There is something truly charming about a young golden barrel cactus in a small, colorful planting pot. It looks so very much like a potful of pincushion. The simile is made even more apropos by the golden barrel cactus’s nickname: mother-in-law’s cushion. This is not to disparage the other mother of any family, but to note that this is a folk name for echnocactus grusonii.
Why Put Your Prickly Plants in Pots
Aside from the charming appearance of a round, green ball tricked out in a fuzz of sharp stickers that makes it appear to be golden, many prickly plants are desert natives. As such, they are aggressive growers that will stretch their root to extreme distances searching for water. This is true of Pachycereus Pringlei, otherwise known as Elephant cactus. A sad story concerning an outdoor planting of elephant cactus is that the cactus was planted far across the garden in a xeriscape area. However, not too far away were other plantings that required frequent watering. The Pachycereus Pringlei sneaked its long surface roots across the garden and soaked up water intended for a grove of small trees. It quickly became overwatered, and eventually died.
Overwatering is one of the leading causes of cacti and other succulent plants. Although they do require water, they are highly prone to root rot. Your prickly desert plants will usually recover from underwatering, but the effects of overwatering can be permanent.
One way to control those wandering surface roots for elephant cactus and similar plants is to put them in a pot. You cactus will then only be able to reach the water and nutrients that you put into the pot. If you are using a pot such as a GRC pot, you will need to be sure to provide plenty of coarse material at the bottom of the pot and make sure that the drain holes are kept open. This is because GRC pots do not permit passage of water in the same way as terra cotta, clay, or concrete pots.
Why Have a Pot of Prickly Plants
Prickly desert plants can be beautiful. Team a long-growing agave, sometimes called century plants, with a GRC pot in a complimentary color, and you will have a show-stopping display plant. Agaves are available as a variety of hybrids. The qualify as “prickly” plants because many of them have sharp points on their leaves and almost serrated side edges. They are more properly classed as a succulent, rather than a cactus, but they share certain characteristics such as being susceptible to overwatering.
They are beautiful plants. Amazingly, neglecting your agave will possibly prolong its life. Agave do not quite take 100 years before blooming, but many of them will grow for 20 years or a little longer before putting up the most amazing bloom stalk. Once they have bloomed, however, the plant is done. An abundance of plant food and water signals to the agave that it is a good time to produce seed.
Fortunately, seed is not the only way an agave will reproduce. If you provide your plant with a wide, shallow pot, many varieties of agave will produce “pups”, that is tiny plants that grow from the feeder roots on the surface of the ground. A wide GRC pot that has good drainage can provide a place for such growth.
Pot Plantings for Mobility
Many desert plants grow naturally in parts of the world where the weather is usually very warm. That mean that you might want to put your cacti and succulents outside during the summer months so that they can enjoy fresh air, natural sunlight, and heat. But when winter arrives with cold autumn showers, cold nights, and chilly days of weak, watery sunlight, it might be time to bring your prickly plants back inside. GRC pots are light compared to other plant pot materials. This makes it easier when you are lugging a potted yucca and are trying to keep from being poked in the ear or eye by its needle sharp leaves.
So you see, good pots and prickly plants go well together. GRC pots are lightweight, colorful, and can be obtained in a variety of colors and sizes to complement your prickly plant collection.