Plant which well exemplifies the main characteristics of the ferocactus, much appreciated by the collectors; it has a globular stem, which, with the years, can reach the 30-35 cm of diameter; the colour is medium green, and the ribs are very deep; on the crest of each rib there are many areolas with a base formed by a thin down; each areola has some thin spines, at the centre of which appear 4-6 flattened spines, and a curved central spine, usually of red or brown colour.
The spines of the ferocactus latispinus are very sharp and sharp, and can cause lacerations with great ease if not handled with care. The flowers bloom in spring or early summer, and are red or bright yellow in colour; typically, young specimens also bloom if properly grown. This species is widespread in nature in Mexico.
- Cactaceous plants spread in nature in Mexico and in the southern part of the United States, the ferocactus are plants that over the years can reach even conspicuous dimensions, up to 70-80 cm high, an…
Another Mexican species, the name suggests the typical colour of the stem, which is grey-blue, there are also mutants with yellow or white marbled stems; this ferocactus has a roundish shape, and can reach the 45-55 cm of diameter, and it can happen that it tillers, forming wide colonies. The ribs are quite evident, and the areoles have some long, pointed, pale yellow, thorns.
The flowers bloom in spring, and are lemon yellow in colour, and give origin to small pale fruits, cream or yellowish. Also this species has a very slow development, but fortunately the ferocactus glaucescens begins to bloom even at a young age, and therefore we can easily enjoy the flowers even with very young and small specimens.
Cactaceous native to Mexico and Texas; it has a roundish stem, with a very slow development, which can reach the 35-45 cm of diameter, and rarely tiller; the ribs are deep and evident, and carry well defined areoles, with inside them about ten long pale thorns, cream coloured, elongated; at the centre of the areola there are 3-4 very long thorns, often folded, and, at times, a single big hooked thorn.
The flowers bloom in spring, are large, yellow or pink in colour, and give origin to fairly large, juicy, edible fruits. Some authors classify the ferocactus hamatacanthus as a separate genus, called hamatacanthus.
Also called ferocactus stainesii, it is a species diffused in Mexico, it has dark green stem, which often becomes columnar, even in fairly “young” specimens, and which tends to tiller. LE areolas are well visible along the ribs, and carry some long spines, in some specimens so thin as to be reduced to long white hairs; at the center of the ribs the spines thicken and become bright red, strongly contrasting on the dark epidermis of the cactus.
The flowers bloom in late spring, or in summer, and are red or bright yellow in colour; the fruits are yellow or red, little fleshy. Flowering takes place only in decidedly large specimens, which are several years old, and therefore it is often difficult for a common European collector to see.
Plant of ferocactus native to central Mexico; contrary to what happens for most of the other species of the genus, the ferocactus robustus tend to till with great facility, and to develop ample colonies, formed also by specimens born from seed; each single plant never reaches big dimensions, keeping below the 15 cm of diameter, but in the origin zones, the colonies of ferocactus robustus may reach even the 4-5 metres of diameter.
The ribs are well visible, and the body of the plant is dark green; the areoles are separated from each other, and carry some long thorns, pale or reddish, with thin white hairs. The flowers bloom in spring or summer and are yellow in colour.
In the wild, these cacti live in desert locations, but in areas where they can enjoy sporadic rains; in pots, they are fairly easy to cultivate, also thanks to the fact that they take several years before assuming dimensions difficult to manage, and their small rooting apparatus does not force us to purchase excessively spacious containers.
The ferocactus are cultivated in rather small pots, often in bowls, where it seems they tend to develop better; the soil must be very well drained, so that when we water they do not form water stagnations; usually we utilize some universal mould, mixed with an inconsistent material, such as pozzolana, gravel, lapillus, pumice stone: the result must be a stony soil and not much inclined to retain the humidity.
Watering will be only sporadic, in spring and summer, from April-May, until September; when we water a succulent plant, we must remember, however, to wet the soil well, and to water again only when the substratum is well dry. In June, watering will be necessary every two or three days, while in the spring and autumn months, the rains will provide enough water, without the need for our intervention, except in case of particular periods of drought.
Let’s place the pots in the sun, all year round, so that the direct sunlight will hit the plants for at least 4-5 hours every day. When the cool comes, in autumn, let the soil dry out, and place the pots so that they do not receive rainwater. In winter the soil should remain completely dry.
These plants can withstand short frosts of slight magnitude, but only if they are dry; therefore during the cold months we should move our ferocactus to an area sheltered from the rains, and with a cold climate, but without excessive frosts; for example, a cold greenhouse facing east or south might be the best choice. During the months of vegetative development, between April and September, every 20 days we supply specific fertilizer for succulent plants, poor in nitrogen.
Every 3-4 years let’s remember to repot the plants, being careful not to ruin the characteristic thorns.
Pests and diseases
The method of cultivation of succulent plants is the one which most favours the development of the parasites typical of these plants, first of all the cochineal: this insect loves the dry climates and without ventilation, and therefore is the sworn enemy of those who own a cold greenhouse, where the plants remain without watering and ventilation even for months.
The best product against cochineal is the white oil, to be used as a prevention, at the end of winter, but also as a real insecticide, against the insects already present. However, let’s avoid using white oil in the warm months. If we have only one small ferocactus, we can also kill cochineals by simply removing them.
Another problem that harasses ferocactus growers is due to rottenness, which often tends to develop in case of excessive watering, or especially when the soil of the pot tends to create waterlogging. To avoid rottenness, let’s water only when the soil is dry, and let’s make sure to wet it well, avoiding however to leave the saucer full; if we think it necessary, we can water the pots by immersion, leaving them to drain well before repositioning them.
Often the ferocactus tend with the years to lignify at the base, becoming brown or reddish in the first centimetres out of the ground, this characteristic unfortunately often masks the development of fungi and bacterial diseases, which begin to notice only when their spread is wide along the stem of the plant. This type of disease is favoured by excessive watering, or by strong water changes, due to excessively sporadic watering, or carried out in periods with an excessively cool climate.
There is no cure for this type of parasites, which tend to develop along the stem, but also in the pulp of the plant; the only way we have to save a plant which shows showy discoloured or dark spots along the stem, is to remove all the sick part. This often involves having to cut the apical part of the cactus, dust it with a powdered fungicide, let it dry for a day, and then place it on fresh soil, hoping it will root.
Most ferocactus tend not to produce basal suckers, therefore for propagating them the only way consists in sowing; also this operation is not always feasible, as some species bloom only when they have reached significant dimensions; therefore, we shall have to get the seeds in the specialized shops, considering also the fact that the seeds of some species can be expensive, as many ferocactus are species at risk of extinction in the origin zones.
In the wild, the ferocactus produce the flowers in rather humid periods, and the seeds simply fall down at the base of the plants, which provide a little shade; only after months of desert climate, the seeds germinate; therefore, we shall have to take into account this fact when we sow a ferocactus at home.
The germination will be very slow, and can be accelerated by the scarification process, that is, by actions which reduce the cuticle which covers the seeds, and which renders them impermeable.
The scarification can be done by slightly scartavetranando the seeds, but being those of ferocactus very small, the process is definitely complicated to practice, more often we proceed simply by immersing the seeds for a few hours in warm water, or for very short periods of time in diluted sulfuric acid (a few seconds); the seeds are then rinsed, dusted with a broad-spectrum fungicide, and placed on some humid universal mould, which is to be kept in a luminous, cool and humid place, for some weeks, till when they will begin to germinate.
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