Frailea pygmaea


Astrophytum phaeodiscum
Astrophytum pygmaeum
Echinocactus pygmaeus


Frailea pygmaea is native to Argentina Northeast, Bolivia, Brazil South, Paraguay and Uruguay where the plant grows in the crevices of rocky outcrops and can reach up to 400 m of altitude.


Frailea pygmaea is a dwarf cactus belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The plant forms clumps and lives half buried in the ground and can reach up to 2 cm in height and 3 cm in diameter. The roots are long and tuberous and allow the plant to withstand during the drought periods when the plant tends to shrink up to the level of the soil in order to be able to keep the humidity. The stem is cylindrical, dull green, depress at the apex, made of 13-21 ribs made of tiny tubercles. The areoles are woolly and whitish to yellowish. The 6-10 spines are short, bristle-like, straight or slightly curved, white to yellowish in color. Blooming occurs during the summer and the blossoms are borne at the apex of the stem. The flowers are large, showy, pale yellow in color and usually they don’t reach full bloom and remain closed but don’t worry because Fraileas are cleistogamous so their flowers produce seed without even opening.


The plant has a slow growth rate but it is easy to cultivate. The plant can be placed in both direct sunlight and light shade, but if you first place it in light shade and then decide to move it outside to direct sunlight, do so gradually to allow the plant to get used to it. Long exposure to direct sun-light can cause burns and burnt spots. The succulent can tolerate temperatures to 45° C, but prolonged cold below 8 °C will damage or kill the plant. Too low temperatures can cause the stem or leaves to break due to water freezing inside the tissues. Temperatures between 10 and 15 °C allow the plants to enter vegetative rest which is essential for the flowering of the following year. Plants should not be placed inside the house where average temperatures of 20 degrees prevent vegetative rest. The soil should be a well-draining and porous soil, so you can use a standard cactus soil or a mix of fertile soil and sand. The pumice should always be placed on the bottom of the pot. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly during the vegetative period. Irrigation is proportional to the size of the pot, the position and the season. In Spring and Autumn the plant can be watered with a glass of water every 7-10 days; in summer it can be watered every 3-5 days. Decrease the amount of water if the plant is kept indoors or if the pot is smaller than 12 cm. The plant is used to growing in poor soils, for this reason it does not need abundant fertilization, it is sufficient to fertilize once in spring and once in summer. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil; it is usually done every 3-4 years. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.


Propagation is usually done by seed. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.


The name Frailea comes from the botanist who was involved in its discovery, Mauel Fraile. The specific epithet comes from the Latin word “pygmaeus” which means “dwarf”, referring to the small size of the plant.

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