Amongst the numerous varieties of succulents, cacti are one of the most common plant varieties in Arizona. You’ll find them growing well in the wild or part of cultivated gardens. Some residents even bring them indoors to provide an extra boost of beauty and life inside their homes. It is common to assume that cacti and other succulents aren’t very interesting due to their low maintenance needs, but there are plenty of things to know about these desert plants.
First things first, many wonder the difference between cacti and succulents, and quite simply– a cactus is a type of succulent, making all cacti succulent varieties. Aside from that, check out these five things to know about cacti and other succulents that you may not have known before:
- All Cacti Have Flowers
There are a few variations of cacti, like Parodia and Mammillaria, that are known for their prominent bloom displays. While cacti are a flowering plant, not all cacti blooms are noticeable. Cacti found in the wild will usually bloom every year because of the natural growing season. To use cacti as houseplants, they will need to be moved to a dry and colder part of the home to mimic winter to produce blooms come spring.
- They Can Live for Decades
Under the right conditions, cacti and succulents can live for decades once planted. Different variations of cacti will grow at different rates with over 2,000 known species. However, you can tell old cacti by the scars that they bear. These plants will keep every scratch, blemish, or scar that they receive which will stay with them for their lifetime. Old cacti used as houseplants will have more character as they begin to look tired and worn out if handled or touched too often. Succulents are great at spreading so you will see many offspring off of one parent plant making it a long-lasting generational plant.
- You Can Easily Kill Them
Yes, we know that cacti and succulents are known for their ability to live well even while being ignored but did you know that you can quickly kill them if you care too much? These desert-loving plants don’t need or want, much water. They can live perfectly fine even if you forget to water them for long stretches of time. However, if you treat them like other plants you can quickly kill them by flooding them too much. Cacti and succulents need a little amount of water and well-drained soil. If you water them and notice that the soil is wet for multiple days afterward, you may want to consider moving them to different soil conditions. These plants will thrive if you neglect them but will quickly die if you overwater them.
- They Are Like the Camels of Plants
Cacti and succulents don’t need much extra watering because they are designed to hold an extraordinary amount of water within. They have deep roots that draw up water from well below ground, and the liquid inside of cacti is perfectly drinkable. This liquid can be a lifesaver for those stuck in the desert with no water in sight. The structure inside both of these plants is what makes them like the camels of the plant world with their ability to hold water for extended amounts of time.
- You Can Eat Cacti
You may have noticed grocery stores in the area that carry cactus in the produce department. There are many dishes that you can make with cacti varieties including adding them to soups, stews, fried, or even as a dessert. The most popular kind of edible cactus is the opuntia which grows large beavertail shaped pads. Prickly pears are also a fruit that you can harvest from a cacti variety which is very popular in dishes and cocktails as well as made into jam. Consider purchasing already prepared cacti from the grocery store first before deciding to harvest your plants to lessen the chance of getting poked.
Cacti and succulents are the gems of the Arizona foothills that are incredibly interesting. Learn more about these unusual plants and their many uses for area residents and the long history of aiding past generations. Share these five things to know about cacti and succulents with neighbors, family, and friends in the area to increase awareness of these magnificent plants. —Nannette Walker is a gardening and design writer for WikiLawn Lawn Care of Phoenix.