Claret Cup Cactus Care: Learn About Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Claret cup cactus is native to the desert areas of the American Southwest. What is a claret cup cactus? It grows wild in Juniper Pinyon woodlands, creosote scrub and Joshua tree forests. This tiny succulent is only hardy to United States Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 10, but you can grow one in your home and enjoy its impressive floral displays. Enjoy this claret cup cactus information and see if this plant is right for your home.

Claret Cup Cactus Information

Plants of the Southwest are particularly appealing to those of us who do not live in these wild desert zones. The sheer variety and wonder of the desert landscape is a treasure even indoor gardeners are keen to experience. Claret cup hedgehog cactus is one of those desert beauties that warm, arid climate gardeners can grow outside in their landscape. The rest of us can try growing claret cup cacti as summer patio plants or indoor specimens. So what is a claret cup cactus?

Claret cup is found from California west to Texas and into Mexico. It is a desert dweller that grows in gravel soil. The plant is also known as claret cup hedgehog cactus because of its scientific name, Echinocereus triglochidiatus. The part “echinos” is Greek and means hedgehog. The cactus is small and spiny with a rounded little body, so the name is appropriate. The remainder of the scientific name, triglochidiatus, refers to the clustered trios of spines. The name literally means “three barbed bristles.”

These cacti rarely get over 6 inches tall but some are up to 2 feet in habitat. The barrel-shaped form may or may not develop one or many rounded stems with bluish green skin and 3 kinds of spines. If you are very lucky, you may find one in full flower decorated with huge waxy, deeply pink cup-shaped blooms. Claret cup hedgehog cactus flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds, which are attracted to the large amount of nectar and the brightly colored blooms.

Claret Cup Cactus Care

If you are interested in growing claret cup cacti, your first challenge will be to find one. Most nurseries do not grow this species and you should not purchase a wild harvested plant which encourages habitat destruction.

The first rule in any cactus cultivation is not to over water. While cacti do need moisture, they are suited to dry conditions and cannot thrive in moist soil. Use a sandy potting mix or cactus mix to enhance drainage and plant the cactus in an unglazed pot to allow excess moisture to evaporate.

In open garden situations, this plant will need to be watered every two weeks or as the soil is dry to the touch 3 inches down.

Cacti respond well to fertilizer applied in spring and once per month in a liquid dilution during watering. Suspend fertilizing in winter and minimize water applications since this is the plant’s dormant period.

Most pests do not bother claret cup cactus but occasionally mealybugs and scale will infest the plant. Overall, claret cup cactus care is minimal and the plant should thrive with some amount of neglect.

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Mojave Mound Cactus, Giant Claret Cup, Salmon-flowered Hedgehog, Spiny Hedgehog

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Echinocereus (ek-in-oh-KER-ee-us) (Info)
Species: polyacanthus subsp. acifer
Synonym:Echinopsis valida var. densa
Synonym:Echinocereus polyacanthus var. densus
Synonym:Cereus acifer
Synonym:Echinocereus acifer


Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual


Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Plant has spines or sharp edges use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

From herbaceous stem cuttings

From seed direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Gardeners' Notes:

On May 27, 2007, Xenomorf from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

This plant (and subspecies) can form clumps with as many as 400 heads
The 'polyacanthus' subspecies has smaller flowers being only 1.2 to 2.8 inches across. This is the most common of these subspecies.
The 'acifer' subspecies has scarlet red flowers that are 2.4 to 3.1 inches across and the stigma having 9 or 10 lobes.
The 'huitcholensis' subspecies has narrow salmon-pinkish orange blooms that are 1.8 to 3.1 inches across.
The 'pacificus' subspecies has smaller flowers than the other 3 subspecies being only 1.2 long and bright orange.

Hedgehog/Claret Cup Mojave Mound Cactus, Kingcup Cactus

Color: Light pink to lavender, dark rose.

Common name: Mojave Mound Cactus, Kingcup Cactus, Claret Cup Hedgehog

(e-keen-oo-KAY-ree-us tri-glow-chidi-A-tus) Echinocerens is from the Greek echinos, meaning "a hedgehog," and cereus meaning "a wax taper." These names refer to the plant's spiny resemblance to a hedgehog (or so the early Europeans thought) and the plant's shape, respectively. Triglochidialus means "three barbed bristles" and refers to the straight spines arranged in clusters of three. Also called claret cup cactus, after the reddish, cup-shaped flowers.

Latin name: Echinocereus triglochidiatus


Description: A small barrel-shaped cactus. Plant generally forms from a few to hundreds of spherical to cylindrical light- to bluish green stems in more or less round, large, dense mounds. The orange to red waxy flower is funnel-shaped 8 to 9 centimeters. The plant is densely spiny and somewhat woolly. Spines fall off readily or seasonally. The fruit is juicy and edible with deciduous spines.

Range: White and Inyo Mountains, Desert

Habitat: Creosote Bush Scrub, Joshua Tree Woodland, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland. The plants grow in gravelly soils in grasslands, shrublands, pinyon/juniper, or aspen communities. The plants often grow against a rocky outcrop or within the rocky outcrop. Plants occur from three thousand and twenty to seven thousand nine hundred and fifty feet in elevation.

Elevation: 150–3000 m.

Flowering time: Apr–Jun

Notes: There is a thick nectar chamber and many thready pink stamens at the center of the corolla. The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are the primary pollinators and must stick their entire head into the flower to reach the nectar chambers at the flower's base. In the process, the hummingbird's forehead gets dusted with pollen. (Sometimes they look like another species of hummingbird!) The flowers stay open at night, unlike many other species of cacti whose flowers close in the evening. The flowers last three to five days.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus, a dicot, is a shrub (stem succulent) that is native to California and is also found outside of California, but is confined to western North America. Distribution outside California: to Rocky Mtns, Texas, Mexico. This plant was photographed in the Eastern Mojave National Preserve, April 26, 2003 with a Nikon D1.

Cacti have a waxy coating, thickest on the sunny side. This helps the plant minimize water loss. The spines, which help deter herbivores, also provide small amounts of shade on the cacti's surface. The shade reduces the temperature on the stem and again helps to minimize moisture loss.

To also minimize moisture loss to the atmosphere, cacti open their pores, called stomata, during the cooler hours of night to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The plants photosynthesize during the day, but keep their pores closed.

Cacti can store water in the pulp of the plant's fleshy stems it is an old tale that one can get water from a cactus. After a rain, cacti can swell like an accordion with the extra moisture. Some Native American groups collected the claret cup's stems, burned off the spines and mashed the stems. Sugar was then added to the mix and baked to form sweet cakes.

Some specimens of the claret cup lack spines.

Claret cup cacti can grow at high elevations due to the clumping of the individual stems which helps to reduce the amount of surface area exposed, thus reducing the rate at which heat is lost to the air.

Photos tips Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a macro function - usually symbolized by the icon of a little flower. When you turn on that function, you allow your camera to get closer to the subject, looking into a flower for example. Or getting up close and personal with a bug. More on desert photography.

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Cover Them Up

Some of the tall columnar cacti that make impressive xeriscape garden plants need protection from temperatures of 25 degrees or lower. Avoid cold damage by covering just the tender growing tips of each stem if temperatures don't go much below 25 degrees F, but for more severe cold cover the whole plant. Mexican fence post (Lemaireocereus marginatus), hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11, has dark green stems and contrasting white spines along the stem ridges. Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus repandus, formerly Cereus peruvianus) is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11 and reaches 20 feet tall. Showy night-blooming white flowers appear in spring, followed by round, red fruit.

Transplanting Techniques for Cacti

When it comes time to plant your new cacti, several techniques can be used to improve transplanting success.

Most importantly, always plant cacti bare-root. Wait for the soil in the pot to dry out. Then gently loosen the soil in the root ball with your fingers and shake it off.

Once the soil is gone trim the roots back by 1/3rd with sharp scissors or pruning shears.

Plant into a shallow hole, spreading the roots out evenly. Back fill the hole holding the cactus so the crown (junction of root and stem) in just above the surrounding soil. Settle the soil between the roots by carefully vibrating the plant up and down.

Mulch with crushed (not round) gravel to a depth of 1 to 2 inches depending on the size of the plant. Don’t worry when the gravel covers some of the spines up from the base of the plant. The mulch will settle a bit with time.

I wait a day or two to water in the new transplants. This gives the cut roots time to callus over. At that point, I water thoroughly with a root stimulating mixture of seaweed and a dilute high phosphorous fertilizer.

When watering cacti, it is better to err on the side of dryness than to over water, especially in the colder months. However, during the heat of the summer, cacti will respond positively to a weekly soaking.

Claret Cup, Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus, Kingcup Cactus, Mojave Mound, Mohave Mound

Widely cultivated for its flowers, Echinocereus triglochidiatus (Claret Cup) is a small mounding cactus, forming bulbous piles of up to hundreds of usually erect, spherical to cylindrical, blue green stems. Low and heavily branched, this plant is extremely variable in appearance, except for the bright scarlet-red to orange-red blooms and rounded petals which adorn all plants from spring to early summer. Long-lasting, the showy flowers, 3-4 in. long (7-9 cm), are adorned with creamy-yellow at the base of their petals, highlighting their bright green stigma at their center. There are many thready pink stamens at the center of their corolla and a thick nectar chamber that is visited by hummingbirds. The plants may be densely spiny or without spines. They may be composed of 5 to 12 ribs with slightly undulated crests. The spines, in shades of white, yellow, gray, or even black, may be straight, curved, contorted or spreading to projecting outward. The blooms give way to juicy, edible fruits, green to yellow-green, pink and sometimes red, that are devoured by wildlife.

Claret Cup is among the easiest species to grow, flower and propagate. Blooming generally begins 5 to 10 years after sowing, as the plant matures.

  • Grows up to 15-24 in. tall (37-60 cm) and 18-24 in. wide (45-60 cm).
  • Easily grown in well-drained soils in full sun. Water regularly when in growth. Excellent drainage is critical to avoid rot issues. Keep the plant dry in winter. Drought tolerant.
  • Great for desert gardens, rock gardens, succulent gardens or Mediterranean gardens. Great in decorative containers too.
  • Deer and rabbit resistant. The flowers produce nectar and are attractive to birds and bees
  • Native to most of the American Southwest and Mexico

Cactus Flower Meaning

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Everyone knows what a cactus is, yet they possibly have no idea a great deal regarding the background of a cactus and all the details about the meaning of it. Words cactus was in fact stemmed from the Greek word “Kaktos” and also this word put on a plant that they had which had spiny thistles on it.

However, the cactus is additionally recognized by couple of other names, some people call it the “Mother-in-law’s Cushion” as well as you can imagine where that came from. A cactus actually represents endurance as it is a plant that could really withstand the test of time and the aspects.

Description of the Cactus Flower

There are many different varieties of the cactus plant you will certainly see that depending on just what is around, you will certainly have all sort of various looks depending on the different varieties. You will certainly see that there are some cacti that are very tall there are other ones that are short, there ones that you can put in a little pot in your home. You have so many various options, different colors, as well as various types that are going to look different as well as really have those distinct appearances.

Uses for the Cactus Flower

Usually, many people aren’t handing out a cactus for a Valentine’s Day present, but they are utilizing them as gifts. You will see a great deal of people provide a cactus to a good friend or relative in an excellent little pot so that they could grow it.

These plants represent endurance as well as to someone that is undergoing a tough time and even a person that is extremely figured out, this is a terrific gift to provide with great meaning. Or else, lots of people that buy a cactus are utilizing it for a landscaping item, they are using it to jazz up the desert front yard that they have.

Cacti are terrific for when you have to occupy a great deal of room in a lawn as well as remain in an environment where you simply do not have a great deal of selections.

Why do people plant the Cactus Flower ?

With a cactus, they are very easy to grow you simply have to make sure that you know just what you are doing. There are all type of different alternatives out there as well as you have to see to it that the one you are growing is mosting likely to do ok in the area that you lie in. The vital point to keep in mind with any type of cactus plant is that they are mosting likely to need to be grown in an extremely completely dry environment or area.

If you are growing a cactus in your home, you have to know when to sprinkle it and when to leave it alone, every one of this is critical as well as will certainly make a significant distinction in if it lives. With a cactus you want to make certain that it is exceptionally well drained pipes, so that if it does obtain excessive water it has the ability to drain pipes out of anywhere you are growing it. Too much water will actually kill a cactus and will mess up all the job you have actually taken into it.

Watch the video: Hedgehog Cactus in full blossom and maturing companion closed bud. A macro study.

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