The genus Aztekium contains 3 species of small, globular cacti native to a small region in the Mexican Sierra Madre. Discovered in 1929 by F. Ritter, this genus was thought to be monotypic (with Aztekium ritteri) until a second species (Aztekium hintonii) was discovered by George S. Hinton in 1991. A further species, Aztekium valdezii, was discovered in 2011 by M.A. Alvarado Vázquez in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains.
The genus name is dedicated to the Aztec people, due to the resemblance between the plant's shape and certain Aztec sculptures.
Aztekium only grows in cracks in steep cliff faces filled with gypsum or limestone gravel and silt. The plants can look quite gnarly in the wild but carefully cultivated specimens are quite beautiful. Aztekiums offset slowly but generously in cultivation.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Aztekiums are by far the most challenging and difficult cacti to grow. They are having extremely slow growth, probably the slowest of the entire Cactus family. They usually take several years for growth to be even noticeable. Once a specimen is established on its own roots, it is no trouble to keep it and becomes an easy plant to manage.
Because of the difficulty of cultivation, Aztekiums are most often grafted to hardier stock. They need good drainage and regular water in summer. Keep nearly totally dry in winter. If grafted, the plants can take a little more water. Just remember the graft stock is also a cactus and will rot if overwatered. Provide shade from midday through the afternoon. A little morning sun is OK.
Aztekiums are usually propagated by seeds. The seeds are extremely fine and germinate readily, but the seed germination rate is very low (less than 5%).
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