As we move into the twenty-first century, it becomes clear that irrigation is expensive. While it is sometimes necessary, one way to have beautiful ornamental plants is to choose those that do not require large amounts of water. Cactus, grass trees, and various species of yucca are frequently hardy growers that are native to areas where water is precious. The plants that grow in such places adapt to the lack of rainfall.
Golden Barrel Cactus, echnocactus grusonii – Sometimes called pincushions, these are certainly not something you would want to sit upon. Shaped somewhat like a low-growing ball, these cacti become more like a ball as they grow bigger and develop the characteristic spines that sprout the prickly thorns. Those spines store water. The plants originated in Mexico, but it is best to purchase your golden barrel cactus from a licensed provider because echnocactus grusonii is endangered in its native land. The Zimapan Dam and reservoir severely limited its natural growing space. It is fond of growing on volcanic rock, which you can simulate by surrounding your Golden barrel Cactus with river gravel.
Glauca Grass Tree, Xanthorrhoea glauca – a native of Australia, known for its resemblance to a warrior standing on one leg, holding a spear. They are highly resistant to grass fires. The long, needle like leaves drape downward over the stem, creating a skirt that help protect the base from the hungry tongues of flame. In the process, the resins that it produces fuse together, almost creating an armor. Of course, no one wants to endure a grass fire near their home, so some people use flame to “prune” the Glauca Grass Tree. Always procure your Xanthorrhoea glauca from a licensed dealer, such as us. These trees are endangered in some areas, and they require special mycorrhiza in the soil in order to thrive.
Yucca Filifera, Yucca Filifera – Originating in Mexico, these have long spiky leaves that somewhat resemble the Glauca Grass Tree, but they are truly a different species. These hardy yuccas are drought resistant, tolerate a modest amount of salt spray, and will even tolerate a bit of cold weather. That meant that if you have a long, cold, dry winter your yucca Filifera is likely to survive and perhaps even bloom the following summer. They get part of their name from the curls of fiber that trail down each leaf. Indeed, in some cultures, the long leaves are cut away, processed for their fiber and woven into beautiful fabric.
Beaked Yucca Tree: Yucca rostrata – This is another native of Mexico that has traveled to many gardens around the world. It has a reputation for being slightly finicky to grow, but with only a moderate amount of care, you can have a sturdy tree with multiple branches and fuzzy pom-pom leaves. They grow to about as tall as an adult human, creating an excellent background for low growing cacti, such as the Golden Ball Cactus, or shorter yucca species.
In fact, using the taller yucca or grass tree plants can create a way to pull the eye up from the ground toward taller features in your garden. Smaller plants, such as the Golden ball cactus, which has a clustering or creeping habit can fill in below with a variety of sizes. Cacti do need some water, but they require well-drained soil. In this they go well with yucca plants of all sizes and varieties, as well as grass plants.
Safety when Decorating with Sharp or Spikey Plants
When trimming or working with plants such as the grass trees or yucca trees, it is a good idea to wear both eye and ear protectors. The long, slender leaves can be unbelievably sharp. By the same token, you will want these lovely trees well back from walking paths or areas where gardeners might be operating power tools, such as a lawn mower. Beautiful as they are, no one wants poked by them.
Likewise, keep cactus plants well back from paths or walkways. For example, golden ball cactus gets its name from the yellow needles that grow out from the ribbed plants.
Easy and Gorgeous
With that said, if you live in a warm, dry area or in a dry area that gets cold sometimes, there is scarcely any more beautiful plant than these four xeriscape favorites. Avoid the expense and trouble of having to water frequently with lovely plants that naturally conserve water. All four of these plants bloom and the blooms as well as the subsequent fruit is attractive to bees and birds.