If you want to create an exotic look in your garden, then choosing some spiky plants can be a good way to go. You may be surprised to learn that many spiky plants that are not native to the UK can actually grow rather well here – especially when you have a polytunnel to shelter these more exotic and tender species during the winter months. Read on to learn more about some spiky plants that grow well in the UK:
Eryngium- Popular Spiky Plants
Eryngium is a popular spiky plant that can be grown outside in many UK gardens. They require moisture retentive yet free-draining soil that will not get waterlogged in winter, and a warm position that allows these plants to overwinter successfully. Choosing the right eryngium for your area is key to success, as some are hardier than others. A polytunnel could allow you to grow these plants into taller and healthier specimens than might usually be possible in your area. When grown outside, most eryngiums will do better in warmer, more southern parts of the UK.
Native to arid parts of the south western US and Mexico, Agave Americana may not seem an obvious choice for the UK. But this spiky plant can be a good choice for an arid area in southern parts of the British Isles, where it could survive with a little protection as part of a drought-resistant garden. In low-rainfall areas, or where it can be brought into a polytunnel in wetter winter months, Agave Americana can be grown here in the UK.
Aloe – Spiky Plants With Purpose
A number of aloes can also be excellent for creating an exotic look in a UK garden. Aloe vera will need to be kept frost free over the winter, or it will quickly turn to mush. It is often grown inside on windowsills, but could also be kept in a frost-free polytunnel over the coldest and wettest part of the year, as long as it is given a free-draining potting medium and kept dry over winter.
A number of yucca plants are surprisingly hardy, and in many UK gardens these common house plants can actually be grown outside. Yucca glauca, for example, is tough and very hardy. It is tolerant of drought, frost and snow. As long as this plant has excellent drainage and a good, sunny aspect it can find a place here – even in the most northern parts of the UK.
Commonly called ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ these spiky plants are a common houseplant. But they can also be grown outside in a sheltered, frost free environment in full sun, if they are protected from the wet weather in the winter. Moving these plants from a spot in your garden into a polytunnel during the winter months can be an ideal way to ensure that your plants survive. One of the great things about these plants is that they are generally low maintenance, and disease free.
There are also several Haworthia species that can be planted and grown in gardens in the UK. Haworthia fasciata, for example, is a small, half-hardy succulent that is drought tolerant and which is ideal for planting outside during the summer and bringing into a polytunnel during the winter months.
Opuntia – A Hardy Cacti – King of Spiky Plants
You may be very surprised to learn that you can even grow cacti outside in the UK. Some, like Opuntia pottsii, are even hardy year round, providing they are given the right conditions (excellent drainage, with little or no organic matter in the substrate) and kept dry. Though they can survive the temperatures, a rain-shelter (or polytunnel) is advisable over the wettest months.
Maihuenia poeppigii, Notocactus and Echinopsis are three other types of cacti that could be grown in a UK garden in the summer months, before being transplanted into a polytunnel or other undercover structure over the winter.
These are just some of the spiky plants that you could consider growing in a UK garden to give it a more exotic look. Combining these with other non-native plants can allow you to create the feel of a much warmer and drier climate in your garden and whisk you off to more subtropical or tropical climes.
Do you grow exotic spiky plants in your garden? Share your own suggestions and experiences in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.