If you have a hot, south facing balcony, consider adding cactus to your 2013 garden. I’ve grown an assortment of cactus over the years and my current collection includes hardy, native Opuntia. Last summer the clay cactus trough and other cactus containers were tucked up against the south-facing brick wall. The plants loved the heat and tolerated the wind. And because they weren’t combined in with other containers, I spent very little time picking spines out of my gardening gloves (and finger tips).
There are two varieties planted in this container – Opuntia fragilis and Opuntia polyacantha. The soil is a mix of grit, sand and a small amount of compost – very coarse, and well drained. New growth was evident on each plant throughout the growing season last year – so much so that I was motivated to make sure the container came in before it started to get cold out.
Now these hardy varieties can winter over here on the prairies.The cactus start to wrinkle in the late fall as they purge water from their cells – which helps prevent cell damage when the freeze comes. Here’s what they look like right now, under the snow, in Gayla’s garden in Toronto. But on a balcony in Calgary, with the cold and Chinooks, its high risk to think they might survive, so I typically bring them in for the winter.
So, right now the cactus are nestled into the windowsill garden. I’m propagating a couple of new sprouts – pretty easy to do if you don’t over water. You break off a pad at a joint, let it dry for about a week and then nestle it down into the soil to root. In the photo above you can see the little, new starter cactus in the upper right and centre and in the photo below, in the far upper left.
My ultimate goal? To get a cactus bloom on the balcony in 2013. The theory being that if the plants are in great shape in the spring they might think about setting a flower or two in celebration. If it happens, it will be a first. And you’ll be the
first second to know.