New Mexico Cactus Gardens: Hedgehog and Cholla Cactus

picture of a Rainbow Cactus in bloom, New Mexico cactus gardens

Cactus gardens are a perfect fit for New Mexico with consumers having literally a hundred different choices. Beavertail and some prickly pear cactus immediately comet to mind as great small shrub like choices. Octillo and Totem Pole cactus come to mind as larger tree like choices. The focus here is on Hedgehog cactus species and Cholla cactus.

A bit of planning is all that is needed to build a colorful garden that can withstand extreme heat or cold. They also offer the benefit of requiring little maintenance and water.

The types of cactus for New Mexico gardens suggested here are native cactus species. These and the others suggested above, can be found at your local New Mexico cactus nursery. Visitors interested in other flowering plants for the garden are invited to press the flowers button for even more great flower garden suggestions.

Rainbow Cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus) a species of Hedgehog cactus, are the first suggestion for a New Mexico cactus garden. The top picture shows a plant with flowers on a single stem. It grows to about a foot in height, making it perfect for either a patio container plant or a ground flowering cactus.

picture of a echinocereus coccineus, scarlet hedgehog cactus or claret cup cactus Cactus in bloom, New Mexico cactus gardens
The Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus, also known as the Claret Cup Cactus can be grown as either a perennial ground flower or as a patio house plant.

As ground plants, they grow in clusters that can measure two feet wide by two high. Their spectacular red flowers attract hummingbirds.

All they need for healthy growth are easily drained soil and sunlight. Leave the container plant on the patio over the winter, they can withstand cold weather. In fact, many garden experts suggest that cool winters help improve spring blooms.

picture of a Strawberry hedgehog cactus,  in bloom, New Mexico cactus gardens
Fans of purple cactus flowers will enjoy Englemann’s Hegehog cactus. It also goes by the name Strawberry Cactus, Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus and Purple Torch.

The picture highlights the magnificent purple flowers atop the small growing plant. According to the Forest Service, nine varieties are recognized, based on stem size, central spine characteristics, and flower size. They are spring bloomers.

New Mexico Cholla Cactus

picture of a tree cholla in bloom, New Mexico cactus chollas
New Mexico is prime habitat for cholla cactus. They grow almost everywhere in the state, including gardens, where they provide both aesthetic and practical benefits. Caring for them is fairly easy. Like all cacti, they do not need much care. The branches can be trimmed to fit a yard corner. If the plant gets overgrown, they can be cut down to the roots. New sprouts will shoot up.

The picture shows a tree cholla. They grow to bush or small tree size (about eight feet) and produce nice blooms.

Another species, the jumping cholla gets its name because of the fact that the branches easily detach. A human walking past one can brush up against it and a branch will easily attach itself to the clothing. They don’t actually jump at people.

picture of a cholla fruit, new mexico cactus chollas
The fruit of Cholla, often called Cholla buds are edible and high in vitamen D, making them a very practical plant.

After removing the spines they can be consumed fresh or dried. They have a tangy taste.

picture of a tree cholla in bloom, new mexico cactus chollas
Another species, Cane Cholla or Walkingstick Cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior) receives a good deal of attention for additional practical reasons.

As chollas die, their stems begin to hollow out at the spines, much like the next cholla wood picture shows. Walking Stick Cholla has extra long and thick branches making the dead branches the perfect length and strength for creating walking sticks.

Walking Stick Cholla might be the most common cholla species in the state.

From most common to least common cholla cactus, the Sante Fe Cholla is listed as an endangered species in New Mexico. A variety of local governmental and nongovernmental organizations are transplanting Sante Fe Cholla in an effort to maintain a healthy population.