Succulents and cacti are great statement pieces for your terrace or backyard. The name succulent originates from the Latin word "succus" meaning sap of juice. Cacti are a type of succulent (but not all succulents are cacti). They are fascinating plants, that are so versatile, you can keep them in terrarium or pot, indoors or outside. You will need to be careful with your planting however, because not all species will tolerate the cold Canadian winters. They are great plants to keep on a terrace, as they don't take up a lot of space - and don't need as much care as other plant species. Here are some tips for looking after them in the cold months.

Placing your plants

As the days grow shorter, plants are exposed to less light - essential to help them to photosynthesise. When you are first placing your plants, consider the light. Cacti need to get a good source of light for at least four hours a day in order to flourish, even in late fall, when they become dormant though. Cacti are happiest in a south or east facing backyard or terrace. You are best keeping succulents in pots, as they generally won’t live if the temperature drops below fifty degrees - you will need to bring them inside if this happens. There are plenty of hardy varieties of cacti however that will survive a snowy winter, such as Opuntia, and Echinocereus.

Soil and drainage

You should make sure that succulents and cacti are planted in a gritty or sandy soil, with plenty of drainage - they don’t like sitting in their own water. Mix your soil with some fine gravel or pea shingle before planting - you should aim for 40% gravel. Make sure that they plant roots are well covered up, to prevent them from being damaged in cold winds, especially if they are placed out on a balcony. Raised beds are an excellent place to grow succulents and cacti too.

Watering your plants

Contrary to myth, cacti do need water all year round, although less in cold winters when they are dormant. Ordinary rainfall during the cold seasons should be enough to keep them going. If you have overwatered your plants and it freezes, this can kill the roots off. Although your cacti might not look that well, they actually shrink and become off-colored in order to prepare themselves for the cold weather. You shouldn’t need to fertilize your plants either, and if you do, avoid a nitrogen-based fertilizer, although these cause rapid growth, it makes succulents fragile in winter.

Cacti and succulents are ideal for keeping in pots on your terrace - they are both beautiful and hardy. Even in the Canadian cold, they can survive and flourish.

Written by Cassie Steele


The combination of grass and cedar makes for a beautiful terrace design and place to relax.

Cedar Condo Balcony With Grass

Artificial grass has come a long way and our friends at Design Turf are always there to supply us with terrific artifical grass.  This grass was their Natural 60 which is really quite incredible and I defy anyone to tell the difference except this stuff you don't have to cut!

This condo balcony in the heart of Toronto was designed using cedar on one side and artificial grass on the other.  The idea was to have a soft place for their child to run around as well as some nice decking to remind them of the cottage.

The cedar portion was installed using a staggered pattern to give the feel of a real deck (which it is) and was stained using Natural Cedar from Sansin stains.





Simple pavers integrated into a design can be used to allow access for window washing hooks on a condo balcony.

Hazelwood Condo Balcony

View from one end of the balcony.

A recent installation we did for a nice customer in the east end of Toronto.  A Hazelwood Balcony where the design had to be adapted for the window washing hooks which are quite common in condos.

In the photo to the left you can see the pattern chosen for this balcony - where multiple "rooms" have been built with double vertical boards to make it appear wider.

The composite is from TruNorth Decking who are our favourite supplier.  This Hazelwood is very popular and with the nice black markings it creates a beautiful floor.  The composite is made from 100% recycled plastic and rice hulls from Alabama which fits right in with our focus on environmental stewardship.

Full balcony showing paving stones for window washing hooks.

The second photo on the right show the inside part of the balcony where we integrated some simple paving stones into the design.  The gap on each side of the stones is to allow the customer to easily and quickly lift up the stones to allow the window washing crews access to the hooks. Just simple pavers but they did the trick and actually create a bit more structure in the design.

Wide boards can create a very sophisticated look for any balcony.

Indian Apartment Wide Board Balcony

A nice, straightforward, wide board balcony from our line of 15 Engaging Asian Balconies.  This apartment in India contrast some wide boards with porcelain tiles on the inside of the apartment to create a very sophisticated look.

A wide board look can be achieved with wood of course, but also with different tiles.  Many porcelain tiles are now manufactured with a faux wood look that is very impressive.  Each of the tiles has a different grain, colour and can create a fabulous look for a floor.

In this example, the boards are running perpendicular from the doors, making the balcony look much wider than it is.  Add a couple of chairs, a simple table and a bit of greenery and you have a beautiful step out balcony.  A nice job!