Cacti Outside All Year
Even though I don't live in the Southwest, I love growing cacti and would like to find some that I can keep outside year-round. Do you have any recommendations for me?
—Mike Sheffield, Nashville, Tennessee
Melinda: Believe it or not, there are quite a few cacti and succulents that are winter hardy in Tennessee, and even in areas much farther north. The key is selecting cold-hardy species and creating a garden in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Unlike traditional garden plants, cacti and succulents naturally dehydrate in fall to improve winter survival. Poorly drained soils and wet falls—not cold winter temperatures—usually cause the demise of hardy cacti and succulents. Check out hardy species in the Opuntia (prickly pear), Echniocereus, Pediocactus, Agave and Yucca groups. For best results, you may want to start with one of the prickly pears, such as eastern prickly pear (Opuntia compressa) that tolerates light shade and is one of the best suited for northern gardens. And don’t forget about the succulents. Many northern gardeners have had success growing Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa). Its close relative, Yucca glauca, has been grown in northern gardens, including some in Alberta, Canada.