Did you know that the majority of cacti and succulents actually produce beautiful and intricate flowers? Here in Northern Colorado, we do not often see succulents and cacti flowering, as the conditions are not always ideal. Cacti and succulents need the right growing conditions in order to have enough energy to put into growing flowers. With these particular plants being native to desert environments, ideal conditions for most varieties are sunny and warm for as many hours of the day as possible. While your succulents and cacti may not be unhappy, you will definitely know that they are happy and thriving when they start to produce pretty and unique flowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Here are a few of our favorites for both indoor and outdoor enjoyment!
Holiday Cactus (Schlumbergera)
There are several different types of holiday cactus, often referred to as Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), and Easter Cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri). These plants actually flower quite consistently under the right conditions, and they get their names from when they typically begin to produce blooms. Each plant requires the perfect ratio of light to dark in order to bloom, and it is generally between November and April that lighting conditions are just right to help encourage these cacti to bloom. These plants, despite being a part of the cactus family, actually prefer indirect light, and placing them in direct sun can cause burn damage to the plant. So, if you are looking for a beautiful, blooming cactus, but don’t have exorbitant amounts of light, this may be the perfect plant for your home. While these plants can be grown outdoors during the summer, they are not cold-hardy and will not survive a Colorado winter. If you place your cactus outdoors for a season, make sure to keep an eye on the weather and be sure not to put it out until temperatures at night are consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The vast majority of popular succulents available are often different types of echeverias. They come in a wide range of different colors, from seafoam green to deep purple. Some have more long and narrow leaves, while others have delicately ruffled leaves laced in pink. These succulents send tall shoots up from beneath their layered leaves which grow beautiful dangling flowers. Many different varieties of echeveria make for lovely indoor houseplants as well as fun and trendy outdoor decorations. They too are not cold hardy, though, so they will need to be brought in before the weather turns cold. These eye-catchers love the direct sun and will thrive in the heat. You will know if your echeveria arrangement is not getting enough sun as they will begin to grow tall and leggy instead of remaining short and compact.
Yucca is a genus of perennial plants with around 50 different species. Though often thought to be a cactus, they are actually a type of succulent plant! There are tons of different varieties, and they are most commonly seen outdoors incorporated into landscapes. They are cold hardy, so many will survive our cold Colorado winters. Make sure you check which hardiness zone is conducive to a plant before purchasing, as some grow better in colder climates than others. At Bath Garden Center, we only sell what grows well in our part of the state, so you can be sure that any plant you find on our property is sure to thrive in your landscape if given the proper care.
Hen & Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)
These fun and compact groundcover succulents are great for our environment as they are extremely tolerant of nutrient-deficient soil and can grow fine in less-than-ideal conditions. They are known to produce tons of baby plants (chicks) surrounding the mother plant and will send up a thick stalk of pretty pink flowers from time to time. This variety of flowering succulents is cold-hardy and will grow well outdoors as well as in your home.
Orchid Cactus (Disocactus ackermannii)
This variety of cactus may produce some of the most beautiful flowers you’ve seen. Being more of a tropical forest plant, orchid cacti will not tolerate cold temperatures well. Any temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit will stunt the cactus’s growth, and temperatures below 35 degrees will kill the plant. These plants also prefer bright, indirect light. It is possible to grow these plants outdoors during the warm months, you will just want to make sure to bring it indoors once the weather starts to turn cold, and keep it out of the direct sunlight as this could also damage the plant!
Starburst Ice Plant (Delosperma floribundum)
This succulent variety is most commonly used outdoors in landscapes. It is a groundcover plant, growing only around four inches tall but up to a foot wide. With beautiful, purple blooms that emerge in the spring and last through the fall, you are sure to have long-lasting color that will come back year after year! Being of the succulent type, Starburst ice plants love the sun, are moderately drought tolerant, require almost no maintenance at all, and they are also deer resistant! They grow well in hardiness zones 5-9, which includes nearly all of Colorado, excluding high elevations.
Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria)
This variety of cactus is a type of Mammillaria cactus. There are many different members of this family, many of which are rather average in appearance. However, when put in the right conditions and cared for appropriately, these cacti produce the cutest little pink flowers that emerge delicately from between the spines of the plant. These are another variety that can be kept outside during the warm months, but that should be brought back in once the weather begins to cool off. If you keep yours outside during the summer, be sure it doesn’t get too much direct sun. While they like intense light and hot environments, 8 hours of direct sun on a 90-degree day will stress your plant.
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia)
Prickly Pear cacti are a type of Opuntia cactus. While some are not very cold-hardy, there are several other varieties within this family that are. Several include Panhandle Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha), Tulip Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia macrorhiza), or Brittle Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia fragilis). These are often grown outdoors, though they can easily be grown as indoor plants as well. If you are looking to plant a cactus garden outdoors or as a part of your landscaping, make sure to get a variety that is hardy to zone 5 and it should have no problem lasting the winter and coming back in the spring and summer with big, beautiful blooms!
How to Take Care of Flowering Succulents & Cacti
While not all cacti and succulents require the same care, it is fairly easy to find success by following a few general guides. Since cacti and succulents are generally native to desert climates, one of the biggest causes of death for cacti and succulents is not receiving enough light or receiving too much water. These desert plants prefer to be planted in sandy soil or soil that has been amended with gravel. This helps water drain quickly and freely, helping avoid any situations where a plant begins to rot due to over-watering. They also prefer warm environments with a lot of light. Some varieties will thrive in direct sun, while others are more tender and prefer indirect light. Fertilizing your plants with a cactus-specific fertilizer is also recommended, as they will not grow strong and healthy without the proper nutrients! Remember, this is just a general guide to caring for succulents and cacti. Be sure to look up the specific needs of each as no two plants are the same and catering to specific needs of different varieties will help you keep your plants happy and healthy!
Want More Suggestions?
We have barely even scratched the surface in terms of flowering cacti and succulents. There are thousands of varieties out there, all with their own beautiful and unique looks. If you would like more suggestions on flowering succulent plants or flowering cacti for indoor or outdoor planting, let us know! We would love to help pick out the perfect plant for you!