Melocactus includes about 50 species. They grow wild in the stony highlands of Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, Peru and Northern Brazil. Melocactus grows in dry areas where rainwater quickly disappears and moist air from the sea provides the necessary humidity.
Blooming time: Melocactus is as round as a ball with many strong, thorny ribs. The plant is not mature enough to flower until it is 6 to 10 years old. At this stage its appearance changes. An orange or reddish hairy outgrowth called a cephalium develops at the top of the cactus. Small reddish, self pollinating flowers grow at the top of the cephalium. When flowering is over, red or white berries appear.
Culture: Melocactus needs a well drained, very light and porous soil so water won't remain around the roots and block the flow of air through the soil. Soil should be made of equal parts cactus soil and pumice, with pot fragments in the bottom of the pot for drainage. Melocactus grows from April to October. It needs plenty of light and more heat than other cacti. Water regularly, but allow the soil to dry quite a bit before watering again. Melocactus rests from October to April. During this time water sparingly. Keep the soil on the dry side, but make sure the roots never dry out. This calls for great care when watering. Do not feed in winter.
Propagation: Use seeds. Sow in February in a light, sandy, porous soil. Cover germinating tray with glass to prevent seed from drying out. Germination is most successful at a temperature of 68 to 70 degrees F.
Melocactus melocactoides was featured as Plant-of-the-Week October 23-30, 1998.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.