Kids Go Gardening - desert dwellers

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Plants that live in dry places are called XEROPHYTES. Many have thorns, hairs or waxy coats to help stop water escaping. Others keep their leaves pointing upwards to protect them from the sun.

What do you call a garden filled with xerophytes? A xeroscape!

Fun fact: Succulents can absorb a lot of water very quickly with their shallow, wide-spreading roots. They make the most of every drop!

Create a mini Xeriscape

Design your own wild desert, a ‘prehistoric' xeriscape, or futuristic moonscape. Let your imagination run wild!

You will need:

  1. Any container with drainage holes in the bottom (it doesn’t need to be very deep because succulents have shallow roots)
  2. Succulent plants or cuttings
  3. Succulent potting mix
  4. Pebbles, sand or pumice
  5. Decorations
  1. Fill your container to within 2cm from the top with potting mix.
  2. Carefully remove your succulents from their pots and plant them snugly into the mix.
  3. Use a chopstick to poke holes for cuttings and gently push them into the mix.
  4. Finish off with a layer of pebbles, sand or pumice and then add your decorations.

TIP: Use a folded up strip of newspaper as a holder for prickly plants. Gloves are recommended when planting prickly cacti!

Plant a pup!
If you have succulents growing in your garden, they might have ‘pups’. These baby plants grow off the sides of their ‘mother plant’ and you can use them for your mini garden.
Other succulents will grow from a leaf or stem cutting. Let cuttings dry out for a week or so before planting them into pumice or sand.

Why do cacti have thorns? In the desert plants must protect themselves against thirsty animals. They might use camouflage. They might be poisonous. Or they might have dangerous thorns.

Fake it!
If you don’t like thorns, try making your own fake cacti. Simply paint some large pebbles in different shades of green. When the green paint is dry, use white paint for the ‘prickles’.

Xerophytes won’t survive sitting in wet soil for very long. Their soil must drain freely or their roots will rot. Use succulent potting mix and water only when it is completely dry.

Look for these products, tips and advice at an Go Gardening garden centre near you.



A xeroscape in a pot.

A folded piece of newspaper is perfect for holding prickly plants.

Painted rocks make convincing cacti and are safer too!