"Wonderful Electric", to quote a lyric from one of my all time favorite bands, Goldfrapp. Here we have another cactus flower kickin' the beauty into high gear with a constellation of color. Ripples of buttery rich petals are blushed in riotous red dusted with glimmers of gold. This is opulence courtesy of nature and not some designer brand. Nature is THE designer brand.
May I introduce Opuntia macrocentra subspecies macrocentra. That's a mouthful right?! It's common name is the Tuxedo Spine Prickly Pear. It grows about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide, has got blue-green cactus pads replete with black and white spines, and looks amazing grown in a large container. In times of drought or cold these pads turn purple in color. The look is fetchingly fashionable. But the real show comes mid to late spring when Opuntia macrocentra subspecies macrocentra produces abundant buds of bloom. The plant covers itself in a gorgeous golden fire.
Now if you're more of a traditionalist and rose is your thing, check out Opuntia macrocentra's cousin Opuntia basilaris x violacea. She's got ruffled, rose-like cactus flowers that give off an elegant energy.
You get the same blue-green cactus pads spotted with teeny tiny spiny bristles instead of long needle-like spines. Opuntia basilaris x violacea grows to around 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide as well. This species is known to become the most violet in color when dealing with cold and drought.
The cactus flowers of this species tend to arrive in abundance come late spring into summer. So beautiful. So classy.
Lastly, I present to you the flowers of an old cactus friend, Echinocactus grusonii 'Golden Barrel' also know simply as the Golden Barrel cactus. It's funny, when I think of the iconic Golden Barrel Cactus I usually don't think of their cactus flowers. To be truthful, I've never really seen them in bloom or thought they produced flowers...but they do! I'm really loving the spiny petals they give us and check out the erupting gold volcano in their centers! So cool.
Echinocactus grusonii 'Golden Barrel' is an example of what I call iconic plant architecture. Its rounded geometric form looks so chic alone in a container and even more so clustered in neat groupings. It fits so many styles from rustic, to mod, to architectural plus a mixture of young and old barrels makes for a textural feast! Size wise, this glamorous globe of barbed beauty can grow up to 4 feet tall and to almost 3 feet across.
As far as growing most cactus and marveling at their majesty and mystery, the great news is that they are truly one plant that is drought tolerant. Nature designed most of them to grow in full sun situations as well as fast-draining, loose soil mixtures containing both drainage grit and 25 to 50% organic matter. When it comes to watering, general rules of thumb are water during warm, growing seasons, do not water during rainy seasons, and keep dry as cool/cold seasons approach and pass.
So, the next time you think of cacti consider this...they posses a beauty few fail to recognize. Those that do are witness to the true spectacle of nature and its astonishing beauty.