots because of their size. Like filtered sun to full sun and require well drained soil. The soil can be lightly richer than other cacti and kept almost dry in winter.
Another extremely cold hardy species, Escobaria Laredoi or Pin Cushion cactus. There are 23 species in the family and are low growing. A small globose to cylindrical singular plant or can have clumping stems with tubercles.
Coryphantha Elephanthidens, native Central America, Mexico, through Arizona, New Mexico, and Western Texas and north into south western, central and south eastern Montana, so they hold up well in the winter. There are about 77 species. It is a small to middle sized, globose or columnar cacti that have grooved tubercles instead of ribs. Common colour flower is yellow.
Echinocactus Palmeri, known as Golden Barrel or Golden Ball, are native to east-central Mexico. They are very attractive plants that are round, or oblong with ribbed lobes and become oval with age.
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