Recommended Cactus and Succulents for the Home

If you’re growing cacti as houseplants, we can generally group them into these different classes:

a) Tall
b) Dwarf
c) Vine-like

In the first class are the Prickly Pear (Indian figs) and some species of the genus Cereus, but I wouldn’t recommend some of these because they are prone to becoming top heavy. However, there are some appropriate tall cacti for the home.

Only two of the tall growing kinds of cactuses need to be included in the novice gardener’s collection. The Opuntia have flat, round or club-shaped stems, but they are usually flat, and the joints either round or oblong in shape. The rather large flowers are borne singly on the upper edges of the young growth and are quite showy. They are usually yellow, but you can also find them in various shades of red. One of the best of these kinds of cactus is O. microdasys which has flowers two inches across and a greenish yellow in color.

A very interesting cactus, but more difficult to grow, is the dwarf prickly pear (O. crinifera, also known as O. senilis). Instead of spines it has long, silky white hairs. It should be grown under a bell glass if you want the hairs to remain clean. It never attains a height of more than about three feet.

In Mexico the organ cactus (Cereus marginatus) is used for hedges or fences. It is distinct in appearance from others of its genus. The stem is seldom over three inches in diameter, with five or six very obtuse ridges, each of which has a row of short, black spines, which grow in bunches of seven to nine. This is a good cactus for growing in the house as well.

The opuntia is the most disagreeable of all cactuses to handle because of the very small brown spines which grow in bunches all over the stems and fruits. These spines are barbed, something like a fish hook, so that when they are in the skin it is very difficult to remove them.

Because of these troublesome spines in the ordinary forms the so-called “spineless cactus” is sometimes grown in the home as a houseplant. These plants are a good option for many gardeners.

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