The Succulent Garden


Gate into the courtyard succulent garden
     Yesterday the temperature finally went below 100 F (38 C) for the first time in 10 days.  It has been abnormally hot here for October.  It was 99 F (37 C) yesterday, and it is forecasted to be 95 (35 C) today.  The average temperature for this time of the year is 89 F (32 C).  I think we are finally done with the triple-digit temperatures.

     In the cooler weather in the fall and spring I can sit outside and enjoy my succulent garden.  The succulent garden is located in the front courtyard entrance to my home.  Succulent plants are water-retaining plants that store water in their leaves, stems and roots.  Most are indigenous to arid or semi-arid regions, and their succulence (swollen or fleshy appearance) is an adaptation to the extreme heat and dryness of their environment.

Courtyard succulent garden
     The best known succulents are cacti (family: Cactaceae).  Virtually all cacti are succulents.  I have two different cacti in my succulent garden.  Two of my cacti are San Pedro  (Trichocereus pachanoi) variety.

San Pedro cactus

I knew almost nothing about cacti until I moved to the desert.  According to my research, San Pedro cacti have been used for healing and religious divination for over 3,000 years and contain mescaline that can be extracted from the plants.  They are columnar with six to eight ribs and can grow over 15 feet high.  They are native to the Andes Mountains of Peru.  This cactus flowers at night and will produce red fruit.  I have seen neither from my two San Pedro cacti.

     The other cactus I have is a Golden Barrel (Echinocactus grusonii).  It has a globe shape and can reach three feet in height.  It is native to central Mexico.  Small, yellow flowers appear in summer around the crown, but only after 20 years.  It is easy to grow and is widely cultivated for use in gardens.  But I have read that it is endangered in the wild.

Golden Barrel cactus
     The other succulent plant on the courtyard is a Red Apple Ice Plant (Aptenia cordifolia).  It is a perennial with fleshy leaves that develops tiny red flowers.  It is prized for its drought tolerance and fire retardant ability. It is used in many places as a groundcover that can prevent soil erosion.

Red Apple Ice Plant
      I have discovered that classifying plants as succulent or non succulent can be a problem.  Many  publications or books ignore succulent plants such as orchids.  Some plant physiologists tend to be noncommittal on bulbs.  Some authors use the term semi-succulents for plants with less obvious succulent characteristics.  I'll leave that discussion to others much more versed in classifying plants than I am, and just enjoy my succulents. 


  1. Cacti and other succulents hit the spot in a sunny spot I call Sahara – after I'd tried many other plants. The variety, beauty and carefree quality are hard to beat. Even here in Connecticut where we get lots of rain.

    Yours look happy. Enjoy.

  2. Lee,

    One of the things I like about cacti is that they are carefree. I am always surprised when I see them growing in places that get lots of rain.

  3. I've been trying to grow succulents. Haven't been successful. We live on the sea coast and I think the humidity doesn't suit them.