I have a very wide range of interests when it comes to plants. Perennials, trees, shrubs, succulents, rock garden plants, native plants, South African plants; I’m fascinated by all these plant groups and many more. Having lived and gardened in New Mexico for the 30 years, one group of plants I have been growing since I was a teen, the cacti, have a special place in my garden.
As the climate and growing conditions in New Mexico have gotten drier and hotter, these native plants (found only in western hemisphere) have thrived and become the stars of my various xeric gardens. Here are some photos of my home xeriscape taken over the past few weeks. And the cacti have been especially stunning this spring. The colors of the flowers, the geometry of the spines and the musculature of the stems are as fascinating to me now as they were 40 years ago.
This is a spineless form of Claret Cup (Echinocereus triglochidiatus v. inermis) grown from seed originally collected in the mountains that straddle the Utah and Colorado state borders. Very rare in nature, this spineless form is highly sought after by collectors and cacti aficionados. But even gardeners with little experience growing cacti outdoors will be delighted to experience how easily it is grown in western xeriscapes. And the intensity of the red flowers is nothing short of breathtaking to any lover of flowers.
Behold, one of the gems in the Hedgehogs from Texas and Oklahoma, the very small clumping, white spined form of Reichenbach’s Hedge Hog (Echinocereus reichenbachii v. albispinus). Found In only in two limited areas in the world (near Troy and Tishoming, OK) this exquisitely rare cactus is also one of the most stunning plants you’ll ever grow. Like the spineless Claret Cup, this beauty is also easily grown in western xeriscapes.
Both these species are cold hardy to USDA zone 5 and require “lean” (infertile), well-drained soil. For best success, cacti should be planted bare-root, even in the heat of summer.* Like all our cacti, I grow these two from seed in our Santa Fe greenhouse facility. Hopefully, even those gardeners who thought they have no interest in cacti will try these native wildflowers a try in their dry gardens. Mix them together with other smaller growing xeric perennials and enjoy the show!
Agave havardiana (Havard's Century Plant) grows to an imposing size (30" tall x 36" wide) at maturity! Native to the Glass Mountains of west Texas, this succulent has proven itself to be very cold-hardy. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
18" tall x 18-30" wide. High Country's form of Agave parryi comes from the high cold desert near Flagstaff, Arizona. It is exceptionally cold hardy with thick silver-gray leaves that grow to form a large sized rosette when mature.
Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
15-24" x 18-24" wide. Echinocereus triglochidiatus ('White Sands' Claret Cup Cactus) is without a doubt the fastest, largest and most spectacular of any claret cup cactus. The robust, stoutly-spined stems are topped with glowing scarlet flowers in late spring and can grow to a height of 3 feet under favorable conditions. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus or Needle-Spined Claret Cup (Echinocereus coccineus) is an outstanding species that blooms in mid-spring with a profusion of hummingbird-attracting scarlet-red flowers held over a mound of tight clustering stems.
'Blue Spruce' Creeping Sedum (Sedum reflexum) is a standout among low-maintenance Sedums. This easy-to-grow and eye-catching features succulent blue-green foliage, much like little spruce needles! A pollinator favorite, it is covered with small star-shaped yellow flowers in summer for over a month. A great evergreen groundcover where low maintenance, drought-tolerant, deer-and-rabbit-resistant plantings are desired.
'Cape Blanco' Creeping Sedum (Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco') is sheer elegance with unusual pewter, powder-blue succulent foliage in a well-behaved groundcover. Clusters of tiny yellow flowers cover the plant in summer. Cape Blanco is an award-winning standout. Easy-to-grow and pollinator-friendly this North American native is a must-have!
Fast-growing, and colorful, 'Angelina' Creeping Sedum (Sedum rupestre) adds a dazzling highlight with colors from chartreuse to golden yellow. Easy to grow, it will spread quickly as a drought-tolerant groundcover. Bright yellow star-like flowers bloom in summer and foliage turns golden-orange in autumn. A great pick for rock gardens, dry borders, and large expanses of ground that need planting.