Echinocereus is a genus of cacti closely related to the popular Echinocactus. Mostly native to the southern United States and Mexico, there are about 75 species of these beautiful little cacti, a few of which sometimes find their way into garden centers. To further confuse you, they are often called Hedgehog Cactus, which is sometimes applied to other squat globular cacti, such as the Echinopsis.
Echinocereus are known among cactus growers for being easier to grow than some of their fussier cousins. Some members of this genus can be found far to the north, growing in quite cold areas. In terms of their presentation, Echninocereus have a wide range of shapes and sizes, ranging from small balls with spines to thin columns. Like other cacti, Echinocereus have beautiful flowers.
Light: Echinocereus need bright light to perform their best. They will appreciate it if you can provide nearly full sun, as in a sunny window. Plants grown in dim conditions are unlikely to flower well and will not thrive. Although these are cold-tolerant, the most popular species need relatively warm temperatures to grow their best.
Water: Good drainage is essential for health. Water these cacti every two weeks or slightly less often during the summer, depending on how moist the soil remains. In the winter rest period, cut watering back to once a month, or in humid areas, not at all.
Fertilizer: During the summer, regular doses of a cactus fertilizer will help them grow their best. Use diluted fertilizer for best results.
Soil: A typical cactus mix is perfect. Some references say these cacti can handle slightly more fertile soil than other cacti, but it is never a bad idea to avoid caution.
Echinocereus can be propagated either through offsets or by seed. To take an offset, remove the small plantlet, then let dry until a callus forms on the cut. Carefully plant the cutting in cactus soil and keep it warm and barely moist when new growth emerges. These plants can also be reproduced from seed. Sow the seeds in a shallow mix and keep them warm and slightly damp. Germination takes place in about two weeks.
Echinocereus are slow-growing cacti that should only need repotting every other year or so. You can prolong repotting by removing plantlets and potting them in their own pots. When repotting a cactus, carefully remove it from its pot and knock away any clumped soil. These plants tend to be shallow-rooted with weak root systems, so take care not to damage their roots.
If you can successfully grow other globular cacti, you can most likely grow Echinocereus well. One of the key factors in success with these cacti is avoiding any hint of wet soil. Because their root systems are weak, they are especially prone to root rot, eventually killing your plant. Otherwise, they thrive on a program of intense bright light, little water, and a steady diet of light fertilizer. Echinocereus are vulnerable to mealybugs and aphids.
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