Cacti are such a peculiar, yet beautiful family of colorful plants that add so much personality to the landscape. Their prickly surface gives them a distinctive texture, bringing contrast to mixed arrangements and landscape designs, and when they come into bloom, the color display is spectacular.
Although cacti are desert dwellers and aren’t typically found in the wild in places like Fort Lauderdale, there are still some varieties that we can grow successfully in our coastal climate. Many can be grown either indoors or out, so if you’d like to expand your houseplant collection, or if your garden needs a fresh makeover, there are plenty to choose from.
Here are some of our favorite colorful indoor/outdoor cacti varieties for Florida gardeners:
This popular potted plant isn’t just for holiday decoration! While they’re known for their bright flowers emerging in winter, they can be grown year-round in Fort Lauderdale, indoors or outdoors. Like most cacti, they prefer sandy, quick-draining soil mediums, so if you plant them in the ground, you’ll want to amend the soil with a cactus-friendly growing medium.
They need to be protected from chilly weather, and while we don’t encounter that too often here, it’s good to have a plan in case we experience an unexpected cold spell. Growing them in pots gives you the easy option of bringing them inside when it gets cold, but if they’re in the ground, you can use protective cloth to keep them insulated.
Lady finger Cactus
Though they’re often kept as small houseplants, in the landscape, the lady finger can spread up to 3 feet across, but only reach about 8 inches high, making a nice, low-growing filler plant. There are many different varieties with colorful spines, bringing year-round visual interest, but they’re most renowned for their legendary pink flowers that burst open in spring.
Lady finger cacti aren’t too fond of much moisture once they’re established, so if you are able to protect them from the heavy downpours of our rainy season, that will help to avoid any issues down the road. During the dryer months, very little maintenance is required. Growing them in pots is another way to easily manage the water levels they receive, but since they can thrive in partial shade, you should still be able to grow them outdoors successfully.
These funky, bicolored cacti don’t grow in the wild, because they’re actually a form of grafted cactus, combining two totally separate plants! The colorful cacti bulb on top of the green base can come in shades of yellow, red, orange, pink, or purple. That top piece doesn’t photosynthesize or produce chlorophyll, which is why it isn’t green, but it’s able to stay alive through the connection to the green plant.
Moon cacti need indirect sunlight because the grafted piece on top is a bit more sensitive, so they’re easiest to grow in containers indoors, but can also be grown outdoors if they’re provided with some shade. They’re especially cute as window box plants, creating the illusion of colorful flowers that never fade away.
Turk’s Cap Cactus
You’ll get a kick out of this funny plant that looks like it’s wearing a woolly, red fez on top of its head. It’s an easy one to grow here because it actually likes moist environments and doesn’t need any shade. So long as that soil is quick-draining, you shouldn’t have any issues. It doesn’t grow very big—only about 4 inches tall and wide—but you can add it into container arrangements, or as a low-growing border accent in the landscape.
As a houseplant, it’s pretty simple to take care of, just be sure it’s placed by a sunny window. Water it regularly, and try to avoid letting the soil dry out, even during the winter when it’s dormant. During spring and summer, giving it some water-soluble fertilizer will help it to produce sweet little pink blossoms.
Red Torch Cactus
No need for tiki torches when you grow these eye-catching cacti in the garden! Their fiery red blossoms spring up from the tops of their spiky columns, reaching up to 3 feet tall outside! They don’t like to be watered very often, but when they do get a drink, you should pour it on generously. Waiting to water them until they look a bit dehydrated will actually benefit your red torch cacti, and you’ll notice that they get a bit chubbier soon afterward!
Little offsets will shoot out from around the base of the main plant, and they can be very easily removed and propagated into an entirely new plant. So, if you’re successful in growing your first red torch, you’ll have the opportunity to grow many more!
This spherical specimen is covered in raised rows of white spines that look like a starburst against their blue-green flesh. When several are planted together, it creates a swirling motif that looks downright psychedelic! Bright yellow blooms appear on top, bringing a pop of sunshine into the garden or home.
Pebbly soil is best, and while they like around 6–8 hours of sunlight per day, it does help to give them a bit of protection from intense midday sun. Whenever the soil is dry in the summer, you should give them a thorough watering. Dial it back in the winter months as you really only need to water them about once per month.
Eager to pick up some cacti for your plant collection? We have so many fantastic varieties to choose from at Living Color, so feel free to visit us in-store or order over the phone. Curbside pickup and home delivery are also available if needed!