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Plus Agave, Yucca
Cacti and succulents come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the tiny ones are best-suited to miniature garden arrangements, while giants such as the saguaro would be too big to be displayed suitably in some front yards! I use the terminology "cacti and succulents" here merely out of deference to popular convention. All cacti are, in fact, considered to be succulents (but not all succulents are cacti). View my pictures of cacti and succulents for some examples.
I include photos of the succulents known as agave and yucca in this gallery. Although often thought of in connection with cacti, agave and yucca belong to a group of plants distinct from cacti.
Succulents are known for their fleshy foliage. But other plants, as well, bear such "leathery" leaves, including:
- Montauk daisy
Portulaca plants (also commonly called "moss rose") are annuals....
However, these succulents reseed readily. Portulacas are a good choice for areas with poor soils, and they can stand up to a pounding sun all day long. They are also popular in hanging baskets, their prostrate growth habit allowing them to cascade down the side of a container. The different colors they come in look wonderful mixed together.Continue to 2 of 14 below.
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Pictures of Cacti and Succulents: Hen and Chicks
Mat-forming succulents, hen and chicks produces clusters of rosettes....
The parent rosettes are the "hens," and the smaller rosettes that spring from them are the "chicks." This low-growing (4") perennial will quickly spread to 2' or more in width. Although grown for its leaves, hen and chicks plant does flower, occasionally.Continue to 3 of 14 below.
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Autumn Joy StonecropContinue to 4 of 14 below.
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05 of 14
Angelina Sedum Photo
The gold flowers that emerge in spring on Angelina sedum can be a nice bonus added to the appeal of its chartreuse foliage, as long as you don't mind the rather gangly stems they bloom on....
But for me, it's the chartreuse foliage of these succulents that is the main draw for growing them. I like both its color and its feel. Angelina sedum will spread over time, so if you make it a point to avoid growing plants that fail to receive the highest marks for being well-behaved, you may not wish to grow it.
Mass Angelina sedum plants together for use as a groundcover or short perennial border.Continue to 6 of 14 below.
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Sedum Spurium Picture
With a common name like "Dragon's Blood," one expects a lot of color out of this sedum....
But how much color you get depends on the amount of sunshine you give it, among other factors. The Sedum spurium 'Dragon's Blood' in the picture has reddish stems and pink flowers. Some types of Sedum spurium have red flowers and/or red leaves, as well.
Being a succulent, there is a fleshy feel to this plant that some gardeners may find appealing (if you're the type that likes to touch your plants frequently, as I do). Furthermore, as with most succulents, Sedum spurium is drought-tolerant.Continue to 7 of 14 below.
07 of 14
Pictures of Cacti and Succulents: Ice Plant
This ice plant is one of the hardy succulents and can be left outside in winter all the way to planting zone 5. However, that's not how it received its name....
Rather, its the "icy" look of its foliage that earns it its name. An optical illusion is caused by the way light bounces off the tiny hairs on the surface of the ice plant's leaves, mimicking the appearance of ice crystals. There are a number of different types of ice plant. The ice plant in this picture is a type known as Delosperma cooperi.
If I had to choose between the succulents I've covered so far in terms of recommending the one that best combines beautiful flowers with attractive foliage, my selection would be ice plant.Continue to 8 of 14 below.
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Yucca Plant Picture
Photo of a yucca plant....
A dwarf plant, the sword-shaped leaves of the Yucca nana shown in the picture bear the threads (or "filaments") that give another type of yucca its scientific plant name: Yucca filamentosa, commonly known as "Adam's needle."Continue to 9 of 14 below.
09 of 14
Picture of a Joshua Tree
My picture of a Joshua tree above shows what Yucca brevifolia looks like. But you may wonder about the origin of the common name....
There's even a park in California named "Joshua Tree National Park." It is located in the Mojave Desert. So where does the name "Joshua" come from for this tree?
Andrew Alden explains that it was the Mormon pioneers who were responsible for naming the Joshua tree. The reference is to the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament (8:18–29). The passage states that a Hebrew army, wielding javelins (on an order from God to "stretch out the javelin that is in your hand"), took the city of Ai and "raised over it a great heap of stones."
Andrew asserts that "the name 'Joshua tree' surely derives from the stony landscape of the Mojave as well as the trees' outstretched arms and javelin-tip leaves."Continue to 10 of 14 below.
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The plant in this picture is an agave, which also belong to a family of plants called "Agave"....
Confused? To clear up any confusion, simply look to see whether the name is capitalized or not. With a capital "A," I'm referring to a plant family. With a lower-case "a," I'm referring to a subset of that family. What other plants are in the Agave family, besides the agave? Well, one example is another plant I've been discussing in this photo gallery, namely, the yucca.
Remember, while plants in the Agave family may resemble cactus, they are, in fact, distinct from their more famous desert cousins. Both groups of plants are, however, succulents.Continue to 11 of 14 below.
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Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Picture
Prickly pear cactus has yellow flowers. But that only begins to tell the tale of this fascinating plant....
Prickly pear cactus foliage reaches at most a little over one foot tall. But it's not just a foliage plant or a flowering plant, as it also bears an edible fruit (the red you see in my picture). If you enjoy edible landscaping, you may wish to experiment with growing this tough plant. Its scientific plant name is Opuntia compressa.
It is one of the hardiest of the cacti. The photo above was taken in Arizona, but Opuntia is represented east of the Mississippi by Eastern prickly pear cactus.Continue to 12 of 14 below.
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Pictures of Cacti and Succulents: Cholla Cactus
It's sometimes hard to think of cacti, such as the cholla cactus, as "succulents," even though that's how they're classified....
That's because we also use the word "succulent" colloquially to refer to delicious, juicy food. And even though some cacti have edible parts, our first impression when we see such spiny plants is, "There's no way that's coming anywhere near my mouth!"
Nonetheless, the cholla cactus and other cacti do store water in their tissues -- the basic definition of a succulent plant.Continue to 13 of 14 below.
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Barrel Cactus Picture
Some types of barrel cactus plants are popular as houseplants....
But for some of us, houseplants are the furthest thing from our minds when mention is made of "barrel cactus." If you watched Westerns as a kid, you probably recall seeing a thirsty cowboy slice off the top of a barrel cactus to get at the liquid stored inside. It's not just fiction: some species of Echinocactus barrel cacti do contain a reasonably palatable fluid (or so I am told) that is potable in an emergency.Continue to 14 of 14 below.
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Picture of Saguaro Cactus
An imposing plant, the saguaro cactus is an enduring symbol of the American West.
I snapped this photo of a saguaro cactus while surveying the Route 66 landscape.