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Creating a bed or even a cactus garden with colorful, blooming cacti in our latitudes does not have to remain a dream. There are actually some hardy species that provide exceptional accents in the garden all year round. Choosing the right variety is important so that you can have some of the thorny beauties in the bucket or bed for a long time. We have therefore compiled a list of cacti varieties and species that are particularly suitable for this purpose.
Among the many different types of cacti, there are a number of candidates that exhibit good winter hardiness. In nature, these cacti mostly come from the mountainous regions of Central and North America, where they are used to very low temperatures. In our latitudes, however, they have the problem that it not only gets cold in the winter months, but also damp or even wet. For this reason, hardy cacti that have a place in the bed or in a bucket on the balcony must be protected from excessive moisture.
Hardy cactus varieties
If they are protected from excessive moisture, they can easily withstand temperatures as low as -25 °C. They can still tolerate around -15 °C to -20 °C in somewhat wetter locations, which should never be wet. The following types and varieties of cacti have proven to be particularly hardy.
These succulent beauties reach heights of up to one meter with their long, cylindrical shoots. Although the Cylindropuntia only blooms after about five to ten years, it is then very floriferous. In the year after flowering, yellowish fruits ripen on the plant. A special feature of these cacti are the beautiful fresh shoots, which take on a pink-pink hue. In winter, the plants let the finger-shaped shoots hang down slightly in the upper area. From April, these shoots will pull themselves up again.
- flowers only from the age of 5 to 10 years
- Growth rate: 2 to 10 cm per year
- without rain protection: about -15 to -20 °C hardy
- hardy to -25 °C with rain protection
Hardy varieties of Cylindropuntia:
- 'Pinky': strong pink-colored blossoms, later turning slightly wine-red
- 'Marco': salmon red new shoots, up to 2 m tall, pink flowers
- 'Walter': dusky pink flowers
- 'Uhlig': bright pink flowers
- 'Stürzer': pink flowers
- 'Würzburg': yellow flowers
- 'Fredonia': sun yellow flowers
- 'Frank': salmon pink flowers with yellow stamens
- 'Cylindropuntia x spinosior'
Echinocereus (Hedgehog pillar cactus)
If Echinocereus is offered protection in winter, this cactus can withstand temperatures as low as -15 °C. The plants grow as small, columnar cushions and are already very willing to flower when they are very small. Their elongated, round shoots form small clumps with some cotton-like hairs between the thorns. After about ten years, these pads reach a diameter of about 20 cm. The fruits of the Echinocereus are dry and do not form any pulp. These cacti come primarily from the arid regions of southern USA and Mexico.
Varieties of Echinocereus cacti:
- Echinocereus chisoensis: deep pink flowers with a brown throat and creamy white stamens
- Echinocereus Reichenbachii ssp. baileyi: pink flowers with a brown base and yellow stamens
- Echinocereus russanthus 'Brewster Co Tx': yellow flowers
- Echinocereus dasyacanthus: yellow flower, occasionally tinged with orange, pink or purple
- Echinocereus caespitosus: pink flowers
- Echinocereus perbellus: bright pink flower
- Echinocereus triglochidiatus: bright orange-red or deep red flowers
- Echinocereus viridiflorus: wide open, green-yellow flower
- Echinocereus chloranthus var. cylindricus: brownish-yellow flowers
The Escobaria cacti usually form larger, spherical plants with felty creamy white thorns. With age, these cacti grow increasingly as dense clumps up to 20 cm in diameter. After flowering, small red or green fruits, about one centimeter in size, ripen in October to November. These fruits have no thorns and are edible. The taste reminds a little of a gooseberry. When cultivating the Escobaria, it is important not to water it too much in the bucket or bed in summer. Otherwise it tends to rot.
- hardy to -25 °C with rain protection
- Flower colors: available in various shades and color combinations
Varieties of Escobaria cacti:
- Escobaria vivipara
- Escobaria neomexicana
- Escobaria arizonica
- Escobaria sneedii
- Escobaria sandbergi
- Escobaria organensis
- Escobaria asperispina
- Escobaria missouriensis
The Opuntia is one of the most beautiful and popular hardy cactus species. It forms medium-sized, disc-shaped shoots that branch out strongly, especially near the ground. Overall, these cacti are only about 40 cm high and form long, white thorns. The succulent plant is very frost-resistant, especially in the bucket on a covered balcony. In contrast to many other hardy cactus varieties, the Opuntia forms a large number of flowers after just one to two years, which later ripen into dry fruits when pollinated by insects. The various varieties of Opuntia polyacantha and Opuntia macrocentra var. nevadensis are particularly frost-resistant, with the latter displaying beautiful winter coloring. The Opuntia is ideal for planting in a rain-protected bed and is an absolute must for cactus lovers.Opuntia polycantha
Hardy varieties of Opuntia polycantha:
- 'Christel Tide'/'Richter': white flowers with a pink throat
- 'Snowball': white flower with a light yellow base
- 'Apricot': bright apricot colored flowers
- 'Linz': red flowers
- 'Kaiserstuhl': red flower
- 'Orangade': bright red-orange flowers
- Opuntia polycantha finermis: forms edible fruits
Other opuntias that prove to be particularly hardy:
- Opuntia basilaris var. humistata
- Opuntia aurea
- Opuntia rutila
- Opuntia phaeacantha
- Opuntia scheeri: grayish green shoots
This cactus species inhabits the western United States from New Mexico to southern Canada. Almost all plants grow there at an altitude of between 2000 and 2800 meters as solitary plants with a diameter of around eight centimeters. In contrast to most other types of cacti, Pediocactus simpsonii flowers very early in the year. Pink or yellowish flowers appear from mid-April. Individual variations of this type of cactus are among the hardiest hardy species among the cacti and are therefore likely to grow even in higher alpine locations. However, the plants are somewhat sensitive to moisture.Pediocactus simpsonii
This small cactus species from Argentina develops green, terete leaves with short, very strong thorns. The blue-green shoots are around six centimeters long and quickly form large mats in the bed. Although very hardy, the Maihuenia also has a small disadvantage: it is quite lazy to bloom, especially in the first few years.Maihuenia poeppigii
Varieties of Maihuenia cacti:
- Maihuenia poeppigii
- Mahuenia patagonica
- Mahuenia valentinii
conditionally hardy cactus varieties
The following cacti react somewhat more sensitively to permanent frosts or extreme cold snaps. Nevertheless, in most locations they are quite suitable for planting in tubs or beds and can remain outdoors in a sheltered place all year round.
This cactus species is originally from North America and usually forms larger, but flat, globular cushions with very long, gray thorns and beautiful, purple flowers. With a rain cover, the cacti are frost-resistant down to temperatures between -12 °C and -18 °C.
Varieties of Coryphantha cacti:
- Coryphantha echinus
- Coryphantha macromeris
Gymnocalycum andreae (hump cactus)
With a growth height of only 10 to 20 centimetres, the hump cactus is one of the smaller types of cactus that are very hardy. With around 50 species, Gymnocalycum occur almost exclusively in desert regions. The bright green plants are spherical in shape and have hump-like ribs. Often they are cultivated for the interesting thorns. The cacti look best when planted in small groups in the bed.
- Hardiness with rain cover: -12 °C to -17 °C
- reacts somewhat sensitively to permanent frosts
The Grusonia clavata grows very slowly and forms small, club-shaped shoots that are covered with long, mostly light-colored thorns. Larger specimens bloom occasionally, mostly in shades of yellow. The succulent plants are less sensitive to the cold than to moisture, especially in the cool months.
- Hardiness without rain protection: -12 °C to -18 °C
- hardy to -25 °C with rain protection
The species, also known as Reicheocactus, comes from South America (Argentina) and grows dwarf with noticeably heavily woolly flowers. The plant is usually found singly, only occasionally does it form larger cushions. What is striking about the spherical to cylindrical cacti is the sunken shoot apex. The funnel-shaped flowers of Lobivia are usually yellow to orange-yellow in color. In our latitudes, the plants are hardy to about -15 °C and can therefore be planted in a bucket on the balcony.
With around 400 species, the Mammillaria genus is one of the largest cacti families ever. But most species are not sufficiently hardy here. These extraordinary North American cacti grow as a rounded disc to flat ball with beige, strong thorns. After flowering, beautiful, elongated red fruits develop on the plant. Mammillaria like to form groups. At the base of each plant arise so-called Kindel. In contrast to some other types of cactus, the surface of the rounded body is not covered with ribs, but contains spirally arranged warts from which the thorns emerge.
- Hardiness with rain cover: -12 °C to -18 °C
- hardy without rain protection
other Mammillaria varieties:
- Mammillaria meiacantha
- Mammillaria haudeana
- Mammillaria heyderi
From autumn, the metabolism of succulent plants slows down and the cacti enter a dormant phase. In winter, they almost completely stop growing and put all their energy into producing buds the following year. As a rule, the plants then change their appearance and become limp and shriveled. If the cactus is leaning towards the ground, this is not a cause for concern, it is completely normal. This is the only way they can survive the freezing temperatures. The next spring, when fresh juices get into the shoots again, the hanging parts of the plant will stand up again by themselves.
Overwinter cacti in buckets
Even if the cacti that are in a smaller bucket or pot on the terrace, balcony or in the garden are hardy, they do best if they are brought indoors before winter. The roots of the plants are less well protected in a planter than those of specimens that are planted in the bed. As a result, they cool down faster and may be damaged. You should consider this when overwintering your cacti in the bucket:
- before the first severe frosts
- It is best to check for pests or diseases right away
- never hibernate in the warm apartment
- Temperature: 4°C to a maximum of 12°C
- bright, but without direct sunlight
If the hardy cacti are already very large and can no longer be put away so easily, they should hibernate outside, but then they must be protected from rain and cold winds. In order to optimally protect the roots, the planter should have a volume of at least four liters. Smaller pots are better kept in a cold house.
- place in a sheltered place on the wall of the house
- sheltered from the rain under a canopy
- sunny to semi-shady
- Place the pot on a thick styrofoam plate (at least 5 cm thick)
- Wrap bucket with fleece or air foil
- Do not cover plants themselves
Overwinter cacti in the bed
Many of the cactus varieties mentioned are hardy to -25 °C with a rain cover. They can easily be planted out in a sheltered bed and left outdoors all year round. For cacti planted out that are sufficiently hardy, southern slopes or hill beds are particularly suitable. They must not be covered under any circumstances to protect them from the cold, like palm trees, for example, since they also need a lot of light in the cold season. A snow cover is not a problem for the succulent plants. On the contrary, the layer of snow protects the plant and the soil from cooling down. When hibernating cacti in beds, the following applies:
- conditionally hardy cactus species overwinter in an unheated foil tunnel
- Leave doors open on both sides
- serves primarily to protect against moisture
- water carefully again from the end of February
The substrate is an important factor for a good wintering of the cacti outdoors. It must be extremely sandy and crumbly. This ensures good water permeability and the roots can spread well into deep layers of the earth.
- rock granules
- fine gravel
- Loess soil (e.g. from a field or from an excavation pit)
- the proportion of soil may not exceed 15%