The cacti: Ariocarpus
Ariocarpus are a genus of cacti originating from Mexico, which has about a dozen species; these are very particular cacti, so much so that their body often becomes invisible among the rocks, becoming a gray-green color, with the presence of a rough and leathery surface; all sorts of Ariocarpus they have a squat stem, covered with more or less developed tubercles, which sometimes protrude from the stem by several centimeters. As we said, the color is greyish, and the surface is rough and wrinkled, often between the tubercles there is a clear fluff. They are very well adapted plants to live among the limestone rocks, in the ravines, often with very little land available; contrary to what happens with many other cacti, they produce a conspicuous root system, consisting of a squat tap-root, surrounded by small absorbent radicles.
In spring they produce, at the apex, bright pink flowers, very showy, especially when the plant is poorly visible. These plants are characterized by a very slow development; for this reason it is easy to see in the nursery of the Ariocarpus grafted on top of fast-growing cacti: in this way we obtain more vigorous and fast-developing plants, little appreciated by connoisseurs and collectors, as they lack one of the main characteristics of these plants, or slowness in development.
Grow an ariocarpus
The ariocarpus are among the cacti of more difficult cultivation, first of all because in order to see a plant grow a few centimeters, it is necessary to have the patience to wait for long years; and then because they also suffer a lot when they are subjected to wrong cultivation treatments, and it often happens that they die suddenly, from one day to the next. If we add that, the very slow development, makes them very expensive plants, we can well understand that it is a plant only advisable to such connoisseurs.
In nature they grow among the rocks, so to cultivate them in the best way we will have to produce a soil rich in gravel, pumice stone, lapillus, to which we will add a small amount of garden soil, even that commonly found in the flower beds. The treatment to which the large taproot is subject is very important: it is essential that the soil around it is very well drained. For this reason it is advisable to place around the tap-root a soil even richer in gravel, or even only gravel, which allows the water to flow away quickly from the surface of the taproot.
In order to accommodate these plants it is good to have a large and deep vessel, so that the root system is contained comfortably, and large enough to hold the plant for many years; in fact, ariocarpus do not like repottings, and even minor damage to the root system can lead to the death of the plant.
These plants are grown in full sun, in a well bright and ventilated area; in summer, on the hottest days, it is good to lightly shade the plants, as the soil contained in the pots could heat up excessively. In winter the plants must be kept in a bright place, with minimum temperatures above 5 ° C.
Watering is provided only when the soil has been dry for a few days, then every 2-3 days in summer, once a week in spring and autumn; during the winter watering is avoided, in order not to favor the onset of rot.
During periods when it is advisable to water, as the cultivation soil is very drained, rather than supplying the water above the pot, it is advisable to soak the container for a few minutes in a bowl containing water, drain it, and put it back to his place.
We always avoid keeping these plants at home throughout the year, because a winter spent at 20 ° C causes the absence of blooms, and over time the deterioration of the plant.
Propagate the ariocarpus
Ariocarpus propagate by seed.
The small dark seeds are placed on the surface of a wet seed bed, consisting only of fine river washed sand; young seedlings should be kept in a bright place, but away from direct sunlight, to which they will gradually become accustomed and only when they are of an acceptable size.
In nature the seeds of ariocarpus fall among the rocks in autumn, so generally they remain in shaded conditions for a long time, and with regular watering due to the condensation of the water, which the strong temperature changes present in the arid areas, make abundant.
These plants can also be propagated by tuberculum cuttings: a tubercle is taken from the mother plant, and it is buried in washed river sand, which must remain fairly moist, and in a semi-shaded place, until rooting; subsequently the cutting should be treated as an adult plant.
Ariocarpus cuttings are hardly found on the market, and it is equally difficult to find a hobbyist so kind as to give us a piece of his ariocarpus, as the plants develop very slowly, and besides this the possibility that a plant perishes and dies due to the cutting is very high.
Ariocarpo: The passion for succulents
There are many enthusiasts of succulent plants, perhaps attracted by the fact that these plants, which sometimes look ugly, or particular, or showy, produce incredible blooms in summer, which make them very fascinating; also the fact that they develop in arid and semi-arid places makes them attractive, as they show us every day the adaptability of living beings, even in conditions that seem completely unfavorable to life.
There are tens of thousands of species of succulent plants, and thousands are cacti, between species and varieties; unfortunately, it often happens in nurseries to find succulent plants in mix, completely devoid of further explanations on needs, places of origin and botanical names. It is therefore essential to have a good source of photographs, where you can recognize the small plant just purchased at the supermarket, on pain of its death within a few months, or even a few days.
The belief shared by many, especially by non-enthusiasts of the genre, is that succulent plants live only in the desert, and in the widespread imagination, the desert is the Sahara, with its daily temperatures of many degrees above zero, the sand, the wind, the sun.
In reality there are succulent plants all over the globe, from the sempervivum aracnoideum, which live among the rocks of the Alps, up to the ariocarpus, which lives in the semi-arid areas of the mountains of Mexico.
What unites these plants is certainly the adaptation to live even if subjected to several months of drought; but even here the widespread belief is quite bizarre: many people believe that succulent plants can live constantly without water.
Because in their tissues they store water.
Yes, of course, the succulent plants are able to store large amounts of water, to use it during the dry months; but to store it they must first take it somewhere; so avoid leaving your succulents on the furniture in the dark in the living room without watering: they look good in a bright area, and during the summer, water them when the ground is dry.
And if you want to see your cacti bloom in winter, leave them dry and cold.