Desert Cacti (Arids)
Desert cacti have a weird beauty that grows on you. It’s not all flowers and foliage but rather structure, shape and the colour of their spines. The shape can be columnar (tall, erect), globular (round, barrel-shaped) or arborescent (branching, tree-shaped). The colour of the spines vary but their beauty is enhanced with the sun reflecting off and through the spines.
Understanding the natural habitat of a plant and trying to replicate this environment in your home, is important. Desert cacti have adapted to arid regions with very little rain or moisture available to them. If it does rain, it is usually transient so to adapt to these harsh conditions they have found ways to efficiently collect and store water in their stem. Their spines (highly modified leaves) aid in surviving in a harsh environment. Warmth, airflow, a good watering followed by a period of dry, a sheltered position, particularly in winter and one that receives plenty of sunshine and light. It is always better to underwater than overwater as cacti roots rot easily when exposed to too much moisture, more so in winter. As more roots die, the stem starts to deteriorate, turning soft and changing colour.
Melbourne’s temperate ‘Mediterranean’ climate, suits arid cacti, particularly in the warmer months. In winter, most cacti are dormant and should be kept dry indoors in a warm spot with plenty of light or outside in a greenhouse. Hairy cacti are more prone to rot so place in a sheltered position all year round.