I originally picked these up intending purely to resell all of them, but was so enchanted by the flowers when they bloomed before I could list them that I ended up keeping two. They’re attractive even without the blooms, and a small enough size that they’re easy to keep and maintain in containers.
Quick Care Guide
Frost Hardiness: very cold-hardy; can tolerate lows to 0F and some clones can tolerate even colder
Watering: Water when dry; keep dry for cold periods. More water appreciated in summer
Lighting: Keep in bright light; nearly full sun. Some shade during the hottest part of summer days is appreciated.
Soil: Porous, well-draining is ideal. Mine have done well with 50% pumice, 50% cactus soil
Blooming: Spring, consistently the same time every year. Mine bloom in April without fail.
April 2021 – albispina form
These little cacti are native to the north Mexican desert of Coahuila and Tamaulipas, ranging up into south and central US in the states Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. This range is part of why they are one of the more cold-hardy species; the clones from more northern regions are often far hardier than their southern friends.
They’re typically located in grasslands, mesquite woodlands, and similarly dry shrubby climates. As with other echinocereus species, while small, they’re sheltered by other shrubs, and as they get larger they are more tolerant of intense sunlight. They share growth habit and some of their appearance with their cousin, Echinocereus rigidissimus, a similarly small and large-blooming cactus that’s further west in distribution.
Note that the further cactus is beginning to grow arms!
Growing Echinocereus reichenbachii
Small, slow growing, hardy, and extremely easy: it’s hard to find something not to like about these cacti.
Mine grew very well for some time in a regular plastic 4″ pot, although they were seedlings from Gnosis Nursery and small enough to not need to be repotted. When I would dust off roots to prepare them for shipping, however, they definitely filled up the entire pot.
With that in mind, I’d keep them slightly under-potted while young they don’t spend too much time expanding their roots rather than growing the body of the plant. The plants shown in my 2021 photos would have likely been fine in a 2″ pot, rather than the 4″ pots, although I would have needed to repot them earlier.
While in the pots from the nursery, they were in the custom blend that Dean (the owner) likes to use. It’s nice, grainy, and very porous, with a mix of what looks like decomposed granite, pumice, coconut husk, and soil enriching ingredients. I know his custom blend sold at the shop includes something like 10 ingredients, and I can only assume he pots his own plants in the same mix!
At home, I am not as blessed with a ready supply of a custom soil blend, and use a simple mix of pumice and cactus mix. My main goal with adding more pumice to a cactus mix is to increase drainage and allow the soil to dry faster. If you’re in a more humid climate, or know you’re prone to overwatering (like me), then adding pumice helps.
I use 50% pumice, 50% soil, compared to a higher pumice ratio for my astrophytum. The blooms on these are so huge and beautiful, I like a bit more soil as a base for fertilizer to take.
Speaking of fertilizer… these are on the same routine as my entire greenhouse: a balanced 1:1:1 fertilizer at half strength. I use it every time I water in spring, then slowly decrease as the hot season continues. By fall, I’ll only fertilize every 3rd or 4th time I water, and the plants should be completely dry by winter.
I find these to be very forgiving of both extremes of watering routines, either overwatering or underwatering, during the warmth of summer growing months.
These should be kept completely dry during winter months, especially if there’s a risk of temperatures being below freezing. A light splash on warmer days can be appreciated, and help keep roots from dessicating too much.
As spring approaches, warmer nights and warm days with plentiful sun are the signal to start watering. As long as the soil dries completely before you water again, they can take quite a bit if the weather is warm. Through summer, they may even appreciate water every few days if they are drying rapidly.
I have noticed that these, being softer-bodied in stem, show distinct wrinkling or shrinking when they are particularly thirsty. With the spines being pretty mild, you can gently squeeze them and feel them give when they could use a thorough soaking.
Summer is a great time to water regularly and deeply, and as night time temperatures start dipping below 60, you can scale back on frequency. My typical routine is at least weekly during the peak heat of summer months (July/August and occasionally September), every two weeks, then every three, as autumn comes on (mid to late September through to November). No water at all, except to moisten the soil a bit if you get a warm day.
And then – the fun part! As days start to get longer and nights warm up, around February and March, you’ll see the cactus waking up. Water when the days are nice and sunny, no more than once a week, typically every 2 or 3 weeks, and start to include fertilizer after the first couple times you water. March, April, May, and June are months where frequency of water is determined heavily by your local weather. Lots of sunshine and heat? Water more. Clouds and mild days? Water less.
These cacti bloom exclusively in spring, and younger plants often only bloom one round of enormous, hot-pink flowers.
As the cacti get older, you can encourage more blooms and multiple rounds of them with the addition of fertilizer to your watering routine. Happy, well-fed cacti will bloom much more and more often than harder grown equivalents.
Some specimens have a pale center to their flowers, but none of mine do. The huge, brilliant pink flowers draw the eye and are sure to elicit oohs and ahhs from any visitors to your garden.
They are also very easy to pollinate; using a small paintbrush, dust along the yellow stamens of the male parts, and then run the brush along the green stigma of the female part.
Growing from Seed
These are delightfully easy to get seeds from, with fruits taking about a month to ripen and producing dozens of seeds within. If harvesting from the fruit, I like to smear the flesh of the fruit on a paper towel to let it dry, then dust the seeds into an envelope or onto a pot to germinate.
I prepare the soil and grow these almost identically to the way I grow my Astrophytum seeds, and tried my first batch in a large tray. They did best with a couple weeks of protection under the humidity cover (plastic wrap), and then I left them without the cover and simply watered them regularly through summer.
After a year, most are big enough to pot up, and I potted them up in March – I think I have another year before they’ll be of a size to sell, but they’re growing rapidly. As seedlings, you may want to offer fertilizer more often to encourage faster growth, but they should still dry out between waterings.
Do you have any E. reichenbachii in your collection? Share your photos with me on Instagram! @TrexPlants