Cacti for Cold Climates

(from Avant Gardener Newsletter)

We’re pleased to hear of the formation of the Winter Hardy Cactus and Succulent Association (Robert Johnson, Intermountain Cactus, 1478 North 750 East, Kaysville, UT 84037; dues $17 a year). There is also a new book, “Growing Winter-Hardy Cacti in Cold/Wet Climate Conditions”, by John Spain (19.95 postpaid from Intermountain Cactus).

Cactus gardening and farming are new fields, and all we lack now is a “Cactus Cookbook”. Many of the most beautiful hardy cacti are edible, their leaves or pads (nogales) useful for soups, salads and stir-fries, their fruits (tunas) for drinks, desserts and jellies. Rich in vitamins and minerals, they also have, recently been found to contain substances helpful in treating high cholesterol, blood pressue and diabetes.

Numerous desert-mountain-prairie species of opuntia, Coryphantha, Neobesaya, Echinocereus, Pediocactus and Selerocactus are hardy to -20F. Some opuntias are hardy to -40 F. All must have full sun, good air circulation, and perfect drainage. Experts recommend a bed or container medium of 2″ of gravel topped by 1″ of compost, then up to 6″ of sand depending on the species grown. A stone chip or gravel mulch will reflect light and heat, and the plants benefit from light feeding in spring with compost tea and liquid seaweed.

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