Family: Cactaceae
Common Name: Hedgehog Cactus

This very large genus of cactuses is from North America and Mexico. Ranging from tiny plants the size of a thimble to large clumps 1 m (3 ft) across, they are mostly tufted, soft and fleshy, with notched or warty ribs. Spines vary from bristly and soft to sharp and stiff. Large, long-lasting, funnel-shaped flowers bloom from the stem sides in spring and summer. Brightly coloured, most with vivid green stigma lobes, they open by day and close at nightfall. Fruit, tube and ovary are woolly and covered with masses of spines.


Most species are in cultivation, but only a few will be listed here.

E. chloranthus pro­duces greenish yellow flowers in spring. The stems grow to 25 cm (10 in) tall and 5 cm (2 in) or more thick.

E. enneacanthus, strawberry cactus, bears purple-red flowers, followed by rounded, green or purple, edible fruits. The tufted stems grow 30 cm (12 in) tall and up to 10 cm (4 in) thick.

E. knippelianus is a small, soft, dark green cactus, with five ribs and only a few, short spines. The flowers are pale pink.

E. pectinatus has bands of white to pink, comb-like spines and large, bright pink flowers.

E. reichenbachii, lace cactus, grows to about 30 cm (12 in) tall and 8 cm (3 in) or so thick. The flowers are pink to purple. There are many forms of this species in cultivation, especially in its native United States.

E. triglochidiatus is a squat form, growing to around 30 cm (12 in) tall and 20-25 cm (8-10 in) thick. It has persis­tent, white wool and bright scarlet or crimson flowers. Many varieties of this species are also in cultivation.


In frost-prone climates, grow in an airy, intermediate greenhouse or conservatory, in pots of cactus compost, obtainable from garden centers. Provide maximum light and do not water plants in winter. Outdoors, grow in a sunny spot and in well-drained soil. Propagate from seed in spring, in a warm propagating case, or from stem cuttings in summer.


Will grow in relatively frost-free areas. At least zone 9.

Echinocactus      Echinops