soil for hardy cacti

Submitted by Arie Vanspronsen on Thu, 07/25/2013 - 20:01


I'm building a hardy cacti bed, does it matter what kind of gravel I use. Our local rock is lime stone, or should I use pea stone, river rock or granite, mixed with concrete sand and garden soil.  And in which proportions. I'm in Ontario Canada. I'm hoping to plant Echinocereus, Escobaria and some of the smaller Opuntias


Submitted by IMYoung on Sat, 07/27/2013 - 06:07

Hi Arie, how are you and the lovely Lee? Both very well, I hope.

I suspect that your local limestone is perfect for quite a lot of hardy cactus since man of them enjoy an alkaline soil.

I'm not sure what your rainfall is - you may need to add extra gravel to make sure of the best drainage for those little spiky guys.




Thanks Maggi, Lee and I are doing fine, have lots of good memories from the Czech Rock garden Conference

And would go back tomorrow if there was another one.

Submitted by RickR on Sat, 07/27/2013 - 19:00

A cactus guru here in Minneapolis builds his outdoor cactus soils like this:

---- he uses the kind of rock a regular (American) homeowner might use for rock mulch for a landscaped area of shrubs, 3/4in(2cm) - 2in(6cm) - mostly larger size

---- he prefers angular types if possible

---- enough compost/soil to fill the air spaces.

---- he doesn't think it is that important to use a lean mix of the small aggregates, as long as here is good drainage.

Submitted by Middleton on Sat, 07/27/2013 - 20:17

Arie, if you Google Cactus garden in Manotick there are photos of such from start to finish on a fellows lawn.  I've also found in searches another cactus garden in Ottawa describing construction materials.  Sounds like a great project! 

Submitted by Arie Vanspronsen on Tue, 08/06/2013 - 19:28

Thanks everybody for your response, yes I did google the Ottawa sites and a lot of helpful information there,Sharon.

I have seen you are a member of ORG&HPS, do you attend their meetings?

Do you grow any hardy Cacti up there in Midland, if you do I would like to share some information with you.

Rick, I received some Coryphantha vivipara seed from you a couple of years ago and are planted in my alpine garden and survived last winter.

Submitted by RickR on Tue, 08/06/2013 - 21:13

That's great to hear of your success with the C. vivipara seed!  I'd be interested to know if you needed to do any tweaking of my culture advice.

Did you start the seed inside?

Submitted by externmed on Fri, 03/07/2014 - 15:55

My experience in New England USA is that Escobaria and Opuntia are quite easy and persistent, but Echinocereus would do better with some winter protection.  The latter tries to get rather large and I have eventually lost most.  I have yet to try a 3 parts grit one part washed sand as suggested below.

Some thoughts on soils for different regions, from a Idaho hardy cactus nursery:

Sand, gravel, and nothing else.

The website mentioned contains some misconceptions, conflating the silly term "drainage" in reference to plants grown in climates with excess rainfall and too much organic matter, with the action of rainfall on plants growing in coarse, highly oxygenated soils (usually mineral soils) in xeric habitats.  Plant growing in coarse soils in xeric habitats do not grow there because water "drains away" from the roots. They grow in such soils because rainfall penetrates more quickly,and water is more readily available to the roots. 

All the water from a brief thunderstorm, say, goes directly to the roots. In heavier soils, most of the water is lost to evaporation. 




"Forgive the lateness of my reply."