Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
As landscape plants, cacti and succulents can fill many different roles. Typically, we need plants to mark boundary lines. These may be specimen plants or ones grown in either formal or informal hedges. Cacti and succulents can fulfill all these purposes.
When grown as hedges, cacti and succulents can become a kind of living fence. Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” The appeal of a living fence or hedge goes beyond that. The plants play a role in establishing privacy at the property line. Though tall plants are often used, this isn’t really necessary. They can just as well be low growing ones, such as agaves and yuccas. In any case, they do need to be ones that are winter hardy.
When growing cacti and succulents (or other species for that matter) along property lines, there are several things to keep in mind, including the size and growth habit of the plant. One important consideration concerns legal
ramification as explained below.
Before setting out plants along your boundary line look at a copy of your survey and locate the markers that were used in drawing up this survey. Using these as guidelines, place the plants far enough back so that the stems and branches will not extend into the neighbor’s yard. This will prevent legal problems later. Laws may differ from one state to another. In general, your neighbor has the right to prune off any part of your plants that happen to grow into his/her property.
Before setting the plants out, determine what the mature size of this species/variety will be. Let’s say, for example, that a prickly pear has a mature width of ten feet. In that case, I would actually plant it about 12 feet inside my property line.
There are other ways cacti and succulents can be used along property lines. Raised beds are an excellent option if you want to plant ground-cover type sedums that tend to spread. In the raised bed, they will stay within the bounds on your property and not spread into the neighbor’s area. Typically, raised beds would be used for lower growing, perennial type cacti and
succulents rather than tree-like or shrubby ones.
Berms also work well on property lines. These are more informal and are usually less expensive to install than raised beds. In this situation, tall succulents or cacti would work just fine.
Another type of structure that works on property lines is stone or concrete walls. These need not be very tall. It is just meant to be a visual reminder. These permanent walls don’t come cheap. But, for the most part they are easily maintained once they are installed and planted with low growing succulents. I’ve seen some wonderful examples of succulent walls.
The prickly pear remains one of the most popular shrubby cacti. As such, it is often planted for living fences, hedges, and along boundary lines. There are examples of this in Greece, the Middle East, and Morocco. This is often done in parts of the American Southwest as well.
Those in warmer areas of the U.S. have many choices when it comes to choosing tall growing cacti and succulents for living fences.