Do you know of Steve Martino? You should know of Steve Martino. He’s the genius landscape architect of the Southwest who does visionary things like make a living roof out of cacti.

A Roof Made from Cactus Pads

If I could have one person in the whole entire world design my home garden, I would choose Steve. Hands down. Steve can do fancy, that’s clear. But I recently learned of another project of his that is far from fancy and it’s totally blowing my mind.

He created a planting bed of about 6 inches on the roof of a client’s old shed and planted cactus pads. I caught up with Steve to get the inside scoop on this project.



Q: What inspired this?

A: I think it was alcohol. Mexican beer. It’s third-world thinking. People use palm fronds elsewhere. I guess you could call this my take on a thatch roof.

Q: What’s the long term goal? How long will this last?

A: I thought it would collapse from weight, but this project is 6 years old. It survived a fire! The carport next to it burnt down. About half of the cactus were burnt, but they’ve recovered after a few years. It’s just a shed, so it doesn’t really matter what happens.

Q: Six years? How does it thrive?

A: Cactus will grow in the crevices of rocks. Prickly pear practically grow in air. I figured I needed to give them some gravel until the roots grew together. And then they totally outsmarted us. They stopped growing at two pads. It’s like they knew their confined conditions and just stopped growing.