FLOWERING OF CACTI
In memory of Nikolai Nikonov (1931–2003), the writer from Ekaterinburg (former Sverdlovsk), Russia
(The fragments from his book "The constellation of cacti", published in Sverdlovsk in 1982)
"The author's main object is to share with you the joy of discovery and observations accumulated for the thirty years of communication with the spiny world of cacti. The author dares to assert that a cactus is something more than a plant. It's like a being with its own habits, revelations and mysteries. Only those who perceive the cacti this way earn the benevolence of these children of the Nature"
The flowers of cacti may resemble the yellow May dandelions, yellow camomile or red poppies, white lilies or bells of every imaginable colour and may be truly tiny or reach up to twenty inches in diameter. Some of them are sweet-scented and shine in the darkness.
The most readily flowering species are as a rule the most undemanding ones. They belong to the genera Rebutia, Aylostera, Pseudolobivia, Parodia, Mammillaria, Gymnocalycium and Echinopsis. Obviously the most species from genera Mammillaria and Rhypsalis have the tiniest flowers among cacti. Yellowish, rosy, white and purple flowers of mammillarias are arranged in wreaths around the top of the plant. The buds of rebutias and sulcorebutias appear from the lower part of their stems. Short-living flowers of Echinopsis and Pseudolobivia species spring from the side areoles. Other cacti species produce flowers from the areoles at their apex.
A true cacti enthusiast loves his plants also for their shape, colour and spines. For those who are desperate to make their cacti flower I would recommend the following rules of cultivating these plants.
- The collection should be kept clean of any pests, especially of the mealy bug and nematodes.
- The light balance should be corrected, especially for the plants that are rare and difficult in cultivation. The cacti are the short light-period plants therefore in summer their light-period shouldn't exceed 12 hours.
- The period of rest for the cacti should be cold and dry (or warm and dry but in this case the plants should be water-sprayed in the evenings and there must be plenty of light).
- The plants beginning to grow again in spring after the winter rest should be nourished using a phosphor-containing fertilizer. It is important that your fertilizer contains trace elements. Care should be taken not to over-nourish the plants, or they may shed their flower buds or even transform them into offshoots.
- Fresh air, much sunlight, warmth and water in the growth period are the musts.
These five conditions provide for the regular flowering of mature specimens.
I would only add that a cactus with buds should be disturbed as little as possible – it dislikes being moved to another location or turned around. The better the plant feels the bigger its flowers are and vice versa.
Cristate forms and flowers are more frequent in collections than in the nature. A cristate-building cactus may grow on its own roots though the growth is obviously slow. Any species may turn into cristates, even the rarest ones. There is a cristate ariocarpus in my collection. It should be noted that a cristate form may sometimes turn into normal one.
The colouring of cacti flowers is very variable – light rosy, rosy and red, dark red, yellow of every shade and intensity, white and even greenish. There are no blue-coloured flowers among cacti, but there are plenty of shades of purple and lilac. The absence of blue flowers is to some extent compensated by the bluish stem of certain species.
Translated by Larisa Zaitseva