What’s blooming in the Valley in April? Some sensational low-maintenance cacti that will be right at home in your Phoenix landscaping. Perfect for water conservation, cactus flowers rival roses in beauty. You’ve got a range of sizes to pick from, as well as variety in flower color, texture, and overall plant color too.
Technically known as Echinopsis candicans, and sometimes referred to as Giant Echinops, this is a beautiful plant both in bloom and when it’s not. The Argentine, which is pictured above, only reaches 3 feet tall, but can spread out to 6 feet wide or more with age. It’s bloom time if March to April, so it’s already in color at the beginning of the month. Like all xeriscaping plants, it needs occasional deep-root irrigation to perform at it’s best as a landscaping asset. The fruits are purple, and form when the spring blooming finishes.
The Argentine Cactus’ flowers are multi-layered with white petals with light red to pink back layers and yellow centers, a truly remarkable sight. The delightfully fragrant flowers are about 8 inches wide, and it’s a night-blooming cactus, but they are still open early in the morning, and will remain open on cloudy days. The perfect spot for it in your landscape design is where the breeze will carry the scent to your favorite patio chair where you can fully enjoy it on spring evenings. It’s great at the curb too, but no one relaxes out there.
Some call the Echinocereus engelmannii the Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus, because it’s said that the fruits taste like strawberries. Most people leave them for wildlife and song birds to eat. This xeriscaping plant is valued for its small size almost as much as it is for the incredible beauty of the blooms. The stems are columnar, but never reach more than a foot tall. A clump forms by branching from the base, making it a great choice for tight spots in the Phoenix landscape design where color from April through August is desirable. It does well in full sun to light shade.
You would be hard pressed to ignore the Hedgehog Cactus in bloom, they are normally intensely colored in a range from hot pink to brilliant fuschia and purple. There are also 8 named varieties of Echinocereus engelmannii, so we see lighter pinks and even red blooms around, but the most common one is the Strawberry variety. The flowers remain open for only 5 days, but it new ones appear until August. The more established your Hedgehog is, the more color it will add to your landscaping. It’s also a great container plant, but needs that periodic deep-watering and well-draining soil one must expect with desert plants.
Purple Prickly Pear Cactus
While it adds color to the landscape year around, Opuntia violacea var. santa rita really comes into it’s own in spring. Sometimes called the Santa Rita Prickly Pear, this shrubby cactus erupts in bloom from April to May. It grows much taller than the first two cacti we’ve discussed here, reaching up to 6 feet high and wide over time. It’s best in full sun and extremely drought tolerant, but you definitely want to give it a deep soak now and then in summer to keep the root system robust and the pads plump. Not seeing to this can put your plant in distress, which invites pests and disease in all pl.ants.
The flowers are cream to yellow colors, and all are formed on the tops of the upper pads of each stem forming a ray along the ridge. Purple Prickly Pears stay in bloom for weeks, and then form colorful fruits. A handsome plant that deserves a spot in anyone’s Phoenix landscaping.
Black Spined Prickly Pear Cactus
The Opuntia macrocentra sails through the heat nicely in full sun. Some people mistakenly identify this one as Engelman’s Prickly Pear, which has decidedly green pads, where this one is definitely bluish fleshed and kissed with purple highlights. Give it good drainage and infrequent deep soaking to keep the pads plump in summer, and it will reward you with a handsome Phoenix xeriscaping presence.
The yellow blooms have dark orange-red centers that start opening in April, and continue through early summer. A shrubby cactus of managable size, you’ll not find it difficult to find the right location in the yard. This prickly pear grows 2-3 feet tall by 3-4 feet wide with a long blooming period. Add the gorgeous coloring of the pads, which can range from silvery blue to almost turquoise, and it’s a stunning specimen year around.