Cacti And Succulent Culture

Course CodeVHT108
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Become an expert at identifying and growing succulents and cacti

People often consider these plants to be similar. They are commonly sold together in nurseries. They commonly have tissues that contain a lot of moisture when squashed.  Despite these and other similarities though; cacti and succulents vary greatly both in where they come from; and how they should be treated in the garden.

It can be a serious mistake to simply assume they are all hardy, drought tolerant, and don't need watering.
This course will deepen your understanding of these plants and extend your vision of where and how to use them. 

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification
    • Physiology
    • Information sources
    • Three Cacti tribes -Perskia, Opuntia, Cerus
    • Main succulent genera
    • Pronouncing Names
  2. Culture A.
    • Planting
    • Staking
    • Mulching
    • Soils
    • Feeding
    • Pruning etc.
  3. Propagation
    • Methods of propagating cacti & succulent plants
    • Propagation of selected varieties
    • Seed, Cuttings, Grafting
  4. Using Cacti & Succulents
    • Edible succulents
    • Garden Design
    • Garden Styles
    • Mexican gardens
    • Using Colour
    • Rock Gardens
    • Growing Cacti or Succulents in containers
  5. Culture B.
    • Pest & Disease
    • Irrigation
    • Greenhouse growing
  6. Cacti developing your plant knowledge.
    • General guidelines for growing cacti
    • Review of Cacti Genera
    • Zygocactus -featured plant
  7. Succulents developing your plant knowledge.
    • Review of Succulent Families
    • Bromeliads -featured plants
    • Kalanchoe
    • Sansavieria
  8. Special Project
    • PBL - Plan the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of either Cacti OR Succulents suited to growing in a specified locality.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Develop knowledge of botanical naming conventions and their application in understanding the horticultural potential of cacti and succulents.
  • Evaluate needs then select or improvie growing media for cacti and succulents
  • Propagate different types of cacti and succulents
  • Explain a range of uses for cacti and succulents
  • Manage growing conditions for cacti and succulents
  • Explain the cultivation of a range of cacti.
  • Explain the cultivation of a range of succulents.

Where to Grow Cacti and Succulents
Cacti and succulents are often thought of as desert plants, to be grown in dry, hot places. This may be true for many species, but it is an over generalisation to say this. There is a lot of variation amongst these plants; and the possibilities for how they might be grown should not be predetermined by any thought of them just being plants to grow where nothing else will grow.

Cacti and Succulents can be grown as container plants or in the ground. Many are happy to be grown as epiphytes where soil is scarce (eg. in a rock crevice or the niche of a wall, in a hanging basket or the fork of a tree). You can mix appropriate cultivars with other plants. Many succulents make stunning borders to garden beds, ground covers under trees or in the open. A lot of these plants are quite large and have very different architectural forms, making them ideal as a feature plant, to create a contracting affect against a wall, fence or background of shrubs.

The variation in flower and foliage colour of these plants offers an opportunity to create a huge diversity of colour affects in a garden.

Study this course and open your eyes to cultivars and applications you may not have even considered in the past.

Succulents for Green Walls and Roofs
With space at a premium in urban areas, the idea of green walls (vertical gardens), and roof gardens, has become a boom industry in recent times. Many types of succulents, in particular, are very well suited to this type of garden. This is for a range of reasons; not the least because they are growing in places that are more inaccessible. When a ladder is required to get up close to inspect the plants; those plants are more likely to be neglected at times. Succulents and cacti tend to be relatively resilient plants, many of which can survive relative neglect.

Consider the following: Suited to container growing, in shallow growing media or soil, in roof gardens. Less suited to green walls, mostly because of their height.

This genus was at one stage included in the genus Sempervivum. There are 38 species which are mostly succulent herbs or small shrubs from the Canary Islands.
Leaves are arranged in rosettes. They are generally hardy, particularly suited to milder temperate or subtropical areas; resisting periods of dryness or heat.

Generally, these are very hardy, easy to strike from cuttings, and easy to grow. Some are low and spreading. Others grow into small shrubs. They grow well in containers and tolerate dry soils.

C. arborescens (Silver Jade) – soft, round blue-grey leaves. Grows to one metre high and wide, suited to large containers. They have occasional pale pink autumn flowers.

C. ovata (Money Plant, Jade Plant) - quick growing but long-lived mound-forming plants with rounded, fleshy green leaves often with a red band. Need a sunny aspect to maintain foliage colour, and frost-tender. They have tiny white or pink autumn flowers.

These are natives to Africa, Yemen and Madagascar.  They are mostly grown for foliage effect in dry situations; but some also have striking flowers.
Some have a felt covered leaf surface, and others a smooth, waxy covering on the leaf
Some species can grow tall 1 to 2 metres or more, while many are much smaller bushes
Their tolerance of heat and dryness makes them often a suitable choice for roofs
Some can suffer from sucking insects (scale, mealy bug), particularly in warm and humid conditions.
Sedums are widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Sedums are sometimes called “Stonecrop” or “Orpine”. There are over 600 species and many more named varieties. They include plants that may grow no taller than 2 or 3cm, to plants reaching 30cm in height. Leaf shapes and colours can be extremely variable. Some are evergreen, others are herbaceous. Most are easy to propagate from cuttings.

Lower growing, spreading, evergreen sedums are often used for roof gardens or wall gardens. Cultivated species known to have been used in roof or vertical gardens include:

S. acre (common name: Golden Carpet) - a creeping plant sometimes to 12cm tall, mat forming, bright yellow flowers in summer, A golden foliage cultivar is also grown. It can be invasive.

S. album (syn. S. balticum) – mat-forming plant with flower heads reaching 87 to 20 cm tall. White flowers; though there are many cultivars that are differentiated by variations in foliage and flower colour.

S. allantoides – flower heads to 30cm tall.

S. floriferum – ascending to decumbent (lying down) growth habit, yellow flowers in summer.

S. kamtschaticum – elongated rhizome often supporting several weaker stems, yellow flowers, variegated leaf form also.

S. mexicanum – decumbent growth, tuberous roots, erect flower stems to 80cm; mostly dark green leaves, but forms exist with variations in leaf colour, flowers are greenish occurring late summer.

S. pachyphyllum (common name: Jelly Beans) - to 30cm tall, cylindrical leaves often have a reddish tip,  Yellow flowers in winter and spring.

S. reflexum - decumbent growth habit, linear leaves, golden yellow flowers, Reaches 15 to 35cm tall.

S. x rubrotinctum (common name: Christmas Cheer) - probably occurred as a garden hybrid, now widely cultivated. Branching, spreading growth habit, commonly low, but occasionally to 30cm tall; thickened lush green leaves with reddish tones, yellow flowers in winter.

S. sexsangulare – green leaves, yellow flowers, decumbent at base, stems 7-15cm long.

S. spirium - dark green leaves sometimes reddish tones, decumbent at base; flowers pink to purplish, several variable cultivars are grown.

S. ternatum - white flowers in spring.

Carpobrotus (Pigface)
These are members of the Aizoaceae family. There are six species known as Pigface in Australia, and also known as Karkalla. They prefer full sun and sandy soils, and will not tolerate wet conditions. They also dislike root disturbances so are better planted in permanent containers where they will not be interfered with if seasonal plantings are changed. They also do well in coastal environments.

They do not require fertilisers but mild fertilisers based on natural products will encourage further leaf development. Cuttings of stem sections will develop roots when planted in moist but well-drained soil. Close spacing in containers or modules is advised to achieve a good ground or wall coverage.  Harvest plump edible fleshy fruits ripe. Succulent leaves are picked when required.  No significant problems have been reported when they are grown in the right conditions.

C. aequilaterus - has the largest flowers, purple with yellow centres.  

Ice Plants
Also in the aizoaceae family, this is a group of succulents that are mostly low growing or creeping, with daisy like flowers that occur in spring or summer. They are often sold under an all-embracing, but botanically incorrect genus name of Mesembryanthemum.

Foliage is usually attractive all year round. They include Cephalophyllum spp., Delosperma spp., Drosanthemum floribundum, Drosanthemum hispidum, Lampranthus auranticus, Lampranthus productus, Lampranthus spectabilis, Melephora crocea, Melephora luteola.


Who Will Benefit From This Course?

  • Enthusiasts
  • Those looking to set up a xeriscape garden
  • Landscapers and garden designers
  • Those interested in propagating and selling thse plants
  • Those already working in this field but wanting more knowledge


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