CACTUS – AGAVE – YUCCA
One of easiest plants to identify in the desert. They are a large shrub with long cane-like unbranched spiny stems that grow from a short trunk. Small 2 inch leaves will grow from the stems when there is enough moisture. Dense clusters of red tubular flowers grow from the end of the stems from March through June.
Prickly Pear Engelmannii
This cactus is generally shrubby, with dense clumps up to 3.5 metres (11 ft) high, usually with no apparent trunk. The pads are green (rarely blue-green), obovate to round, about 15–30 cm long and 12–20 cm wide. Spines are extremely variable, with anywhere from 1-8 per areole, and often absent from lower areoles; they are yellow.
Red yucca (which is not a yucca) is a stalwart in the landscapes of Arizona and the southwest. Its dark green rosette of long, thin leaves rising fountain-like from the base provides an unusual sculptural accent, its long spikes of pink to red to coral bell-shaped flowers last from May through October, and it is exceedingly tough, tolerating extreme heat and cold.
The saguaro can grow to be over 50 ft tall. It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. The saguaro blossom is the State Wildflower of Arizona. Saguaros have a relatively long lifespan. They may grow their first side arm any time from 75-100 years of age, but some never grow one at all.
Santa Rita Pricky Pear
This is an accent plant that requires almost no care, especially if you want the color. They produce a peach flower and then that becomes a marble yellow. The less water they get, the more purple they become. They’re slow-growing compared with other opuntias, rarely getting higher than 6 feet.
Twin Flowered Agave
Hundreds of narrow leaves form a very symmetrical, compact rosette. The rugged, flexible leaves come to a sharp point but are unarmed like some of its close relatives. A majestic flower stem reaching as tall as 9 to 12 ft. appears when the plant reaches maturity, displaying masses of yellow flowers.
The Twisted Cereus is a medium growing columnar cactus. This cactus grows 10 to 15 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide. The Twisted Cereus has gorgeous twisting lines and has huge cream colored blooms from spring to fall. Do not over water.
Variegated Agave Americana
Large rosette-forming succulent to 5 to 6 feet tall by 6 to 8 feet wide with upright slightly wavy gray-green leaves that have strong cream to yellow margins. This plant has yellow-green flowers that attract hummingbirds but plants do not bloom until they are several decades or so old and the plant dies after flowering.
The Moroccan Mound is a succulent that grows between 1-2 feet tall by 4-6 feet wide. It grows quickly in full sun and requires little water.
This plant sports long, green, weeping leaves which sometimes looks like blades of grass. The plant grows to about 4-5 feet tall. White blooms will show up on the stems during the late Spring.
More about Cacti
Cacti are native to the Americas, being found as far south as Patagonia and up into western Canada. (The Rhipsalis baccifera is the exception here, as it is also found in Africa and Sri Lanka.) Cacti are found mainly in extremely dry environments, and that includes here in Mesa, Gilbert, and Queen Creek. With their sharp spines and lack of leaves they stand as a sort of tribute to harshness of the environment for which they are born. Cacti add a natural, appropriate look to any desert landscape, and are useful landscape plants as we try to conserve water here in the east Phoenix desert.