- Physical characteristics
- Types of Cacti – You’d Never Ever Believe They Were So Pretty
- Classification of Cacti According to Growth Form
- Popular Cacti for the Garden
- Red Cactus Varieties: Growing Cacti That Are Red
- Red Cactus Varieties
- Cactus with Red Flowers
- How to Grow and Care for Moon Cactus in Containers
- 7 Steps to Grafting Cactus
- Cactus Flowers – Fake or Real?
- Ruby Ball Cactus
- Types of Cactus Plants & How to Properly Care for One
Cacti are succulent perennial plants. Cacti generally have thick herbaceous or woody chlorophyll-containing stems. Cacti can be distinguished from other succulent plants by the presence of areoles, small cushionlike structures with trichomes (plant hairs) and, in almost all species, spines or barbed bristles (glochids). Areoles are modified branches, from which flowers, more branches, and leaves (when present) may grow.
- Barrel cactus (Sclerocactus parviflorus)Dorothea W. Woodruff/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
- Organ-pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi).Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Read More on This Topic Caryophyllales: Cactaceae The cacti are curious, often thorny (spiny), succulent-stemmed plants constituting the family Cactaceae,…
In most species, leaves are absent, greatly reduced, or modified as spines, minimizing the amount of surface area from which water can be lost, and the stem has taken over the photosynthetic functions of the plant. Only the tropical genera Pereskia and Pereskopsis, both vines, have conventional-looking functional leaves, while the leaves of the Andean Maihuenia are rounded, not flattened. The root systems are generally thin, fibrous, and shallow, ranging widely to absorb superficial moisture.
Cacti vary greatly in size and general appearance, from buttonlike peyote (Lophophora) and low clumps of prickly pear (Opuntia) and hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus) to the upright columns of barrel cacti (Ferocactus and Echinocactus) and the imposing saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea). Most cacti grow in the ground, but several tropical species—including leaf cactus (Epiphyllum), Rhipsalis, and Schlumbergera—are epiphytes, growing on other plants; others live on hard substrates such as rocks, while yet others climb far up trees. Epiphytic species tend to have thin, almost leaflike flattened stems. The appearance of the plant varies also according to whether the stem surface is smooth or ornamented with protruding tubercles, ridges, or grooves.
- peyotePeyote (Lophophora williamsii).Dennis E. Anderson
- Dutchman’s pipe cactus Flower of the Dutchman’s pipe cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum).© Michael Nguyen/.com
- Santa Fe IslandCactus tree (Opuntia galapageia) on Santa Fe Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.Balabiot
- Saguaro cacti growing in a canyon, Agua Fria National Monument, Arizona, U.S.U.S. Bureau of Land Management
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The primary method of reproduction is by seeds. Flowers, often large and colourful, are usually solitary. All genera have a floral tube, often with many petal-like structures, and other less colourful and almost leaflike structures; the tube grows above a one-chambered ovary. A style topped by many pollen-receptive stigmas also arises from the top of the ovary. The fruit is usually a berry and contains many seeds. Soon after pollination, which may be effected by wind, birds, insects, or bats, the entire floral tube detaches from the top of the ovary to leave a prominent scar.
- Eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa; also called Opuntia compressa).Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
- Thanksgiving cactusThanksgiving, or crab, cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) in bloom. AdstockRF
Several cacti develop plantlets at ground level that, as offsets, reproduce the species vegetatively. Many others can reproduce by fragmentation, whereby segments broken from the main plant will readily root to form clonal individuals. Tissues of cacti are broadly compatible so that terminal portions of one species may be grafted on top of another.
- ball cactusBall cactus (Parodia magnifica).© Stephan von Mikusch/Fotolia
- Chin cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii)Alfieri—NHPA/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
The internal structure of cacti stems conforms to the pattern of broad-leaved angiosperms; a cambium layer of dividing cells, located between the woody inner tissues and those near the outside of the stem, is present. The bulk of the stem, however, consists of thin-walled storage cells that contain mucilaginous substances that prevent the loss of moisture. The stem of cacti is the main food-manufacturing and food-storage organ.
Types of Cacti – You’d Never Ever Believe They Were So Pretty
Most people are overwhelmed by the sheer number and types of cacti found in nurseries today. If you haven’t had a chance to get to know much about these plants, it might be a good idea to get acquainted with their types.
The ‘Lava Cactus’, which is found on the Galapagos Islands, survives only in the harsh environment of the lava fields. It is one of the first plants to establish itself on lava that flows out and cools after a fresh volcanic eruption.
Cacti are one of the most versatile group of plants in the world. They are found in many shapes and sizes, and are able to survive in diverse habitats. They are hardy, do not require special handling or care in most cases, and many have beautiful blooms. Mostly, we associate cacti with an arid desert-like environment. However, many cacti have rainforests too as their natural habitat. Cacti are too diverse to be grouped into simple types. They are classified based on standard taxonomic methods as
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Over the centuries, there have been many attempts to classify cacti. The culmination of all these efforts was the formation of the International Cactaceae Systematics Group (ICSG) in 1984. This is an organization that was brought into being to gather the work of pioneers in the field of cactus classification. ICSG also takes into consideration new and upcoming research on cacti. This helps to clear disagreements regarding how to classify cacti. The classification of cacti continues to evolve to this day, with changes being made according to new research and insights from experts working in this field. Here, we briefly cover the taxonomic classification as well as the classification by growth forms of the cacti.
Plants are succulent viz. stems, roots, leaves adapted for storing water. Certain characteristics of flowers have been defined, which must be possessed by flowers of all members of the family for them to be included in the family cactaceae, like presence of ‘areoles’ (structures out of which the flowers arise), petals merged with sepals, presence of a large number of stamens (part of flower-bearing pollen), and multi-lobed stigma (part of flower that receives pollen). The family cactaceae includes four subfamilies.
This family is considered to be the most evolutionarily primitive of all cactus families. Plants are shrubby or climbers with round stems. Both leaves and spines are present. The stems and the leaves have different metabolic pathways for synthesizing carbohydrates. While the stems have the crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) pathway, the leaves have the C3 carbon fixation pathway. It includes one genus Pereskia, with 17 species.
This subfamily includes the solitary genus Maihuenia, which in turn includes only two species. The plants are shrubs with stems clustered together forming a low cushion-like growth. They have the C3 carbon fixation pathway only. The two species are found in Argentina and Chile.
This subfamily includes 5 tribes and 15 genera. One of the unique features of the members of this subfamily is the presence of ‘glochids’. These are short, hairy spines located on the areoles of plants. The stem is segmented, and the segments are called ‘cladodes’. As far as the growth forms are concerned, there is quite a lot of variation among the different species. Some are shrubby, some tree-like, and some form low mounds.
This is the largest of all the subfamilies, and has nine tribes. Plants vary in growth habit, from large tree-like, small and shrubby, to epiphytic cacti that live on trees. The stems are rarely segmented. The leaves are extremely reduced or entirely absent. The cacti in this subfamily are distributed throughout both North and South America.
Classification of Cacti According to Growth Form
Cacti can be roughly classified on the basis of their growth form, also known as growth habit. This, of course, is purely on the basis of the plant’s morphology (external appearance) and pattern of growth, and does not take into account other features. Cacti belonging to the same genera may exhibit totally different habits.
These cacti have cylindrical stems. Some cacti in this group have a single stem, while many others exhibit branching and have several stems.
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Examples of cacti in this category are Arrojadoa rhodantha, Cephalocereus senilis (Old Man of Mexico), Neobuxbaumia polylopha (Cone Cactus), Stenocereus thurberi (Organ Pipe Cactus) and Stephanocereus leucostele. Some of the cacti in this group have cylindrical but rather short stems, e.g. Austrocactus patagonicus, Austrocactus bertinii, Austrocactus coxii and Coleocephalocereus purpureus.
The cacti belonging to this category do not have one predominantly long stem, but usually have short, lumpy stems clustered together. Some members of this group grow high in the Andes, and can tolerate relatively low temperatures.
Notable examples are Cumulopuntia rossiana, Cumulopuntia boliviana, Maihuenia patagonica and Maihuenia poeppigii. Some of these cacti have a tendency to spread out to form huge mounds in the wild.
The stems of the plants of this group of cacti look like fleshy leaves. They have a lot of variation in shapes and sizes.
Popular plants in this group are Epiphyllum oxypetalum (Dutchman’s Pipe), Hylocereus costaricensis (grown commercially for its fruit), Disocactus ackermannii, Schlumbergera truncata (Christmas Cactus). A large number of plants of the genus Opuntia are also included in this group. Many species of Opuntia are called ‘Prickly Pears’. Cacti in this group have very thick, flattened branches, which are joined end to end. The other genera in this category are Tacinga and Tunilla.
This category includes many genera. The cacti have rounded stems, but there are many variations in the basic shape.
Many species of the genera Mammillaria, Rebutia are globose. Some cacti in this category are Lophophora williamsii (Peyote Cactus), Coryphantha elephantidens (Elephant’s tooth), Echinocactus grusonii (Golden barrel cactus), and Echinocactus polycephalus. Some globose cacti have rounded but slightly elongated stems. Well-known plants of this type are Ferocactus wislizeni (Fishhook Barrel Cactus) and Astrophytum myriostigma (Bishop’s Cap). Some globose cacti are globular but flattened at the top. A number of cacti of the genus Gymnocalycium are of such type.
Cacti in this category look like shrubs. Some have one prominent stem with the other branches emerging and spreading out from it.
Many of the popular cacti of the genus Cylindropuntia (commonly called chollas) have a shrubby habit. These often grow to a considerable size, and look like a blend of the shrubby and tree-like form. Examples of some chollas are Cylindropuntia bigelovii (Teddy Bear Cholla), Cylindropuntia versicolor (Staghorn Cholla), and Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (Desert Christmas Cactus). This group also includes a large number of cacti of the genus Cleistocactus.
Habit: Tree-like (Arborescent)
Cacti in this group have a single, prominent trunk, while the other branches grow out of it in the vertical direction. The cacti of some species of this group, when fully grown, are quite massive. Some cacti bear a striking resemblance to candelabra, or branched candlesticks.
Cacti like Cereus lamprospermus, Myrtillocactus geometrizans (Blue Myrtle Cactus), Pachycereus pringlei (cardon cactus) and Pachycereus weberi are very popular.
Popular Cacti for the Garden
Cacti are very popular with gardening enthusiasts, and in most cases do not require much care. Most of them require good sunlight and minimal amount of water, and should not be exposed to frost. Many of the popular cacti are hybrids created to be unique and thus stand out when compared to the natural cacti growing in the wild.
Botanical Name – Hatiora gaertneri
This one is also known as ‘Whitsun Cactus’, and is very popular and widely cultivated as a houseplant. It is a highly branched plant, with flat, segmented, dull green stems bearing brightly-colored flowers that bloom in April or May. Native to Brazil, it can withstand a wide range of temperatures. However, it is advisable not to expose it to temperatures below 7° C. It can be safely watered all year round, but over-watering, especially in winter, should be avoided.
The cacti belonging to the genus Mammillaria are called Pincushion Cacti. Their stems are usually short when young, but elongate as they grow. The flowers emerge from the region between the areoles. Mammillaria require good sunlight, but exposure to harsh midday sun during the summer months should be avoided. Watering should be done only if the roots are completely dry.
Popular Species – Mammillaria zeilmanniana, Mammillaria hahniana, Mammillaria elongata, Mammillaria.
Golden Barrel Cactus
Botanical Name – Echinocactus grusonii.
The Golden Barrel Cactus, although very popular as a cultivated species, is endangered in its natural habitat. It was almost wiped out from its natural habitat in Mexico by a single catastrophe: the construction of a dam. It is globose, or cylindrical with a flattened top, and grows to a height of about 1 – 2 feet, and a diameter of 2 – 3 feet. It may grow as a solitary plant, or more often, spawn offshoots at the side to form clusters. It grows well in a high-temperature environment.
Botanical Name – Schlumbergera truncata.
Also known as ‘Crab Cactus’, it blooms in winter around the time of Thanksgiving, hence the name. It is native to Brazil, but is widely cultivated for its flowers, that come in a range of hues. It is often confused with the Christmas Cactus, which is a hybrid of two species. One of the main differences between the two is that the Thanksgiving Cactus blooms almost a month before the Christmas Cactus. The Thanksgiving cactus needs cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths to produce buds.
Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus
Botanical Name – Epiphyllum oxypetalum
‘Dutchman’s Pipe’ is an epiphytic cactus (grows on trees instead of on the ground) native to Brazil, but popular throughout the world for its large, white, fragrant flowers that bloom only at night and wilt at dawn. Being a native of tropical rainforests, it needs more watering than cacti from a desert-like environment. However, over-watering should be avoided. It should be protected from scale bugs by spraying with a suitable insecticide.
Botanical Name – Astrophytum asterias
Also known as ‘Sea Urchin Cactus’ or ‘Sand Dollar Cactus’, it is a small, star-shaped cactus with a woolly appearance. In the wild, it does not grow much above the surface of the soil and so is seen to be almost level with the ground. It has no spines, so is easy to handle. The variety “Super Kabuto” is especially popular. The star cactus needs to be repotted more frequently than other cacti and needs to be watered depending on whether it is growing or not.
Botanical Name – Schlumbergera
The Christmas Cactus is a hybrid of two species, Schlumbergera russelliana and Schlumbergera truncata, usually written as Schlumbergera x buckleyi. However, Schlumbergera truncata is also often sold as Christmas Cactus. This cactus blooms around the time of Christmas, and the flowers that are produced are quite striking, and come in various colors like pink, orange, white, and many more. It grows well in both a warm and cold environment. However, the plant should not be exposed to frost.
Botanical Name – Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var. friedrichii
Cacti of the genus Gymnocalycium are popularly called ‘chin cacti’. One of the most popular cultivars of the chin cactus is the ‘Hibotan’. It is a mutant that lacks chlorophyll, so the stem manifests colors such as red, yellow, pink and orange. Since it lacks chlorophyll, it cannot manufacture its own food. For this reason, it is grafted onto some other cactus (usually one of the genus Hylocereus), so that it can derive nourishment from it.
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Red Cactus Varieties: Growing Cacti That Are Red
The color red is one of the most impactful and eye-catching colors out there. We expect to see it in flowers, but it is rare in the succulent family, especially in cactus. For red tones in cacti, you mostly have to rely on flowers or fruit to provide the deep shade. If red is a tint that perks you up and you love succulents, check out a few cacti with red flowers that will brighten your home or landscape.
Red Cactus Varieties
Red cactus varieties are generally grafted specimens. You can find these grafted plants in a wide spectrum of shades. While not a naturally occurring plant, the grafted species of cacti are a unique way of enjoying these easy-to-grow succulents and still have the red color you desire. Outside of grafted types, there are plenty of cacti with red flowers or fruits that will bring that cheery red hue into your sight.
Most cactus bodies are green to bluish green or even grayish green. If you want a truly red plant, you will need to purchase or make a grafted specimen. This is not as hard as it sounds since cacti are easy to propagate from stems or leaves. In the types of red cactus that are sold, moon cactus and chin cactus are commonly grafted. They are considered ball cacti and are grafted onto another cactus rootstock. The result is an interesting plant with a green base and a colorful top. These come in red, yellow, orange, pink, and even purple tops. They are just as easy to care for as a regular cactus yet in a rainbow of hues.
Cactus with Red Flowers
Grafted cacti that are red are just one way to enjoy the color. You can also bring red into the scheme with flowers or fruits.
- The prickly pear is a classic example of red fruits that are not only beautiful but delicious. It produces deeply blushed flowers as well.
- The Christmas cactus flowers during the holiday season with lush crimson blooms.
- Claret cup cacti have ruby flowers as do silver torch cactus plants.
Red tones are most common in blooms of tropical cacti like those from Brazil. It is less common in desert succulents but does occasionally occur.
Although there are many types of cactus with red flowers, in the home environment you may have to trick your plant into blooming. Most cacti bloom after the rainy season. They go through extreme drought and once the rains come, they bloom and often fruit. They also need to experience a winter dormancy with little moisture and then gradually get introduced to more water, brighter light, and increased heat.
These conditions will encourage the plant to produce its red blooms. Provided your plant is mature enough for flowering and fruiting, you can dry it out. Introduce no nutrients and place it in a colder part of the home for winter. Begin regular care in spring and the plant should reward you with those pretty red blooms.
How to Grow and Care for Moon Cactus in Containers
Intro: The popular moon cactus plant is a small grafted cactus. Grafting, which can be done with many plants, is a propagation technique in which a gardener will take two separate plant species, cut them and grow them together as one plant. The plants, if they are compatible, will bond and grow as one. The top cactus of the moon cactus has a mutation that causes it to lack the chlorophyll that makes the cactus green. This mutation exposes the red, orange or yellow color beneath. Cactus that lack chlorophyll cannot live on their own – they die as seedlings unless grafted onto another cactus with chlorophyll.
Scientific Name: The two cactus species most commonly used for moon cactus are Gymnocalycium mihanovichii as the top cactus and Hylocereus spp. as the base.
Plant Type: Grafted cactus
Light: The moon cactus plant requires bright indirect sunlight. Full sun will actually harm this container plant, so keep it out of direct sunlight for long periods of time.
Water: Water moon cactus thoroughly, then let the plant dry out between waterings.
Fertilizer: You don’t need to regularly fertilize your moon cactus plant, but you should dose it with a cactus fertilizer every month during its growing season (April to September).
Temperature: The tiny moon cactus won’t do well in very cold temperatures, so bring it inside to overwinter during the cold winter months.
Pests and Diseases: Insect pests and diseases won’t be much of a problem with the moon cactus, but you may see some spider mites or mealybugs attacking your cactus plant. The biggest problem with this plant is overwatering, which can lead to root rot.
Propagation: Grafting cactus can be difficult, so leave propagation to the grafters! It is easiest to buy a moon cactus specimen from your local garden shop, but if you can find a healthy specimen of Gymnocalycium mihanovichii that lacks chlorophyll and a healthy Hylocereus, you may want to give it a try. Follow the seven steps to grafting cactus.
7 Steps to Grafting Cactus
1. Purchase a healthy red, yellow or orange Gymnocalycium mihanovichii and a healthy Hylocereus large enough for grafting.
2. Disinfect a sharp knife (to reduce risk of infection in the cacti).
3. With the knife, cut the top off of a healthy Hylocereus. Cut a piece that is the same size of the G. mihanovichii that will be grafted onto it.
4. Trim the edges of the Hylocereus so that its edges slope downward.
5. Cut off another thin layer from the top of the Hylocereus and cut a thin layer off of the bottom of the the G. mihanovichii. Place the two cacti together so that the rings of their vascular bundles directly face one another. The vascular bundle is that small round ring in the center of a cactus’s cross-section. The vascular bundle is visible in the photo on the right.
6. Hold the two cacti together with rubber bands (don’t make the rubber bands too tight or too loose).
7. Wait two to three weeks for the two plants to grow together, and then gently remove the rubber bands.
In this video, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s ML Robinson demonstrates how easy it is to graft cactus.
Misc. Info: Keep moon cactus in temperatures above 60 degrees, and fertilize monthly during their growing season. Moon cactus can only live for a few years.
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Cactus Flowers – Fake or Real?
On the cacti forum, this is a common situation: A person, new to cactus growing, posts a picture of their “flowering” cactus plant in the identification section. Often times they are quite proud of their long-lasting and attractive blooms. As more seasoned growers respond to the post, they point out that the flowers are, in fact, glued on and not flowers produced by the cactus plant. Now confused and embarrassed, the new cactus grower often insists that the flowers are real because they open and close. Further prompted by those who have “been there, done that”, the novice grower investigates further and eventually comes to the realization that the flowers are indeed held on by glue. At this point, the feeling of excitement, since replaced by embarrassment, now becomes anger and inevitably the question follows, “Why would anyone do that?”.
1. Various cacti and succulents for sale with glued-on flowers
In this article, I will discuss the details of this practice including: -what it is, -how to identify it, -what to do about it, and I will even point out an positive outcome from this obvious deception. In doing so, I hope to put at ease those who feel they were duped by pointing out just how common it is to fall for this trick and educating them on future purchases.
3. At right, a small Cleistocactus with a single glued-on flower at the top.
One reason that so many people are confused by this, is that the flowers are not actually “fake”, but real. Technically it is an inflorescence, but for practical reasons, I refer to them as flowers in this article. They can come from one of several species of plant commonly known as “Strawflowers” or “Everlastings”. These are so named because when dried, these flowers have a crisp, straw-like texture and last for many months. They come in a variety of colors, but most the most compelling feature is that they can open and close based on humidity/moisture despite being long dead. For more information on these fascinating plants, here are two links with more detailed info:
www.killerplants.com -info on the open/close action
www.howstuffworks.com -info on various species
Now that you know what the impostors are, you will be better equipped to spot one in the store. If you are a novice, just remember those common names: “strawflower” and “everlasting”. Those are both useful descriptive names that are a contrast to real cactus flowers. If it feels papery or straw-like, it isn’t a cactus flower. Likewise, if a single flower lasts more than 1 week, it isn’t a cactus flower as most cactus flowers only last a day or two at best. As you progress in you cactus knowledge, you’ll be able to spot a “fake” from a mile away because you’ll know what a cactus flower is supposed to look like. You will also learn where to expect flowers on various cacti – that is not like the picture at the top of this page with flowers stuck all over the place. That being said, it is sometimes not quite so obvious at first glance. In the picture below, are the flowers “real” or “fake”? The answer here is “both”! The orange-red flowers are glued on, while the pink flowers are from the plant.
Mammillaria polythele with both “real” and “fake” flowers
I promised an “upside” to this situation, but before discussing that, we will explore the problems. Most obvious of the problems, is the deception. Clearly, these flowers are glued on to entice the buyer and so the phrase “caveat emptor ” is proven once again. However, aside from getting something that wasn’t what it seemed, there is secondary problem that the new owner must face – how to get the flowers off. While I suspect there are possibly some who don’t mind the strawflower/cactus combination, everyone I’ve encountered can’t get them off fast enough once they’ve been made aware of the situation.
Sometimes pins are used to attach the strawflowers and those can just be pulled out. There will be damage from the pin sticking the cactus, but that isn’t life-threatening. Most of the time, however, the strawflowers are attached with a hot-glue gun. Simply pulling off a hot-glue flower is not recommended as it will take the spines and a good chunk of the cactus with it. Again, this is unlikely to kill the cactus plant, but it will make an unsightly scar. The picture below shows the aftermath of removing a strawflower. In this case it wasn’t pulled off, but carefully removed – illustrating how hard it is to avoid damage. Note also the left-over glue in the spines. One cactus grower highly recommends using an exacto-knife and heating it on a flame. You then melt/cut the glue off with the hot blade. While not 100% effective, this method seems to minimize the damage.
At last, I’ll discuss the positive outcome based on my own observations. These artificially attached flowers actually act as an “attention getter” so-to-speak. Many people who would otherwise not give a cactus plant a second look at the garden center, make an impulse purchase because of the strawflowers. Later on, these people realize they don’t know much about their new purchase and seek to identify and learn how to care for it. It is during this discovery process that they learn the truth about the so-called flower(s). As logic follows, most want to know what the real flower is supposed to look like. While short-lived, the real flowers are many times more impressive and the new grower wants to know how to get the plant to flower for real. Before long, they are back at the store looking for more cacti to purchase. Hence, the impulse buy based on a deception, introduces another new person to the world of cacti that otherwise wouldn’t have had anything to do with them. After all, it isn’t often that those with large cactus collections are purchasing these plants, but typically those with no previous cactus experience.
In conclusion, if you have just found out the hard way that your cactus isn’t actually flowering non-stop for you, do not dismay! Remember, many others have experienced the same disappointment. More importantly, you have now been introduced to the wonderful world of cacti and are ready to embark on a very rewarding hobby that you might otherwise have missed!
Author: Daiv Freeman
Photo Credits: Pics 1 & 2 -Buck Hemenway, Pic 3 -vsorge17, Pics 4 & 5 -StrUktO
Ruby Ball Cactus
The ruby ball cactus is a bright red, ball-shaped cactus that grows on a green base. A mutation of a normal cactus, it totally lacks the green pigmentation that allows other plants to absorb solar energy. The only way it can survive is to be grafted on a green cactus that absorbs energy for it. It is generally short-lived.
There are also yellow, orange, and bicolor versions of the ruby ball cactus. This plant only produces its pink blossoms under optimum conditions.
Ruby Ball Cactus Quick Facts
Scientific Name: Gymnocalycium mihanovichii ‘Ruby Ball’
Common Names: Ruby Ball Cactus, Rose Plaid Cactus
Light Requirement for Ruby Ball Cactus: Full Sun to Bright Light
Water Requirement for Ruby Ball Cactus: Drench, Let Dry
Humidity for Ruby Ball Cactus: Average Home
Temperature for Ruby Ball Cactus: House to Cool
Fertilizer for Ruby Ball Cactus: High Phosphorus
Potting Mix for Ruby Ball Cactus: Cactus
Propagation of Ruby Ball Cactus: Grafting
Decorative Use for Ruby Ball Cactus: Table
Care Rating for Ruby Ball Cactus: Easy
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Larry Hodgson is a full time garden writer out of Quebec City in the heart of French Canada where he grows well over 3,000 species and varieties. His book credits include Making the Most of Shade, The Garden Lovers Guide to Canada, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, Houseplants for Dummies, and Ortho’s Complete Guide to Houseplants, as well as other titles in English and French. He’s the winner of the Perennial Plant Association’s 2006 Garden Media Award.
Types of Cactus Plants & How to Properly Care for One
For those who have a thumb that is not so green, it might be wise to consider caring for a plant that is low-maintenance–extremely low. If you have never had a plant last more than a week in your house, then it’s time to get a cactus. Yes, yes, we know. These spiky plants may not be as widely loved as say, roses or tulips. However, what they lack in popularity they more than make up for in ease of care.
Here are a few of the most popular cacti that you can keep both indoors and outdoors. We’ll show you how to care for these plants so you can take pride in the fact that you finally kept one alive.
Red Cap Cactus
If you like plants with a bit more color, then consider Red Cap, also known as Ruby Ball, cactus. With a reddish-pink bloom on the top of the cactus, this makes for a delightful pop of color for this robust cactus. Keep in mind that this cactus requires less light than some others. It would work best in places where there is a good balance of light and shade. Balconies or patios are perfect for Red Cap cactus.
Fairy Castle Cactus
When thinking about a stereotypical cactus, it’s common to think of tall green towers covered in spikes. The Fairy Castle Cactus is a good succulent for beginners. It is an extremely low-maintenance cactus that is easy to care for and slow growing. Once it is fully grown, this succulent will reach around 6 feet in height. If you are looking for something that has a bloom though, this one may eventually have a flower or two sprout from its branches. You might have to wait awhile though since it takes about 10 years for this cacti’s flowers to bloom.
When looking for a plant that is more exotic in appearance, the Zebra Cactus is a good choice. With striped bands of spikes, this stylish succulent somewhat resembles an Aloe plant. It doesn’t require a large amount of light, which makes it perfect for offices, kitchens, and other places in the house that don’t get large amounts of light.
Dwarf Chin Cactus
This cute cactus makes a nice addition to smaller containers. If you are looking for a succulent with a lot of colors, the Dwarf Chin Cactus is definitely one of the more vibrant cacti. This cactus has large flowers that grow on top of it varying from pink to red and even white. This low-maintenance plant would make a wonderful addition to any room in your home that needs a little burst of color.
For those who enjoy unique shapes, especially ones that resemble rabbit ears, this is the perfect cactus. The name “Bunny Ears Cactus” is not an exaggeration. With it’s tall, flat pads this cactus looks more rabbit-like than traditional cacti. It generally will not grow beyond 18 inches so this is a great plant to have inside of the home.
Caring for Your Cactus
While cacti are very easy to care for, it’s not completely hands off. They still require some TLC to ensure that they last for a long time. You’ll need to make sure that you keep your cactus in a spot in the house that gets a few hours of direct sunlight each day. Window sills are a great spot to keep most species of cacti. However, there is a such thing as too much light. If your cactus begins to look as if the color is washed out or begins to turn yellow, it could be getting too much light. If that’s the case, then try moving it to a spot with less light.
Watering Your Cactus
Cacti are resilient plants by nature. However, one thing that will quickly kill a cactus is too much water. Overwatering can cause root rot and ultimately destroy the plant. One way to tell whether or not you need to water the cactus is by touching the soil. Soft soil means that there is too much water. If the soil is too dry then you need to give it some water. You may even be able to get away with watering on a weekly or bi-weekly basis during the growing season, but just make sure that you are checking the soil to make sure that you aren’t overdoing it.
The growing season for cacti occurs during the spring and summer. During this period, the cactus will need to have more light, water, and of course, fertilizer. It helps to add a little bit before each watering. There is no need to use the full amount that the manufacturer recommends though. Since you are using it more frequently during this time of year it’s okay to limit the fertilizer. Diluting it will ensure that your plant doesn’t get too much fertilizer.
Rotating and Repoting Plants
Cacti are prone to growing towards the light, which might lead to the plant growing at a strange angle. If you want to encourage the cactus to grow in the right direction then rotate the pot once a month. Once a year, you will need to repot your cactus and transfer it to a larger pot. After placing the cactus in the new pot, be sure to put it in a spot with a lot of light and give it a couple of weeks before watering the plant. During the fall and winter months, you’ll reduce the number of waterings to once a month and stop fertilizing it.
For a low-maintenance plant, the cactus is a wonderful pick. With a number of different species to choose from you aren’t only limited to a boring, green plant. So whether you want a more basic cactus or one that produces flowers, there are a number of options to suit your personality. The best thing is that succulents are perfect for those just starting out on their plant care journey and need something that is easy to care for.
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