If you have many garden pests that are eating your vegetables or destroying your lawn, you might want to find natural ways to eliminate them instead of choosing chemical products.
Today, we’ll talk about one option that has proven to work quite well in battling pests – planting spiky plants. Spiky plants like the prickly pear cacti, agave, sea holly, and yucca are easy to maintain and provide beautiful texture to your garden.
In this article, I’ll outline nine popular spiky plants and explain how to take care of them. I’ll also look at what spiky plants are and how these plants have evolved to be spiky. Let’s begin.
What Are Spiky Plants?
Spiky plants are plants that have sharp leaves or that have spikes on them, such as in the form of cacti. But, it’s a misconception that all spiky plants are part of the cacti category. Examples include plants such as the yucca, which is part of the asparagus plant family.
Plants develop spines, spikes, and thorns to defend themselves in the wild. This makes them a barrier against animals, such as deer, while it can also help keep pests at bay.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Spiky Plants
While one of the most significant advantages of planting spiky plants in the garden is that they can keep pests and wildlife away, there are other pros and cons to know about.
- They’re low-maintenance. Spiky plants are generally low maintenance to look after. Many spiky plants don’t require much in terms of care. For example, many types of cacti thrive with infrequent watering and in direct sunlight.
- They protect your home. With a bit of creativity, you can use spiky plants to provide some protection against theft, such as if you put them on windowsills. If anyone breaks into a window, they’ll be confronted by sharp spikes!
- They make a statement. Some spiky plants grow really large, for example, the dragon tree, which grows up to 20 feet (6m). This provides more beauty and creativity in the garden.
- They create contrast. You can use spiky plants to create contrast in the garden. Combined with plants with a softer texture, they produce a beautiful visual appeal. To find out about other textured plants that look great in the home, read our guide, “8 Types Of Hanging Succulents For Interior Decoration.”
- They’re tricky to handle. Spiky plants are difficult to handle and work with, making them challenging to maintain when gardening.
- They can cause injuries. You must be careful about where you plant spiky plants in the garden because their spikes can scratch you. They’re also dangerous for your pets.
- Some of them are toxic. As with other plants, you must research before purchasing spiky plants because some release toxic sap. An example is agave, which releases a sap that can cause severe allergic reactions.
9 Spiky Plants for Your Garden
There’s a wide variety of spiky plants that you can add to your garden. Here are some popular choices that look good and can help eliminate pests.
1. Prickly Pear Cacti
This type of cactus has large, flat, and wide pads filled with spines and barbed bristles – keep an eye out for those bristles because they can cause skin reactions! The advantage is that these make the cactus resistant to deer.
These plants require full sun and well-draining soil and don’t need a lot of water. Aim to water them every 2-4 weeks. They’re also highly resistant to drought.
They bloom in the months of June and July, displaying colors such as red, purple, or yellow.
Depending on the species, prickly pear cacti can grow up to six inches (15.24cm) or eight feet (2.4m) in height and width. If you have a large garden, species that grow very tall work well as a boundary wall. They’re also ideal for use in xeriscape beds, such as rock gardens.
If you love growing cacti, feed them with healthy potting soil. Our guide on the best cactus potting soil might help you here.
Agave is an evergreen succulent. Originating from desert areas of Central and South America and Mexico, agave has fleshy leaves with spiny tips. These beautiful plants have blue-green or blue-grey leaves and bloom in white or yellow flowers.
Agave plants need full sun and well-draining soil. Although quite hardy, they can’t handle frost or high humidity levels, as MasterClass says. But these plants are drought-hardy, so you don’t have to worry about watering them unless there’s a long drought in your area.
Water your plant every five days for the first month of its life before scaling back on its water once it matures.
When mature, agave plants can reach between 1 and 20 feet (0.3-6m) in height and 1 to 10 feet (0.3-3m) in width, depending on the variety. These plants look great when planted next to groundcovers like sedums.
They can also be planted in a line against a wall to make it more beautiful.
3. Sea Holly
These plants have spiny leaves with clustered flowers that look like thistles. These flowers can be blue or purple. Keep in mind that since their leaves can be prickly, you shouldn’t plant sea holly in high-traffic areas of the garden.
To care for your sea hollies, make sure you give them lots of well-draining soil and sunshine. Sea holly isn’t picky about the type of soil, though, which makes it quite a low-maintenance perennial.
Sea holly can grow to a height of between two and three feet (0.6-0.9m) and a width of between one and two feet (0.3-0.6m).
Avoid watering the sea holly too much, as this can kill it. You should only water it if there’s a long period of drought. This is because the plant has a long taproot, which enables it to resist dry and drought conditions.
Plant your sea holly plants in areas of the garden that are drenched with sunshine. They look stunning when planted with colorful plants, especially those that are orange and yellow.
Yucca is an evergreen plant with spiky foliage, making it quite dangerous but beautiful, with some species displaying blossoms. Yucca plants work well in containers or dry gardens, adding a dramatic element to the garden.
Depending on your yucca species, you can find leaves with variegated colors, such as silver-green, gold, blue, or pink.
However, you shouldn’t plant yucca too close to walkways as they are very spiky. Many types of yucca plants have sharp spines that can scratch and penetrate a person’s skin.
Although the spines aren’t toxic, they can puncture a person’s skin quite deeply. This can lead to swelling, so you have to be careful.
Yucca can reach a height of about 1-3 feet (0.3-0.9m) and a width of 3-15 feet (0.9-4.6m). Make sure you plant yucca in full-sun conditions, especially if it’s variegated or its colors will fade. It also wants well-draining soil.
5. Barrel Cactus
The Barrel cactus is quite intimidating as it is large, round, and covered in spikes. The spines on this plant can grow up to three inches (7.62cm) in length, so you want to plant it in the garden, where it will offer protection against pests. It’s great for surrounding produce and other plants you want to keep safe.
Interestingly, while the larger spikes on the plant keep pests away, the smaller ones maintain water and reflect harsh sunlight.
You can find barrel cacti that remain low or reach up to 10 feet (3m) in height. They add an extra layer of visual interest to the garden with their bright blooms. Just be careful where you place your barrel cactus, as its spikes can hurt pets and children and cause skin irritation.
To care for your barrel cactus, plant it in a sunny area and ensure you only water it once every two weeks.
6. Devil’s Walking Stick
Otherwise called Aralia Spinosa, Devil’s Walking Stick has sharp spines on its stems, branches, and leaf stalks. It’s a deciduous shrub that can reach a height of between 10 and 15 feet (3-4.6m).
Devil’s Walking Stick displays white, frothy flowers, and its leaves turn orange and yellow during the fall. Both of these features make it beautiful in the garden. Although its spikes can repel pests, it does attract bees.
The plant wants full sun and can be planted in any type of soil. Make sure the soil is well-draining. Moreover, what’s great about this shrub is that it grows rapidly, so it’s an excellent choice for filling up empty areas of the garden.
Since it has lots of spikes, you should plant it in garden areas that are not visited or used regularly.
7. Porcupine Tomato
This plant originates in Madagascar. It has long orange spikes all over its large leaves that resemble wall spikes that are perfect for keeping pests (and potential burglars) off your property.
Some porcupine tomato species contain a poisonous alkaloid that can cause illness and death if swallowed, so keep that in mind before picking this spiky plant for your garden.
Although the spikes can be intimidating, they’re bright orange, making them quite attractive. In addition, the plant displays stunning purple flowers, further catching the eye.
To look after your porcupine tomato, you must plant it in full-sun to partial-shade conditions. Keep it in moist soil that’s well draining. It thrives in alkaline soil.
8. Crown of Thorns
The Crown of Thorns is an ornamental plant with thorny, spiky branches. It’s great for areas where you want to create a barrier against pests and wildlife. You can also grow it as a low hedge. It grows slowly but can reach a height of between three and six feet (0.9-1.8m).
It boasts beautiful flowers that can be in colors such as red, pink, orange, or yellow. But, this plant requires full or partial sun to grow and thrive. The more sun it gets daily, the more it will flower. Its soil should be acidic or neutral, but ensure it drains well.
You should only water your Crown of Thorns when its top soil is dry to a depth of about one inch (2.54cm).
9. Pampas Grass
This is a slightly different type of plant that doesn’t have thorns but can hurt when touched! This is because the decorative grass, which looks super-soft, has sharp edges that can cut into your skin. Therefore, you have to be careful not to touch its leaves.
However, people add it to their gardens because of how beautiful it looks, with its frothy plumes that can be white or pink. It’s ideal for placing in an area where it can add extra beauty, such as concealing a fence.
Pampas grass grows to a height of about six feet (1.8m) and a width of about three feet (0.9m).
This pest-resistant grass can be taken care of easily as long as it gets enough sun. It requires at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Make sure its soil is kept moist while being well draining. It only requires a bit of watering every few weeks.
The above nine spiky plants will not only protect your garden from pests (and even wildlife and burglars), but most of them are stunning and can absolutely transform your garden.
We hope you picked your next favorite plant from the list above. Say goodbye to bugs!