Grouping Cacti

When displaying cacti it is important to remember that there are two very different types of cacti — those from desert areas and those from jungles or forests — and each likes different conditions. So for successful results stick to plants of one type only when grouping or growing them together.

Grouping Cacti

Picking Containers

Almost any type of dish or tray can be suitable for a cactus garden so long as it is deep enough to take a layer of drainage material plus a slightly deeper top layer of potting compost.

For a desert cactus garden choose a dish that is big enough to plant your chosen cacti with 7.5-13cm (3-5in) space between plants, depending on their size, allowing extra space for including interestingly shaped rocks and stones. If the space between plants is too great the garden will look spotty, and bitty. If plants are too close you will not be able to admire the fascinating range of shapes.

Many jungle cacti have long, trailing stems and these are often best shown off by a hanging basket. Alternatively, as stems grow stand the container on a small pedestal such as a cake stand, plant table or jardinière where they can trail unhindered.

Grouping Cacti2

Grouping individual plants

When grouping cacti grown in individual containers bear in mind that for a cohesive effect, pots should match each other in material or colour. Rustic pots in dark shades of terracotta, grey, stone (the colours of the desert) are specially suitable.

For jungle cacti consider pots in deep greens or the rich colours of jungle birds and flowers, also bearing in mind the cacti’s own flower colour.

Positioning desert cacti

As these cacti like the lightest possible position a south-facing window is ideal. In the wild they would constantly be receiving bright light from all sides, so turn them round daily if possible, to avoid uneven growth.

Positioning jungle cacti

These prefer a more shaded position than their desert cousins as in the wild they grow from hollows in a tree branch where light is filtered by the leaves. Many too have a long, trailing growth which is best shown off in hanging baskets or by displaying on shelves, stands or small tables where their trailing habit can be more easily admired.

Summer holiday outdoors

Most cacti will gain from being put outdoors in the fresh air for at least part of the summer. Jungle cacti will need a light but shaded position, so consider hanging your range of these cacti from the branches of a small patio tree.

Desert cacti will prefer the sunniest possible position. Use a cactus garden as a centrepiece for a garden table on the terrace or include at the front of a plant group. You could even sink the pot into a container rockery garden.

Accessories For Cacti

Texture and interest can be added to plant groups and gardens with the use of compatible natural accessories. Usually the best effect is created by using the sort of materials that would make up the plant’s natural habitat. Therefore a desert cactus garden could include interestingly shaped and coloured pieces of rock, pebbles both large and small, sand and gravel.

As a trailing jungle cactus is more likely to be viewed at eye-level or from slightly below, the container becomes the predominant accessory. A macrame rope holder containing an earth colour pot would recreate the atmosphere of the forest. Driftwood or dead branches covered with knotted ivy could be included in a group, and short sticks topped with painted parrots or other birds could be used as supports and for relevant decoration.

Display ideas for jungle cacti

  • Hang 2-3 Claw Cacti in individual baskets but display to form a group in front of a west- or east-facing window. Mix pink and purple or orange and red flowering varieties to provide toning winter colour.
  • At Christmas group red flowering Christmas Cacti in a shallow red painted basket and place in the centre of a coffee table, or group with other Christmas flowering plants.
  • Orchid Cacti with their wonderful large cup-shaped blooms can have stems of 60cm (2ft) or more. Place one atop a small pedestal table or jardinière to highlight a corner of the stairs. Give it a light spot away from bright sun.
  • Mix varieties of Pond Lily Cactus, with its water lily-like flowers in pink, white and red, and place in a line on a shelf where the colourful display of blooms can be readily admired.

Display ideas for desert cacti

  • Place glass shelves across a sunny window and intersperse these sun-loving cacti with rocks and pebbles or different sands in glass containers.
  • Use ceiling hooks to suspend hanging shelves in front of a small window and make a series of miniature cactus gardens in containers.
  • On a shelf, sill or table form individual cactus groups, each one being made up of cacti of a similar shape but in varying sizes and colours.
  • Stand one cactus garden on its own in the centre of a wide windowsill and include a range of varieties to form a desert scene. Include small, rough-textured rocks, some upright, some lying down.
  • Group cacti in their containers in a shallow dish. Surround with pebbles and hide containers from view with miniature ‘ranch fencing’.

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