Back in the '70s, Richard Hipp recalls, there were a dozen or more Orange County nurseries specializing in cacti and succulents. But spiraling land costs forced others to pack up and move out, making Hipp's Stanton shop the last of a breed.
House of Cactus has occupied its spot on Beach Boulevard since 1959 (for 18 years it was called Black's House of Cactus before the original owner sold to Hipp). Outside, a desert mural graces the stucco walls; inside, more than 1,500 varieties of cacti and succulents are offered for sale.
In his 12 years running the shop, Hipp has seen some changes in the cactus biz. Collecting cacti in the wild is now heavily regulated and in some cases forbidden by the federal government; meanwhile, importing cacti and succulents for retail sale has also been outlawed.
That means most new specimens must be propagated from seeds or from cuttings. Because most cacti grow slowly, it usually takes at least two years before they are salable, and even then they are tiny. The popular saguaro, for instance, grows about one inch a year. Thus, Hipp said, "large plants are in very short supply"--especially with the recent interest in Southwestern home decor.