To start a cactus garden, you need some great cactus garden ideas. I’ve collected a few ideas that are achievable with little skill and, in many cases, on a budget. Regardless if you have a small front yard or a large backyard in mind, it’s relatively easy to incorporate an eye-catching cacti garden design into your landscape. Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need to create flower beds for cacti. You can simply plant them in pots. You can mix and match many sizes, colors, and shapes of cactus varieties or, instead, concentrate on one type and one shape. You can add rocks and gravel to create beautiful outdoor spaces. You can come up with intricate planting patterns or resort to a mini cactus garden in a container. And the most important part is that your creative ideas will require little maintenance afterward. That’s the beauty of a cacti garden. I love cacti, and you’re about to see why.
1. Front Yard Cacti Garden Bed
One of the best things about cacti is their ability to withstand a whole variety of different climates and conditions. Not only are they gorgeous, but they’re hardy, too. Giant statement cacti, arranged in a neat bed overlaid with contrasting gravel, are an excellent option for front yards. Their water-retentive properties mean they don’t require much hydration, and in terms of maintenance, you need only occasionally remove dead or decaying leaves. You can choose different sizes and types of cacti to complement one another in your bed, like the Angel Wings and Snake Plant succulents seen in the image above. However, bear in mind that cacti are extremely slow-growing, so you may want to purchase already quite sizeable plants.
2. Cactus Garden Design
Image credit: JKehoe_Photos
Because of the sheer variety of cacti out there, you can let your imagination roam free when it comes to designing a breathtaking, eye-catching garden that will look beautiful all year round. While cactus garden planting ideas are often subjective to taste, the one thing we can’t deny is that different shapes and textures bring a lot to the overall look and feel of a garden. And don’t even get me started on color. What I love about the design above is that it removes the strain of maintaining and neatening a garden path from messy or overgrown shrubs. Instead, cacti and succulents tell a story you can enjoy as you wander through your landscape, with plenty of visual interest created by size and height. Rocks and gravel add to the beds and keep them contained while serving the dual purpose of retaining and draining excess water as needed.
3. Cacti in a Greenhouse
This may come as a surprise, but cacti also fare really well in greenhouses, largely because they’re so low-maintenance and indifferent to their environments. Therefore, if you’re looking to spruce up your conservatory or outdoor covered patio, planting a bed of brilliantly-colored cacti is low risk and high reward. They don’t require misting, pruning, or fancy irrigation systems. And in established spaces, there is little chance they’ll outgrow their welcome as the years go by.
4. Beautify a Privacy Wall
I don’t know many homeowners without some type of irksome, boring privacy wall. And as is often the case, shrubbery or hedging can prove to be a headache in terms of upkeep. This design proves how gorgeous different types of cacti can look when arranged as a point of visual interest to detract from an otherwise bland space. Here we see a serene spot to relax that doesn’t require much in terms of set-up other than some large cacti, gravel, and decorative rockery for an added “desert island” touch. Once you’ve planted your cacti, all that’s left to do is occasionally give them some water and watch them thrive.
The giant Mexican cactus is the one that usually springs to mind when you hear the word, and they’re lovely for making a tall statement or adorning a boundary wall.
5. Cacti Leading the Way
Similarly, you can kill two birds with one stone by lining your enclosed walkway with eye-catching cacti instead of just opting for plain old walls. The uniformity of this cactus garden design lends to a modern feel, but it is perfectly disrupted by the visual feast of the different species on display. Later in this article, we’ll look at different types of cacti (stay tuned!), but for now, it’s easy to see how longer stems play off against smaller, clustered types with a shrub-like appearance. This proves that you needn’t be afraid of finding harmony between organic materials (plants, wood) and harder materials like gravel, concrete, and paving.
6. Cacti in a Rock Garden
In a departure from uniform lines, I must say this garden is eye-catching enough to be a postcard or a puzzle. Regarding cactus and rock garden ideas, I always recommend embracing organic lines and curves and letting them lead your decision-making. At a glance, the gravel pathway looks like a river running through rocks, and the dome-shaped cacti are like caricatures of waterlilies. Meanwhile, it’s actually a super easy-to-maintain, cleverly designed, and affordable backyard idea that will not only delight your guests but add value to your home due to the sheer longevity of the plants themselves. Of course, much of this layout is in the details, so don’t hesitate to expand your collection of interesting cacti and throw in a sculpture or two for good measure. If you’re using rocks as edging for your garden beds, you also have a lot of freedom in shaping them how you want them.
Bigger isn’t always better, but sometimes it’s undoubtedly more visceral. For example, these giant Mexican cacti look superb alongside palm trees and yet equally complement the shorter, squatter succulent varieties, too. The combination of height and depth from the rockery and the meandering gravel and paver pathway means texture, texture, texture. All in all, this is an excellent option for drawing focus to an entranceway and will look great in every season of the year. To set this up, all you need is your plants and some gravel, and once they’re in, it’ll look like your garden has been flourishing all along.
If you love cacti but don’t have a lot of room to work with, don’t worry. Even the simplest bed can come alive if you invest in succulents of different shapes and sizes. To achieve this look, I recommend a bit of planning and preparation, including deciding on your plant-to-rock ratio so it doesn’t become overcrowded. Perfect for even the most stubborn soil, you won’t regret a statement bed like this, which can be cordoned off for emphasis or to demarcate a walking path.
7. Cacti and Flowers
Image credit: Leonora (Ellie) Enking
Not quite ready to go full-cactus? Well, the good news is, they look just as stunning in regular garden beds as they do on their own. In fact, there’s definitely something to be said for the contrast of soft, colorful flowers with the harder edges of cacti. As you can see above, they can be incorporated in and amongst your existing plants or used as a taller edging. In both cases, they add aesthetic interest and will stand firm long after the seasons have stripped you of your annuals.
8. Play with Gravel Colors
Image credit: Jim Linwood
Pea gravel is a wonderful medium for scattering around your cacti as it retains water and regulates airflow. For landscaping purposes, it’s also available in a wide variety of colors, so you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching different hues when you lay out your beds.
Barrel cacti, like the one pictured above, are incredibly detailed in their make-up (if a little sharp around the edges). And to best appreciate their true glory, it’s not a bad idea to set them against a contrasting color, like very dark pea gravel. To draw attention to one specific plant, you can alternate gravel colors so the eye is led to individual species rather than the garden as a whole.
For a smaller space, this teeny-tiny succulent rock garden is perfectly edged with dark red pea gravel. It’s simple enough to do, and by putting in a few extra hours, you add a whole new level of design to your landscape.
Cacti are typically native to dryer, more arid desert regions, and to emulate their natural environment, you can use dark, rusty brown gravel, which contrasts against their dark green stems while emphasizing their white or silver spines.
Or if you’re dreaming of white sand beaches, fake it with bright white gravel. This looks clean and pure and will likely stay that way as you don’t need to water these plants very often. It also offers a bright contrast to the lime of the cacti and the brown of the rocks. If your cacti rock garden is already established, you don’t need more than a few hours and a big bag of gravel to achieve this look.
Matching your gravel to your paving gives the impression that your cacti are growing from the earth itself. While this look is very unique, it’s definitely modern and aesthetically appealing.
9. Cactus Garden in Pots
I know plenty of avid gardeners who simply don’t have the space or the beds to grow extensive gardens, which is why I love cacti in pots. You have so many species to choose from, and because of their slow growth rate, you can pretty much let them be once they’re potted. Or rearrange them at will. In the example above, potted cacti are used to decorate an otherwise “dead” staircase, and the layering looks gorgeous.
Though a lot less rustic, the principle in this design is similar – layers of potted cacti of all different shapes and sizes in an equally diverse range of pots. This is perfect for adding some greenery to an outdoor patio or entertainment space.
You can also experiment with a collection of potted cacti that are the same in “genre” but different in species. Don’t you love this assembly of fuzzy, leggy succulents in their uniform planters? This works both indoors and outside (bearing in mind indoor cacti need a lot of sun).
Image credit: Wilferd Duckitt
Personally, I can’t resist bringing home a little cactus if I come across one at a grocer or homeware store. And it is precisely these misfits that are great for walls or surfaces that are just lacking something interesting – like a mini cactus garden all on its own.
10. Mini Cactus Garden for Small Spaces
On the topic of mini cactus gardens, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at how giants fare in a landscape, but let’s spend some time looking at ideas for tiny cactariums. If space is your biggest challenge, you can make even the most petite planter enjoyable by incorporating the same principles as you would for large landscapes, just on a smaller scale. Look how beautiful this collection of cacti with demarcating, colorful pea gravel is.
A large pot is also rife with the opportunity for a small garden that can adorn your balcony or patio. This miniature rockery features as many, if not more, cactus species as a fully established landscape. It’s a lovely DIY project you can pull off for very little money and will last years with enough sunlight. I recommend terracotta, which will drain excess water and protect your plants’ roots while also keeping them warm.
Mini cacti gardens are perfect for built-in planters, too, especially in places where you don’t want to contend with dripping water or fallen leaves. Rocks, pebbles, log off-cuts, and ornaments complement cacti and add depth and interest. Indeed, it’s incredible how diverse you can make your beds, even if you’re playing ground is minimal.
11. Planting Ideas
We’ve looked at how you can plant and arrange cacti in your garden and home to enhance your space best, but now let’s spend some time looking at how to choose your plants. Because, honestly, if variety is the spice of life, then you are definitely on the right track with succulents and cacti – there are hundreds to choose from. Giant species are great for big, dramatic outdoor beds, but you can also make magic with smaller, cute species, as seen in the decorative terrarium above. It all depends on your taste.
Groundcover varieties, like Parodia and Rebutia, are a nice option for meandering pathways or stepped rockeries, especially when they surprise with their bright, delicate flowers.
Image credit: Natasha de Vere & Col Ford
Smaller fuzzies like Cephalocereus senilis can be arranged by color to develop patterning or simply to add visual appeal. Their general wooliness looks great next to more waxy cacti, like the bright moon cacti featured in the example above.
Image credit: Fluff Berger
Plenty of cacti make a statement all by themselves, like the Teddy Bear Cholla. Leggier than a typical cactus, it’s a beautiful plant in an organic, rustic setting, given its wild appearance and sharp needles.
Image credit: @Stefansfoto
If you have lots of time, space, and budget to spare, you can create a cacti maze with absolutely breathtaking patterns. Though easier than it looks, this requires time and planning and plenty of stock of cacti in similar sizes. However, once established, you won’t need to break your back taking care of it, you can just let it do its thing as you wander through the pathways.
Image credit: Murray Foubister
Small clusters of cactuses are a definite win for potting, and over the years, they will continue to multiply by themselves. Tiny details, like matching your pea gravel to the flowers of your cacti, enhance the aesthetic with minimum effort from your end.
12. Mix with Succulents
It’s taken me a long time to nail the difference between succulents and cacti, but in theory, it is simple. Cacti hold water in their thick, fleshy stems, whereas succulents simply retain it. And where succulents often have leaves, cacti seldom do. That said, all cacti are part of the succulent family, but not all succulents are classified as cacti. Now that you’re suitably confused let’s look at how these two plants get along in a garden setting.
The thing about growing cacti along with succulents is that they are equally low-maintenance. However, the differential leaves of succulents add a nice break from thick trunks and stems by adding different textures and shapes. A case and point is this example above, where the flair of the Snake Plant succulents complements the thick-bodied barrel cacti.
With all its brilliant colors and shapes, a mixed cacti and succulent bed is gorgeous to behold. We see some beautiful wooly and barrel cacti alongside Hayworthia, Elephant Tree, and Gollum succulents – a veritable feast for the eyes. (Especially when you start adding decorative planters).
13. Blooming Cactus Types
If you want all the beauty of bright colors but none of the effort to maintain them, you’re in luck. Plenty of cacti develop flowers, especially in the hot summer months. And they last much longer than regular flowers.
Image credit: Renee Grayson
In fact, some cacti, especially larger varieties, produce huge flowers, like this Argentine giant cactus bloom. Wouldn’t this look amazing in your garden?
Image credit: Martin Paterson
Image credit: Murray Foubister
Image credit: Rick Cummings
Cactus flowers come in all different colors and play off beautifully against the spines and needles of the stems. Taller varieties are spectacular against walls or aligning patios, but groundcover cacti are equally eye-catching along pathways and in garden beds. If you are looking for a specific color, I recommend researching a given species and finding out if your local nursery or garden center has any in stock.
14. The Spirit of the Desert
A deep dive into all the different types of cacti would be a book by itself, but here is a quick run-down of some of my favorites for landscaping.
Image credit: Andres Alvarado
Opuntia microdasys Bunny Ears Cactus
Opuntia Angel Wings Cactus
Opuntia Polka Dot Cactus
Image credit: cultivar413
Most cacti with broad, flat, rounded leaves fall into the Angel Wing or Prickly Pear families. They really capture the spirit of the desert but also contain all the curved elegance of modernity.
15. Night Garden Idea
Image credit: Rod Waddington
Lit-up cacti look like whimsical garden creatures that only come out at night.
16. The Golden Barrel
Image credit: Kim Dung Ho
Image credit: Son of Groucho
Echinocactus grusonii Golden barrel cacti are the small, squat round cacti pictured above, which are always a treat to see and look gorgeous no matter where you set them down. Though you have hundreds of varieties to choose from, these types are a great point of departure when you start planning your landscape in terms of what they have to offer in stature and texture.