Echinocereus (2018)

By Rey Gonzalez (January 2018)

PhotoThe recent year-end holiday season treated us with joy and happiness, as we celebrated with loved ones while trying to stay cozy and warm. The most wonderful time of the year is now past. Winter is here.

Most of my plants are in the greenhouse, but I brought the most sensitive ones inside my home. I don’t want to take any risks if something goes wrong.

Some cactus are staying outside, however: a couple opuntias, cylindropuntias and the little guy you will be reading about today, an Echinocereus reichenbachii.

Echinocereus is one of the largest genera of cold-hardy cacti. Its scientific name comes from the Greek “ekinos,” meaning hedgehog, and “cereus,” the Latin term for candle, gaining it the common name of lace hedgehog cactus.

Some important ornamental species in the genus include E. triglochidiatus, E. viridiflorus, E. fendleri and E. reichenbachii. The latter is one of the smaller Echinocereus, reaching only 3 to 9 inches in height.

Native to parts of northern Mexico and the southern United States, E. reichenbachii is a slowly branching, cylindrical cactus with up to 12 branches covered with 12 to 36 strongly appressed spines. Immature specimens are spherical, and as they grow, they become cylindrical. The stems are dark green and obscured by the spines, especially when the plant is dehydrated.

From early May to late June, beautiful purple or intense pink flowers start showing up in abundance. The scented blooms open during the day, always close at night and sometimes open for a second day. The fruits appear six to 10 weeks after flowering. Propagation is facilitated by collecting the dried seeds. E. reichenbachii also can be grown from cuttings, as it slowly branches from the base.

PhotoVariations of Echinocereus reichenbachii include E. reichenbachii var. albertii (commonly called the black lace cactus). Listed as endangered in the United States since 1979, it is endemic in the south of Texas. Destruction of habitat, overcollecting and livestock grazing have all contributed to its endangered status.

E. reichenbachii is sensitive to overwatering, so it needs a very good drainage medium to avoid rotting. This species thrives in dry, gravelly, clay and loam soils, and near rock outcroppings, but requires more moisture than true desert cacti to grow and produce flowers.

The plant is drought-resistant, frost-tolerant and cold-resistant to minus 5 degrees F for short periods of time, if kept dry. E. reichenbachii prefers full sun and is susceptible to mealy bugs and scale insects. This species is a fine plant for a rock garden or container, contrasting well with agaves, yuccas and low-growing flowering plants.

If any of you have had a positive or negative experience with cold-hardy cactus, I encourage you to share your stories and knowledge on the HSCSS forum, so we can all learn together.

Llifle Encyclop[edia of Cacti –
Wikipedia –
Wikipedia –