This little species of cactus is a cute, purple little thing that I have seen listed under a variety of scientific names. While the name Neochilenia jussieui is what I purchased my plants under and will typically list them as on my Etsy, but they may appear as:
- Neoporteria jussieui
- Echinocactus jussieui
- Hildmannia jussieui
- Nichelia jussieui
- and what Llifle asserts is their accepted scientific name: Eriosyce curvispina
Which one is correct is something I’ll leave to the experienced cactus botanists out there, but in general, if you bought a cactus labeled with any of the names above, we’re all talking about the same species.
Young Neochilenia jussieui, December 2019
Described as Eriosyce curvispina, the species is widespread and quite variable. If you’ve got one that’s been labeled as Neochilenia jussieui, it’s safe to assume you have a type that is from a specific variety and will have consistent characteristics.
They tend to be solitary, although old plants may eventually form small clumps.
Roots are fibrous and expand quite a bit under the soil. Occasionally, established plants may form a short napiform root.
Typically grows as a globe, but cultivated specimens often gain some heigh and elongate.
Napiform: an adjective meaning “turnip shaped”. Specifically, large and round at the top, tapering down to a point below.
Body has 14 – 24 ribs, with noticeable notches for the spines and chin-like protusions around. The species type has a grayish green body, but the jussieui type described here is more commonly a dark green, blushing to deep purple when exposed to adequate light.
Spines are long, stiff, gray-brown, with younger spines being a dark reddish brown, almost black color.
Flowers for the species are described as having a yellow base and pink striped inner petals, but jussieui seem to have flowers that are a pale pink to deep pink in color through and through. None of the jussieui I have had either for sale or as collection plants have bloomed with a yellow hue to their flowers; they are varying degrees of pale to dark pink.
Fruits with a dark reddish fruit that is marble shaped or slightly elongated and splits/opens at the base.
Growing your jussieui
Whether it’s an Eriosyce or a Neoporteria or a Neochilenia, the care for these is pleasantly easy and straightforward.
The most challenging aspect for growing this cactus is likely to be keeping yourself from pampering it too much. They’re adapted to a highly desert environment and are found in quite dry, poor soils, so they (as with many cacti) are prone to rot if overwatered.
They are very tolerant of high heat, particularly if watered regularly (not necessarily often) during hot summer months.
They should be kept above 40F at night during winter, but can tolerate a light freeze. Mine have been hailed on and experienced several nights of high 20 to low 30F air temperatures without issue.
My oldest jussieui, October 2021
Potting and Soil
If growing as a single plant, try to avoid overpotting these significantly. They are a small species that stay small, and while they’ll put out a considerable amount of fibrous roots, they don’t need a large amount of space for them. Too much space for their roots will result in a stretched, taller cactus that isn’t exactly true to the location type (as is the case with my oldest jussieui specimen).
Soil should be extremely well draining and dry rapidly after being watered. Even if using a cactus and succulent specific soil mix, adding in at least 25% additional pumice is highly recommended. I use about 50% pumice to 50% cactus soil, then mix in some decomposed granite and grit. This ensures the soil drains quickly and has a variety of components within it to ensure ample space for roots to develop.
Looks similar, but this is a different plant than the Neochilenia jussieui pictured at the top of this post. This photo is from March 2020 of a second specimen I ended up keeping.
I did not repot it until mid 2021, so it remained in the pot I bought it in for over a year.
Same cactus as left, just in January 2021. It was kept in a more shaded exposure and watered sparingly to try and keep a more compact shape. The shaded placement ended up letting it turn green.
With minimal water but also reduced sun stress, the cactus was set up well to produce a prolific amount of flowers later in the year.
Watering your jussieui
When it’s hot and sunny out, these cacti are extremely forgiving of just about any watering frequency. When combined with extremely well draining soil, at the height of summer you’d have a hard time over watering these.
However, there’s caveats: this is only true if your daytime highs are routinely in the 90s or above, it’s blazing sunshine all day (no clouds), humidity is low (no rain), and you have the well draining soil described above.
Most of the time, you should avoid watering these willy-nilly. Let them dry completely before watering again, even waiting a day or two longer than you might be comfortable with to ensure they are dry from top to bottom in their pot. In winter, they should be kept entirely dry, particularly if temperatures will be below 50F at night and/or they’re in an enclosed space, such as your home or a greenhouse.
The older your jussieui gets, the more sensitive it becomes to potentially being over watered. When in doubt, wait until you see your cactus pruning or wrinkling slightly before you provide more water.
Once these cacti are about 3 to 4″ across, they’re generally large enough to bloom. You shouldn’t need to do anything extra to get the big, beautiful pink flowers to appear unless you’re in an area that’s exceptionally cloudy and dark year round. The biggest trigger for blooms seems to be the longest days of summer combined with heat; my plants bloom the most prolifically from mid June until the end of July in a good year, with several rounds of numerous flowers.
My timing this year (2021) was excellent, and the only eriosyce I had that was blooming were my jussieui, so I have a wealth of pure seed ready to sow for next year!
All in all, this is a small, rewarding species that deserves a spot on your bench. Easy to grow, small as adults, they’re uncommon to see in collections and I’m not sure why. I can’t wait to see the specimens people are growing now as they mature into 10 and 20 year old plants!
My smaller jussieui planted in its show pot:
A Neochilenea huascensis at one of my favorite nurseries: