Echinocereus is a widespread species known as the hedgehog cactus, characterized by small clusters of cylindrical or conical stems, sometimes containing hundreds or more plants, and conspicuous red or pink flowers—some of the largest and brightest flowers of any cactus. Echinocereus grow in a wide variety of environments, from hot deserts to cool mountain slopes, but most prefer unhanded conditions. The spines are arranged along the vertical ribs, always straight, never curved. Some exist in several variants, while others (especially Echinocereus coccineus) look very different in some parts of their range.
Growing Echinocereus cacti is quite easy. Unlike some plants that can only be grown in frost-free climates, there are many species of echinocereus that are resistant to cold. Although all Echinocereus cacti belong to the same genus, resistance to cold can vary greatly.
If you choose a light sandy medium to grow with good nutritional value, you can’t go wrong. Your Echinocereus needs a slightly richer compost than other plants in the Cacti family — this can be achieved by adding high-nutrient soil enhancers, such as leaf mold or well-digested garden compost, to your typical freely drained compost mix.
All plants of the genus Echinocereus quite easily accept an area completely or almost completely illuminated by the sun, which in turn will contribute to abundant flowering. Providing bright light on the west side is ideal. Plants grown in the shade will never grow and bloom.
Many species can be cold-tolerant, but generally, all require relatively high temperatures to thrive.
Among cactus collectors, the genus Echinocereus is known for being slightly easier to grow than its counterparts, making them ideal for a novice grower. Small collections can be placed in a conservatory or even on a sunny windowsill. The minimum temperature that needs to be maintained depends entirely on which plant species you will grow. Most species should be kept at a temperature of at least 10 degrees Celsius. Ideal the temperature for cultivation is in the range of 18 to 29 degrees Celsius, while dormant plants feel better at the minimum range.
Echinocereus can be quite beautiful if it is well cared for. This cactus needs regular watering, like other succulents. The watering method is very important for maintaining the health of the echinocereus cactus. It should not sit in the water, and excessive amounts of water should be avoided. It is best to water this cactus by soaking and drying.
Did you know that the age of cacti matters too? Young plants grow quickly, so they need more water to grow. Old cacti are still growing, but much slower. They don’t need as much water.
The size of the cactus also matters. While you might assume that larger plants need more water, this is not always the case. Large cacti need a lot of water, but less often. Their surface area-to-volume ratio means they don’t lose water as quickly, so they don’t need to be watered as often as small plants that are still growing.
Throughout the summer growing season, feed Echinocereus every couple of weeks with a well-diluted cactus fertilizer. During the dormant period, during the winter months, you will not need to feed the plant.
The right container
The container you put the Echinocereus in really matters. Terracotta pots have a porous surface, which allows moisture to drain faster.
Plastic pots will hold more moisture, so you’ll need to water the plants less often. You can also grow Echinocereus in ceramic pots. Just make sure the container has a hole in the bottom for drainage or the right soil mixture with layers of rocks and pebbles on the bottom of the container.
How to propagate Echinocereus
The hedgehog cactus can be propagated by cuttings or division. This succulent does not require frequent transplanting. Of course, the first transplant is necessary after purchase at the store.
Propagation of echinocereus cacti by dividing branches is the easiest way. The parent plant produces an identical process, which is usually a small lump that can be divided and a new cactus can be grown. This method of reproduction is the easiest way to propagate cacti. In most cases, the displacement is very easy to separate, and it will grow and take root quite quickly and often successfully. Many small shoots already have small roots when you separate them from the mother plant.
Propagation of Echinocereus by stem and leaf cuttings is the second best way to propagate cacti. This form of reproduction is also vegetative. Propagation by cuttings is similar to the method using cubs/ appendages. This method of reproduction is very useful when the cactus becomes too large and unattractive or, for example, begins to rot. Stem/leaf pruning can also be a good way to share your cactus with friends or family.
Leave the cuttings to dry. This will help them grow better. Small cuttings are dried for 5-7 days, thick/large for 10-14 days. Hang it or place it up in an empty container. If you put the cuttings on the table (horizontally), small roots will begin to grow on this side of the cutting, which will lead to irreversible damage. These cuttings are not suitable for pots, as it will have roots coming out on the side, not the basis. Therefore, dry them only vertically. If you have a flat cutting, you can put it on a few stones on top of the pot. After about two weeks, roots should appear. After that, you can transplant the cactus into a regular substrate for cacti and succulents.
Pests rarely infect echinocereus. If your plant appears soft to the touch or saggy, it could be a sign of excessive watering. Because cacti accumulate water in their leaves and stems, the plant will look soft if it is excessively filled with water after watering.
Root rot is one of the most common problems associated with excessive watering of the cactus. You won’t see the roots until you transplant the echinocereus. Root rot will make the roots orange or brown, not white.
Browning of the plant can also be a sign of excessive watering. Brown discoloration begins at the base of the cactus and will grow upwards.
Varieties of Echinocereus
It is a cactus with stems found singly or in dense groups or hills with up to 500 stems. Mounds can reach 30 cm in height and 30-120 cm in diameter. Individual cylindrical stems have one joint, from 5 to 30 cm in height and from 2.5 to 15 cm in diameter.
The cactus has eight to twelve spines per areola, and the central spines are difficult to distinguish from radial ones. Plants can be different: from densely spiny to completely spineless. Spines younger than 1 year, as a rule, pass into the stage of puberty. Scarlet flowers remain open for 2-3 days.
The large-flowered Echinocereus rigidisimus has a relatively limited distribution in southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. The short spines, all radial, are bent backwards, close to the stem, and have different colors: light brown, white, pink or gray, often in the form of rings of different shades – like a rainbow, hence the common name of the plant. The difference arises as a result of changing growing conditions from year to year. The spectacular pink flowers are often wider than the plant itself.
Echinocereus reichenbachii (Echinocereus Reichenbach)
It is a rare endangered cactus. It forms small clusters of short, irregularly shaped dark green stems with 10 to 19 ribs that may be straight or wavy. The spines are short, of varying color, but usually white or light yellow, with darker tips; the number of radial spines is 12 to 36, usually surrounded by 2 to 8 central spines of slightly longer length.
There are several varieties of lace cactus, including albertii, baileyi, fitchii and perbellus, which differ in the characteristics of the spines and the color of the flowers. In some, the spines almost cover the stems, while in others the clusters of thorns are located wider, but in all the spines are located close to the surface, which gives them a smooth and neat appearance.
Echinocereus boyce-thompson (Boyce’s echinocereus)
A relatively rare species of hedgehog cactus, it is named after engineer and botanist William Boyce Thompson. The plant once qualified as a subspecies of Echinocereus fasciculatus, but is now considered a separate species; the main differences are that the central root is longer, up to 10 cm and lighter (yellowish-brown); also the buds are greener, less brown. Both species have relatively light spines, do not obscure the green stems.
Very similar to echinocereus triglochidiatus, the main differences are the number of ribs (8-13 vs 5-8), the number of central spines and the shape of the ribs. The cactus forms small groups, usually with fewer heads than the two related species, and the individual stems are slightly smaller, up to 20 cm tall and 5 to 15 cm in diameter. The number of radial spines is 7 to 14, initially, yellow-brown, turning gray with age. The central spines are darker but eventually turn gray.
Echinocereus bonkerae (Echinocereus Bonker)
This species is quite peculiar because of its short bristly spines, differing from most other species with long spines. Between 11 and 14 radials and 1 or 2 central radials have roughly the same length, 1 cm or less, and brownish tips. The green stem is clearly visible under the spines, which are located along the distinct ribs, there are from 12 to 18 of them. The flowers are large, up to 10 cm in diameter, dark pink with a yellow inner part, and the fruits are red and prickly.
Attractive appearance, growing up to 30 cm in height and covered with thick brown, red or white spines; The color is quite changeable. The range is limited to certain places in the Chihuahua Desert in extreme southern New Mexico and western Texas.
Echinocereus coccineus (Echinocereus charlachia)
It is a more widespread species, very similar to echinocereus triglochidiatus, characterized by spreading clusters, bright red/orange flowers with a green stigma and rounded petals, a cover on spines from low to medium, and somewhat flabby stems. Groups can consist of more than 100 cacti, each up to 30 cm long, and occupy an area of several square meters. These two species of echinocereus can only be definitively identified by analyzing their chromosomes, although the location is a landmark, as the ranges are largely separated, intersecting only in New Mexico and a small area of southern Colorado. In addition, these plants tend to have more spines, more areolas, and more ribs.
Echinocereus dasyacanthus (Echinocereus woolly-spined)
This cactus is covered with a thick layer of bristly spines that completely hide the green stems. The spines of Echinocereus dasyacanthus are usually cream or white in color, but annual changes can produce weak, rainbow-like stripes, hence the common name of the plant. The beautiful flowers are bright yellow in the center, lighter at the edges and bottom, and can reach 10 cm in diameter. The stems grow to 35 cm and a diameter of up to 10 cm.
Engelmann’s cactus is a typical thorny plant growing in large groups (up to 60 stems). The cactus varies somewhat in color, size, and arrangement of spines, and is found in several regional species, including acicularis, armatus, howie, muncii, purpureus, and variegatus, but they are all usually larger and with stronger spines than similar species. Spines tend to be thickest in plants west of the range and are colored in different shades from white to dark brown on the same plant. However, the longest spine (up to 7.5 cm) always white.
Like most hedgehog cacti, the spring flowers of Echinocereus engelmannii are very bright and colorful. They are followed by prickly greenish fruits, which turn red when ripe. The stems are vertical at first, but with age they can fall to the ground and grow to the sides. This is one of the most common hedgehog cacti.
Echinocereus enneacanthus (Echinocereus nine-spined)
The cactus forms extensive clusters of large stems (each up to 30 cm tall and 7 cm in diameter) covered with long yellow-white spines of varying densities. Often the stems of echinocereus enneacanthus are partially adjacent to the ground, rising upwards at the ends and usually dark green in color, turning yellowish in places of strong sunlight. Greenish-brown fruits with light light that follow the large pink flowers, they taste like strawberries, so they are often eaten, especially in Mexico, where they are known as pitaya.
Two varieties are known: var enneacanthus forms large spreading groups of stems with thick spines, while var brevispinus forms more open groups of stems with much lighter covering of thorns.
Echinocereus fasciculatus (Echinocereus tullata)
It is a sturdy plant with attractive multicolored spines, often dark brown at the ends and much lighter near the stem; they are 2 to 5 cm long, varying in length in both individual plants and specimens. The spines are located close to each other, but are usually not dense enough to hide the green stems that form small open clusters. Large bright flowers are located slightly below the top and have different shades of pink or purple. The cactus is similar to several other species, including echinocereus engelmannii, although it occupies a different territory; the main distinguishing feature is (usually) a single central spike.
It has shorter spines than most other species of echinocereus, and its stems are quite compact (no more than 15 cm in height). The plants have one long brownish central spine surrounded by 4–10 short but thick white radial spines growing on the ribs (between 8 and 13). The large late spring flowers are pink, 5 to 10 cm in diameter, and the fruits are red and prickly.
Echinocereus fendleri is highly diverse in appearance across a wide range of environments and places where it grows, but the only other similar species for much of this range is echinocereus triglochidiatus, which is easily differentiated by more uniform spines in length and color.
The plant is quite peculiar, unlike other species of hedgehogs; it forms small groups of tall, thin, cylindrical stems, each measuring up to 45 by 20 cm, covered with thick golden-yellow spines that darken with age. The number of central spikes is up to 11 pieces, slightly bent downwards. The green color of the stems is usually noticeable, although in arid conditions the plants wrinkle and appear thicker.
Echinocereus nicholii (Echinocereus Nicholla)
This relatively rare Echinocereus has sharp yellow-white spines up to 7 cm long and forms medium-sized clusters containing about 30 branches. This species resembles Echinocereus engelmannii (and is sometimes considered a variant rather than a separate species), but usually has lighter, more uniformly colored spines and lighter flowers. Also, the fruits are green or brownish, and in Engelmann’s Echinocereus they are red.
The number of central spines of Echinocereus nicholii is from 4 to 8 pieces, surrounded by 13-16 shorter, but still yellow-ray rings. One of the central spines is noticeably paler than the others.
Echinocereus pentalophus (Echinocereus five-choke)
Narrow green stems with a diameter of 5 cm or less have 5 (sometimes 4) ribs with evenly spaced groups of 4-7 short white or yellowish spines, one of which is slightly longer and more central.
The plant branches profusely, the stems grow sideways along or close to the ground, growing up to 30 cm in length, and they produce many large pink flowers – sometimes almost 15 cm in diameter in late spring, followed by green fruits. There are several varieties that have shorter and straighter stems.
Echinocereus stramineus (Echinocereus straw)
Like most echinocereus, the cactus forms large rounded clusters whose stems are taller than those of other species (up to 45 cm), covered with longer and more densely spaced spines. There are 2 to 4 central spines (up to 7 cm in length) and 7 to 14 shorter radial spines, all usually white to light brown in color. The cactus produces an edible fruit with a taste of strawberries, up to 5 cm long and widespread in Mexico. The boulders can reach 50 cm in diameter and contain several hundred stems.