Soil Depth and Plant Selection

Minimum soil depth for plant growth is a frequent subject of discussion of late and while you cannot search The Plantium based upon soil depth, we thought we’d gather some information to assist in your criteria based plant designs!

Let’s first look at the question at hand. As designers and installers we are asked to create landscapes in all sorts of conditions. Often these conditions are challenging and not necessarily conditions that plants might face in their natural environments. That said, we have all seen these images at some point in our lives…. the beautiful and resilient plant that appears to be growing happily, in what appears to be NO soil depth AT ALL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those looking for answers regarding bed construction and just soil depth in general, let’s send you to one of our Plantium brands for some fantastic basic information regarding bed construction in the field.

https://www.provenwinners.com/learn/make-your-bed

Soil depth for OPTIMAL plant growth in more challenging situations such as green roof conditions, large planters, tree wells, etc. is dependent on four main factors. These factors are proper drainage, proper plant selection, plant longevity, and soil depth to plant height ratio. We’ll discuss these factors in this order because the very last issue you should be considering in your plant design is soil depth. If you have not addressed the first three issues in your bed design then regardless of soil depth, plants will not thrive.

Proper Drainage

Whether your planting bed is in the lawn, green roof or contained planters, proper drainage is crucial. While certain plants can survive inundation in a natural setting, standing water or improper drainage will QUICKLY de-oxygenate and compact the soil in contained situations and kill the plants. There are many ways to tackle drainage and all are dependent on the design situation. Working closely with the horticulture team is the best way to find an effective drainage solution.

Proper Plant Selection

Let’s look at those tough little plants growing in the cracks and crevasses! You need to keep in mind the type of plant you are specifying when dealing with challenging planting situations. Plants that grow in these conditions in the natural world tend to be tough, resilient, vigorous, and drought tolerant plants. If you have all the right soil and bed conditions but choose more sensitive plants, it is likely that those plants will struggle. Also, remember that as the soil profile for any plant is constrained so will the plant’s natural habit be constrained. Street trees planted in minimum soil volumes will never reach the full mature height or width that they would under optimal growing conditions.

 

 

Plant Longevity

Planting designs are being designed and installed with a maximum 20 year life span. A controversial statement, perhaps, so feel free to challenge it! It appears long gone are the days of an Olmsteadian landscape that appreciates with time and just barely reaches its full glory at 20 years. Here at The Plantium we vehemently disagree with this trend and firmly believe that criteria based plant selection can reverse this trend. Better plant choices! We’d love to hear your comments on this issue!

All that said, green roof and enclosed planter situations pose different challenges. Small planters and shallow green roof systems need very carefully management to maintain soil health and ultimately plant health. The shallower the soil profile the more quickly that soil will be depleted of nutrients and micro-organisms crucial to the plant’s health. If a refresh of the plant material (and soil) is planned over time, then shallower soil profiles can be a great fit. If the design contemplates trees and shrubs that are intended to grow to maturity over time, then a more significant soil depth should be considered.

Soil Depth

On to the question at hand. Let’s simplify the soil depth for optimal plant growth under container type situations into the following categories. Again, exact soil depth is probably debatable by many so we welcome other thoughts from our expert crowd!

Plant Type Plant Height Minimum Soil Depth
Annuals Any 3”
Turf Grass NA 4” (3” in warm climates)
Perennials <8” 4” (3” in warm climates)
Perennials 8”-16” 6”-8”
Perennials/ Ornamental Grasses/ Shrubs 16”-24” 12”-18”
Perennials/ Ornamental Grasses/ Shrubs 2’-6’ 24”
Shrubs/ Small Trees >6’ 3’ Minimum (should consider overall volume as well)
Trees All Should be calculated on overall volume for each tree and not just soil depth

 

Maintenance

Lastly, on-going maintenance is the greatest issue facing these planting designs. Over-watering is perhaps the most frequent maintenance faux pas committed against our container plants. Carefully working with the maintenance team is critical to head off this issue early on.

Happy Planting Y’all!

 

Connect One Design Shout Out

The Plantium is made for landscape professionals BY landscape professionals. To that end, it’s been an exciting summer in the Colorado mountains and the Connect One Design landscape architecture team has been hard at work. Check out Connect One Design in the media. We couldn’t do what we do without an amazing staff and The Plantium software!

Here’s just a few fun pics from the field. Enjoy!

 

Sourcing Plants – New Plant Availability Feature (beta)

Sourcing plants is about to be easier than ever!

UPDATED 5/1/17

Just choose your state and see all of The Plantium’s participating nurseries. Don’t see your favorite nursery? Just complete the form and get their information on our site as soon as possible! You can now also export existing plant lists as a spreadsheet, including availability.

Colorado Nurseries

Plant availability is live on The Plantium. Do you want to sign up a nursery that you frequently go to for plant material? Send them this link. Fill out the quick easy form and we can list that nursery’s stock for FREE! ENJOY!

For Nurseries

Plant Availability (beta) is LIVE! Sourcing plants can be the most disheartening part of planting design.  As a landscape architect I cannot think of anything more frustrating than spending hours choosing just the right plants for a project only to have my contractor or nursery supplier come back and tell me they cannot find half of what I specified. It drives me crazy!

That is why we are so excited to launch the new Plantium availability feature (beta) in Colorado, Utah and beyond. Landscape professionals in these states will soon be able to search for great plants, make lists, evaluate their designs AND locate those plants at nearby nurseries. While only in beta version right now, we are thrilled to make finding plants just a little bit easier. This plant availability feature will be live in the coming weeks. Start your free one month trial now, and take advantage of your free web training session so you can be ready to take full advantage of this new time saver as soon as it hits the primetime!

Thanks and Happy Plant Hunting!

By Heather Henry, President and CEO of The Plantium

Understanding Nursery Stock Sizes

It’s time to build your plant lists…. And there’s one thing to remember. Size matters! But understanding and deciphering standard nursery stock sizes can be like trying to find your way out of an Iowa cornfield. You’re bound to get lost a few times. Everyone calls out nursery stock sizes differently. Gallons, flat size, tree height, or caliper have all appeared in our plant lists. But depending on your familiarity with the nursery industry, you may not know that there is a continuously updated national standard on how to spec nursery stock sizes!

When writing this blog, I set out to include a nice handy, dandy all-purpose cheat sheet for our landscape professionals but it turns out that is easier said than done! Instead, this article provides a brief overview of the standard and can get you started on the right path to learning more for the next time you specify plants. We cannot promise that your suppliers will be following this standard to the number and letter, but if you stay familiar with the standards you will be much more likely to specify the nursery stock sizes that are available.

Specifying the Right Sizes Takes Knowledge

Specifying the Right Sizes Takes Knowledge

Called the American Standard for Nursery Stock, this national standard is published and maintained by AmericanHort, which is a somewhat recently formed consolidation of the American Nursery & Landscape Association and OFA—The Association of Horticultural Professionals.

According to AmericanHort, “The purpose of the American Standard for Nursery Stock … is to provide buyers and sellers of nursery stock with a common terminology, a ‘single language,’ in order to facilitate commercial transactions involving nursery stock. For instance, the Standard establishes common techniques for (a) measuring plants, (b) specifying and stating the size of plants, (c) determining the proper relationship between height and caliper, or height and width, and (d) determining whether a root ball or container is large enough for a particular size plant.”

The organization has been publishing this nursery standard since 1923, and it was adopted as a national standard in 1949 (ANSI Z60.1-2014). The most recent revision to the standard was published in 2014, and is available free from AmericanHort HERE. Use of this standard when growing and specifying plants is voluntary, but it is widely accepted and often referenced in standard specification sections. Using the standard has many benefits for designers and contractors, not the least of which is simplifying the procurement and acceptance processes by relying on clear pre-defined standards for quality and size of nursery stock.

The complete standard may be a daunting 109 pages but it is a surprisingly easy read, and provides in-depth, but digestible information. Below are a few key points from the American Standard for Nursery Stock you may find helpful (along with a cheat sheet to get you to the appropriate tables in the larger document). However, we would HIGHLY recommend reading through the whole standard and having a copy handy. It truly provides an amazing wealth of info (there’s a great section on identifying unacceptable co-dominant leaders – a problem I’ve had first hand issues with!). This resource also provides all the information necessary when accepting or rejecting plant material that shows up at your site!

 General Standards for Nursery Stock Sizes:

  • Specifications must include plant size by caliper, height or width appropriate to the plant type.
  • Certain plants may be specified by container size (see below). ALL others should be specified with caliper, height or width.
  • Typically, plant size specifications should include only the minimum allowable plant size in that interval. In other words, if you specify a 2.5 in. caliper Type 1 shade tree you may get a tree anywhere up to a 3 in caliper because it references the 2.5 to 3 inch range for that type of tree. As long as you specify the minimum, you know you will not get a SMALLER tree.
  • Caliper is always measured six inches above ground or soil level for trees less than 4.5” caliper, and 12 inches above the ground for 4.5” or larger.

General Standards for Containers:

  • These are generally the only plants to specify by container size
    • Herbaceous perennials
    • Non-winter-hardy shrubs
    • Ornamental grasses
    • Groundcovers
    • Vines
  • Containers marketed and sold with a # designation must have volumes within the ranges shown in the ANSI standard in order to comply
  • Container classes #1 through #100 include the volume of a container that, if such a container were manufactured, would hold the equivalent number of gallons as the container class number. #1 = one gallon; #5 = five gallon and so on.
  • Nursery stock specifications that reference only an imperial volume measurement, such as “quarts” or “gallons,” are not in accordance with the Standard. I can tell you that our plant lists have gotten that WRONG for years!!
  • The SP designation refers to ‘small plant’ containers. #SP4, for example, is a 4 inch container, or “quart” container. This designation goes from #SP1 – #SP5 and should reference square or round.
  • Container grown nursery stock shall have a well-established root system reaching the sides of the container to maintain a firm ball, but shall not have excessive root growth encircling the inside of the container (the same holds true for roots in ball and burlap!).

 

Root Bound

Container Growth Gone Wrong – Root Bound Tree

Tree B&B

When Done Right – A Thing of Beauty

 

Shade and Flowering Trees:

  • There are FOUR types of shade and flowering trees identified in the standard with the following associated specifications tables
    • Type 1 – Page 15-16
    • Type 2 – Page 17
    • Type 3 – Page 19
    • Type 4 – Page 21
    • Multi-stem and Shrub Form Trees – Page 24
  • Multi-stem tree specifications should include a minimum number of stems. If none is specified, 3 will be assumed.

Deciduous Shrubs:

  • There are THREE types of deciduous shrubs identified in the standard with associated specifications
    • Type 0 – Page 28
    • Type 1 – Page 28
    • Type 2 – Page 29
    • Type 3 – Page 30
  • Plants may not meet plant size specification or minimum number of canes at time of shipment at certain times of the year, but would be expected to reach the plant size specification and minimum number of canes during the first growing season after shipment.

Coniferous Evergreens:

  • There are SIX types of Coniferous Evergreens identified in the standard with associated specifications
    • Type 1 – Page 32
    • Type 2 – Page 33
    • Type 3 – Page 34
    • Type 4 – Page 36
    • Type 5 – Page 38
    • Type 6 – Page 40
  • Coniferous evergreens will also be described by their shearing:
    • Natural: (showing the form natural for the species)
    • Semi Sheared (sheared when plant is young to maintain symmetrical shape)
    • Sheared (pruned regularly to retain a symmetrical shape)
    • Altered Form (Can you say POODLED!!)

Broadleaf Evergreens:

  • There are SIX types of Coniferous Evergreens identified in the standard with associated specifications
    • Type 1 – Page 42
    • Type 2 – Page 44
    • Type 3 – Page 46
    • Type 4 – Page 48
    • Type 5 – Page 50
    • Type 6 – Page 52

Additional information in the standard provides specs for young plants, roses, palms (and other bare root stock), fruit trees, bulbs, corms/ tubers, and understock/seedling trees and shrubs.

Now, armed with this great information, you can confidently go forth and specify!

Also, check out these other great articles regarding considerations on transplant size:

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/Influence_of_Tree_Size_on_Transplant_Establishment_277656_7.pdf

http://www.ncufc.org/uploads/Tree_Establishment_A_Review_of_Some_of_the_Factors_(Struve_2009).pdf

Plant Knowledge in the Landscape Industry

‘You can only learn about plants by getting dirty.’ That’s what a new friend of The Plantium said to us recently over a glass of wine. It resonated. Plant knowledge takes time, testing and retesting, observation and patience. Building knowledge takes a willingness to experiment. How much does plant knowledge matter in our industry and is it on the rise or decline in the landscape industry?

As landscape professionals we are facing several key trends in the horticulture industry, not the least of which is what Russell Cummings coined as ‘V squared’ – volatility and velocity.1 Our clients’ demands are shifting quickly and these clients are rarely patient. With ecological factors like drought tolerance and native (to name just two) here to stay, demands are becoming more refined, requiring landscape professionals to possess a sophisticated array of both environmental and aesthetic plant knowledge.

Young students and professionals leaving their respective institutions (universities and botanic gardens) may find themselves facing even greater challenges. ‘In the past, there has been a good deal of wrangling over how important plant knowledge is to the profession, with claims that many landscape architects are regressing in plant prowess. With such an array of vital skills needed in landscape architecture, it can be difficult to decipher whether or not an area such as plants necessitates further learning.’2 Institutions are struggling to making difficult decisions regarding where to spend the precious little time they have with their students. Industry professionals are also increasingly mobile following personal and professional opportunities and finding themselves in very different bioregions at different points in their professional lives.

The usefulness of technology in knowledge management is a foregone fact yet the plant industry lags behind. Without technology assisting landscape professionals capture what they have learned much plant knowledge is lost in this diverse, fickle and fast-paced industry. Students and professionals have to be armed with the ability to make quick, environmentally intelligent decisions regarding plants. Students and professionals need to spend less time hunting through hundreds of books and websites to find plant information and more time getting dirty putting the right plants in the ground and watching them thrive. Technology must be in place to capture these evaluations and allow our professionals to retain this personal and institutional knowledge. ‘Data, data everywhere’ as Cummings said. Professionals, budding professionals and our academic institutions should be asking themselves ‘How can you use your information for faster and better quality decisions?’1 The Plantium looks forward to continuing this conversation among the academic thought leaders in late March at the CELA 2016 conference where we will pose the same tough questions. http://www.cela2016.com/

  1. Russell Cummings – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140914082436-3143364-the-top-5-trends-for-horticulture
  2. Paul McAtomney – http://landarchs.com/top-10-names-in-planting-design/

Fun Facts: Planting Design ‘at Altitude’

This short article attempts to bring some clarity to the complicated discussion of “designing at altitude.”

Everyone acknowledges that elevation plays a role in plant growth. The most widely known and visible example of this is the phenomenon known as Treeline. (Check out this article for a great explanation). But there is significant confusion among landscape professionals as to how and why elevation affects the plants you can grow in a cultivated setting. In fact, many commonly held beliefs are misconceptions or generalizations applied erroneously to all high elevation areas.

What truly changes as altitude increases, and how do these changes affect plants?

There are four factors that are universally tied to increased elevation:

  • Decreased temperature (generally)
  • Decreased atmospheric pressure
  • Increased exposure to overall solar radiation (on clear days)
  • Increased UV-B Radiation

All of these affect plant growth to varying extents. Decreased atmospheric pressure can translate to increased transpiration rates (the loss of water through plant leaves), however the lower air temperatures at high altitudes often negate this. Increased exposure to solar radiation can result in higher photosynthetic rates. Conversely, increased exposure to UV-B radiation impairs photosynthesis in many species of plants. And while exposure to both types of radiation increases with elevation, this is only on clear days, the number of which varies significantly by location, regardless of altitude.

Of the above elements, decreased temperature is the most universal change, and most likely the one that has the biggest impact on ornamental plant survival. Temperatures decrease by about 3.5 deg. F for every 1,000 feet in elevation gain. These cooler air and soil temperatures can affect many facets of a plant’s growth including seed germination, bud break, photosynthesis rate, flower season, and even pollen formation.

What isn’t a factor of elevation change?

Many other things attributed to increased altitude are not actually direct factors of elevation change, but rather location-specific environmental characteristics, such as:

  • Increased exposure to wind
  • Decreased available moisture
  • Shallow or poor soils

These are often applied generally to all high elevation settings, but in fact are highly dependent on the individual location.

Other environmental characteristics are actually a combination of latitude and altitude together, such as the perception of a shorter growing season. In central latitudes there is very little difference between the growing season at sea level and the growing season at a higher elevation. However, the closer you get to the poles, the more pronounced the difference becomes.

Sourcing plants from outside your elevation: Does it matter?

It is not a surprise that the same plant grown in a different area may appear different. Distinct temperature ranges, soil types, humidity, etc. will cause a plant to display different characteristics as it adapts to its environment. Species sourced from alternate regions may even have divergent genetics. An example provided by the Larimer County Ag Extension is Redbud (Cercis canadensis). Trees from seeds collected in northern areas (Wisconsin, Minnesota) are much more hardy than seeds collected from warmer climates like Oklahoma or Texas.

Regardless of elevation, it is always a good idea to source your large material from a climate comprable to that of your project. The years the plant has spent adapting to a similar climate will prepare it for successful establishment when you transplant it at your site. Compounding the stress of transplant with the stress of a wholesale change in growing environment will only increase the chance of death or failure to thrive.

The Takeaway:

At its core, successful establishment of ornamental plants depends on day length, season length, high and low temperature tolerance, and moisture/nutrient availability. The environmental factors that your site experiences must be taken into account when creating a design and selecting plant material, but elevation does not need to be added as a mysterious compounding factor.

If you think a plant can withstand your temperatures, moisture level, water, and exposure: give it a try, and let others know what you find out!

References:

http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/94/2/199.full

http://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/why_is_the_treeline_at_a_higher_elevation_in_the_tetons_than_in_the_white_m

https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/283/worre3-4.pdf?sequence=2 (Georgraphical variation in Sitka spruce productivity and its dependence on environmental factors)

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.502.5473&rep=rep1&type=pdf

http://www.life.illinois.edu/ib/514/K%F6rner_2007.pdf

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/gardennotes/143.html

Larimer County Ag Extension

The Plantium: The Beginning

It’s time to do a planting design. Eyes roll. There’s a lot of sighing. It is not pretty.

After spending hours on the design process for the hardscape somehow we continually short-change the plant design. Instead of supporting and becoming integral to our designs, it lingered behind, relegated to the last 10% of the fee (if we were lucky) and constantly approached with trepidation and angst. Why would this critical component of our landscape profession, a profession with a rich history of close and careful integration of hard and soft elements, be left to wither (no pun intended) at the end of the design process? Because each plant design began with the arduous task of combing through some existing plant lists buried in the electronic files of the server’s nether regions, then we’d pull up six websites and spread out a dozen print references. We’d try to choose plants that would be successful under the project’s environmental and design conditions. Once chosen we’d spend hours combing for imagery and creating boards and graphs that might explain this elusive effort of plant design to clients generally unversed in even basic plant knowledge. All this effort to then learn these plants are not even available for purchase commercially.

The Plantium Debuts at ASLA 2015

The Plantium Debuts at ASLA 2015

The Plantium founders having way too much fun.

The Plantium founders having way too much fun.

Did you also know some of our top landscape architecture programs around the country are dropping plant identification and plant design classes all together? So, even our young staff was entering the profession grossly underdeveloped in the area of plant design.

IF we were fortunate to have a go-to ‘plant person’ in house or at least nearby he/ she would bust out their ‘tried and true’ plants that had been used dozens of times before. Yet, somehow, we continued to be shocked when our plant designs all started to look the same! The chasm between softscape and hardscape seems destined to grow ever larger… until now. Where was our ability to be as creative in our plant selections as we were in our hardscape designs? We needed a solution. We needed a place that would aggregate all this plant information into one consolidated source and help us quickly and easily evaluate plants that met ever evolving project design challenges.

So was born The Plantium. As founders we wanted to solve for our own ever growing frustrations. Launched in Colorado with humble beginnings by four founders, three landscape professionals and one software developer, The Plantium will electronically organize and revolutionize the entire process of plant searching, management, purchasing and maintenance. One step at a time we will ‘change the way the world sees plants’.

We are thrilled to be releasing new features and critical bug fixes at the beginning of the year that will be a major step forward in our software’s functionality. Sign up now for a free trial or drop us your email address and we’ll make sure you get a notification when The Plantium 1.0 has on its ‘Sunday best’! Stay tuned to this blog in the future to meet the founders individually as well as hear a little more about The Plantium. We look forward to getting to know you!

https://app.theplantium.com/register

Plant of the Month: Gaillardia ‘Oranges and Lemons’

Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Oranges and Lemons’

With low water use, an exceptionally long bloom season, and low maintenance requirements, Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Oranges and Lemons’ is a great choice for your next landscape design project.

History

The plant was discovered in 2002 by Rosemary Hardy as a seed from Gaillardia ‘Dazzler’ and an unknown male parent. Patent number 17092 was awarded to the plant in 2004, and it has become a popular perennial choice since its commercial release. Unlike most blanket flowers, which sport dark orange or red ligules (a term for the “petals” of the composite inflorescences on Gaillardia), ‘Oranges and Lemons’ stands out with large, showy, light orange ligules fading to yellow at the tips.

Culture

This plant combines many of the ideals sought in planting design: low water use, low maintenance, abundant blooms, long bloom season, and sterility.

‘Oranges and Lemons’ prefers to be planted in full sun, with well drained soil in USDA zones 3-9. It has attractive grey-green foliage, but the abundant flowers are the main attraction. Even in the first year after transplant this cultivar puts on an impressive show that lasts and lasts. When grown in areas with frost, ‘Oranges and Lemons’ will bloom profusely and consistently from the time nights warm up in late spring to the first hard frost in fall. In areas with no frost, this Gaillardia can bloom virtually all year long! This is a sterile cultivar so, while some light deadheading could help make room for new flowers, removing spent blooms to prevent self-seeding is not a concern. The flowers and are highly attractive to bees, and the plant’s copious pollen and long bloom season means it is a great resource for pollen-seekers all growing season.

Once established, ‘Oranges and Lemons’ requires very little supplemental water, and can also withstand high heat. It has a compact habit, reaching 18” high x 24” wide (24” high with flowers). Unlike other Gaillardias which can flop open, ‘Oranges and Lemons’ will maintain its upright stems and mounding habit if planted in full sun. This cheery blanket flower can be virtually ignored in the landscape and still create a show-stopping display!

Design

‘Oranges and Lemons’ is ideal for containers, either by itself or in combination with trailing plants or dark-leaved grasses for contrast. It is also great for edging along pavement, although the significant number of bees it can attract may prevent planting along narrow sidewalks. The landscape pairing possibilities are endless, but it works particularly well with finely-textured purple-flowered plants such as the equally long blooming Nepeta x faassenii or Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Little Spire’. The showy orange flowers are also a great counter-point to the foliage and texture of small, lower water use evergreens such as Abies concolor ‘Compacta’, or Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’.

Gaillardia companion plants

Gaillardia companion plants

Designing with Cactus

What is a Cactus?

Many people, even those who consider themselves familiar with arid plants, get confused when it comes to what really constitutes a cactus. Isn’t it basically anything spikey that grows in dry climates? No! A cactus is, in fact, a very specific thing.

Cacti are members of the family Cactaceae. There are approximately 1,800 species of cactus.

Two specific things set cacti apart from other plants:

  • Not all cacti have spines when they mature, but a great way of distinguishing a spiney cactus from other spikey plants in the field is the presence of “areoles,” little bumps on the plant from which clusters of spines grow. If the spines on the plant are not growing in clusters out of these bumps it’s not a cactus!

Cactus aerole

  • All cacti also have a specific flower structure. Though the flower of each cactus species may be very different, all cactus flowers have many tepals (a term used when the sepals of a flower are indistinguishable from the petals) that are somewhat fused; hundreds of stamens; and many-lobed stigmas.

Yellow prickly pear cactus flower

Designing with Cacti

As a group, cacti are drought tolerant and are a great option for any water-conscious landscape. But xeric gardens aren’t the only ones that can benefit from the use of cactus! Their frequently strong sculptural or geometric forms and punchy colors can add punctuation to any landscape design, as long as the growing conditions are right.

Cacti with upright or twisting forms are popular for use against a striking backdrop such as a richly-colored wall, or for their silhouette against a vista. They can also be grouped together for great large-scale textural effects, or consider pairing their chunky forms with something soft such as Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) for inviting contrast. Barrel cacti are perfect for creating rhythm and reinforcing patterns in design, and the bold textures and colors of pad cacti (Opuntia) provide great backdrops or focal points in the landscape.

Agaves, other succulents, and grasses are great design companions, but cacti can really be added to any composition with complimentary leaf colors, contrasting textures, and similar environmental requirements.

Most cacti are very sensitive to over-watering, so make sure the soil is very well drained, and the other plants in your design have compatible water use requirements. Use The Plantium to easily find great cacti and appropriate design companions for your next project!

Fun Facts about Cacti

  • All cacti are succulent, but not all succulents are cacti!
  • All cacti are native to the Americas, though they have spread around the world post-colonization.
  • Although they are typically slow growers, cacti are very successful in arid climates, so much so that in certain countries like Australia many cacti are considered noxious weeds.
  • Cacti grow in a wide variety of places, though mostly in habitats that experience some drought. People associate cacti with hot climates, but there are many species that are hardy to -30 deg. F and lower!
  • Cacti come in a wild variety of shapes, sizes, and forms, from the stereotypical Saguaro, barrel, and prickly pear, to the Rose Cactus (Pereskia grandifolia) which looks like a tree or shrub at first glance.
  • Most cacti don’t have true leaves, instead performing photosynthesis in their modified stems. However some cacti, like the rose cactus, can be very leafy!