Habitat: Desert areas of Central America – Mexico and southern United States
Cultivation: Exposure in full sun and rather high temperatures are important for the Echinocactus. Water once every four days in the warmer periods and progressively decrease as it goes toward winter, then suspend all watering.
Curiosity: The name Echinocactus comes from the Latin Echinos, that means porcupine: it is a cactus full of long, evident thorns, light yellow just like some of the porcupine spines.
THE ECHINOCACTUS KEY FEATURES
The genus Echinocactus includes a few species of cactus, among the most beautiful and representative of the cacti family. The shape can be spherical, columnar or barrel depending on the species and age (some are globular until the plant is young and then grow in a columnar shape). The stem can reach a diameter of about one meter.
The stem is crossed by vertical, pronounced ribs. From them the thorns come out, light yellow or yellow gold, which are rigid and very robust, while at the top you notice large, fluffy areolas.
The flowers are funnel-shaped and are born from the areolas at the top of the plant. They can have different colors depending on the species, all very bright and sharp: yellow, red, pink and other bright colors. But the first bloom can only occur after many years, even twenty in the case of Echinocactus grusonii: the echinocactus are in fact very long-lived and they can live several decades.
VARIETY AND TYPES
The genus Echinocactus includes a few species, all perennials:
- Echinocactus grusonii: It is certainly the best known species of echinocactus. It has a globular stem, bright green color and abundant blooms even if they arrive only after many years. It is also called “mother-in-law pillow”. Some varieties have ribs more or less marked and, sometimes, irregular instead arranged vertically.
- Echinocactus HORIZONTHALONIS: It has a spherical shape, a bluish-green color, which is darker than Echinocactus Grusonii, it has got yellow-brown thorns. It easily flowers in the apartment, something that rarely happens with other types of Echinocactus
- Echinocactus PLATUACANTYHUS, O E. INGENS: It is a kind of very large cactus (it can reach 3 meters in height and overcome 1.5 in diameter) and it is particularly long-lived: it also lives more than a hundred years. The thorns are yellow-brown, but tend to become darken with age; the flowers are bright yellow.
The other species of echinocactus are:
- Echinocactus parryi
- Echinocactus polycephalus
- Echinocactus texensis
TIPS FOR GROWING
The Echinocactus maximum dimensions can hardly be achieved in our latitudes. However, by taking care of this plant in the right way, we will have beautiful cactus that will give us no little satisfaction.
Here are our recommendations:
- It is recommended an exposure in full sun, in a well ventilated area. Just be careful that it does not receive the sun of the middle of the day in summer season. In the case it is kept in the apartment, it is necessary to ventilate the room frequently.
- The echinocactus wants high temperatures. In winter the minimum temperature should remain above the 7-8 ° C and it is necessary that the plant remains in a dry soil to prevent the risk of root rot.
- As for all cacti, the watering should be more frequent in summer (every 3-4 days, checking that between one and the other the soil has time to completely dry out) then it should gradually be reduced and fully suspended in winter.
- In spring and summer, fertilize once every 10-15 days, by mixing a specific product with irrigation water.
- A soil for cacti, basically sandy, will be perfect for the Echinocactus.
- The plant has a rather slow growing but every 2-3 years it will be necessary to repot. Beware of the thorns: protect yourself by wrapping the plant with newspaper sheets before proceeding with the transplant. During the operation it is important to move it gently to avoid damaging the roots, generally delicate.
Given the compact form of the plant, the multiplication is done usually by seeds. Place the seeds in shaded position, in a moist soil and at a temperature above 20 ° C to let the small plants sprout in the best conditions.