Did You Know You Can Grow Cacti Outside in Indiana, Kentucky, & Illinois?
The days are becoming noticeably shorter as we enter into another seasonal transition. Hot and humid summer days will soon be gone as the chill of autumn approaches. If you consider yourself to be a bit of a horticulture enthusiast you might be thinking the season of planting and growing is over. I'm here to say, believe it or not, it isn't. I'm not talking about fall-colored mums either, but different species of cacti.
Cacti are Found in Warm & Cool Climates
Now, I know what you must be thinking, cactuses are usually found in hot desert climates. You're not wrong, however, there are types of cacti that can survive cold environments. Here are some varieties to consider if you're looking for cold hardy cacti: Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, Cholla, and the Claret Cup cacti to name just a few. Let me share some tips to help your chosen cacti thrive in its new home in the midwest.
Are Any Cacti Native to IN, KY, or IL?
According to The Nature Conservatory, "The eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) is native to the lower 48 states of the United States. It is not only a beautiful plant, but it is also edible, provides food and protection for wildlife and can be used in native landscaping. Especially in Indiana, this cactus is easy to spot. Like other spiny succulents, the prickly pear has flat, fleshy pads (called cladodes) covered in spiky spines. The prickly pear produces showy yellow flowers."
Hoosier Ashlee Higdon posted a photo of her prickly pear in the Indiana Native Plant Society Facebook group.
She told me that she planted a few callused cactus pads from her neighbor that had acquired the original cactus at a native plant sale. She also has an opuntia cultivar planted here (not blooming) that is not a straight native.
"It took a few years for these cacti to establish but now they do great now under the snow."
Liz Graupner reminded the group that "For anyone excited about the cactus, Tolleston Dunes hiking trail in Indiana Dunes National Park has tons of naturally occurring prickly pear."
Start with the Soil
Cactuses do require a great soil drainage system, you can find certain brands of potting soil that cater specifically to a cactuses needs at practically any lawn and garden center or preferred online marketplace. A good draining soil is one of the most important steps to consider when planting your cacti, its very survival can be dependent on it.
What Does a Cactus Do in Winter?
Cactuses mimic black bears when the temperatures start to dip, they go into a dormant state of hibernation. Because of this, the cacti plant will temporarily cease to grow, and watering becomes something you won't even have to worry about doing, since too much hydration during this time, can lead to root rot. You can continue watering as needed once spring has sprung if there are periods of less rain or a lack of other natural irrigation. Signs that your cacti may need supplemental hydration are browning or discoloration of the plant.
Do Your Research
Before committing to purchase any type of cacti, it's always a great idea to do a bit of research, check out the USDA zone that you reside in to best learn what cacti variety will thrive in your region. And if you find a cactus that you love that thrives in the western states, you can always consider planting it in a container that you can bring in during the winter months.