Tuesday 6 June 2017

Hardy cacti at Edinburgh Botanic Garden

Hardy opuntia up North
We have been up on the train to arguably the best botanic garden in The UK. We had a wonderful day and I would like to share in three consecutive daily posts some of the things that thrilled me. The first two are somewhat idiosyncratic but in the third post I will show you Peter Williams’s pictures to really persuade you to go.

Growing cactus outside in Scotland
(Well nearly the open)

Although most cacti are not at all hardy many actually grow in their native habitat in extremely cold conditions and some can be grown outside in the UK. The main problem is excess wetness, usually in Winter. They hate continuously wet surfaces due to rain and heavy dews and the roots of most forms do not stand Winter wet soil.

If you select hardy varieties no artificial heat is required to grow them but most require the dry of an unheated  greenhouse for three or four of the coldest months of the year. That is unless you create a simple permanent structure such as the Edinburgh display

A simple cover is needed to keep the leaves dry. It will not keep out all the rain but will be sufficient to avoid prolonged wet periods and keep the soil fairly dry. The back wall is probably more for display purposes than heat retention and extra protection. There would be more light without it. The raised bed is optional as long as the growing medium is very well drained

Hardy cacti at Edinburgh Botanic Garden
Opuntia, the prickly pear is the hardiest genus

I felt very nostalgic about the hardy varieties I have previously purchased but which sadly no longer survive. Not this one that grows very well at home completely outside.

You can see how thrilled I am at discovering one of my gardening passions
Echinopsis are easy to flower

An eclectic mixture of plants that appreciate ‘a little help’ in Winter

The Edinburgh display is not exclusively cacti and some ferns like the same Winter conditions. Providing they do not cast too much shade companion plants give extra protection.

Stones and gravel mulch look good and help provide ideal conditions

This is an excellent source of small hardy cactus plants

My own main post about growing hardy cactus

You might like to read about our visit last year to Kew 


  1. How does Edinburgh stand up against Kew? (haven't been to Kew for 25 years)

    1. They are incomparable. I worry that Kew will deteriorate with commercial need to raise cash. I have read it might be available to hire wedding facilities there!
      The Scottish parliament is more enlightened than our lot

  2. I have to admit that cacti just do not float my boat - sorry.

  3. Hello ,

    Thank you for the fact that I found your lovely Blog ,

    I am addicted to Cacti and am currently doing a painting of moonlight cacti in the Sonoran desert and have put flowers on the prickly pears , and you have told me loads on planting them outdoors in the UK . So this is to let you know that I really appreciate your Blog and thank you .

    Kind regards until I have some questions

    Jennifer and Derek ,

    1. Your comments are much appreciated Jennifer and Derrick


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