Making a Cactus Dish Garden or Desert Garden

A cactus dish garden or desert garden is easy to make and care for. You will find helpful facts and information on how to make a cactus dish garden, plants to use, and tips on planting.

Getting Started on Your Cactus Garden

A good DIY dish garden project is to make a Desert garden using cactus and succulents. They should be planted in an attractive shallow ceramic containers, terra cotta containers, or glass containers such as terrariums. You will find many types of containers to choose from. Choose the container according to how many plants you have. Do not get one too large unless you intend on planting a good number of plants.

"Cactus Dish Garden"

Simple Designs work great

Choosing Desert Plants

Choose small plants or slow-growing types of plants for your cacti garden. Cacti can be combined easily with with a few species of succulents such as the lilaceous ‘Haworthia’. Haworthias are small, rosette-forming plants that resemble century plants and agaves of the American desert. Sedum and kalanchoe can be used, but are not preferred as they seem to get too leggy. If you use succulents in your dish garden, be sure to get small ones. Desert cacti come in many sizes and shapes and can be incorporated together to make an attractive design that is easy to care for.

Cacti can be arranged to represent really effective desert scenes by following examples of pictures in popular magazines. Use of a miniature Mexican or thatched hut and burrow figurines maybe be added to complete the picture if desired. Well placed stones to represent boulders and mountains are really the only accessories needed in this type of dish garden or terrarium.

Planting Your Desert Garden

For planting, drainage is the most important consideration. Place the gravel or sand to the thickness of one inch at the bottom of the container. Add potting mix (cactus mix) to the center in a pile and line the container with a shell-like thickness of sand. Continue to add mix and sand lining alternately in layers until the desired planting depth is attained. Colored sand may be used in a process called “sand casting” to create rainbow effects for added interest.

"Desert Cactus"

Desert cactus come in many sizes and shapes

Handling of spiny plants should be done by covering the plant with brown wrapping paper or some material that will allow you to transfer your plant into the container without sticking your fingers.

Try to plan where you are going to plant each plant. Try placing them on top of the soil so that you can see how they will look together when planted. You can randomly plant your cacti or try to plant them with the taller plants in the center of the container or toward the back of the container. Plant shorter ones around the taller plant, or in the foreground with the shorter plants in the front. Make sure you leave enough space for the plants to grow.

After planting into place, tamp the mix with a dowel to settle each plant into place. When planting is completed, cover the surface with a layer of sand or fine gravel. Gravel that is used for fish aquariums may be found in pet shops. An assortment of colors is also available to add a little color to your design. Gravel at the base of plants keeps the stems dry and also helps to prevent any rotting.

"Succulents Dish Gardens"

Succulents can be used if small

Finally, clean your container inside and out by simply using a small brush to remove dirt or gravel that adheres to plants. Carefully moisten the garden by measuring a tablespoonful or two of water to each plant. The size of the plant will determine if you need to add more. Plants that have been bruised in planting should not be watered for three of four days. A good watering once a month usually supplies enough water for plants in a desert garden.

Planting in Very Large Pots

An alternate method of planting is suggested if you are using containers that are very large. The cactus plants in clay pots may be left in their pots and plunged into the soil medium. Be sure to cover the rims of the pots so they do not show. This method avoids disturbing roots that could cause a weak plant to be lost.

Types of Plants for Desert and Cacti Gardens ( 4 Examples)

Group 1

Variegated wax plant- Hoya carnosa variegata

Peperomia-Peperomia floridana

Variegated Snake Plant-Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii

Jade Plant- Crassula argentea

Group 2

Umbrella Tree (seedling)- Schefflera actino-phylla

Moses-in-the-Cradle- Rhoeo spathacea

Spotted Gasteria- Gasteria maculata

Jade Plant- Crassula argentea

Group 3

Hen-and-Chickens- Sempervivum tectorum

Zebra Haworthia-Haworthia fasciata

Bird’s-Nest Sansevieria-Sansevieria trifasciata hahnii

Star Flower- Stapelia variegata

Group 4

Any species resembling cactus- Euphorbia

Variegated Peperomia- Peperomia scandens variegata

Sansevieria- Sansevieria trifasciata

Wax Plant- Hoya carnosa (any variety)



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