HARDY CACTI (CARE GUIDE)
The two key elements for growing successful winter hardy cacti
are dry feet and lots of sunshine. Because most of the Fox
Cities area has clay soil, it is best to create a raised bed for
the cacti. A 12” minimum above the normal grade should be
created. The raised bed should have 70% sand and 30% black dirt.
The 70% sand can also have gravel, rocks, or large aggregate
materials included. Soil should be neutral to slightly alkaline.
A south or west exposure is necessary. Cacti need eight or more
hours of sunlight per day. Do not plant cacti on the north or
east side of a house because there is not enough sunlight and
the cacti will die. Cacti will do better next to or wedged in
between boulders where they will receive the heat resonating off
of them. Good quality weed barrier fabric can be used to curb
weed growth, thus preventing competition between cacti and
The greatest danger to cacti is
not the cold weather but the excessive amount of moisture it may
receive. Decorative stone should be used as topdressing instead
of bark mulch. Bark retains moisture and promotes rotting of
cacti. The rot will usually start at the roots and work its way
upward. However, if you discover the rot, you can still save the
plant by cutting off the rotted area. Let the wound heal itself
for one week in a shaded location until calloused and then
replant it about 1” deep in the soil.
NEVER water your winter hardy
cacti. Wisconsin precipitation will be adequate. It is best to
plant winter hardy cacti with other succulent perennials or
other drought-tolerant plants with similar water requirements.
Alpine plants, ornamental grasses and dwarf evergreens work well
also. Cacti planted in late spring and summer should do fine
without any winter protection. If plants are started towards the
end of summer they should be covered with clear plastic to keep
out moisture during late fall and winter.
In late fall padded cacti will
shrivel up, look quite wrinkled and will turn a reddish-purple
or grey color. Ball or globe cacti will shrink into the ground.
THE CACTI IS NOT DEAD. This is a dehydration process the cacti
must go thru so that it can withstand the cold winter weather.
The following spring the cacti will fill out and resume growth.
Most cacti will bloom their first season. In most cases each
flower stays open one day but the cacti blooms repeatedly for
almost two weeks.