Having passed the equinox we now hope for a few weeks more of late summer weather or that ‘Indian summer’ as it is sometimes called and which we really enjoy here in Mallorca.
Planting up a garden in Mallorca really calls for easy growing plants if you don’t want to be continually attending and watering them so here we look into the family of Succulents and Cacti. Both of these are really large families of species that hold moisture in the fleshy stems or leaves and require a minimum of watering.
There are some that grow really large like the one known as the Century plant with huge grey green fleshy leaves that has a life of about twenty years when it will produce one really tall flower head that starts off looking like a giant piece as asparagus but eventually opens up with what looks like little open platforms all the way up flower stalk.
This lasts for several months until it suddenly tips over and the Cacti is dead. The long stalk is quite hard and woody but very light weight so well trimmed back is often used by the local youth when dressing up for the Moors and Christians fiesta, you never know what you are growing in your garden!
My real favourite which I frequently write about is the Epiphyllum, with flat leaves, no nasty spikes and that wonderfully fragrant night opening flower, so you need to stay awake until late in the evening to be able to enjoy this member of the Cacti family. A snippet cut off any mature stem will nearly always make good healthy root growth so is easy to propagate but will take a year or two before it flowers.
The Christmas Cactus speaks for itself in that it flowers around that festive season. It’s smaller than these others I have mentioned so can be grown in a pot for the terrace or even indoors. As many other cacti it makes roots very easily from a cutting.
A really fun large cacti to have around if you have room is the Higo Chumbo that has its Cactus fruit ripening about now. This is not a good plant to have around if you have children because it has really vicious spikes and its fruit are known as Prickly Pears. They are good to eat if you dare to pick them.
I am told the best time is to harvest this fruit early in the morning whilst there is still dew on them and the prickles are supposedly not quite so fierce but beware their sharp prickles can get at you when you least expect it.
This is another of the easy to grow Cacti with just a simple off- set or cutting popped into the soil or plant pot but be sure you have enough room because it can grow really large so keep it frequently cut back once it is well established.
One of the really ‘must haves’ for any garden must surely be an Aloe. There are several within this family but all have a really fleshy leaf that is a perfect relief for mosquito bites, it really takes the itch out of the bite. In fact it has become so popular that it is grown in large plantations now to harvest for medicinal and cosmetic use.
This cacti grows just as well in a pot as in the open ground and will be found growing wild on any dry-stone wall along our country walks and a simple snippet when planted up will easily take root.
The Yucca is another of the Cati family that can either be encouraged to grow into a really tall tree with its spiky bunch of long leaves and a lovely cluster of white bell shaped flowers. Off-sets that grow around ground level can be left to form a bushy cluster and not allowed to grow tall.
Here you will need plenty of room because half a dozen or so and you have filled an empty corner but well worth the effort when each one of this cluster produces the big bunch of white flowers that seem to be in bloom for ages.
This has just been a little peep into what composes the Succulent and Cactus families. There are so many more of all shapes and sizes and even colours that can be purchased in garden centres and frequently on the gardening shelves of your favourite supermarket at really reasonable prices, that is if you don’t have access to a friendly garden where you can take a snippet or two.
Several different sized pots standing on a terrace can look really attractive. They can look just as good planted along a border or even all piled in an empty corner with a few large stones to make a rockery. The choice is endless and once established so very easy to to maintain with a minimum of watering but of course a little cutting back when they become over exuberant.