Ariocarpus is a small genus of succulent, subtropical plants of the family Cactaceae. The name comes from the ancient Greek “aria” (an oak type) and “carpos” (fruit) because of the resemblance of the fruit of the two genus in acorn form. These cacti are commonly found in parts of the United States as well as Mexico, where they grow on limestone hills with strong sunshine exposure.
Ariocarpus species are very slow-growing and have thick tuberous tap-roots. They are solitary or form small clusters of stems that have triangular tubercles that may resemble leaves. The areoles, when present, vary in appearance from grooves on the upper surface to round pads near the tips. Spines are only present in seedlings (except occasionally in Ariocarpus agavoides). The funnel-shaped flowers are borne on a woolly structure at the apex and vary in color from white or yellow to pink, purple or magenta. The seeds are black and pear-shaped.
Ariocarpus plants are endangered and quite rare in the wild due to habitat loss and overcollection. They are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts who appreciate their unique shapes and forms. They are also known as living rock cacti because they can survive without water for up to a year by storing moisture in their roots and stems.
How to Grow and Care for Ariocarpus
Ariocarpus cacti require several optimal conditions under which they can grow healthily. Here are some tips on how to care for these fascinating plants:
Light: Ariocarpus needs plenty of direct sunlight to be able to grow well. However, you should not provide extremely intense light to this cactus either since this can cause burns and damage its growth. A good way to avoid this if you live in hot climates is by keeping it in shade during the hottest parts of the day.
Watering: You should water Ariocarpus on a regular basis during its growing season, which is usually spring and summer. You can extend your watering routine till fall as well. Make sure you water this cactus well but do not overwater it as this could lead to root rot. Water the plant only once the soil has become dry. You do not need to water this cactus in winter since it becomes dormant during this season and can survive without much care.
Soil: Ariocarpus prefers a well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter and minerals. You can use a commercial cactus mix or make your own by adding perlite, sand, gravel or pumice to regular potting soil. You can also add some lime or dolomite to increase the pH level of the soil.
Fertilizing: Ariocarpus does not need much fertilizing since it is adapted to low-nutrient environments. You can apply a diluted cactus fertilizer once or twice a year during the growing season.
Pests and Diseases: Ariocarpus is relatively resistant to pests and diseases, but it can be affected by mealybugs, scale insects, spider mites, root rot, fungal infections and bacterial soft rot. You can prevent most of these problems by providing adequate light, water, air circulation and hygiene. If you notice any signs of infestation or infection, you should treat them promptly with appropriate methods.
How to Propagate Ariocarpus
Ariocarpus can be propagated by seeds or by grafting. Seeds can be sown in spring or summer in a well-draining soil mix. Keep the soil moist but not wet and place the seed tray in a warm and bright location. Germination can take several weeks or months depending on the species and conditions. Once the seedlings have developed their first true tubercles, you can transplant them into individual pots.
Grafting is another method of propagating Ariocarpus that involves attaching a stem cutting from an Ariocarpus plant onto another cactus rootstock that has been cut horizontally. The rootstock should be compatible with the scion and provide enough support and nutrients for its growth. The graft union should be wrapped with a rubber