Potted cacti on front yard fence

Yesterday I talked about the Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ which is contributing a nice pop of color along the front yard fence. You’ll see it again in some of the photos below. But the focus today is on the potted plants on top of that fence. Most of them are cacti, with a couple of beaked yuccas (Yucca rostrata) and a desert rose (Adenium obesum) thrown in for good measure.

The first container I put there is this large but shallow bowl. I contains three different varies of claret cup cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) as well as a miniature agave (Agave toumeyana var. bella).


Claret cup cacti (Echinocereus triglochidiatus ‘White Sands’, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis f. inermis) and Agave toumeyana var. bella

The original reason I chose this location is that in the summer it gets full sun for 6+ hours—just what these desert dwellers want for healthy growth. It may sound ironic, considering we have 267 sunny days a year, but our property doesn’t have enough sunny spots. As a consequence, many of my potted succulents don’t get as much sun as they would ideally like. That’s usually not a problem for agaves and other leaf succulents, but many cacti just don’t thrive in the shade.


Claret cup cacti (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) and Agave toumeyana var. bella

I’m very happy with how this bowl turned out, and the claret cups have had quite a growth spurt this year. I’m not sure they’re big enough to flower yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.


Claret cup cacti (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) and Agave toumeyana var. bella

Over the course of the summer I’ve put other potted succulents on top of the fence. Personally, I think they look good there. An added plus is the fact that I don’t accidentally brush up against them any longer, like I sometimes did when they were at ground level.


Potted cacti (and Yucca rostrata) on fence

As many of you know from firsthand experience, an encounter with a prickly pear is anything but pleasant. Those tiny glochids are almost invisible to the naked eye—definitely to mine—but can be irritating as hell.


Four prickly pears and another Yucca rostrata (far left)


Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ (left) and Opuntia littoralis (right)


Opuntia ‘Baby Rita’

The Yucca rostrata in the next couple of photos is my largest specimen, with the exception of this one in the succulent bed by the front door (which, I now think, is actually the closely related Yucca rigida).


Opuntia basilaris (left) and Yucca rostrata

I just trimmed off the dead leaves at the bottom and I can see the beginnings of a trunk. Yucca rostrata is very slow growing, and this specimen is at least five years old.


Yucca rostrata

The final potted plant on top of the fence is a desert rose (Adenium obesum). I had it in the shade last year, and while it did flower, the new growth was weak and lanky. This year, the new branches are short but solid, which is much more appropriate for a “fat plant.”


Adenium obesum

My plan is to leave all the potted plants on top of the fence this winter with the exception of Adenium obesum. It needs to be kept totally dry in the winter to prevent rot (last year I lost two because they received some water during the winter months). All the other plants are cold hardy enough for our zone 9b climate and should tolerate our modest winter rainfall.


  1. I like that idea, but man, it makes me nervous! I know from experience that clay pots of cactus are not light so I'm not worried about them blowing over, but they still look like targets to me.

    I knew that was 'Ellisiana' -- I've got a couple of pots of this beauty myself (as well as a few in the ground).

    1. No problems so far. We get very strong winds, as Sue mentions below, and so far none of the pots has ever gotten blown over.

      'Ellisiana' is awesome. The pads are so smooth, I want to touch them, but I've learned my lesson.

  2. I think you're asking for it, Gerhard, especially with the opuntias. Your fence is too exposed to our strong north winds, and I think the opuntia pads will provide enough surface area for the winds to push against, and topple the pots off the fence. Hope I'm wrong, the pots do look good there. Perhaps you could pound a large nail halfway into the fence top, then wiggle the pot over the nail thru the drainage hole? It would provide some additional lateral stability. Sue

    1. Some sort of anchor through the drain hole is a great idea but I never think that far ahead. The pots have withstood countless windy days by now and nothing has ever happened. Of course now that I've said it, they'll get knocked over during the next wind storm...

      By the way, I've added plenty of rocks on top of the soil to make the pots heavier (and look better).

  3. Cool idea Gerhard, I like it! It's good that the top of your fence is wide enough to accommodate pots, wish we had the same.

    1. I have to give credit to the guy that built our fence. I wouldn't have thought of it either, but I'm so glad I have this extra space.

  4. Since we've got a fence building project coming up (late winter/early spring) I really appreciate this post. I never would have thought to design the top of a fence to be wide enough to place a few containers on. Then again our squirrel population uses the top of the fences as a super highway...I suppose that could be a problem!

    1. In hindsight I would have made the top board even wider to provide an even more stable platform. But I haven't had any issues so far.

      We have plenty of squirrels but I don't ever see them running along the top of the fence. I wonder if their fur would protect them from cactus spines?!?

  5. Looking good! Have another bucket of rocks for you!

  6. I really like this idea. Having the pots almost the same is super.


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