Mammillaria, a genus of cactus that is essential in any self-respecting succulent collection

Mammillaria is a very widespread genus of cacti and appreciated by succulent plant growers.

These cacti are easily recognizable by the splendid crown blooms around the apical part of the stem, which can be small or medium in size. These are cacti suitable for expert growers as well as novice growers. Some species, in fact, require a fair amount of experience (among these, Mammillaria luethyi, Mammillaria pectinifera, Mammillaria solisoides, Mammillaria lasiacantha, Mammillaria senilis, Mammillaria herrerae); other species are suitable for anyone (among these, Mammillaria elongata, Mammillaria bombycina, Mammillaria prolifera, Mammillaria polythele, Mammillaria uncinata, Mammillaria bocasana, Mammillaria perbella, Mammillaria mystax). The stems can appear globose, often clustered, very harmonious and in some cases covered with thick hair or very white thorns. (…)

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Splendid but… untouchable: Echeveria laui, when the sky is reflected in a succulent plant

Admire it as long as you want, but don’t you dare touch it! Even a simple caress is able to disfigure this masterpiece of Nature, altering the suggestion of wax – or the sensation of painting – that this succulent plant returns to the eye. Echeveria laui is a very widespread Crassulacea and also appreciated by those who mainly grow cacti. Its appearance, on the other hand, is undeniably attractive and it is difficult for a specimen of this succulent to go unnoticed. Either for that splendid blue color, or for the compact shape of the rosette, with the blunt tips or, again, for its uniqueness even within the Echeveria genus, which also boasts various species with specimens with pale blue leaves. The fact is that it is impossible not to admire the perfection of a well-cultivated (and above all never touched!) specimen of this particular species.

In this article we deepen our knowledge of Echeveria laui, we understand why it has this appearance which is certainly not unique in the world of succulents but undoubtedly peculiar, and we learn how to grow it correctly. (…)

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How to cultivate Melocactus, cacti that with age put on… the hat (“cephalium”)!

In the great botanical family of the Cactaceae the Melocactus represent a small “case apart”. In fact, these are cacti with a traditional globular shape tending towards a shorter cylinder as they age, but they have a peculiarity: over the years they “put on their hats”. In other words, the apex of these plants stops growing and a sort of “headdress” takes shape in its place, made up of a compact fluff mixed with thick and very thin thorns, usually red but sometimes white. This is the cephalium and this is where the flowers and fruits will come from. In a very bizarre way, over time it is only the cephalium that grows in height, so much so that the stems remain the same size, while the “hat” stretches towards the sky, giving these plants a truly unique appearance. The “however” of this story lies in the ease with which these cacti lose their roots and, even if they have not been affected by rot or parasites, they start to die. In other words, a  Melocactus  in full health often begins to slowly deteriorate and die, perhaps even taking two years, just because the root system has gone haywire and the plant has not been able to produce a new one.

Those who have been cultivating cacti for some time know it well:  Melocactus  are as fascinating as they are “capricious” and you have to come to terms with it. In this article we deepen the knowledge with this genus, in particular from the point of view of the needs, so as to grow robust specimens and limit losses as much as possible. (…)

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What are epiphytic cacti and how to cultivate these plants native to rainforests?

Cacti are plants that have made drought resistance their strong point. These are “xerophytic” or “xerophilous” plants, i.e. plants capable of accumulating water reserves for surviving in arid and semi-desert environments. If this is the rule, there is no lack of exception, which is represented by the epiphytic cactaceae. We are still in the Cactaceae family, but these are very particular genera, starting from their habit, which thrive in rainforests and which in sub-desert areas would not be able to survive. Epiphytic cacti are widespread on the market and in cultivation, just think of the Epiphyllum genus, but they have particular and very different needs compared to most cacti, starting from the substrates, passing to the water regime and to the exposure. And this is why it is important to know which genera of cacti belong to the “epiphytic branch”: because in cultivation we will have to ensure very different conditions for these plants compared to those we can – and must – guarantee for genera such as Ferocactus, Echinocactus, Ariocarpus, etc.

In this article, therefore, we see what the epiphytic genera are, what their needs are and how they should be cultivated (…).

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Echinopsis Haku-jo, the cactus with mysterious origins: it does not exist in nature but it’s very popular on the market

It’s a bit like that shy and reserved distant relative: everyone in the family knows he exists, but little or nothing is known about him, or his history. Those who grow cacti and succulent plants, those who are used to attending market-exhibitions of succulent plants, those who hang out in well-stocked nurseries, have certainly observed more than one specimen. Many enthusiasts have one or more specimens in their cacti collection. Yet, very little is known about this Echinopsis Haku-jo. In the many texts dedicated to cacti (not only in Italian) the plant often appears in photographs but the information is always scarce; online there are only brief synthetic cards, almost always accompanying the specimens for sale. For the rest, nothing. The history of this cultivar (a plant that does not exist in nature but obtained through hybridization and crossbreeding by man) remains shrouded in mystery.

In this article I try to summarize what I have learned in years of cultivation and what I have managed to learn about this intriguing Echinopsis cultivar, whose flowering is among the most bizarre in the whole family of cacti (…).

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