The Gymnocalycium cactus can be called a pioneer among the spherical representatives of these succulents in indoor floriculture. However, the word “globular” in its relation can be understood only conditionally, since the plant can change the shape of the stem depending on the species or age. The name is due to the absence of thorns on the flower tube (literally – “naked calyx”).

Care at home for Gymnocalycium is traditionally simple and requires a certain restraint in the manifestation of care. And species diversity allows you to create a far from a monotonous collection of indoor plants from this cactus alone. And caring for this island of desert in the house is as simple and unburdensome as possible.

General description

Gymnocalycium is a cactus of South American origin, belonging to a family of the same name. Sizes and shapes (spherical, flat-hipped, etc.) vary depending on the variety. There are both dwarf representatives of the culture, barely reaching 2.5 cm, and quite tall relative to indoor plants succulents up to 30-60 cm in height. The stem can be almost flat or rounded, the peduncle is smoothly scaly, without pubescence and spines. The spines are strong, sharp, can be both smooth and straight, and have a curved shape.

Gymnocalycium cactus
Gymnocalycium cactus

The stems have vertical well-defined ribs, the number of which can vary considerably. On them, there are areolas with a short silver pile, from which grow multi-sized spines. In the center, there are several large needles (not in all species), and short in the outer radius.

The root system is quite developed, dense, goes deep into the ground. In fact, it makes up the bulk of the succulents in the wild, leaving only small balls of spiny stems above the surface. In their diameter, even in age-related specimens, they do not exceed 15-20 cm. The color of the skin is dark green, in some cases with brown-brown streaks.

Gymnocalycium, which at a young age has the shape of a ball, can eventually stretch into a cylinder or grow in breadth. Both usually don’t happen at the same time.

Flowering of gymnocalycium

The first flowering occurs in the second or third year of life, and it is possible to achieve it without much effort. Flowers are tubular, delicate colors in white, light yellow, cream and pink palette. The peduncles are ejected from the apical areolas. The calyxes of the flowers are smooth, with tightly shifted sepals. The buds themselves are lush-terry, 2-7 cm in diameter, have a bell-shaped shape. The petals are lanceolate, arranged in several rows. In the middle of the flower grows a tubule covered with stamens.

Flowering continues for several days, after which new buds open. This usually goes on for a long time, from May to November. After wilting of the bud, a fruit of red, green or dim purple color is formed in its place, having an egg-shaped shape and not more than 4 cm in length.

Flowering Gymnocalycium

Modern breeders have found a way to grow ornamental varietal varieties with brightly colored shoots that can be yellow, orange, and even red.

To do this, they had to find a way to remove chlorophyll from cellular tissue. But you can get such an instance only by grafting on an ordinary green cactus.

Types of Gymnocalycium with photos

The species diversity of natural forms has up to 150 varieties. All of them grow on the South American continent. For growing a house, the choice is much smaller, however, it can not be called modest. Large and dwarf, spherical and flat, green and multi-colored chlorophyll-free – there is a lot to choose from.

Gymnocalycium humpback

Large-sized variety with a bluish tinge to the stem. First spherical in shape, then cylindrical. One of the tallest, even at home growing by half a meter. In diameter, it has no more than 20 cm. Clearly segmented ribs have deep longitudinal furrows. In the center of the areola grows one long needle surrounded by a dozen shorter gray-brown spines. It blooms with cream or white inflorescences, tightly oriented at the top of the stem. There is a varietal variety with an almost black stem body.

Gymnocalycium humpback

Gymnocalycium Mihanović

One of the most common varieties among houseplants. It has a flattened molar-ribbed stem “ball” and short stature. The edges of the ribs are very well expressed, have horizontal “wrinkles”, creating the impression that the ball is flattened both along and across. The needles are silvery-brown, often curved, strongly spaced. It is this species that is used as a rootstock for growing chlorophyll-free specimens. Flowers are pink or light crimson in color.

Gymnocalycium Mihanović

Gymnocalycium tiny

Does not exceed 3 cm in diameter. The stem is an uncharacteristically ash-brown shade of green, has a spherical shape and low ribs, covered with unexpectedly large areolas for their size. The spines in them are located radially, there are no central elongated needles, their shape is curved outward so that they are pressed against the stem, enhancing the feeling of compactness. The flowers open on elongated tubes in the apical part, usually white or light cream.

Gymnocalycium tiny

Gymnocalycium Quelya

Medium height (about 10 cm) succulent with a bluish-gray sheen of the green rounded stem. The areolae are convex, radial spines pressed against the stem. The buds are large, white at the edges, and have a red rim in the center.

Gymnocalycium Quelya

Gymnocalicium Sallo

The skin of the stem is gray-green, rough to the touch, the furrows are wide, the ribs are well pronounced, with convex areolae. A fairly tall variety up to 30 cm Needles of a reddish-brown shade, spread to the sides, large, can grow up to 4 cm.

Gymnocalicium Sallo


It is possible to obtain new specimens both with the help of seeds and vegetatively. If we are talking about colored varieties, then for them both methods remain inaccessible, since each time the plant must be re-grafted.

Vegetative method

It is the simplest, most affordable and effective. On the ribs of the stem, lateral branches often grow, this does not require any additional stimulation. The side shoot should be carefully unscrewed, without cutting, and put to dry for a day. A special ready-made substrate for succulents and cacti is poured into the container or just clean sand, slightly moistened, after which the dried process is pressed into it. It is very unstable, so at first you can use a couple of matches to give it a horizontal position.

Rooting usually occurs quickly and guaranteed, the most successful result can be obtained in the spring. If the procedure was performed in late autumn or winter, lighting may be required. After the appearance of signs of rooting, you can transplant to a permanent place.

It is also possible to replant with root shoots, which can also appear in this cactus. They need to be separated carefully, since they already have roots that are closely intertwined with the root system of the parent. It is most convenient to separate the root “children” during transplantation and immediately plant them in a separate permanent container in the “adult” soil.

Vegetative method of reproduction

Seed method

Efforts and care for the seed cultivation of Gymnocalycium will require more, however, as practice shows, the result is decent – strong, healthy and more viable in the future specimens. The container should be wide and flat, the substrate should be peat-sand, preferably fine-grained. It will not be superfluous to calcinate it in the oven (for a long time) or pour boiling water. On densely laid and slightly moistened soil, seeds are evenly laid out and a small amount of sand is superficially sprinkled. The soil should not dry out completely, stagnant moisture is also unacceptable. The optimal germination temperature is + 20 … + 24 C. You can expect seedlings in 10 days, and transplant them into individual dishes no earlier than in a year.

The seed method of growing gymnocalyciums is all-season, if it is possible to provide suitable conditions.

Vaccination of chlorophyll-free cacti

As already mentioned, in order to get a red, pink or yellow Gymnocalycium, it is necessary to graft a graft on the green cactus. Sometimes the procedure is done not for the sake of beauty, but to save the specimen affected by root rot. As a rootstock, Mikhanovich’s Gymnocalycium is usually used.

This requires a healthy plant with strong roots. In the upper part of this rootstock, a horizontal cut is made to the size of the same cut on the rootstock. They should be completely matched. The tools that will be manipulated must be disinfected. Plants are connected in sections and pressed tightly against each other. The position is fixed with a bandage and sinkers. It will take about a week to splice, but not more than 10 days. After that, the fixing bandage can be removed.

Unfortunately, grafted hybrids are very short-lived.

Vaccination of chlorophyll-free cacti

Other varieties of cacti can be used as rootstock.

Gymnocalycium transplantation

The cactus does not grow very fast, so it does not need frequent transplantation. Depending on age and conditions, it is recommended to do this with a frequency of 1-3 years. The optimal time is spring, before budding begins. The pot is selected a little more free than the previous one (wider and deeper), the soil is renewed completely or at least half as much as possible.

Substrate requirements

The easiest and most reliable way to buy a ready-made substrate for succulents and cacti. If it is necessary to independently compile an earth mixture, leaf and turf soil are mixed, and the same amount of a mixture of sand and peat with a predominance of the first is mixed with it. A good effect is given by adding pieces of charcoal, which must be finely crushed.

It is unacceptable to add lime to the soil, the cactus will hurt.

Rules of care

Quality conditions imply not so much care for the Gymnocalycium, as a well-chosen place for its cultivation.


Natural growing conditions are, although dry sandy areas, but by no means lifeless deserts – these are South American prairies, shrub steppes. The lack of moisture causes a well-developed root system, but the plant does not always resist direct exposure to the sun successfully, so it is not recommended to put this cactus on the southern windowsill. But in most cases, he tolerates such a location well. Intensive lighting must be provided in any case.

Gymnocalycium care


In the summer, the optimal temperature range is + 20 … + 25C, but even if the thermometer rises to + 30C, it will not become any critical for the cactus. There is no pronounced winter period of rest in gymnocalycium, and yet it requires a winter decrease in temperature. Suppose the threshold is + 12C, if the temperature drops to + 8C, the plant may die.


The cactus does not need to maintain a certain humidity and spray, but a hygienic shower from dust in the spring-summer time will be useful to it. However, it is necessary to ensure that after that water does not stagnate in the soil.


The soil under the cactus should be qualitatively drained. Watering is done rarely, but abundantly, after which you need to make sure that all the excess moisture goes into the tray, and from it is poured. The earthen lump between waterings should dry through, not just at the top. In winter, the number of procedures is reduced naturally due to minimal evaporation. Sometimes for the whole winter, it is enough to water the cactus only 3 times.


Mineral complexes can be introduced into the substrate monthly, choosing specially selected compositions from manufacturers. But this is not mandatory, and in addition, it is recommended to monitor the nitrogen content in the composition, it should be reduced.

Gymnocalycium at home

Diseases and pests

With excessively moist content, cacti can suffer from root rot.

Of the pests, you should be wary of the mealybug, but with careful inspection, its pinkish body is clearly visible on the stem. You can try to wash off the pest with a hot shower (not boiling water!). If the measure was ineffective, treat with alcohol or insecticide.

Another danger is the red flat tick. For this insect, gymnocalycium is not the most suitable plant because of the thick skin, however, young specimens sometimes turn out to be “by the teeth”. It is determined by the traces – dry spots of rusty color. The methods of control are the same as with the worm.

If there are other cacti in the house, it is better not to risk and immediately make a chemical treatment of the entire plant collection.


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