Growing drought resistant cacti and succulents in Tenerife

.Cactus Gardening (first published in Living Tenerife)

Cacti are hard to handle and you have to careful with them but here in Tenerife they can be some of the creative gardener's best friends. Due to the extreme heat and sunlight we get here it is good to have attractive plants that are built to withstand these conditions and are also easy to propagate and grow. Cacti and succulents satisfy all of these needs.

The variety is endless too with tall plants that can get as high as trees, short fat barrel cacti, species which are covered in spines, hairy types, ones with colourful flowers and others with attractive and edible fruits like the Prickly Pears (Opuntia spp.).

There are some species of epiphytic cacti such as the Epiphyllum or Orchid Cacti and the strongly perfumed Queen of the Night (Selenicereus grandiflorus), which will climb up and over walls or, with a bit of support, can be grown on tree trunks. Succulent plants like the Agave and Aloe species have spectacular spiky leaves and colourful and unusual blooms on tall flowering stems.

The Century Plant (Agave americana) can be seen all around the island and is very easy to grow and maintain, although its leaves can inflict a painful wound and it is common practice to cut these back or to plant it out of the way of where people may walk. There is a cultivated variegated yellow or white-striped form of the plant as well as the natural blue-green leaved type. Its leaves can be up to six foot in length and the flower spikes can reach as much as 26 foot in height.

Photos of cacti and succulents

Aloe vera in flower
Aloe vera in flower
Century Plant (Agave americana)
Century Plant (Agave americana)
Bryophyllum flowers
Bryophyllum flowers
Cardn or Canary Island Spurge
Cardn or Canary Island Spurge
A bed full of Crown of Thorns
A bed full of Crown of Thorns
Prickly pear flower
Prickly pear flower

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is well known as a herb used to produce gels and lotions to combat sunburn and inflammation of the skin and it is very apt that it grows so well here in the Canary Islands. The attractive yellow flowers are carried on spikes and it will bloom more than once in a year.

The Swan's Neck Agave (Agave attenuata) is also known as the Spineless Octopus or Fox Tail Agave due to its unmistakeable flowering spikes, which grow upward and then droop down towards the ground and make an unforgettable sight. This species is very easy to grow and reproduces itself by suckers around its base rosette.

The Slender Life Leaf (Bryophyllum tubiflorum) and the related Giant Life Leaf (Bryophyllum daigremontianum) are attractive and very popular as houseplants in the UK and elsewhere but here in the Canary Islands they will do very well outdoors where they propagate themselves by dropping thousands of little plantlets from the edges of the growing leaves. These miniature plants come ready equipped with roots and soon start growing.

Houseleeks such as the Golden Houseleek (Aeonium holochrysum) bloom in winter and spring and the rest of the year they take the form of succulent rosettes of leaves. Many of these species grow wild in the north of the island where they can often be seen on rooftops and on walls.

The Euphorbia or Spurge family offers an incredible diversity of forms and some of them, like the Candelabra Spurge or Cardon (Euphorbia canariensis) look just like cacti. Euphorbia milii the Crown of Thorns has bright red flowers, spiny stems and green leaves and is often grown as an ornamental plant in flowerbeds. Both these species will grow in full sunlight and are very easy to maintain.

The Cholla cacti are actually species of Opuntia but they are known for their very sharp spines, which tend to cover the plants and will dig in and painfully attach themselves to any passing mammal or person. This serves two purposes, firstly to protect the main plant, and secondly to help distribute it, stuck to the coat of an animal or the clothes or baggage of a passerby. This is a cactus that you really have to be careful with when planting and in general. But, if planted as a hedge, it makes a fabulous deterrent to children, burglars and animals.

This has been just a quick look at the variety of succulents and cacti, which can be grown here. All of them are easy to propagate and will often root from cuttings or offsets, and most need little care apart from pruning back and watering at times.

Cacti and succulents can be purchased from gardening centers, shops and as seeds and often you can scrounge a plant from a friend. Their weird and wonderful diversity of shapes and sizes can make for a truly interesting and low maintenance garden, but watch out for those spines!

Copyright © 2010 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments 24 comments

CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

Brilliant Steve. This is what you are good at. I'm just writing a piece about the Southern desert regions and the strange variety of plants you find there. Will borrow some of the names from here if that's ok.


Rees Cowden profile image

Rees Cowden 8 years ago

Photos and information like thi is why I think that cacti and succlents are "the next big thing" Such colorful flowers, interesting foliage and their difficult to kill for those gardners who can be a bit irregular with their maintenance.

Craig Rees Cowden


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks, Chris, go for it and if you want to know the names of specific plants give me a shout!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks too, Craig! I love cacti and succulents and have grown them since I was a kid. Where I live now it is really exciting seeing some types in the wild!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

One of my first jobs (summer 1971) was working with cacti. Replanting them in terrariums, do you remember those? Even though I wore gloves I still couldn't put my fingers together without finding a 'spike' embedded under my skin. The fine hair spinye ones were the worst. It took years before I started to like them again. But it sure must be wonderful to see them in their natural setting. Thanks for sharing those amazing pics too.

great hub regards Zsuzsy


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I do indeed remember terrariums! Yes, you certainly have to watch out for the spines. I like eating prickly pears but you have to be very careful because of the tiny spines! lol

Thanks for posting, Zsuzsy!


EYES CHAMbERS 7 years ago

THOSE ARE bEAUTIFUL PLANTS.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Very interesting hub! I just love it when you write these kind of hubs, even the ones on insects.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Jerilee! Speaking of insects, I am thinking of writing a new hub inspired by a friend who decided to never kill flies again and has stuck with it. There is a hub already about singer Anthony Reynolds who is the person I am thinking of who has just blogged about it at Myspace.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

That would be very interesting! My husband is still singing a tune (complaining) about the biting horsefly on his back once, when I failed to kill the fly, but beamed him a good one trying to kill it. It's the reason we don't undertake any building projects together anymore.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author


relache profile image

relache 7 years ago from Seattle, WA

My six year old aloe vera just bloomed for the first time, and I got flowers that looked just like the yellow ones you show here.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

That is great news, Relache! I found out that the Aloe Vera plants here never form seeds because they are of the same clone....well, not totally because I have found a very small number that produced a few seed pods. I mention this because it was a mystery to me why the plants were not setting seed although there are plenty of bees pollinating them and eventually I found out on a website that the plant cannot reproduce sexually with others that are the same clone. Because Aloe Vera reproduces very easily by daughter plants all around the parent this is the usual method of spreading it.


Moonmaiden profile image

Moonmaiden 7 years ago from Lucerne Valley, CA

Who knew you and I shared a love for succulents. Great photos.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Moonmaiden! I am glad to hear it!


GeneralHowitzer profile image

GeneralHowitzer 7 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

Wow a nature lover as well, you have nice hub here. Your cacti are indeed spiny yet fantastic. A 100 hubpager at its best...


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you!


Kate 6 years ago

We are just back from Golf Del Sur..great place.

We went at Christmas and saw the Swan's Neck..wow..I never saw the like before. I bought one off Ebay, it seems to be doing well. Just ordered some fleece as they are frost tender.

What's the success rate in England if at all Bard?

Thanks!

K


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Hi Kate! Thanks for posting! I have never seen the plant in the UK and would presume it would have to be grown in greenhouses because it could not survive the winter.


ubalildon profile image

ubalildon 5 years ago

i love nature...your hub is tight though, keep it up


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Ubalildon!


a1flowers profile image

a1flowers 4 years ago from Mumbai

Nice photos and full of nature. thanks


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for posting!

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