Many people ask me, what is the difference between a cactus and a succulent? All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Cacti are new world plants, meaning they all originated in the Americas. I know there are some beautiful cactus gardens in North Africa and around the Mediterranean, but the fact is all of the cacti originated in the Americas. To keep this simple, let's just say that most cacti have spines and there are 1,000's of varieties.
When working with cacti as opposed to most other succulents, know that cacti use less water than other succulents and require better drainage and aeration in the soil they are grown in. to accomplish this, double the amount of amendment added to the soil compared to what you would do with other succulents. If you're landscaping in the ground, in areas where there is 20 or more inches of rain per year, you will be more successful by creating a raised bed in which to plant the cacti.
At Succulent Gardens we have just gone through a process of increasing our inventory of cacti, focusing on plants that work well in the northern California landscape. This inventory includes a broad selection of the cactus shapes I like to work with when creating a cactus garden. Barrels, columns, paddle types and clumping types cover most of the shapes. I also have included some of the more prolific bloomers in the inventory.
Below are photographs of some of the cacti I have worked with over the years as well as some companion plants.
Cactus flowers come in all sizes and colors, on cacti large and small.
Agaves, yuccas and aloes are all excellent companion plants for cacti.
Combine the various cactus shapes with comapnion plants for a varied landscape of succulents.