The homeland of the desert Astrophytum cactus is South America and Mexico. Translated into Russian, the name of the plant means: “Astro” – “star” and “phytum” – “vegetable”. There are quite a few varieties of Astrophytum that are grown indoors, and they are very popular with flower growers. In most varieties, the trunk has a proportionally rounded shape, while the ribs are both weak and strongly pronounced.
As a rule, the trunk is painted in a greenish-brown shade, while there are specks and specks of a light shade on it. Only a small part of the species and varieties of Astrophytum have large needles. Most often they are absent at all or they are very weakly expressed. Flowering occurs in the summer, with large single flowers forming at the top of the bush. Their color can range from egg yolk to white. There are varieties in which the inner part of the flower is painted in an orange-red hue.
Astrophytum Care At Home
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Throughout the growing season, it is necessary to moisten the soil mixture in a pot with Astrophytum moderately and systematically. It should be remembered that before the next watering, the soil mixture in the pot must dry thoroughly. Water the plant with extremely soft water, the temperature of which is close to room temperature. Make sure that after watering there is no accumulation of liquid near the root collar. This can cause various diseases caused by rot, and because of this, pests can penetrate the root system of the bush. In autumn, watering should be reduced to a minimum, while in winter it is completely stopped (the substrate in the pot must be dry).
This cactus belongs to light-loving plants. A place is chosen for him so that there is a lot of bright light. For example, a southeast or south sill is perfect for it. In the summer, in the heat, when the sun’s rays are most burning, it is recommended to remove Astrophytums in a shaded place. In winter, the plant does not need additional lighting.
In summer, the high temperature will not harm the cacti, but it is still recommended to take them out to the terrace, loggia, or balcony, while the chosen place should be protected from precipitation. Chilling at night during the summer months will not harm the plant. With the onset of autumn, it is necessary to gradually lower the temperature in the room so that the bush has time to prepare for the dormant period in the winter. Make sure that the air temperature in the room is from 10 to 12 degrees in winter. If the plant is not provided with the necessary conditions during the dormant period, then this can lead to a lack of flowering, since the cactus will not have time to lay flower buds.
Astrophytum responds well to low air humidity in the room, while it is not necessary to humidify it from a spray bottle. However, the plant needs a regular supply of fresh air, so do not forget to systematically ventilate the room where it is located. Remember that high humidity during the winter months can kill the plant. Excessive humidity when kept cool is dangerous for the appearance of rot.
The flower shop has a large selection of ready-made soil mixtures for cacti and succulents. However, experienced flower growers do not advise purchasing the most inexpensive soil mixture, because it often turns out to be of low quality.
It is recommended to pour a small amount of sand into the finished substrate, since the plant needs a light soil mixture, while it should not contain a large number of nutrients and organic matter. In order to prevent the development of rot, a small amount of crushed charcoal should be added to the soil mixture. A neutral soil mixture is best suited for Astrophytum.
If you wish, you can make the soil mixture with your own hands; for this, combine leaf and sod soil, coarse river sand, and peat. All ingredients are taken in equal parts and mixed well. Do not forget to disinfect both types of soil by calcining them in the oven, while it is recommended to spill the sand with a pinkish solution of potassium manganese, then dry it. It is also recommended to pour a small amount of zeolite or crushed charcoal into the substrate.
Remember that stagnant moisture in the soil mixture can kill the plant. Therefore, make a good drainage layer, the thickness of which should be equal to a third of the height of the pot. For this, fragments of red brick or expanded clay are used. After planting the bush, the surface of the substrate is also covered with drainage material, for example, small pebbles. This will help prevent fluid buildup at the root collar.
If you are growing Astrophytum Capricorn, then add more calcium to the substrate, which is necessary for the normal growth of the needles. For this, you can use crushed eggshells. However, do not overdo it with calcium, as this can cause the bush to stop growing. Eggshells can be added to the potting mix of any cacti that have needles.
Adult bushes are transplanted only as needed. For example, this procedure is carried out if the bush itself or its root system has ceased to fit in the pot.
When replanting a bush, make sure that the neck of the rhizome is not buried in the soil mixture. Remember that the root collar should be flush with the surface of the substrate. Wide low pots are suitable for Astrophytum, because its root system is very poorly developed.
For feeding, use purchased fertilizer for cacti, which can be purchased at a specialized store. Topdressing is carried out in spring and summer with a frequency of 1 every 4 weeks. However, ½ of the manufacturer’s recommended dosage should be used to prepare the nutrient solution. In winter, feeding is not carried out.
Flowering is observed only in summer, and often this period does not last long. The development of buds occurs at the top of the trunk in the areoles. During the flowering period, short and rather thick pedicels are formed on the bush. Most often, Astrophytum flowers are similar to gerbera flowers, but they can also have a funnel-shaped shape. The full opening of the buds is observed, while the petals can reach 4-10 centimeters in length. Flowers can sometimes be double. The petals can be colored in various shades of yellow, and most often their throat is red.
In Astrophytums, children (processes) are not formed. In this regard, only the seed method is used for plant propagation. Remember that seed material remains viable for 2 years. Before sowing, the seeds are kept in clean warm water for half an hour (maybe a little longer). After that, for 10 minutes. immersed in a solution of potassium manganese. Then the seeds must be dried.
Fill the bowl with the substrate, which includes coarse river sand (5 parts), crushed charcoal (1/4 part), and leaf soil (1 part). Level the surface of the soil mixture and spread the seeds over it. They are slightly pressed into the soil mixture and covered with a thin layer of earth on top. From above, the container should be covered with glass or film, which will help maintain the required humidity and temperature. Crops need plenty of light and moderate heat (20 to 22 degrees). Provide systematic ventilation for crops and seedlings, and do not forget to regularly moisten the soil mixture when the top layer dries.
The first seedlings should appear after 7-15 days. Never use cold water to water young bushes. After the seedlings grow up and look like small balls, they will need to be carefully cut into individual small pots.
Diseases and pests
Most often, indoor Astrophytum is harmed by scale insects, roots, and mealybugs. If there are few mealybugs or scale insects, then wash the surface of the plant with a soap solution. If harmful insects managed to breed, then in order to destroy them, treatment with an insecticidal solution will be required.
Root bugs cannot be seen with the naked eye. If they settle on a bush, then there is a cessation of its growth, while it greatly weakens and begins to wither. When examining the roots of an affected cactus, a whitish coating can be seen on their surface. In order to save Astrophytum, free the roots from the old soil mixture, after which they are kept in hot water for some time (about 80 degrees). Lift the root system out of the liquid, sprinkle it with sulfur powder, and wait until it dries completely. Then plant the bush in a new container with a fresh, disinfected soil mixture.
Increased humidity and low temperatures can provoke the development of the disease in this plant. In this regard, if rainy weather lasts for a long time, it is recommended to bring the plant from the street to the house. Also, in winter, do not put the bush in a damp basement room, there it will quickly get sick. It is impossible to save a decayed cactus.
Types Of Astrophytum With Photos And Names
Quite a spectacular form of Astrophytum. In favorable conditions, which are close to nature, the height of the bush can reach up to 30 centimeters, while in diameter it can reach about 17 centimeters. While the bush is young, it has a rounded shape, but over time it changes to an ellipsoidal one. Most often, the rounded trunk is divided into eight parts, but sometimes various deviations can be found. The surface of the stem is strewn with many specks, which almost completely cover its natural green hue.
At the tops of the ribs are areoles, which have pubescence in the form of hairs. Areoles grow 6 or 7 long needles, which reach almost 10 centimeters. They are twisted like goat horns. It is thanks to this that the variety got its name. When the bush becomes an adult, its needles completely entangle the entire trunk. Flowering begins in the last spring or first summer weeks. The petals reach about 60 mm in length, their color can be different: from yellowish to deep yellow.
The surface of the smooth trunk is decorated with spots that are velvety to the touch. Most often, the trunk has five ribs, which are quite pronounced. Because of this, the plant received a second name: “Episcopal myrtle”. Over the years, the trunk can increase in diameter up to 20-25 centimeters. The ribs are decorated with areoles, which are covered with villi.
During flowering, rich yellow flowers open, while at the tops of their petals there is a sharpness and brownish edging. In the inner part of the flower, there is a rounded pistil, as well as protruding stamens. Flowering is observed in the summer and does not last long: from 2 to 4 days. After the fruit pods are ripe, they open, while they acquire a star-shaped shape. As a result, they look very impressive. Some varieties are completely free of specks. And the main feature of this plant is undemanding care.
Asterias “Star” Astrophytum
This cactus is native to some areas in northern Mexico. This plant is a slow-growing one. The spherical trunk is slightly flattened down. In total, the green-brown trunk has from 6 to 8 pieces of weakly distinguished ribs. Around the middle of the ribs, there are unusual areoles, around which white specks are located. The shape of the areoles is regular, rounded; brown long needles grow out of them, the tip of which is pointed.
During the flowering period, buds grow from the areoles. The yellowish flowers reach about 70 mm in diameter, they have a red center. Flowering occurs in the summer, and flowers open only during the day. Using this species, breeders have obtained a large number of spectacular varieties.
This plant is considered a long-liver. If you provide it with optimal conditions for growth, then it can have a height of more than 100 cm, and a diameter of about 25 centimeters. While the bush is young, its ribs stand out well, but over time their comparison is observed.
On the bright green surface of the trunk, there are many small dots of gray color. This species has no needles. It is possible to distinguish the location of the areolas only after the bush blooms. Lemon-colored flowers have a reddish-orange center.
Ornatum “Decorated” Astrophytum
This type is characterized by undemanding care. At home, the height of such a cactus can reach up to 0.3–0.4 m. The plant stands out for its unusual arrangement of specks: almost horizontal stripes. Most of the dots are on the ribs, which gives the impression of a plush pattern. The needles are colored brown.
The first flowering is observed only in the sixth year of life, and then only when the bush has a height of at least 15 centimeters. The color and size of the flowers directly depend on the variety. As a rule, the flowers are colored in various shades of pale yellow.
In fact, under this name, a whole family of stellate Astrophytum with other species crossed quite by chance among themselves. Once the Japanese M. Takeo found the mother’s plant in an extremely run-down state, while it was in one of the American nurseries. He took the bush to himself and put it in order. When Astrophytum bore fruit, he sowed its seeds. Only 30 percent of the emerged seedlings retained their parental characteristics. Unfortunately, seedlings grown from hybrid seeds almost never retain the characteristics of the parent plant.
Distinctive features of Kabuto Astrophytum varieties:
- “White snow” – the surface of its trunk is dotted with many specks of white;
- “Tiger” or “Zebra” – there are various stripes on the trunk of such a bush.