Growing Cacti Isn’t For Everyone

By Amy Grant | January 16, 2021
Image by Techa Tungateja
by Amy Grant
January 16, 2021

Many newbies to gardening started off with easy care cacti. I’m not one of them. Yes, cacti come in an amazing array of shapes and sizes, and what a treat to see a cactus in bloom. But they aren’t for me. Perhaps their marvelous and surprising attributes are dimmed, at least for me, by their abundance painful spines.

What to Grow When You’re Not Growing Cacti

Instead, I’ve opted for non-lethal succulents with their array of textures, sizes, and colors to rival cacti, but without the poky bits. And what a group succulents are! Succulents are in their own distinct family and include about 60 species of plants!

Some say that succulents are actually cacti, but the fact is all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Confused yet? Succulents store water but so do cacti, therefore, all cacti are succulents.

Defined as water storing plants due to their fleshy leaves, the word ‘succulent’ is derived from the Latin ‘sucus’ meaning juice or sap. 

So if both cacti and succulents store water what differentiates them besides those poky bits?. In order for a succulent to be termed a cactus, the plant has to have areoles: small, round, fleshy mounds where spines (poky bits), hair, leaves, flowers and other growths appear from the cactus. Areoles are only found on cacti, never on succulents. 

At any rate, I digress. I love succulents but I do not love cacti, except in nature. Who wants a houseplant that can hurt you? 

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