The hedgehog cactus, Echinocereus (ek-in-oh-KER-ee-us) is a ribbed, cylindrical cactus plant and part of the family Cactaceae and genus Echinocereus.
The plant name comes from the Greek ‘echinos’ meaning porcupine. The Latin word ‘cereus,’ means candle and is a reference to the shape of the plant’s floral tube.
The plant is native to Mexico and South Western US. It is a large species of encompassing varieties with different growths and flowering.
Generally speaking, you can divide the plant into two major species.
The well flowering species and the globular species more distinct from their spines.
Plants such as:
- Echinocereus berlandierii
- Echinocereus salmianus
- Echinocereus scheerii
- Echinocactus grusonii (Golden Barrel cactus)
… are part of the flowering species with beautiful blooms ranging from purple-reddish to pinkish-purple in color.
Plants such as:
- Echinocereus knippelianus
- Echinocereus pulchellus
- Echinocereus subinermis
… are the more globular varieties with flowers that range widely from pink and white to grayish-blue and yellow.
Echinocereus can live for years (like the Cephalocereus Old Man Cactus) and are good to go all year around. This makes them incredibly attractive choices for houseplants.
Hedgehog Cactus Care
Size and Growth
Unlike its cousin plants requiring a lot of effort to grow and care for, Echinocereus cacti rarely grow over a foot tall and only a few inches in width.
They have a generally slow growth rate.
Echinocereus is a great houseplant but is best grown alongside other cacti to help it flower its best.
Flowering and Fragrance
Echinocereus comes in many varieties all of different colors, shapes, and sizes.
These are further divided into three categories.
- Ones with attractive flowers
- One with attractive spines
- Globular ones with fewer spines
Most Echinocereus have large flowers and green stigma lobes. They bloom the most in spring but are prone to sporadic bursts of growth at other times of the year.
The flowers bloom for about a week and have no fragrance.
They are interesting because of the way they open during the day and close at night.
However, some varieties may be nocturnal. Plants not placed in well-lit environments may have difficulty blooming.
Light and Temperature
This cactus is a light loving plant and should be placed in a spot where they get plenty of sunlight such as a western facing window.
These plants can take full sun and will thrive in it provided they get enough water. Six to eight hours of sunlight daily is ideal.
During the winter months, give the plants a bright, cool, and frost-free home. Echinocereus is generally good at tolerating colder temperatures until about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water and Feeding
The water and feed requirements for each variety will differ. The hairy and spiny variety is best kept on the drier side, even in summer because they are very sensitive to overwatering.
Overwatering can lead to crown and root rot – especially in the winter months.
On the other hand, green and less spiny varieties enjoy lots of water. Even then, be careful to let the soil dry out between watering.
Watering every two weeks is a good rule of thumb.
During the summer months, a regular dose of diluted cactus fertilizer will help the plant thrive.
Soil and Transplanting
Though this plant is capable of handling richer soils, it is best to use a typical cactus soil for best results.
Repot the plant only when it outgrows its present pot. This happens every year or so.
When repotting, take extra care not to damage the plant’s roots as these are shallow rooted and damage easily.
Grooming and Maintenance
The plant is generally easy to care for and does not require too much grooming or maintenance.
How to Propagate Echinocereus Cacti
Propagating Echinocereus depends on the plant variety.
The clumping variety propagates best by removing offsets. Once you remove the stem, let the cut dry out for a few days before planting in moist cactus soil.
Keep it warm and barely moist until it roots.
The stemming verities may be seed sown in the spring in sandy soil.
Once planted, keep them warm and moist until they root. It’s important to keep in mind that these plants may take a long time to germinate – up to two weeks almost. So be patient!
Echinocereus Pest or Disease Problems
This cactus genus are susceptible to scale insects and mealy bugs.
These pests are relatively easy to get rid of. Carefully remove them with a toothpick and make sure to wipe down the plant.
There is also the risk of taking on root mealy bugs. These are tiny insects that suck the plant juices from the roots causing the plant to turn pale.
Repot the plant in fresh soil and water with an insecticide (neem oil) to prevent further attacks.
Suggested Echinocereus Uses
Due to their beautiful appearance and easy nature, these plants are ideal for keeping as a part of a larger cacti garden.
They even make for attractive, no fuss houseplants given the right conditions for their growth.