Know your Cactus

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5 Dec 2019

Linda’s seven-year-old son has recently started collecting cactus and now has 73 displayed on a shelf on the veranda in morning sunshine. Here’s a brief introduction.

Words: Linda Ross


Tips for cactus

Plant in well-drained, specially formulated potting mix or a very free-draining spot in the garden to prevent roots from rotting.

Cacti can go for long periods without water, but flourish when given adequate water during spring and summer.

Water only when the mix has dried out.

Once new growth is visible on the top of the plant it can be repotted if necessary. Wrap six to eight layers of newspaper around the plant, secured with sticky tape, to enable handling without injury!


Hedgehog cactus

Echinocereus sp.

This genus of small to medium-sized cylindrical cacti are ribbed with spikes. There are 70 species native to the southern United States and Mexico where they grow in very sunny rocky places. They are tolerant of both cold and heat. The flowers are large and the fruit is edible.


Pincushion cactus

Mammillaria sp.

There are more than 200 known species of Mammillaria, most from Mexico. The slow-growing, pin-cushion-like globes are decorated with rings or crowns of delicate, daisy-like blooms that last for months.


Ball cactus


Parodia sp. syn. Notocactus

Ball cactus are native to the uplands of Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay. The cylindrical plants have deep ribs that are edged in a spine of spikes, and topped by a single a single, yellow daisy-like flower at the crown. There are about 50 species in the genus.


Crown cactus

Rebutia sp.

Perfect for beginners, this cactus blooms frequently and readily sends out offshoots, forming attractive mounds in just 2-3 years. The pink or red flowers emerge from the base of the plant or between individual plants in the same cluster.


Rabbit ear cactus

Opuntia microdasys

This dwarf prickly pear has bunny-shaped ears covered in spots that make it a favourite. The pads are not covered in spines, but with white or yellow aureoles that look like tufts of cotton. Although they may look soft, use caution when handling.


Old man cactus

Espostoa sp.

The ribs and spines of this tall columnar cactus are covered with soft white hair. White to purple night-blooming flowers appear in spring. This slow-growing cactus lives high in the Andes of southern Ecuador and Peru.