Cactus and Succulents at Huntington Desert Garden

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Succulents in desert gardenThe colorful Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) is nestled next to Aloes and a Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) . A pale blue Ice Plant (Delosperma) is the ground cover in the foreground.

Cactus and succulents are the ultimate drought tolerant plants. They love the sun. Require infrequent watering — just a little every week or so. Need fast-draining soil and little fertilizer. In fact, fertilizing these non-thirsty plants or planting them in rich or heavy soil, can often kill them.

Golden barrell cactus mammillaria cactus red rock
Red stone mulch sets off silvery Mammillaria cactus and Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii).

These photos were taken at the Huntington Botanic Gardens in San Marino, California in the section they call their “Desert Garden”. As gardeners who live in our southwest deserts know, our native landscapes are covered with scattered brushy plants with an occasional cactus here or there. This garden, however, provides a spectacular display of cactus and succulents including agaves, yuccas, echeverias, echinocactus, many members of the Crassulaceae family, including such popular plants as hens-and-chicks and Jade plants.

succulents in bloom 220
Succulents are the kinder
cousins of cactus and
bloom beautifully in spring

As important as the individual plants, are the examples of garden design found in this Desert Garden. Instead of sparse plantings commonly found in so-called desert landscapes, there is a density and color balance that give a dramatic, lush appearance with surprises around every corner.

For example, Barrel cactus (Echinocactus) appear in several mini-gardens against different color rock mulch — red or black or white. The effects of planting in the various color rocks is beautifully clear–each mini-garden gives a very different impression.

Cactus under pine tree
A winding trail through the Huntington Desert garden passes through rock gardens and by one lone Joshua tree.
Crassulacae groundcover
This ground cover is a low growing Crassula, ideal for creating an impression of a “lawn” and it never needs mowing!







sempervivum in orange bloom
In early summer these Sempervivum bloom adding color to the garden.







black rocks pale dudleya succulent
Against the black lava rock mulch these silvery Dudleya brittonii succulents in bloom stand out like exclamation points

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