Baton Shaped Cacti


Pilosocereus chrysostele

For Tropical Cacti, click here.


Top Tips

  • Allow the soil to thoroughly dry out in between waters - if you're stuck with when to rehydrate, think of the ukhouseplants' phrase 'Drenches Between Droughts'.
  • A few hours of morning or evening sun is mandatory for all desert cacti, especially in the winter months. If you decide to bring it outdoors, offer a sheltered location until the plant is accustomed to the sunlight for the prevention of sun-scorch. Retrieve back indoors once the nighttime temperatures dip to 10°C  (50°F).
  • Supplement at monthly intervals all year round, using either a Cactus or Houseplant feed, or a general plant fertiliser.
  • Keep an eye out for Mealybugs that'll form white cottony webs in the cubbyholes.
  • Repot every two to four years during the spring, using a Cactus & Succulent Potting mix. Hydrate the plant 24hrs before the repot to avoid transplant shock.

•Water - 🔸🔸

During the spring and summer, allow all of the soil to dry out in between waters for at least a week, reducing this further in the colder months. Never worry about under-watering, as these beauties can last at forty days without water in many cases! Under-watering symptoms are uncommon; however, crispy and stunted growth are possibly due to either forgetfulness or too much sunlight. Over-watering symptoms include root and stem rot, mushy yellow leaves or a rotten stem. These issues can be corrected by removing the plant out from its pot and inspecting the rootball or soil. Are the roots brown and mushy? If so, remove the affected roots and replace the soil with a well-draining potting mix (Cactus & Succulent Compost is best). If the bottom of the stem is mushy, it's game over - the 'heart' of the plant has rotted, meaning that revival is minimal. Cacti are more likely to suffer from over-watering if they're situated in a dark location or in overly-moist soil.


•Humidity -

This is not a factor; however, a quick hose down from time to time will reduce the number of dust particles or pests on its body.


•Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

Provide a few hours of morning or evening sunlight all year around. It's recommend to locate a desert cactus next to a north-facing window, or a few metres within a south-facing one. Never situate any cacti too far from a window, as exaggerated phototropism will cause the plant to grow lopsidedly.

Locations that don't provide a splash of direct sunlight should also be avoided, due to the heightened chance of rot and basal rot. Keep reading to find out more about this problem.


•Fertilisation - 🔸🔸

Supplement once a month all year round using either a Cactus or Houseplant feed. Do not directly apply a 'ready to pour' solution into the soil without a pre-wash, as this will lead to burning roots and yellowed leaves.


Presenting the hairiest plant of them all - the Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis)
Common Issues with Cacti

Over-watering is the most common issue, with typical signs including a softened yellow stem and stunted growth. The soil must have periods of droughts to replicate the habitats of semi-deserts of both Americas, as well as limiting the chance of diseases. Also, avoid waterlogging; there's no point fulfilling the phrase 'drenches between droughts' if the base of the pot is submerged, as root rot will quickly arise. For more information about over-watering related issues, be sure to click on this link.

A pale centre and deformed growth are typical signs of too little light. Offer at least an hour of direct sunlight, especially in the winter months, to provide the vital nutrients that'll be converted into plant sugars.

Alternatively, too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will negatively affect the plant, too. A location that offers 2 - 4hrs of sunlight a day brings the optimum growth. If it's fallen short of sun-scorch, reduce the amount of sunlight and keep the plant sufficiently hydrated - while keeping in mind 'Drenches Between Droughts'.

Over-supplementing a cactus will bring nothing but grief in the likes of yellowing leaves and weak, dramatic growth. Although a monthly feed is an excellent way to promote healthy, vigorous growth, dry soil and sharp chemicals from the feeds will quickly lead to the burning of roots. The advice for this issue is to pre-moisten the soil beforehand; not only will this remove the chemical-edge found in fertilisers, but it will also adversely remove the chance of root burns.

'Corking', or a hardened brown base (pictured below) is part of the ageing process for a cactus. If those sections are hard and doesn't give way when applying pressure, everything is okay. If, however, the base is soft, action must be taken quickly. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect its root system. If it's brown and mushed over, you'll have to discard it as the plant has collapsed from the inside out. For those that still have good root systems, keep the plant under-watered and provide a bright location with a hint of direct sunlight. The recovery process will be long, and sometimes not even successful - give it a go and see if you can resciciutate it!


'Corking' is a natural gang process for many desert cacti, proving support and a barrier against hungry predators.


Origins

Although cacti have been used for medicinal and decorative purposes for over six hundred years, drawings and other findings can back from 9'000 years ago. Almost all of the 1750-known species originate from the Americas, with only the African Rhipsalis baccifera breaking this trend. The formal classification of Cacti arose in the 1730's by Carl Linnaeus, who placed the species he knew into two groups - Cactus & Pereskia. Before his book was published in 1753, he re-conjoined the two groups back into Cactus, a Greek word that was first used by Theophrastus (A Greek Philosopher, C. 300BC), describing a 'thornful' plant.

Further Facts about the Popular Genera

  • Neoraimondia (Neocardenasia) - A genus of large cacti that originate from Peru, named in honour of Italian explorer, Antonio Raimondi in the 19th century.
  • Espostoa - A Peruvian genus of edible-fruiting cacti that was first classified in the late 19th century, in honour of Botanist Nicolas E. Esposto. They can reach heights of 5m, forming cephalic white hairs along the areoles - (similarly to the Old Man's Cactus pictured above).
  • Cereus - Can be translated to 'wax' in Latin, referring to the shiny nature of most species. They originate mostly from eastern South America and can reach heights of 10m.
  • Echinocereus - Similarly to the genus above, Echinocacti can reach heights of 10m and naturally occur in Mexico. 'Echino' can be translated from Latin meaning 'Hedgehog', which is in reference to the spiny nature of their appearance.
  • Pilosocereus - Many of the species that originally were placed in this genus had hair like appearances, similarly to Echinocereus and Espostoa. This is where the epithet 'Piloso' (translating to 'hairy' in Latin) first came about. Unfortunately in the last century, most of the species have been reclassified despite the genus' name staying the same. They can reach up to 6m in height when grown in their natural habitat of South America.


Temperature

10° - 28°C   (50° - 82°F)
H1c - can be grown outdoors in the spring and summer in a sheltered location once the nighttime tempreetres are above 10°C. Always perform a pest-check before re-introducing back into the home to avoid an infestation with other plants - most common to look out for are Mealybugs and Vine Weevils.

Reducing this temperate to around 12°C (54°F) during the autumn and winter months will not only help its its dormancy period, but it'll also increase the chance of a bloom in the spring or summer.


Spread

Fast growth rate - Saguaro Cactus, Pachypodium, (Saguaro gigantea), Euphorbia & Bilberry Cactus.

Slowest growth rate - Mammarillia, Aztekium & Ferrocactus.

Pachypodium is one of the quickest growing genera currently on the market.


Pruning

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases; remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant.

In some cases, you can even graft epiphytic (tropical) cacti into terrestrial desert species. Have a look at the strange image below to be amazed!

Copyright: Pinterest


Propagation

Via seed or offset division via 'pups' or leaf cuttings. To learn about the essentials with sowing seeds, be sure to click on this link - Seed Propagation Tips.

An Euphorbia trigona lateral offshoot that can be propagated into its own plant.
Lateral offshoots (Pup) Division - Some species, like Euphorbia, Opuntia, Gymnocalycium, will produce lateral growths that can be propagated in the spring, once they surpass 7cm in length. Wear some protective gloves and place your hand in between the two. While placing your hand closely to the nodal junction, gently push the pup downwards, while supporting the mother plant - you should hear a snap. Cautiously separate both the mother plant and pup's roots systems, keeping great empathise in keeping the roots intact and damage-free. Place the new plantlet a third depth in a well-draining potting mix, much similar to the original soil, and maintain the same care routines. Houseplant compost is acceptable, or you can make your own using multipurpose compost with grit or perlite. Don't worry if the 'pup' doesn't have any roots, these will form later down the line. Make sure not to use a pot that is too big as a ratio of roots-soil that leans towards the latter will cause root rot and eventually plant death. Keep the soil dry and out of direct sunlight for the first two months. When the pup is rooted, increase the light intensity and frequency of waters.


Repotting

Repot every two to four years using grit or sand-based compost in the spring months - Cactus Soil or a general purpose potting mix with some added grit and sand are best. For matured specimens, introduce more grit to promote a stronger root ball as well as the reduction of potential root rot; click on this link for more information on how to perform the perfect transplant.


Diseases & Pests

Common diseases with cacti are root, crown or heart rot, sun-scald, soft rot, scabs, nematodes, leaf-spot disease and powdery mildew. Keep an eye out for vine weevils (uncommon indoors), spider mite & mealybugs. For more info on how to address any of these issues, hit this link.  Identifying Common Houseplant Pests & Diseases


Toxicity

Most varieties are classified as poisonous. If parts of the plants are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.


Retail Locations

Most garden centres and florists & Online Stores.

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