One of my five hundred favorite hardy cacti

Submitted by Kelaidis on

Okey dokey...maybe I only grow three hundred BUT this would be near the top no matter what. Any form of E. reichenbachii is superb, and this is a supremely variable plant worth growing en masse and abundantly. It is unquestionably the toughest and hardiest hedgehog: I have had them live for decades in containers. This is the tiniest and most wonderful form of all: and it may be extinct in its limited range in Oklahoma (where all the best forms occur). This picture may have been taken by my good friend David Winger: I have been photographing this plant since it had only one or two stems. This year it's twice as big: hope I'm there the day when it blooms this year: it may have twice as many flowers too. In Colorado we have var. perbellus, which is small, but still bigger than this. Our colonies have dwindled in the last decade due to drought and predation: and many are in the path of urban development in Pueblo (alas). This thrives in traditional rock gardens provided it gets lots of sun...


Submitted by Kelaidis on Fri, 03/05/2010 - 08:23

Each flower lasts only a day. Some echinocerei produce flushes of flowers through the summer (so you can have three or four or five days of brilliance).

This usually happens only if they do not set seed. If you have a collection (as I do: I have dozens if not hundreds), so that it is likely that several may bloom the same day. That way, cross pollination is almost guaranteed and seed will be set (which means it's unlikely they will rebloom).

I'm speaking only of the E. reichenbachii/fendleri/engelmannii/dasyacanthus types.

The badminton-birdie type Echinocerei (coccineus/triglochidiatus/polyacanthus etc.) have flowers that do not open and close that way: they can last for weeks.

Submitted by Hoy on Fri, 03/05/2010 - 14:25

I have collected cacti since childhood but not so much in the last years. Had do have them indoors in winter of course. Since last spring I have tried a couple of Opuntias outside and put a pane of glass to protect them of winter rain. If this experiment goes well I'll try more plants. Do you think any Echinocerei will do? I really liked those plants!

Submitted by Kelaidis on Sat, 03/06/2010 - 13:54

I was amazed how many hardy cacti I saw in the Netherlands: almost every one of the great rock gardens I visited there had a little cactus corner, with some really amazing plants. In fact, I saw cacti in Holland I have not seen grown outdoors in Colorado. Drainage, of course, is key as is the maximum solar insolation you can provide. Troughs are probably a great strategy, and lots and lots of calcium. I would suggest growing them wedged between pieces of dolomite,  with only a bit of soil. Although they do like nutrients!

The hardiest Echinocerei are undoubtedly E. viridiflorus, E. triglochidiatus (I have seen clumps of this the size of sofas growing at 8000'), E. coccineus, E. reichenbachii in any of its forms, and E. fendleri (especially in its northern forms). That gives you a wide spectrum of colors and fabulous spine variation. These are all sold cheaply in garden centers all over my area, they are so popular.

Submitted by Hoy on Sat, 03/06/2010 - 14:40

I'll be at the lookout! My wishlist grows for every day!
But you know, you can't go to a garden center here and count on they having cacti for outdoor planting. Only the last two years a few species have been offered. I think though that many cacti can be grown out-of-doors in eastern Norway with much more sun, hotter summers and drier climate. I'll give it a try, have to construct a special site I believe.