Cactus Gardens in Miami ? Yes, really.

Epiphyllum hybrid--"Orchid Cactus"

When we think about subtropical Miami we usually think about palms, orchids, bromeliads and other tropical plants. Cacti and succulents seem to be left out, despite the fact that most cacti are tropical. There are even rainforest cacti with some really flashy flowers. There are column cacti, tree-dwelling cacti, miniature, giant and groundcover cacti and succulents. There are, of course, those "other" cacti with lots of spines which seem to poison our idea of using cacti in this subtropical climate. Yet cacti can be a great addition to landscapes, presenting a whole new look, including the addition of some excellent stand-alone container plants for focal points and balcony planters.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora- Flapjack Kalanchoe

One of the best arid gardens in the area is at Fairchild Garden, where the staff  has done marvelous work in building and maintaining first rate cacti and succulents. Pinecrest Gardens also has a cactus garden, in which you can walk through a small valley with cacti and succulents on both sides, with a canopy of plumerias overhead. We call it 'The Desert Garden", since "Cactus Garden" has a mental image to go with that some people find hard to grasp. Most of our arid plants are spineless, as we try to introduce more people to the diversity and easy care of of arid gardens in a subtropical climate. 
Cereus peruvianus- Peruvian Apple Cactus

Over the last 6 years, I have learned a lot about cacti and succulents, especially their food and water requirements. I was surprised to see that many of our cacti thrive when watered and fertilized during the growth period. When given a dry and fertilizer free winter rest period, the Spring season yields a lot of cactus flowers, followed by butterflies and hummingbirds. The productivity of our plants has been a surprise, too. Some of our Agave  species have been remarkably prolific in producing offshoots, as well as buckets of small plantlets on the flower stems. We're experimenting with more and more small-stature Kalanchoes, Agaves, Aloes, and Gasteria species. We're also propagating more of the epiphytic types like Epiphyllum and Rhipsalis. My personal choices for the epiphytic types are the hybrid Epiphyllum "Orchid Cacti". This group bears flowers with all the flash and color of waterlilies. I've wondered if I could grow such cacti above a a waterlily pond and get them both to flower at the same time, for a mind-bending look of waterlily-look flowers both in the water and on the trees.....

Furcrea mediopicta- Spineless False Agave

Adenium obesum - Desert Rose

There is a solid Cactus and Succulent Society in Miami and an annual cactus sale at Fairchild Garden. The members of the society and vendors at the sale can help with choices, including native cactus species for your garden. Use the local resources to make your garden designs come to life. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

Lobivia species-Hedgehog Cactus

1 comment:

  1. I would think that Miami would be a perfect growing area for succulents! Pictures are awesome. These are my plants of choice! LOL