The eye-catching beauty of desert cacti lie in their structural shape, texture, 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 the beauty lies in viewing the spines at different times of the day, particularly, morning and afternoon sun reflecting off and through the spines. It adds another dimension to their beauty.
Understanding the natural habitat of a plant helps with how to care for them in our home. 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. They generally 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, rarely water in winter, keep in a bright sunny position to maintain shape indoors and out. Better to underwater than overwater. Cacti roots rot easily, and too much water can kill them. As more roots die, the stem starts to deteriorate, turning soft and changing colour.
Melbourne’s temperate climate, I like to think Mediterranean suits arid cacti, particularly in the warmer months. Winter, deserts get cold too, means that we just have to protect indoors by finding a warm spot with plenty of sunshine or outside against a warm northern wall that is protected. The hairy ones should be inside and most need protection from frost.