Sunday, March 1, 2020

Echinocereus cactus bowl looking better than new after renovation

Few things make you realize how fast time goes by than the growth of plants. Not that we're always aware of it. Growth is gradual, and often we don't notice how much bigger a plant has gotten until the scales fall off our eyes and we go, whoa, how come I didn't notice that before?

Take a look at the 22-inch terracotta bowl below. I'm happy with everything in it except for one thing. And that one thing has been bothering me a great deal since the OCD region of my brain has latched on to it: the agave clump you see on the right. It's Agave toumeyana var. bella, a dwarf variety found in a few mountainous locations in south-central Arizona. 

With its white markings and curling leaf threads, it's a nice-looking plant. However, as you can see, it's taken over a good chunk of real estate in the bowl already and is sending out pups on ever longer rhizomes. Time to intervene.


Intervention in this case meant full extraction. With the help of my trusty hori-hori knife I pried and cut out a couple of the offsets; the others were easier to dislodge and lift out. In total, I ended up with 7 separate plants. The original mother plant must have been among them, but there were several of the same (adult) size so I wasn't able to identify it. I potted them individually and will grow them on until I find a new use for them.

Agave toumeyana var. bella plants after extraction

The other plants in the terracotta bowl were three varieties of Echinocereus, a genus of smallish cylindrical cacti native to the southwestern US and Mexico. Depending on the species, they go by the common name “hedgehog cactus” or “claret cup.” 

I filled the space left by the agave clump with two additional varieties of Echinocereus, turning the bowl into an all-Echinocereus collection. This is what it looks like after the renovation:





The lighter green clump on the left in the photo above (bought as Echinocereus octocanthus [Texas] from Desert Survivors Native Plants Nursery in Tucson, but now considered synonymous with Echinocereus triglochidiatus) is already pushing flowers. It will be exciting to see the entire bowl light up with shades of red and purple.

Here's what the bowl looked like in September 2013 after I had originally put it together (there was even a blog post to go with it):


And a photo of the bowl in bloom the following spring:


Echinocereus flowers are not only brilliant and plentiful, they also last significantly longer than most other cactus flowers—as long as 5 or 6 days.

Here are the Echinocereus varieties currently in the bowl:

The original three:
  • Echinocereus triglochidiatus 'White Sands', the tallest claret cup cultivar, found in White Sands National Park in New Mexico
  • Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis f. inermis, a mouthful, but basically the spineless form of the Mojave variety of the claret cup
  • Echinocereus triglochidiatus, the regular claret cup cactus
And the two newcomers:
  • Echinocereus octocanthus (possibly a Texas form of Echinocereus triglochidiatus but it looks completely different than my other triglochidiatus)
  • Echinocereus stramineus, the strawberry hedgehog cactus
I'll post an update in April when hopefully many, if not most, of these cactus will be in bloom.


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7 comments:

  1. The update looks great. Must have been a challenge planting the new cacti as they are well armed. Should be beautiful when they bloom.

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    1. Leather welding gloves like these really help. You wouldn't want to perform brain surgery wearing them, but for spiky plants, they're great.

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  2. I'm impressed that you were able to get the agave out (even in pieces) without breaking the container. I expect the all Echinocereus bowl will be a stunner in bloom.

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    1. The first couple of agave offsets were the hardest to get out. But in the end I managed to extract them all with roots attached, i.e. they should all live and thrive.

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  3. What is your method of handling the spiky plants? I love these plants, but avoid them do to not knowing how to plant or transplant them without skewering myself.

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    Replies
    1. I wear heavy welding gloves like these. They allow me to handle even the spinies cactus without injuring myself.

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  4. Wow those cactus flowers are gorgeous. That bowl will be stunning when the flowers appear. Helpful tip about the long-lasting-ness of Echinocereus flowers, too.

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