Cactus need love too. Just don't hug them or love them too much. In my garden, love generally means fertilizer and water. Since cactus don't need much of either, I suggest fluffing their gravel or just saying a friendly "howdy" as you walk by on your way to water some other more needy potted plant.
As we've struggled with the drought here in Central Texas, I've satisfied my desire to collect plants by adding more cactus. I started thinking about growing cactus in all those tough spots where other plants just couldn't cut the mustard.
One of those tough spots is the western exposure of my house. The space provides the harshest of environments; full on sun against a brick wall. I've tried lots of different plants in this area over the years and nothing can quite stand up to the reflected heat of July and August. Nothing until I planted cactus. Even in pots these guys don't flinch. I could have planted them in the ground, but the pots will provide some flexibility to move them out of the way when the AC repairman comes a calling.
Just a few feet from the AC unit temperatures moderate thanks to some nearby trees. These plants have it much easier. In the pot pictured below, horse crippler, silver dyckia and echeveria are growing happily. I added plenty of perlite to the potting mix to keep the soil well-drained and topped the pot with decomposed granite to make them feel right at home.
Until I recently met Mr. Bunny Ears, I would have said the dyckia was the most unhuggable of all the cactus-like plants. Dyckia are actually bromeliads with barbed hooks on their leaves that catch you both coming and going. The spines are so sharp that a little routine maintenance will leave you looking like you just fought off a herd of wild felines.
One of the things I love about cactus and agave is their ability to add interest when combined with soft leaved plants. On the left, two agave parryi pups consort with the very slow growing Queen Victoria agave. The cool blue of the agave striata on the right works well with evolvulus glomeratus 'blue daze' in the tallest pot.
On the edge of a bed where sprinkler coverage is hit or miss, I added this little berm of gopher plant. While not exactly a cactus, euphorbia rigida is very drought tolerant and needs little water. Now if I can only keep the vitex trifolia 'purpurea' growing behind it from swallowing it whole.
My latest exciting acquisition is this manfreda 'silver leopard'. Sometimes called false agave or spice lily, this plant is very drought tolerant. I purchased two of these little lovelies to replace some ill-fated bottle brush shrubs that never had a chance in this drought.
Considerably more hugable than most cactus, silver leopard, also has more to love. Spreading by underground rhizomes, this colony forming plant will provide plenty of little friends, so you can spread the love around.
I know this drought is tough, so maybe it's time to embrace cactus in the garden. Just don't hug them, and a little eye protection would probably not be a bad idea either.