Gardening in Texas: Part 8 – Growing Cacti and Succulents

By Ebony Porter, August 22, 2016, Green

Welcome to Gardening In Texas from Bounce Energy! We hope this series will steer you in the direction of planting a green Texas garden with a eco-friendly lifestyle in mind. We’ll discuss shaping a garden that uses less water, grows in harmony with animal and insect life in the area, and provides you with more than just a pretty view.

Let’s Learn about Cacti & Succulents!

Gardening in Texas: Part 8 - Cacti and Succulents | Bounce Energy Blog

Image courtesy of Ebony Porter.

Cacti and succulents are some of the strangest yet most artful sculptural species of plants on the planet. Environmentally speaking, they are great for a native garden, where water conservation is given top consideration. For those of you who live in apartments, these make a great addition to your balcony. They grow excellent in pots so no huge yard is needed.

And when it comes to growing cacti and succulents in Texas, I can confidently say that wherever you live in the Lone Star State, they will grow with success. That is, if you take care of them! Thankfully, these plants are forgiving – if you forget to water them for two weeks, you most likely won’t have killed them.

Factors like soil quality and sun exposure determine the success of growing succulents, so we want to share tips on how to make them work for you in this eighth installment of Gardening in Texas.

1) Consider the Plant Selection

Gardening in Texas: Part 8 - Cacti and Succulents | Bounce Energy Blog

Image courtesy of Ebony Porter. Taken at the San Jose Hotel

What kind of cacti or succulent you select depends on where you plan to grow them. They grow well on a brightly light windowsill, planted in rocky soil. They grow wonderfully well interspersed with flowering natives in the ground. And if planting among other bushes, be sure and build a small mound for them to grow on. They don’t like to hang out in water, so to speak.

Some succulents will crawl along the floor like ground cover, while other cacti will grow vertical like a pole-shaped sculpture. Talk to a knowledgeable attendant at your local nursery, and be sure to let them know where you intend to grow them in order to find the best selection for your needs.

2) Determine the Soil Needs

Gardening in Texas: Part 8 - Cacti and Succulents | Bounce Energy Blog

Plant cacti and succulents in well-draining soil. Their roots prefer to stay dry and don’t want to lie in water, like a fern does. If you have “gumbo soil” in your yard (which is prevalent in East Texas and tends to hold water), mix something like lava soil or some kind of soil mender into your dirt. If you’re planting in the ground, don’t plant near a low-lying, boggy area that collects water.

3) Calculate the Sunshine Needs

Gardening in Texas: Part 8 - Cacti and Succulents | Bounce Energy Blog

While many cacti can handle 8 hours of full-blazing sun, many delicate succulents prefer bright light but not desert-like sun exposure. When they get too much sun, their leaves burn. The other concern with succulents is that, if they don’t receive enough light, they will become leggy and stretch outward seeking the sun’s rays. Rotate the pot from time to time so their shape remains straight instead of at an arc.

Experiment and find the best place for your plants. There is a rule of thumb that if your cactus or succulent is doing great, don’t move it!

4) Learn the Water Needs

Gardening in Texas: Part 8 - Cacti and Succulents | Bounce Energy Blog

There is a myth that cacti don’t need water. Though certain species can survive without water, this isn’t entirely true. This is because drought conditions are not desirable, since cacti do need some water, so don’t entirely ignore them.

The trick is not to over-water them, otherwise you will drown their roots, and they’ll rot. Water twice a month if they’re in pots, and if they’re growing in the ground, let them be. They will likely get enough water on their own from annual rainfall.

5) Sharing Cacti and Succulents

Gardening in Texas: Part 8 - Cacti and Succulents | Bounce Energy Blog

Talk to your neighbors or friends who grow cacti and ask politely for a cutting. For example, prickly pear cactus will grow by cutting one leaf from a mother plant. Plant the side of the leaf that was cut into the ground and water in. Over time, it will become the mother and babies will begin to grow outward.

You can do the same with the leaves of a succulent. Simply pluck one off and place into water on a brightly lit windowsill. Or you can plant the leaf into a pot with at least 2/3 of the leaf staying above the soil line. When it comes to propagating succulents, experiment and find what works.

Do you have any experience growing cacti and succulents in Texas? Share with us in the comments!

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Born in Australia, Ebony has been in Texas long enough to consider herself a Texan-Aussie. Ebony has been writing for magazines, newspapers, and blogs, for more than 10 years. When she's not writing she's building quilts, growing her own food, or camping with her family somewhere far from the sounds of the city.

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