Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: Central and South America and Caribbean Islands
Cultivation: In a greenhouse, cultivate in standard soil for cactus in full light and sheltered from the air currents. Outdoors in moderately fertile, gravelly, well-drained soil and in the sun.
Curiosity: They can live at very different heights. Some species grow at sea level, others over 3000 meters, on the Andes.


Melocactus is a kind of about forty slow growing species that can be found in Central and South America. Depending on the plant, it can live either at the seaside and on the Peruvian Andes. For example, Melocactus stramineus grows only at sea level, while M. schatzili is proliferating in Colombia and Venezuela, up to 2000 meters altitude. The shape of this cactacea is generally spherical, with side ribs rather marked, thorny and protruding.

When the plant is maturre, a cephalium is formed on the crown, which represents the most particular feature of the genus: usually red. It is present only on adult plants; initially round, as it grows it becomes columnar. From the aesthetic point of view, it looks almost like a separate plant, as if a small red cactus appeared on the top of the main cactus.

The diurnal and fennel- shaped flowers bloom on the cephalium in summer.


Melocactus groups about forty species. Among the main ones we can remember those listed below.

  • Melocactus acispinosus
  • M. andinus
  • M. arcuatispinus
  • M. azureus
  • M. brodway
  • M. conoideus
  • M. diamantinus
  • M. ernestii
  • M. glauscences
  • M. grisoleoviris
  • M. matanzanus
  • M. neomontanus
  • M. oreas
  • M. schatzili
  • M. seabrasensis
  • M. stramineus 
  • M. violaceus
  • M. zehntneri


Melocactus is considered a gender very  difficult to cultivate; for this reason it is not very common  in the greenhouses of lovers.

Here is the complete cultivation card:

  • EXPOSURE: In the greenhouse, cultivate in full light and sheltered from the air currents. Outdoors, leave in the sun.
  • TEMPERATURE: It is recommended not to keep the Melocactus at temperatures above 10 ° C. During the cold season it is therefore advisable to take them inside in places suitable for vernalizing, taking care that they are in humid environments.
  • WATERING: During growth, water sparingly only when the soil is completely dry and help, however, periodically nebulizing the plant. Suspend completely during the winter period.
  • SOIL: In a greenhouse, cultivate in standard cactus soil, sheltered from the air currents. Outdoors in moderately fertile and gravelly ground.
  • CONCIMATION: must be done with low nitrogen and high potassium cactacea fertilizer. Once every 15 days is enough.
  • REPOT: Melocactus is a slow growing plant and therefore does not have frequent need for repotting.
  • REPRODUCTION: Sow at about 20 ° in the spring. During the first winter it is advised to water the seedlings occasionally, reducing the watering of the plants once the cephalium is born.

Melocactus acispinosus with very obvious cephaium

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