Cold Hardy Cacti: Types Of Cactus For Cold Climates
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Think cactus are only heat lovers? Surprisingly, there are many cacti that can tolerate cold weather. Cold hardy cacti always benefit from a bit of shelter, but they may amaze you with their resilience in the face of snow and ice. What cacti are cold hardy? Keep reading for some desert beauties that will thrive in northern climates.
About Cold Resistant Cactus
Cacti are primarily found in the warmer regions of North and South America, but several have made their way up even into Canada. These chilly champions are uniquely adapted to freezing periods and have evolved certain protections to thrive even when buried in snow. Learn which cactus for cold climates might be suitable for your winter landscape.
Any cactus, no matter if it is cold hardy or not, needs well-draining soil. Without that, even the cold tolerant varieties will not survive. Cacti are the only succulents that have areoles, out of which grow the spines. These spines help conserve moisture, provide shade, and even assist in protecting the plant from freezing.
Cold weather cacti generally have very prominent spines, which are often surrounded by smaller prickles. It seems this structure is not only defensive but protective. Before purchasing cold hardy cacti, know your USDA zone and the hardiness range of the plant.
What Cacti are Cold Hardy?
Among the most hardy cacti are the Opuntia family. These include the prickly pear and similar plants. Other groups are Echinocereus, Ferocactus, Echinopsis, and Mammillaria. Several other families have individual cold resistant cactus species.
Some ideal cactus for cold climates include:
- Prickly Pear
- Beehive or Pincushion cactus
- Claret Cup cactus or Hedgehog cactus
- Pineapple cactus
- Old Man cactus
- Orange Snowball cactus
- Barrel cactus
Growing Cold Weather Cactus
Cactus go into a dormant state in fall through winter. The cold weather essentially signals a period of hibernation and growth is suspended. It is important not to water cactus in late fall and winter, as the plant is not actively taking up moisture and it could lead to root rot.
The plant’s response to cold is to drain moisture from its pads and leaves, leaving them discolored and wrinkly. This protects the cells from freezing and damaging. In spring, resume watering if there is no natural precipitation and the cactus will perk right up.
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