The echinopsis are among the most beautiful and easily cultivated cacti; there are many species, some tens, all widespread in the wild in the semi-desert areas of Central and South America; these are cacti from the "classical" form, ie globular or tubular stems, ribbed, with small areoles on the edge of the ribs, covered with spines of varying sizes. There are species of minuscule dimensions, which tend to shrink, forming small cushions consisting of individual stems at most 3-6 cm high, while other species produce single stems, up to 35-45 cm high. The color of the stem is green, light or dark, depending on the species; what unites all the species and the hybrids of the Echinopsis are the flowers: for the whole summer, on the areolas in the upper part of the plants, large buds are produced covered by thorns so thin that they look like brown hair; within a few days each bud develops into huge funnel-shaped flowers, white or pink, sometimes perfumed; every single flower blooms in the morning and opens in the evening, and withers over 2-3 days. Many enthusiasts grow echinopsis, and over the years they have developed various hybrids, which produce flowers of various colors, from fuchsia to orange, from red to purple.
How to grow them
The echinopsis they originate from areas where the climate is decidedly unfavorable to life, torrid days with the scorching sun, and cold nights, with wide temperature ranges and nights in which frost can also be felt. In fact, some species can withstand prohibitive temperatures for other cacti, up to -5 / -7 ° C, as long as the cultivation soil is completely dry and they do not receive water during the winter.
In Italy it is advisable to cultivate them in pots, so that they can be moved if the winter is too humid; the cultivation soil must be very well drained, composed of chopped peat and sand, or lapillus, or other incoherent material, with a coarse grain size, so that the water of the watering and of the precipitations slips quickly from the pot, avoiding stagnation. Every 2-3 years remember to repot our cactacea, in late summer or autumn, changing all the soil of the pot.
They are positioned throughout the year in a sunny place, or where they can receive direct sunlight for at least 5-6 hours a day during the summer; in winter they can remain outdoors, or in a cold greenhouse, but in any case they must be sheltered from precipitation. In the central-southern regions they can also be cultivated in full ground, even if it is good to repair them in case of rainy winters.
Generally, plants grown throughout the warm year tend to stop flowering over time; if, on the other hand, the plants go through a period of vegetative rest during the winter, caused by low temperatures, they tend to bloom abundantly when the vegetative period starts again in spring.
From April to August we water the plants whenever the soil remains dry, remembering that these plants tolerate drought well, but need to periodically replenish their moisture supplies; if left for a very long time without water the cacti tend to mumify and stop any kind of development. During the vegetative period every 10-15 days we also supply fertilizer for succulent plants, rich in potassium and low in nitrogen.
Honeymoon - Echinopsis: Propagation
Most species of echinopsis tends to produce new specimens, which develop at the base of the mother plant, or in the lower part of the stem; these new specimens tend to root with great rapidity if detached from the plant that produced them, to repot them individually. When large flowers often wither on the plant, small fleshy or red fruits are produced; if left to dry inside we can find dozens of small black seeds. Often these seeds are fertile, so we can sow them.
We remember that, although the succulents are used to drought, in order to make the seeds germinate it is necessary to keep them in a humid environment, therefore we prepare a seed bed consisting of sand and peat in equal parts, well moistened; on this bed we spread the small dark seeds, so let's press them on the soil and if we want to cover them with perlite, but not with soil, because the seeds of echinopsis need sunlight to germinate, so if we bury them they may not germinate or take many weeks to do so . we insert the seed bed into a plastic bag, which will help us to maintain the moisture. We frequently steam the soil. Only when the seedlings reach about one centimeter in height will we begin to thin out the waterings.