Growing Cacti and Succulents in the Canberra Region

Excerpt of article from Newsletter: November 2012, Volume 34, Number 4

Firstly, let me define what I mean by the Canberra region and why our growing conditions offer particular challenges. 

The highland areas of the South East NSW incorporate the Southern Tablelands and mountain areas of the ACT and NSW borders.  Included in this area are the main centres of Goulburn, Canberra, Queanbeyan and Cooma. 

Because the whole region at over 600 metres above sea level, it experiences some of the highest average hours of sunshine in Australia; consequently the UV level is very high. 

The region experiences cold, frosty winters and warm to occasionally hot summers.  Rainfall occurs throughout the year with an average around 600mm; a little less over the winter months and somewhat more in spring.  Summer rain is often associated with thunderstorms. 

Winters offer a particular challenge as temperatures can drop as low as -8C, and it is not unusual to have a series of nights with minus 6C minimums.  When these low temperatures occur over several days all plants, not just cacti and succulents are likely to suffer some permanent damage. 

The opposite challenge occurs when we experience particularly hot weather with temperatures reaching into the high 30’s and even low 40’s as these days are usually associated with north westerly winds that will scorch plants. 

As a general rule cacti tend to cope better with these extremes than succulents.  Since the inception of CSSACT in the late 1960’s members have been experimenting with plants species to determine their suitability for growing in this region.  The most significant challenge however, is getting your plants through the cold winter months, whether they are under cover or planted out in the garden.

There are 4 aspects to growing success with cacti and succulents in our region -

  1. The soil mix,
  2. The selection of plants,
  3. The location and 
  4. Watering


(The article continues, addressing the four aspects)