Astrophytum cactus: growing at home

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Astrophytum cactus: growing at home
Astrophytum cactus: growing at home

Description, types, recommendations for watering and feeding, indoor location, independent reproduction of a cactus, means of combating diseases and pests. Astrophytum (Astrophytum). It is included in the small genus of the Cactaceae species, the number of representatives of which can be safely limited to five. The native habitat is hot and dry, South American and Mexican territories. Astrophytum is a succulent - a plant that accumulates moisture in its parts of leaves or shoots. The appearance of the plant was the reason for its name, the origin is the fusion of the Greek words "aster" - a star and "phyton" - a plant. If you look at the plant from above, then it bears a strong resemblance to the pattern of a star with rays-ribs, which vary from 3 to 10. The astrophytum is grateful for its origin to Charles Lemaire (a French naturalist and botanist who was engaged in the systematization of plants), who described this species at the beginning of XIX century. Depending on the place of growth, representatives of this species are very different in appearance.

All astrophytums have certain characteristics, which include:

  • the shape of a ball (while the plant is young) or a stem without branches in the shape of a cylinder, which has a clearly visible ribbing (usually 3-4 ribs), because of this, some species resemble a bloated star of the correct shape;
  • the surface is completely covered with light mottles, which are a bunch of miniature hairs that do not look like circles;
  • areoles (places where spines, hairs, flowers, fruits, or lateral stems develop) are located at the tops of the ribs and can be long spines or grouped bristles;
  • the flowering process applies only to the summer months;
  • the buds that develop on the tops of the shoots in the areoles have short, thick pedicels;
  • flowers can take the form of funnels, the petals of the buds are separate, fully open, have a double appearance and a diameter of 4 to 9 cm;
  • the color of the petals can be white, pale yellow or lemon, there may be a bright scarlet throat.

The specks that completely cover the shoots serve to accumulate moisture from the air. This type of cactus grows slowly, flowering occurs rather quickly. If the conditions are selected correctly, then astruphytum can delight with blooming flowers from spring days to the arrival of autumn. Flowers bloom literally before our eyes and wither literally in 2-3 days. After flowering, fruiting occurs with green bean-like fruits, which carry brown seeds in the form of a helmet.

Astrophytum cactus care tips

Astrophytum Capricorn
Astrophytum Capricorn
  • Lighting. Astrophytum is very fond of intense lighting, and it is necessary to hide it from the scorching rays of the sun only at noon during the hottest months, so it is preferable to put a pot with a cactus on the windows, where the soft rays of the sun look at sunrise or sunset. But if the plant was in the shade all the time, then it is better to accustom it to the sun's not even bright rays, it is better gradually, so as not to expose the cactus to sunburn. The Astrophytum capricorne variety can grow well in light partial shade, so low light on windows that face north does not harm it.
  • Air temperature. With the arrival of summer, the temperature indicators of the content of the plant are maintained within 22-28 degrees and in order for the astrophytum to feel good, it is exposed in an open place (balcony, street), to ensure fluctuations in night and daytime heat indicators. An important condition is the protection of the cactus from rainfall. Astrophytum also needs a cool wintering with temperatures dropping to 10 degrees. For the speckled astrophytum variety, the indicators can be further reduced to 3–6 degrees Celsius.
  • Air humidity. This cactus has taken root so successfully in city apartments, because it does not require high levels of humidity at all. Even if they become average in the cold season, it can cause irreparable damage to the plant. In no case should it be hibernated in cold basements or left on the street in the summer in prolonged rains - this will contribute to the development of fungal diseases.
  • Watering astrophytum. This plant is perfect for those who forget to water their green pets. In the summer, a cactus is watered only when the soil in the pot is completely dry, with a decrease in temperature indicators, watering is reduced, and with the arrival of winter it is not provided at all. When watering, softened or settled water is used; it is best to take collected rainwater. And it is also recommended to water the astophytum through the pan - this is the so-called bottom watering. At the same time, the remaining water, which the soil in the pot has not absorbed, must be drained, if you water the cactus, like an ordinary plant, decay of shoots and roots immediately begins when flooding.
  • Fertilizer of astrophytum. The plant almost does not need additional fertilizing. You can add fertilizers only once a month and in a dose taken half as much as indicated by the manufacturer. Fertilizers are selected universal for cactus plants.
  • Transplanting and soil selection. Astrophytum does not like transplants very much, therefore, the pot changes in the case when the "ball" of the cactus shoot is much larger than the pot in diameter provided to it, or the root system has completely mastered the soil in the pot. During transplantation, the cactus must be sprinkled with a new substrate at the same level as before, preventing the root collar from deepening, otherwise it will lead to early decay. In order to avoid such putrefactive processes, they try to reduce the contact of the astrophytum stem with the soil; for this, the stem is lightly sprinkled with small expanded clay or pebbles. Transplant pots are chosen shallow and flat, since the root system of the cactus is poorly developed.

The soil for this cactus may be completely unsaturated with nutrients, but must have sufficient air and moisture permeability. You can use normal soil and lighten it with coarse sand, maintaining a ratio of 2: 1. Crushed charcoal is also added to prevent rot. Soil acidity should be very low or close to neutral values. You can also make up a soil mixture of the following components: light turf land, nutritious leaf land, peat and coarse sand - taken in equal parts.

If astrophytum has thorns, then the soil is enriched with finely crushed granite or eggshells, but a variety such as Astrophytum ibex, with a large liming of the soil, may stop growing.

Recommendations for the reproduction of astrophytum

Astrophytum star
Astrophytum star

This cactus reproduces only by seed material, since shoots do not grow during the growth process. The main thing is that the seed material does not exceed two years of age, so over time the germination rate drops very much. With the onset of the first days of spring, you can begin to start the sowing procedure. Before the seeds are planted in the substrate, they are soaked for a short time in water at room temperature, and then they are treated for 10 minutes with a weak solution of potassium permanganate, then they must be dried in air. Seed material is placed on the surface of moist soil, which may consist of leafy nutrient soil, coarse river sand, finely ground charcoal in proportions (1: 0, 5: 0, 25). The seeds are slightly pressed into the soil mixture and sprinkled with light sand. Then the container with the crops is wrapped in a plastic bag or placed under glass, creating the conditions for a mini-greenhouse. It is necessary to arrange additional heating for the soil within 20-22 degrees and additional lighting. Moreover, throughout the entire germination time, seedlings must be regularly sprayed and ventilated. Shoots appear literally in one to two weeks. Young astrophytums at the beginning of growth look much larger than the same seedlings of similar ball-shaped cacti. Watering the seedlings at this time must be very careful, since you can quickly ruin the young growth.

Harmful insects and difficulties in caring for astrophytum

Scabbard on a cactus
Scabbard on a cactus

The main pests of this type of cacti are mealy and root bugs, scale insects.

When a mealybug is affected, the plant becomes covered with a kind of cotton bloom, and it leaves sticky marks on the stems. You must first wash (wipe) the cactus with a variety of solutions based on water and soap, water with onion or garlic juice, or calendula tincture purchased at a pharmacy. If such treatment does not bring results, then you will have to resort to spraying with insecticides.

When a root worm is damaged, it is very difficult to see it visually, but the defeat is evidenced by the cessation of the growth of astrophytum. We'll have to examine the root system, if there is this pest, it is all covered with a whitish bloom. A hot bath can be arranged for the roots, with a temperature of about 80 degrees. After that, they are sprinkled with sulfur powder and dried. Only after these measures can the cactus be planted again in a new pot and new soil.

Scale lesions are accompanied by a sticky bloom on the plant and light brown plaques. In this case, the entire cactus must be lubricated or sprayed with an insecticide solution, but before this procedure, cover the soil in a pot with paper or polyethylene, so that while dripping the solution, it does not damage the roots.

Types of astrophytum

Astrophytum speckled
Astrophytum speckled

Usually cacti of this family are divided into three groups:

  • speckled astrophytum and decorated astrophytum - the central territories of the highlands of Mexico are considered native habitats;
  • astrophimum ibex and astrophytum coahuilense - growing areas of the northern Mexican territories, with a flower decorated with a red center and low size;
  • star astrophytum - a resident of the Texas and North Mexican territories with a low stem.

Let's consider them in more detail:

  • Astrophytum capricorn (Astrophytum capricorne). Quite a decorative representative of this species, which in natural conditions can reach 25 cm in height with a diameter of 15 cm. A young plant has a spherical shape from the beginning of life, and subsequently becomes cylindrical. The entire stem can be divided by 7 or 8 ribs. Scales or specks cover the entire emerald surface of this cactus, and due to their whitish silver color, it appears gray. At the tops of the ribs there are areoles, pubescent with hairs; from these areoles, very long spines grow, reaching up to seven centimeters in length, 5-10 in a bundle. They are twisted like horns (hence the name of the species) and can wrap the entire stem like a cocoon. When flowering, the buds bloom at the very beginning of the summer season and only during the daytime, being at the very tops of the ribs. In length, the flower can reach 6 cm, the petals of which are elongated to the base. The color of the petals from deep yellow to pale yellow changes towards the top. The middle of the flower is colored with orange-red tones; inside it is a lemon pistil with stamens. Subspecies have more intense speckle coloration or more powerful spines.
  • Astrophytum speckled (Astrophytum myriostigma). This type of cactus has a completely smooth stem of a malachite shade, all strewn with velvet dots to the touch. The number of deep ribs can vary from 3 to 10 units, but very often there are only 5 of them, therefore, because of this, the speckled astrophytum is popularly called the Episcopal miter. The diameter of the stem over time reaches 20 cm. On the ribs are areoles, enveloped in fluff of hairs. When blooming, bright yellow flowers of 6 cm in size open. Inside the flower is a spherical pistil with protruding stamens. The petals themselves are pointed at the top of a brown tint. The flowering process occurs in the summer season, and its duration is limited to 2-3 days. When fully ripe, the fruits open in the form of stars at the top of the stem. There are subspecies that do not have mottling at all. It is not the most capricious of their cacti of this family.
  • Star astrophytum (Astrophytum asterias). The cactus has a very slow growth rate. Differs in a spherical shape, as if pressed from above. The trunk, which has a gray-green color, is not covered with thorns at all, can reach up to 10 cm in diameter and vary from 6 to 8 cm in height. It has such a round shape, since its ribs are almost not pronounced and their number can vary from 6 to 8. Areoles, from which the buds subsequently sprout, are in the middle of the ribs, next to them there is a white speck, which gives this species a special beauty. The areoles themselves, in the form of a regular circle, are surrounded by dense bristles of brown shades. The appearance of the stellate astrophytum is associated with the skeleton of the sea urchin. And its other name, which can be found in the literature, is seaurchincactus (sea urchin cactus). However, the appearance is much more reminiscent of an orange that has been peeled. Seven-centimeter flowers are straw-colored with a red center, bloom in early summer and only during the day.
  • Astrophytum coahuilence (Astrophytum coahuilence). This type of cactus is completely devoid of thorns and areoles are not indicated at all, only with the beginning of flowering they become visible. They have a long lifespan, there are even 150 year old representatives that can reach 20 cm in diameter with half a meter in height. In plants of a young age, the ribs (usually 5 of them) deeply cut through the trunk of the cactus and are rather pointed, in the process of growth these ribs are smoothed out. The entire green surface of the stem is dotted with small specks of a grayish hue, covered with microscopic fluff, which can be confused with speckled astrophytum. In the process of flowering, a lemon-colored bud opens with a center shaded with orange-red tones.
  • Decorated astrophytum (Astrophytum ornatum). This type of cactus has a high growth rate, does not require much experience in care and is distinguished by the highest stem height. Under natural conditions, decorated astrophytum can reach up to two meters in height, but in home cultivation it does not exceed 30 cm and in diameter from 10 to 20 cm. cover. In stock it has upright spines, brown shades. The number of ribs can vary from 6 to 8 units, and the flowering of the buds is distinguished by pale yellow shades. Many varieties of this cactus differ in the color of the columnar stem, the number of thorns and their shades, the presence of specks and their density. For this cactus to begin to bloom, its stem must reach 15 cm in height, and this is the period of 6 years of age of the plant.

Learn more about caring for astrophytum at home from this video: