Chamaecereus silvestrii: Peanut Cactus

The growing of cacti, like the growing of other plants and as a matter of fact like any other human activity, is subject to the dictates of fashion — the momentary vogue may be Gymnocalycium mihanovichii colour mutations or miniatures — and more is the pity, for cacti number many species that should be included in every collection of succulents and perhaps even grown in every household. They are undemanding plants that reliably produce flowers and because they are small it is no problem to find room for them.

Chamaecereus silvestrii (syn. Lobivia silvestrii) is one such undemanding plant, and for good measure, it is practically indestructible. It is a small, branching cactus reaching a height of 10 cm (4 in) at the most. The ‘branches’ are prostrate and attractively ribbed. The ribs, 6 to 9, are dotted with areoles from which emerge short spines, generally coloured white. Loveliest, however, are the bright red flowers, which are surprisingly large for such a small plant — up to 4 cm (l’/2 in) long. There are always several on a branch at one time so that the plant is truly smothered in blooms.

This cactus is native to the mountains of Tucuman province in north-western Argentina and is almost entirely hardy. A must, however, in cultivation is that the soil be kept absolutely dry if the temperature drops to freezing point or below.

Many cacti are hardy, and not just Opuntia phaeacantha camanchica, which is frequently grown in the rock garden. If their need for absolutely dry conditions is satisfied, many species can be grown outdoors in a window box. It is recommended, however, that this be provided with a heating cable and a thermostat to provide warmth if the temperature drops below —5°C (23°F). Otherwise ventilation should be resumed in early spring and watering in April. As a rule, the plants will then flower very well.

Some cacti, of course, tolerate the environment in central Europe without any damage and will readily flower in the rock garden, often when there is still some snow on the ground. These include: Echinocereus viridiflorus, E. baileyi, E. melanocen-trus, E. coccineus, E. purpureus, Coryphantha vivi-para, Neobesseya missouriensis and Maihuenia poeppigii.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Chamaecereus silvestrii: Peanut Cactus

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