Cacti Heaven

Bonnie Nowicki

It’s May, it’s May, the merry month of May! Do you recall that verse from the song in the vintage movie Camelot? Here in Quail Creek we are enjoying a merry springtime, surrounded by nature’s magic. Brilliant yellow-flowered Palo Verde trees and exquisite cacti blooms appear everywhere. Appreciating cacti beauty usually means someone, if not nature, has lovingly cared for them.

Well drained soil is essential for good cacti growth; meaning high amounts of clay can impede drainage. Eight hours of direct sunlight is also recommended for normal growth. Cacti are drought tolerant, low-water-use plants, but they do respond to occasional watering. Once a week watering may be necessary in the hot summer. When warm nights reach 70 degrees, transplanting cacti is ideal. So, start planning your next cactus purchase and placement. May I suggest choosing from the Echinocereus species (Hedgehog Cacti). Their showy flowers and compact size make them a good garden choice.

Have you ever considered cleaning your established cacti? Good grooming habits prevent fungus and bacteria from forming. When blooms dry up, remove them with oversized (16”) tweezers, which can be purchased at nurseries or online. Other tools to use are a paint brush and serrated carving knife. Fallen tree leaves and other yard debris get caught in the cactus spines and deeply indented ribs and should be removed easily with a brush or tweezers. Sanitize your tools from one cactus to the next.

You can buy a variety of cacti starter plants and appropriate soil right here in Green Valley at the U of A extension center on Whitehouse Canyon Blvd. Center hours are 8:00 a.m. till noon, Monday-Friday. By the way, I did finish my required volunteer hours at the center last month and now I am an official Master Gardener. Of course, there’s always more to learn and share. We also have a newly graduated class of intern master gardeners eager to help. Come in with your gardening questions and pick up informational hand-outs. Tour our garden and share ideas.

Here’s a parting thought. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Happy planting!