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The 10 Most Spectacular Indoor Plants From The Desert

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The native inhabitants of the driest places on the planet have always been especially loved among indoor plants. The well-deserved reputation of desert stars can be explained simply: no other plants can boast of such ease of care and endurance. Although not all succulents and cacti belong to the crops found naturally in semi-deserts and deserts. Even so, the choice among true desert endemics is very large - from bright flowering stars to humble living stones.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Growing cacti at home

Special character of plants native to deserts

The natural conditions of desert places of our planet are so harsh that only exceptionally hardy plants have managed to adapt to them. But they are not few: hundreds of species of the most hardy plants thrive even in places where everything around seems lifeless, competing for precious moisture with representatives of fauna no less well adapted to drought.

Low and uneven humidity with sharp variations in precipitation between seasons, very low humidity, scorching sun, extreme hot African or more moderate North American temperatures have caused plants adapted to desert areas to develop exceptional traits in the course of evolution:

  • the ability to settle for minimal amounts of moisture, sometimes hundreds of times less than for dwellers of even temperate climates;
  • varying metabolism-the ability to absorb carbon dioxide at night and to close the stomata to stop moisture evaporation;
  • short change of periods of active growth and complete rest - seasonal, pronounced vegetative activity, followed by deep "sleep";
  • absence or minimal number of stomata, protected by waxy or fatty coating of leathery leaves.

Cacti and succulents are often associated with desert plants; for many, all plants from these groups seem to be the same in character. But not all succulent crops are native to deserts or even semi-deserts. After all, many succulents migrated to rooms from mountain areas, where the problem of lack of nutrients, moisture and sharp temperature variations is no less relevant, although we are talking about very different climatic conditions in nature.

The majority of popular cacti and almost half of succulents grow in subtropics, in mountain and even forest areas. So not all succulents come from the desert, but all desert plants are definitely succulents. They are capable of storing water reserves in shoots or leaves, have fleshy water-retaining tissues and thick skin, few stomata. All these adaptation mechanisms are most vividly shown in cacti.

The indoor plants of desert origin have lost none of the features of their natural ancestors, even if we are talking about decorative forms and varieties which passed a long selection. It is believed that adaptation to the extreme conditions of deserts and semi-deserts is irreversible. Such plants even in the interior remain common inhabitants of deserts, accustomed to far from typical humidity, temperatures and light.

One of the key features of desert plants is extremely narrow "specialization". Such plants are so adapted to the harsh conditions of deserts that they can't adapt to any other conditions, losing their ability to acclimatize. Their whole metabolism is arranged quite differently than that of plants from other climatic zones.

Those who want to grow desert plants should study their character well: to succeed and admire drought-resistant stars for many years, it is necessary to recreate for them already habitual conditions. Standard care will not work for such plants.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert

All indoor plants that came to us from desert places and other characteristics:

  1. drought tolerance;
  2. sun-loving to the point of needing to be in direct sunlight, extreme sensitivity to any shade and lack of light;
  3. heat-loving;
  4. loving variations in night and day temperatures;
  5. need for a long and rigorous dormancy period for subsequent flowering.

There are many similarities in the care of desert crops. Such plants require careful and infrequent watering, during the resting phase they can often do without them at all. Nutrition for desert stars is carried out rarely, and the substrate should be specific - light, sandy or stony.

Let's take a closer look at the brightest desert stars that are particularly popular in modern interiors.

1. Star Cactus Astrophytum

Astrophytums (Astrophytum) are some of the brightest desert cacti. They are slow-growing plants with massive ribs that make the unbranched stems look like a star in section. The soft hairs are gathered in tiny tufts, giving the cacti a unique "dotty" pubescence. The cactus blooms indoors, surprisingly large yellow with a red yawn and pubescent tube flowers.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Astrophytum stellate (Astrophytum asterias). © seedsexotic

Area of distribution: USA and Mexico.

It is an easy to grow cactus that does not like transplanting and burying the root neck. It is distinguished by its light-loving, drought-resistant, demanding soil composition.

2. Invulnerable Opuntia

Capable of creating entire thickets and hardy masses, opuntia (Opuntia) lose their aggressiveness in room culture. These cacti are found in a variety of environments, but have become a symbol of the Mexican deserts for a reason. The flat, articulate stems, often drop-shaped or oval in shape, surprise both with prickles and thin bristles, which because of the serrations are very difficult to pull out of the skin.

Unique rooting abilities and a powerful surface root system make this cactus very tenacious. And the single, bright flowers in their half-opened state remind one of roses.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Opuntia (Opuntia). © C T Johansson

Areal distribution: Australia, Central and South America.

Growing Opuntia will not give any difficulties even to novice florists. The cacti develop quickly, like abundant watering in spring and summer, very sparingly in winter. Opuntia are not afraid of sudden changes in temperature, can spend the summer in the garden and are very light-loving.

3. "Hedgehogs" Echinocactus

One of the largest spherical cacti, losing its spherical shape only at a very considerable age, is adorned with numerous ribs and golden prickles. Under room conditions Echinocactus (Echinocactus) not only does not reach its true size (in nature, echinocactus can exceed a meter and a half in height), but it almost never flowers.

But the beauty and symmetry of the plant, decorated with densely arranged colored - gold, red, orange or golden brown - prickles, is so unique that the popularity of the "hedgehog" cactus does not seem so surprising.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Echinocactus, or Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocactus)

Areal distribution: deserts of Mexico and USA.

Cultivating Echinocactus is easy, but care must be taken to ensure that the substrate is light and slightly acidic, lighting is at its brightest, and that wintering is cool. Even in winter echinocacti are watered only once a week, but this cactus does not tolerate sudden changes in humidity and prefers to spend the summer in the fresh air.

4. New varieties of non-boring aloe

A few decades ago aloe (Aloe) went through a period of undeserved oblivion, but today it is back on the list of most fashionable succulents. The boring and faceless specimens of the common aloe tree are already history. Today, flower growers around the world have turned their attention to amazing varieties and species of aloe, which are ready to give a head start to even the most original indoor desert stars.

Similar to the whimsical inhabitant of the sea depths Aloe marlothii (Aloe marlothii), the flower-shaped ornate rosettes of Aloe variegata (Aloe variegata), the unique Aloe polyphylla (Aloe polyphylla) with its compound spiral leaves in flat rosettes, etc. - these are the new favorites. But all aloes without exception remain succulents with fleshy leaves gathered in a root or apex rosette, with crescent-shaped sections, a pointed tip, sharp teeth along the edge of the leaves, and glaucous patterns.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Aloe marlothii (Aloe marlothii). © Stan Shebs
The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Aloe variegata
The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Aloe polyphylla. © Linda De Volder

Area of distribution: deserts of Africa and the Americas.

All aloes, old and new, are remarkably unpretentious. They like annual transplants, fresh air, and cool overwintering. Like all desert stars, aloes are sun-loving, but somewhat more tolerant of insufficient light. Require fairly abundant summer watering and are not very fond of fertilizers.

5. Fan Hasteria

The stems of these succulents, shortened up to complete invisibility, allow you to admire only the beauty of the leaves. Some species of Hasteria (Gasteria) have them arranged in dense classical, others - in double-row, striking symmetry rosettes, in which lingual, often with rounded tips, leaves are laid out as if by hand in "stacks" or fans.

The old leaves in Hasteria are lazy, while the young can be almost erect. White warts give the dark stiff leaves a mottled effect. And the daughter rosettes that form in very large numbers make it easy to propagate the plant or grow it in "colonies."

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Gasteria (Gasteria). © skyviewsucculents

Area of distribution: deserts of Africa.

Gasteria belong to the fast-growing succulents, which will have to be transplanted annually. Hasteria will prefer to overwinter in a cool place. But otherwise they are unpretentious, shade tolerant, easy to forgive blunders and are watered quite abundantly in summer.

6. Flowering wonder - Lampranthus

Most among florists these plants are still better known by the old name of the most common species, Oscularia deltoides (Oscularia deltoides), but other representatives of the genus Lampranthus (Lampranthus), where oscularia were included, also deserve attention. These are unique shrubby succulents with strongly branching shoots, loping with age. They form true leaves, although the greens look unconventional. The gray-blue, thickened-triangular, toothed ribbed leaves make these succulents one of the most original.

But the real show of lampranthus begins only when flowering begins. Small chrysanthemum-shaped flowers of pink or lilac color bloom in such numbers that sometimes you can't see the special green of the osculium underneath them.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Lampranthus deltoides, or Oscularia deltoides

Areal distribution: deserts of South Africa.

The most difficult thing in growing Lampranthus is to pick the right watering. Even in summer they are carried out rarely and very carefully, and in winter almost cease. The resting period of this succulent should spend in the cold, but bright light - a measure that plants need all year round. Without access to fresh air, it is very difficult to grow lampranthus.

7. Thin shoots of Othonna

The most unique of the succulents Othonna (Othonna) is a plant whose true desert character is not easily recognized even on close inspection. The lean and drooping slender purple shoots are combined in this unique plant with long and thick leaves (when up to 7 cm long, the leaf reaches 3 cm in diameter). The leaves are arranged in sparse pairs, elegantly set off, and captivate by the beauty of their elongated drop-shaped (or lobate) form.

The rounded section of the leaves is not yet their most unusual feature. In fact, the waxy patina on the fleshy greens seems special, too. This succulent even blooms, letting in small yellow baskets of flowers, by which it becomes obvious that the plant belongs to the family of Complexiflorals.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Othonna capensis (Othonna capensis). © cactusjohn

Area of distribution: deserts of South Africa.

For all its outlandish beauty, Othonna is one of the easiest succulents to grow. Even in summer, water the plant about once a week, not allowing overwatering. Not just light-loving, but sun-loving ottona likes light soil, cool overwintering and fresh air.

8. The round-leaved trees of portulacaria

Comparing portulacaria (Portulacaria) to another tree-like succulent, the thistle, would be a big mistake. After all, portulacarias are special plants. Shrubs that develop in room conditions in the form of thickly branched, amazingly beautiful, compact trees, look strikingly effective.

Circular fleshy leaves with a bright color sit suprostrate on fleshy drooping shoots. The plant is easy to shape, even creating silhouettes reminiscent of bonsai, and having several mottled forms allows you to choose plants to your liking.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Portulacaria afra. © WoS

Area of distribution: deserts of Africa.

Portulacaria like to spend summer in the fresh air and are not afraid even of the midday sun. It is easy to grow them, because even in summer the plant prefers restrained watering, and fertilizing for them is very rare.

9. Guatemalan miracle - Hechtia guatemala

One of the most unusual plants not only in the list of desert stars, but also among exotic indoor crops. The shortened stem is not visible beneath the stunning rosette, which looks artificial. The Hechtia guatemalensis (Hechtia guatemalensis) has long and very narrow linear leaves in dense "bunches" that can extend to half a meter.

The spiky edge, grayish coloring, scaly bottom and reddish patina in bright light turn the Guatemalan Hechtia into a sparkling star. But this succulent also manages to surprise with its blooms - panicles of white three-petaled flowers.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Hechtia guatemalensis hybrid. © nixwickedgarden

Area of distribution: deserts of Central and South America.

Growing this original crop is simple. To bloom it needs a cool wintering, the light regime should be stable, and watering - very carefully. Otherwise, hechtia is a typical unpretentious succulent, surprising with its endurance

10. Pachyphytum oviferum

One of the most unusual and "precious" indoor plants, Pachyphytum (Pachyphytum oviferum) surprises both in texture, shape, and color. The shortened shoots are not visible under the obovate, round or oval cross section, resembling either strange pebbles or decorative pebbles, the leaves reach 5 cm in length and 3 cm in diameter.

Massy leaves with a wax-like patina are gray-white in color, but due to the texture in the shadow they appear bright silver, with a slight tint of rose gold in bright light. They are as if strung or scattered in slides over the soil, appearing as artificial interior decorations. Silver pachyphytums also flower originally, producing bright red flowers on long pubescent pedicels.

The 10 most spectacular indoor plants from the desert
Pachyphytum oviferum (Pachyphytum oviferum). © Tangopaso

Area of distribution: deserts of the American continents.

Growing this silvery wonder is no more difficult than any familiar succulent. In summer, pachyphytum will not refuse a place on the balcony, but even there is content with meager watering, sun-loving and great at any temperature. Even a cool wintering it needs only for flowering.