Create an Indoor Desert Garden

Fashion a miniature desert scene with a container garden of cacti and sand mulch.

Cacti Grouping Resembles Desert Scene

Cacti Grouping Resembles Desert Scene

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

When to Start: Spring

At Its Best: Early Summer

Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

Materials Needed:

  • shallow planting bowl
  • pebbles
  • cacti soil
  • sand
  • newspaper
  • spoon
  • heavy-duty gloves
  • watering can
  • miniature cacti; this selection includes: silver torch cactus, Mammillaria, elephant-ear pricklypear and Rebutia

Before You Start

Cacti famously survive on little water, but if you want them to grow and flower they should actually be watered regularly during the growing season. Giving them a thorough watering before planting will help the roots make good contact with the new soil, and they should grow very well.

Cacti Care

Cacti Care

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Aid Drainage

All cacti hate to sit in water, so make sure it will run freely through the growing medium, and out of the bottom of the pot. The container should have lots of drainage holes, covered by a layer of pebbles, to prevent the soil from clogging up the holes.

Cacti Need Drainage Holes with Pebbles on Bottom

Cacti Need Drainage Holes with Pebbles on Bottom

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Set Out the Plants

Put on your protective gloves and start arranging your plants. If you have chosen the position for each of your cacti before you start, planting will be easier and you are more likely to end up with a good overall effect. It makes sense to put smaller ones at the front and larger ones at the back, but also consider planting those with different habits, textures and flower color next to each other.

Cacti Variety

Cacti Variety

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Planting Tips

Wrap a folded strip of newspaper around the top of the plant. This will help you slide it out of its pot and maneuver it into the larger planter without getting spines or fine hairs in your fingers. It also protects the plant.

Wrap Cacti in Newspaper Before Transplanting

Wrap Cacti in Newspaper Before Transplanting

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Fill in the Gaps

Once the plants are in position, use a spoon to carefully fill the gaps between them with a cacti soil. Add small amounts of soil at a time and keep firming it down with the back of a spoon to ensure that there are no air holes left around the plant roots.

Pack Cacti Soil Around Plants to Eliminate Air Gap

Pack Cacti Soil Around Plants to Eliminate Air Gap

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Brush Off Soil

No matter how careful you are, some soil will inevitably get caught in the cactus spines and hairs. Use a soft brush to remove it and to keep the plants looking clean and neat.

Remove Soil from Cactus Spines With a Soft Brush

Remove Soil from Cactus Spines With a Soft Brush

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Water the Plants

Water all the plants in well. In summer, they can be watered whenever the surface of the soil dries out. In winter, they should be left dry; start watering again sparingly when you see signs of growth in spring.

Watering Cactus in Pots

Watering Cactus in Pots

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Apply a Sand Mulch

Use the spoon to spread fine sand around the surface of the planter. This helps water quickly drain away from the surface, preventing rot, and gives the planter an authentic desertlike appearance. Set your arrangement in a bright, sunny position.

Authentic Desert Atmosphere

Authentic Desert Atmosphere

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Top Tip: Watering Crowded Pots

Cacti are often sold when the plants are almost overflowing the sides of their pots, making it tricky to water them properly before planting. Sit these in a container of water until the root ball is damp.

Dampen a Cacti's Root Ball

Dampen a Cacti's Root Ball

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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