ISSUE 7  |  Drought Week

Cactus as Glamorous Privacy Fencing

February 18, 2015 5:00 PM

BY Jeanne Rostaing

Forget bamboo. For a green privacy wall, consider a centuries-old Mexican method: a cactus fence.

We spotted a cactus privacy wall at El Montero, a south-of-the-border restaurant where you can dine al fresco on modern Mexican cuisine in a post-colonial setting. Here’s how to recreate the look:

Above: Smooth and linear, it’s a different look from a typical live privacy screen of bamboo. Photograph by Matthew Williams

In northern Mexico, the 16th century city of Saltillo in the high Chihuahuan Desert is home to El Montero, a restaurant that celebrates old Mexico while with a modern menu. On the terrace of this elegant space, designed by Anagrama of Monterrey, Mexico, you will find tables surrounded by walls of tall cacti.

For more, see Modern Mexican Kitchen Style: El Montero in Saltillo.

Above: Photograph via University of Arizona.

The Pachycereus marginatus, commonly and appropriately known as the Mexican Fence Post cactus, was used traditionally by Mexican landowners to mark property lines. This is similar to the British tradition of using privet hedges as living fences. 


Above: Photo courtesy of Xemenendura via Wikimedia.

This cactus can grow up to 12 feet tall, creating a formidable barrier when individual plants are placed close together.  It is extremely drought tolerant and will thrive in a xeriscape. Propagation is by cuttings and seed.  A 13- or 14-inch Mexican Fence Post Cactus is for $19.99 from Martinag via eBay.


Above: Photograph via Anagrama.

If you are planning a fence, you may want to start with mature plants.  However, it is interesting to note that this cactus grows surprisingly fast, as much as 3 feet per year, if it is grown outside and is well cared for.  It likes direct sun, well-drained soil, and high humidity.

And if you go to El Montero, take some time to explore Old Saltillo, which was built from pink marble and limestone and contains many impressive colonial buildings. The city famously produces rustic earthen ceramic tile and is said to be the birthplace of the serape. 

For a closer look at El Montero, see Janet’s Modern Mexican Kitchen Style over on Remodelista. And for more about how to create curb appeal with cactus, see Steal This Look: A Minimalist Marfa Exterior Space.