Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: South America, Peru.
Cultivation: Pygmaeocereus is not the easiest cacti to grow. However, a sunny spot, unfrequent waterings and a well-drained soil will do well. For more detailed advices, just read below!
Curiosity: The name of this genus, sometimes still considered a subgenus, literally means “dwarf candle”, making reference to its small size, that makes it almost a miniature cactus, which with growth tends to cluster, rather than reach considerable heights.


Pygmaeocereus is a genus of dwarf cacti which don’t exceed 8 centimeters of height. It includes 6 species and only two of them are actually accepted species.

Pymaeocereus is native to South America, in particularly Peru. In their natural environment, they are almost invisible during the dry season because they tend to wither and shrivel due to water loss: it is as if they “withdraw” beneath the soil to minimize water loss. During the rainfall season, instead, the stem absorbs humidity and become visible again.

Its habitat consists in dry hillsides, rocky soils formed by mineral, alluvial sediments, sand dunes and exposed, windy slopes. The altitude range of occurrence goes from 50 to 1100 meters above the sea level, depending on the species. It can be found associated with other plants such as Islayas, Espostoa, Melocactus, Neoraimondia.

Pygmaeocereus are dwarf plants, up to 5 centimeters in diameter and 10 centimeters in height: they form usually a cluster of short, cylindrical little stems, furrowed with numerous but not so deep ribs.

The ribs are in turn formed by numerous little tubercles. Upon the tubercoles, white areoles are present. The areoles are the typical buds of the family Cactaceae: it’s from them that the spines come off. The spines can be short and white, as in Pygmaeocereus bieblii, where the areoles are white and very hairy and the spines are short, more similar to bristles than to actual thorns. This species is particularly appreciated in the world of ornamental gardening precisely for its peculiar spines. In other species instead, such as P. bylesianus, we have longer and thinner spines, also more numerous for each areole.

The beautiful flowers are often white and rather big if compared with the small stems: they in fact reach 6-7 centimeters in diameters, so wider than the diameter of the stem! They are funnel-shaped and are borne on a slender, scaled stem, They are white in colour, with some petals streaked with pink tinges, and their petals are numerous and shaped like rabbit ears. The intense perfume and the long, narrow shape of the flower tube suggest that the natural pollinator could be a long-tongued moth.
They open at night.

The roots are usually tuberous: tubers function as nutrients and water storages to survive the harsh conditions of their natural habitat.


Here below are the accepted species in the genus Pygmaeocereus:

  • P. bieblii
  • P. bylesianus
  • P. familiaris

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Pygmaeocereus is not the easiest cacti to cultivate. However, if you follow these tips, you should manage to make it thrive and it will reward you with is gorgeous blooming!
Here below are our tips:

  • Put your Pygmaeocereus in a bright spot, exposed to direct sunlight. It tolerates also light shade, but a sunny exposure is more advisable to obtain a more harmonious shape.
  • Pygmaeocereus can stand light frosts, up to -2ºC for a short period, and needs to be put in a cold place (around 5ºC), during the Winter rest, to go through a healthy blooming and to stay healthy.
  • If possible, choose and airy position, exposed to drafts.
  • During the Summer watering should be regular, but not abundant. Wait always for the soil to dry up completely before each watering and keep completely dry in Winter.
  • Fertilization should be carried out once during the growing season, using a product for cacti and succulents.
  • The substrate required is well-drained and poor in organic matter.
  • Repotting has the effect of increasing the number and the size of the stems, as well as the number of the flowers. Until the plant reaches 5 centimeters of diameter we suggest to repot every year. After that moment, once every 2-3 years will be sufficient.

Propagation is carried out by seeds, cuttings and grafting.

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