Easy Growing and Popular

Echinocereus is a genus of relatively small, cylinder-shaped cacti that thrive in bright sun and rocky areas. 

They produce large, showy blooms that can be a rainbow of colors, and the fruit are edible (although I’m not sure they’d taste terribly good). 

One of their common names is “hedgehog cacti”, which is shared with a couple other genera but is most often used to refer to the Echinocereus rigidissimus cactus.

Location in the wild

Native to the southern region of North America, namely the southern United States and much of Mexico.

Some of the most cold-hardy cactus species available to US growers, many species can tolerate temperatures down to freezing or even below. 

Conditions in situ

Most often found in very sunny exposures and rocky areas. They thrive in areas with high summer temperatures and sunshine, and are quite cold tolerant if dry. Some species are hardy to well below -0F, but must be dry to survive. 


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Echinocereus rigidissimius var. rubrispinus

Echinocereus rigidissimus var rubispinus

Found in the dry deserts of the American Southwest, most commonly Arizona and into the Sonoran Desert of Mexico. Thrives in rocky soils and bright sun, although typically grows somewhat sheltered from the hottest sun of midday.

Highs in habitat can be well over 100F, and lows in winter often dip into the 20s. In winter, these do best kept almost entirely dry. Coincidentally, a nice cold and dry winter encourages plentiful blooming.

Rubispinus has dusty-red spines in appropriate light, but in lower light exposures, may be confused for the nominate form. One of the ways to distinguish the rubispinus from the nominate form is the flowers – the stigma lobes are a dull purple-red rather than green. 

Care for Echinocereus rigidissimus var rubispinus

Basic Cultivation: Easy to grow in hot, dry climates; more challenging in northern latitudes or higher humidity.

Soil: Use a well-draining mix, but does not need to be exceptionally high in inorganic medium for the cactus to thrive. A 50/50 blend of pumice with cactus soil should do well. Prefers acidic soil if possible.

Watering: When the weather is hot (85F+), water regularly but ensure the cactus is dry between waterings. Sensitive to rot if over-watered, so lift the pot to check that the soil is dry all the way through to the bottom. When nighttime lows are below 50F, scale watering back considerably, and cut back entirely as winter weather and cold temperatures approach freezing at night. If growing indoors, be aware your cactus will rarely hit the high temperatures that demand frequent watering, and adjust your schedule accordingly. 

Cold Hardiness: Hardy to 25F, possibly even colder, if kept perfectly dry and protected from frost. 

Fertilizing: Only minor fertilization is necessary, with a dilute amount at the beginning and middle of the growing season appreciated. Some sites recommend occasional sequestered iron; I have never used anything other than a cactus-specific fertilizer at about half strength during the growing season. In highly inorganic soil mixes, more frequent fertilization is needed. 

Sun exposure or lighting: For best color, plentiful sunlight is needed. Protect from full sun during the hottest part of the day for best color (too much sun at 95 – 100F can cause bleaching or burn the body of the cactus), but at least a few hours of sun are needed for the deep red-pink spines the species is known for. 

Propagation: Seeds are the best way to easily propagate the species. Presumably could be rooted from a cutting, but they do not pup readily and are so slow to grow it is not likely to be worthwhile. 

Echinocereus rigidissimius
Echinocereus viridiflorus

Echinocereus viridiflorus

Nylon Hedgehog Cactus 

A US-native species that occurs throughout the midwest, including Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. It’s one of the most northern-growing species in the genus, which makes it particularly hardy and well-suited to cold winter temperatures. 

Care for Echinocereus viridiflorus

Basic Cultivation: Hardy, easy to grow species that stays fairly small. 

Soil: Well-draining mix, but not particularly fussy. If intending to keep outdoors in winter, mix the soil on the inorganic side to ensure the roots stay dry during the winter rest. 

Watering: Keep dry in the coldest part of winter, but otherwise tolerates regular water. That said, can be susceptible to over-watering, so err on the side of less water than more. 

Cold Hardiness: One of the most cold-hardy species; can tolerate temperatures down to -20F for brief periods. 

Fertilizing: Dilute fertilizer at the beginning of growing season (spring, early summer) is appreciated once a month or so. Does not need fertilizer the first year after being repotted. 

Sun exposure or lighting: For best growth, flowering, and spine appearance, needs nearly full sun. In particularly hot areas (Arizona, inland southern California, etc) some shade during the hottest part of the afternoon can be appreciated. 

Propagation: Seeds are easiest, but it does produce arms and pups to slowly clump over time. A generous friend might be willing to part with a cutting for you! 

Echinocereus viridiflorus
echinocereus reichenbachii

Echinocereus reichenbachii 

Lace hedgehog cactus 

Native to the Chihuahuan desert of northern Mexico and the southern United States, this is a fairly common species in its natural environment. It’s a smaller maturing species, but notable for the enormous, showy flowers it produces. 

As with all cacti, while this is not a currently threatened species, some populations are threatened by human habitation and illegal collection. 

Care for Echinocereus reichenbachii 

Basic Cultivation: Easy to grow species that thrives in bright, almost full sun, and slowly clumps over time. 

Soil: Needs a well-draining mix to allow the roots to dry adequately between waterings. Not particularly fussy as long as the soil drains well. 

Watering: Rot-prone if over-watered, but tends to prefer more water than other desert species. This translates to more frequent watering in summer months, particularly if kept in full sun. In winter, they should be kept almost fully dry. 

Cold Hardiness: Tolerant of freezing temperatures if kept dry, accepts brief periods below freezing. Some clones are more tolerant of extreme cold than others. 

Fertilizing: For best blooming, a dilute balanced (1:1:1) fertilizer is appreciated at regular intervals in spring and early summer, as often as once a week. Reduce to no more than once a month after July, and then none at all through the end of summer/all fall to allow the plants to rest in winter. 

Sun exposure or lighting: Look their best in full or nearly full sun, ensuring compact growth and bright color on the spines. Benefits from some shade during the hottest part of the day in particularly hot or dry areas, such as Arizona or New Mexico. 

Propagation: Seeds are the most recommended, and very easy to come by. Can be grown from a cutting, but given the rapid growth from seed, it’s rarely needed. 


echinocereus reichenbachii