From the Digest

MBG Temperate House to Feature Cacti, Succulents

Shoenberg Temperate House will soon hold arid plants from around the world. Photo © Cassidy Moody/Missouri Botanical Garden.

(January 2022)

With Missouri Botanical Garden well into the second phase of its extensive site renovations, a new home is being prepared for the garden’s collection of desert plants: the Shoenberg Temperate House.

“Gateway to the Garden – Gardens Under Glass,” an article in the winter 2021-2022 issue of the MBG Bulletin, outlined exciting changes to the Temperate House and Linnean House, as well as construction of the Emerson Conservatory as part of the new Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center.

The following portion of the Bulletin article, which focuses on arid plants, is reprinted with permission.

To support ongoing progress in the Temperate House and other Missouri Botanical Garden programs, consider joining MBG or making a donation by contacting Valerie Rudy-Valli at or 314-577-5120.

A Desert Delight

With the Mediterranean collections once housed in the Garden’s Shoenberg Temperate House being distributed in the new Emerson Conservatory and the Linnean House, the Temperate House is currently being converted to an arid plant display house highlighting cacti and succulent plants. Renovations and upgrades to the interior of the Temperate House include cleaning the glass, painting the metal structure and hardscape walls, and installing a new automated irrigation system. To support optimum growing conditions for the cacti and succulent plants, the existing soil is being replaced with a custom soil mix. All of the hardscape and aesthetic touches visitors have come to love (including the Moorish walled garden and overlooking antique portico) will remain.

The Mediterranean collections will move from the Temperate House to the new Emerson Conservatory and the Linnean House. Photo © Kat Niehaus/Missouri Botanical Garden.

“We are very excited with this additional space for our cacti and succulent collections,” Wyatt says. “They represent a very important historic plant group for the Garden, dating back to the Garden’s founding. Dr. George Engelmann, advisor to Henry Shaw, studied and described cacti, as did Dr. William Trelease, the Garden’s first director after Shaw’s death in 1889. Since the closure of the previous desert house in 1994, we’ve only been able to display about one third of the Garden’s arid plant collections and have not had the capacity to grow many specimens to a large size. The conversion from a temperate house to a desert house will allow us to display a greater number of the desert plants to a mature size.”

The new displays will feature plants from the North American deserts and those of Africa and Madagascar. Species that grow best in containers will be displayed in the Linnean House. “We will use the growing conditions in both locations to optimize the growing conditions for any given species,” Wyatt explains. “For instance, we can keep the arid house warmer in the winter, so we will grow colder desert species in the Linnean House.”

With more of the Garden’s cacti and succulent collections on permanent display, Wyatt and the Garden’s horticulture staff will be able to use greenhouse space to grow additional species for public viewing and enjoyment. As with all Garden landscapes, plant selections will integrate display of the living collections with active plant conservation and research efforts.