Growing Echinopsis subdenudata – the Domino or Easter Lily Cactus

echinopsis dominos variegated

Written ByJen Greene

Posted: May 22, 2024

This cactus is one of the more common species available, often seen at your local big box store or even just sitting in the plant area of a regular grocery store. They’re small, easy to grow, and produce huge, beautiful white flowers every spring. 

They’re not just small when they’re sold in pots, but stay fairly small even as mature cacti. Llifle notes that they can get up to 30 cm high in cultivation – that’s only 11 inches tall! Because they stay so small, they make ideal candidates for windowsill cultivation, and are fantastic as all-around beginner-friendly cacti. 

echinopsis domino

A typical Echinopsis subdenudata, one that I planted in-ground a few years back. 

In Habitat

These adaptable little cacti come from South America, particularly Bolivia and maybe into Paraguay. They’re incredibly adaptable, being found in multiple biomes: grasslands, shrubland, even forests. This adaptability is what makes them so well suited to container culture and beginner mistakes: as long as they have good drainage (and sometimes, even if they don’t), they’ll carry on. 

Domino cactus vs. Echinopsis hybrids?

These are very easy to mistake for an Echinopsis hybrid, particularly the ones that produce the huge, beautiful flowers every spring. At small sizes, you’d absolutely be forgiven for mixing them up. As with many species, seedlings of Echinopsis subdenudata often have more spines than their more mature versions. 

Notably, these cacti have fuzzy areoles and very minute, almost non-existent spines. When grown on a windowsill or in partial shade, they seem to produce almost no spines at all. 

An Easter Lily or Domino cactus will reliably produce large white flowers with slender, pencil-thin necks that connect to a slightly swollen base where the seeds will develop. They seem to rarely clump, and in the years I’ve been buying and selling them wholesale, I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen a Domino cactus produce pups out of the hundreds I’ve personally sold or the thousands I’ve seen at nurseries. 

By comparison, Echinopsis hybrids selected for flower color clump almost obsessively, as soon as they possibly can. Their spines vary immensely, depending on the cultivar and crosses, and they will get quite large given the space and conditions needed to thrive. 

Before I dive into care for the little Domino cactus, I’ll show you a handful of side-by-side comparisons of a Domino vs hybrids to help you be confident in what you’re selecting. 


echinopsis subdenudata

Echinopsis Hybrid


Two close examples of a regular Domino and a hybrid – it’s easy to see how they might be mixed up!

One way to know that the plant at the right is a hybrid and not a domino is the number of spines. Echinopsis subdenudata has between 8 and 12 ribs, fluffy areoles, and spines so small they are often hidden by the fuzzy areoles. I also find them to be “plumper” than most of the colored bloom Echinopsis hybrids, more strongly resembling a pumpkin. 

The cactus at right is one of the pups from my noble and enormous Echinopsis “LA”. It has more ribs, and the spines are visible even in the fuzzy areoles, even though the spines are small. It’s a darker, flatter green, and the ribs are very deep and pronounced. This cactus will get considerably larger, and already is in these two pictures – the cactus at left is in a 3.5″ pot, and the one at right is in a 6″ pot. 


echinopsis with pups

Echinopsis Hybrid

echinopsis hybrid

Above you’ll see one of the few pupping Domino cacti I’ve ever seen, which was notable enough I took a photo! More specifically, look closely at the pups and then at the main plant body. The main cactus stem has almost no spines, and the characteristic pumpkin-y appearance. The pups have spines, but they’re flat, splayed, and I’d bet you $20 they lose the spines as they get larger. 

At right is a typical Echinopsis hybrid – this one is “Rainbow Bursts”, a particular favorite clone of mine. The spines here should be much more obvious compared to the first pair, and even if grown in the shade, this cactus would be far more spiny than the one at left. This hybrid does have fewer ribs than the one above (12, on my count), but the intense spines, depth of the ribs, and of course seeing the flower are all dead giveaways. This particular hybrid produces iridescent fuschia blooms that look almost neon when you see them in person. 


echinopsis domino bloom

Echinopsis Hybrid

pink echinopsis

I’ll wrap the side by side with flowers: if the body appearance isn’t enough to give away an Echinopsis subdenudata vs. one of the many, many hybrids out there, the flowers should do the trick. 

The Easter Lily cactus (E. subdenudata) produces a white flower, with no elements of pink. They may have a bit of reddish orange in the outermost petals, especially if grown in very bright sun, but the flower itself is white through-and-through. 

Meanwhile, part of what makes the Echinopsis hybrids attractive is the absolute rainbow of colors they produce. When the flowers are very pale they can be hard to tell apart, but I’ve yet to see a hybrid that produces pure white flowers. Even in the pale hybrids, like the one pictured above, a stripe of pink will be visible. The plant above is not the same as my Echinopsis LA, but seems to be a close cousin. The LA has a more consistent pink through the flower, where this one tends to just be a stripe. 

Growing Echinopsis subdenudata

Let’s talk about how to grow these little cacti, now that you should hopefully be able to identify one at the shop. 

I do include affiliate links here, which help pay for my website servers so I can keep showing you photos like the ones above! Please consider using them if my content is helpful for you. 


As ever, let’s start with the dirt you use. If you’ve read any of my previous posts about cacti, these soil ingredients are going to be extremely familiar. Unlike some of my harder to grow species, though, these guys don’t need it quite so inorganic. 

If you’re growing these indoors, on a windowsill, or even on a patio, using solely cactus soil out of the bag is going to give you trouble. They need more drainage, and the mild, never-changing weather of being indoors is a recipe for rot. These are super forgiving cacti, but even they have limits. 

A crucial element, as with all cacti, is drainage. They need for their roots to rapidly dry out and have aeration to expand into the soil of the pot. If you use pure soil, even if it’s labeled as being for cacti, there’s a solid chance it’s going to get compacted (if it stays too dry for too long, too often) or it’ll stay too wet, especially at the base, and rot. 

Don’t put a layer of pebbles at the bottom of your pot, and don’t pot these in a pot with no drainage hole at the bottom. The water needs to be able to run out, and without that, the cactus will just die slowly. Pebbles at the bottom of the pot doesn’t help with drainage either – all that does is decrease the depth of your pot. If that’s your goal, cool I guess? Get a shorter pot? But as far as drainage goes, all the pebbles do is create a swampy, nasty mess of moisture that is more likely to rot the roots. 

echinopsis subdenudata

My two potted Echinopsis subdenudata in the greenhouse, after being repotted to 6″ pots in February 2023. They’re both variegated, although one more obviously so than the other. I found them randomly when picking out cacti at a wholesaler back in 2020.

easter lily cactus variegated

Potted up in December, 2020 – still one of my favorite finds when combing through wholesale lots of plants 

Watering your Echinopsis subdenudata

In summer, these are super forgiving of plentiful water, especially if you have them in a well draining mix as I’ve described above. 

I water mine every week during the hottest part of summer, and did so even before my greenhouse was built. However…I keep mine outside! 

If you’re growing your little Domino cactus indoors on a windowsill, you shouldn’t need to water nearly so often. Chances are, once a month will be plenty for an indoor cactus. Watch the plant for signs it’s happy and consuming water/wants more: leave it dry enough to see it start to wrinkle, or shrivel a bit. 

Fertilizer for your Domino Cactus

These lil guys don’t need much! The first year you pot them up, you don’t even need to worry about fertilizing at all, especially if you’re growing indoors. The fresh soil is plenty of food. 

The following years, a balanced fertilizer at half strength every other watering is plenty

If you’re growing yours outdoors in the warmer months, you may need to water more often. Nice hot days, lots of sun, and no rain? In a pot that has good drainage, you can water every week! Lots of clouds, natural storms, high humidity? Probably can water less often. 

echinopsis subdenudata

Above are my Echinopsis subdenudata not long after I moved them into the greenhouse, showing signs of overwatering. See how the variegated plant at the bottom is pale green, almost yellow, even on the parts that should be green? 

I was keeping these on the floor of the greenhouse, shaded but still getting the heat. Being shaded (lighting is next, I promise) combined with the heat and then being watered more than they really wanted began to lead to stress responses. Etiolation symptoms include paler green coloration, and energy put into stretching – the variegated plant pictured was showing the first signs of not being quite right. Too much water, not enough sun, and viola: stressed, unhappy cactus. 

If your Echinopsis subdenudata is getting a paler green, almost yellow-hued, that’s a strong sign of stress. Most often, it’s a sign of too much “ingredients to grow” and not enough “conditions to grow”; meaning too much water or fertilizer, and not enough light and/or heat. When a cactus has too much food and not enough need to use it, they tend to get pale and overgrown. 

Luckily, I caught this early, and moved the cactus around. It was much happier in later months! 

Lighting for your Domino Cactus

The hardest part of growing these, especially indoors and in more northern climates, will always be the lighting.

While a small, forgiving species, they do still need incredibly bright light to grow properly. The top of the cactus should be a tight fold, slightly indented, looking strongly like someone pinched all the ribs together with no space or gaps. 

If your cactus is protuding up, instead of having the center being slightly pressed downward, it is screaming for help (or death). 

On the other hand, if the cactus is blushing red tones, like the one pictured at right, it’s getting a shade too much sun. That can be acceptable or even preferred; it does set off the mild variegation of the plant pictured very nicely. On the other hand, a more strongly variegated cactus would be very prone to sunburn if exposed to this much light. 

echinopsis subdenudata

My slightly variegated Echinopsis subdenudata when potted up. At this time (early 2021), I thought it might also be cresting based on the growth. It wasn’t; it was just very unhappy about the light exposure. 

Indoors in a windowsill, you might be able to squeak by without supplemental lighting if you get strong southern light and the skyline of the window isn’t shaded by buildings or trees.

Is the area you live often in clouds, or gets regular rain or cloudy weather during the time of day your windows would normally get direct sun? You probably need supplemental lighting. These need at least 500 footcandles for 8 to 10 hours a day, preferably more like 800-1000. Alternatively, 2 to 6 hours of very bright light and full shade the rest of the day (not inside-of-the-house-shade, but shaded-patio shade) can work well. That translates to about 5,000 footcandles for a few hours, then about 300 to 400 footcandles the rest of the day. 

How do you know how much light your plants are getting? Use a light meter – especially if you’re trying to elevate your growing game, it’s a critical piece of equipment. 

echinopsis dominos

Despite my best efforts, these two Echinopsis subdenudata never seem to bloom at the same time, so I can never get seeds from them. Crossing two variegated plants together (even if one is only slightly variegated) should be my best bet at producing more! 

When I’m writing this post, in May, is an ideal time for many of my Northern climate friends to begin migrating their plants outdoors. Being in San Diego, I move any nursery or shade-grown plants from my greenhouse/shaded exposures to sunnier placements after the last chance of frost, usually mid to late February. 

Why time it this way?  

Because early in spring, when nights are longer but warming up, and days tend to be mild and have cloud cover at least some of the time, is an ideal time to move a tender cactus out to more sunlight. If you’re further north and your cacti have wintered indoors, you’ll want to move them out when days are short and the light is less intense than summer time extremes. 

You’ll need to watch for freak snow storms or cold drops, but early to mid spring is the best time to move your cacti outdoors for their warm season growing placements. 

Enjoy your Easter Lily Cactus!

Whether you call your little cactus a Domino Cactus, an Easter Lily Cactus, or just the latin Echinopsis subdenudata, these are charming little cacti that are ideal for those who want something unassuming for the windowsill…and a dazzling little show in spring when it’s happy.

The largest pot you’ll need is something 6″ in diameter, at most, and they’ll survive just about any mistake you make. 

Keep them well lit, toss them outside if the weather permits it, and keep them from freezing in winter. Tah dah, cactus on easy mode! 

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