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Tephrocactus strobiliformis Tephrocactus strobiliformis

Tephrocactus strobiliformis

Botanical Name —  Tephrocactus strobiliformis
Common Name — No common name 
Plant Family —  Cactaceae

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Background
Tephrocactus strobiliformis is a small, pinecone-segmented cactus that grows in joints up to just over a foot and a half tall. In its native habitat of Argentina, it typically stays close to the ground because its segments easily fall off. This gives the plant a chance to propagate elsewhere. Covered in tiny spines, this plant often functions as the Opuntia family does in Central and North America – it clings to feathers and fur of passing wildlife and breaks from the mother plant, rerooting wherever it falls.

Growth Requirements

Sun

  • These cacti prefer lots of sun, at least 5 to 8 hours of direct sun daily. 
  • Indoors a south facing window is ideal. Outdoors seat them in a place where they will get plenty of sun exposure, but protect them from intense, peak afternoon sun.

Temperature/ Humidity 
  • Tephrocactus strobiliformis likes it hot! Above 70 ºF in the summer is preferred. 
  • During the winter they prefer cooler temperatures between 50 to 60 ºF.  The cooler temperature will encourage flowers. They can tolerate light frost down to 25 ºF, as long as the soil is completely dry. In areas with wet, cold winters, bring this plant indoors.

Water
  • In the summer months, water only when the soil has dried out completely. Always err on the side of underwatering. They are built to withstand drought, and overwatering is one of the quickest ways to kill them.  Water less in the winter months.

Soil/Roots
  • These plants prefer a sandy, well-draining mix. Cacti or succulent potting mix is great. You can amend a regular potting soil with sand or pumice up to 50% to improve grittiness and drainage. 

Flowering
  • Showy, large flowers may blossom in spring with white petals and yellow centers. A chilly winter will make for a higher chance this plant will flower.

Fertilization
  • These plants do not require fertilizer, though it can be added to give container grown plants a boost or to supplement poor soil. Apply a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer monthly, diluted at half strength.
  • Fertilize only during summer and never in the winter.

Propagation
  • Propagation by seed or cuttings.
  • Since seeds are extremely difficult to germinate, cuttings are an easier way to propagate.
  • Cuttings can be taken at any joint between the pinecone-like limbs. Let callus a couple of days and plant in dry soil and keep dry till rooted. 


Health

Diseases

  • Tephrocactus strobiliformis are not prone to pests. Though not super common, they are more likely to fall victim to bacterial or fungal infections. Affected plants may need to be destroyed to prevent the spread of disease to other nearby plants. 
  • Root rot can also be a concern and is triggered by overwatering. Always err on the side of underwatering.

Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
  • Little maintenance is required to grow these plants. They do not require frequent repotting.  Repot once every two to three years to refresh the soil. Repot if growth has halted or the plant has become too top-heavy.
  • They are prone to fall apart because they have very weak segmental attachments.  Plants need to be handled with extreme care to keep them together when repotting.
Toxicity
  • Tephrocactus strobiliformis are not known to be toxic to humans or pets but should not be ingested.