Habitat: Mountainous areas of Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina.
Cultivation: They require warm temperatures and a sunny location. They have a rapid growth habit that needs to be supported by regular fertilising and repotting.
Curiosity: Hildewintera takes its name from the sister of Friedrich Ritter, the first discoverer of this and many other genera of cacti, whose name was Hildegarda Winter!
Hildewintera is actually the name given to cacti resulting from the hybridisation of Cleistocactus winterii. So Hildewintera is not a regular genus, but a group of hybrids of just one species. That’s why the name Hildewintera is therefore not correct according to the most recent botanical classifications – which place these cacti in the broader genus Cleistocactus. On the other hand, Hildewintera is commonly used as a name on the succulent market, and the succulent lovers know these hybrids by the name Hildewintera. The most popular “species” in the Hildewintera “genus” are H. colademonis and H. aureispina. Confirming the confusion between the two genera, Hildewintera aureispina is often considered synonym with Cleistocactus winterii and H. colademonis a synonym of Cleistocactus winterii subsp. colademonis.
The natural habitat of these plants, which can reach several metres in height, grow on vertical rock cliffs covered with a dense vegetation of Bromeliaceae, orchids, etc. The roots get their nourishment from the humus present in the rock crevices. Adventitious roots develop along the plant stems that are in contact with the rock. The plants are usually exposed to sunlight for half the day and the temperature difference between the base and the top of the vertical wall promotes good air circulation. These habitat is situated at an altitude of 1300-1400 meters.
Hildewinteras are long, columnar cacti that tend to be thin and have few branches, sometimes called “rattails” because of their shape. In a few varieties, in fact, the slender stems show a falling attitude, making these plants perfect for a hanging pot! In general the stems tend to be long and thin, and in the erect species they remind some kind of tentacles. The spines tend to be short and yellowish, sometimes almost golden. Actually, in some varieties they are whitish and long, making the stems look hairy.
They can grow several metres in height if repotted frequently or planted outside.
Their peculiarity are the flowers, which, just like in Cleistocactus are flashy, brightly coloured (often red) and large. They bloom in spring and summer when the plant has reached maturity, that is after a few years (even around 7-8 years of age). They grow along the stem, in its upper part, from the areoles, are tubular and narrow in shape.
Hildewinteras are really appreciated also for their crested forms (especially the ones of H. aureispina), which are particularly twisty and curled, and make them really sought after from all the succulent lovers.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Here are the most common varieties of Hildewintera. Check out our online store to find some of them!
- H. aureispina
- H. aureispina f. crestata
- H. colademonis
TIPS FOR GROWING
Here are our recommendations for the correct cultivation of Hildewintera:
- They require exposure to full sun. However, protect them from direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day, especially in summer.
- Keep them always above 6-8°C.
- Water regularly every 2-3 days in spring and summer, with moderate watering, but avoiding water stagnation. In winter, on the other hand, watering should be stopped completely.
- As a substrate, it is advisable to choose a specific one for cacti, well draining, or a mix of universal soil and sand in equal parts.
- They are fast-growing cacti: to help them develop, it is advisable to fertilize once a month from April to September using a fertilizer rich in phosphorus and poor in nitrogen.
- Repotting is necessary every year, to support the rapid growth of the plant.
They can be easily propagated by cuttings. Portions of a branch or, when present, suckers taken from June to August and buried in nutrient-rich soil as soon as the wound has dried can be used as cuttings.