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Stenocactus multicostatus (Brain Cactus)

Brain Cactus, Echinofossulocactus multicostatus, Stenocactus erectocentrus, tenocactus zacatecasensis

AGM Award
Brain Cactus, Stenocactus multicostatus, Echinofossulocactus multicostatus, Stenocactus erectocentrus
Brain Cactus, Stenocactus multicostatus, Echinofossulocactus multicostatus, Stenocactus erectocentrus

Stenocactus multicostatus, also known as the Brain Cactus or Echinofossulocactus multicostatus, stands out as a resilient and visually striking cactus that is well-suited for a variety of garden settings. Its unique ribbed structure and beautiful flowers make it a prized addition to cactus and succulent collections, while its hardiness and low maintenance requirements ensure it can thrive with minimal care.

Stenocactus multicostatus – Brain Cactus: An In-depth Look

Stenocactus multicostatus is a distinctive species of cactus renowned for its numerous ribbed structure. The plant is characterized by its spherical to slightly cylindrical shape, with a green to blue-green body covered in numerous narrow, wavy ribs. The intricate, tightly packed ribs give it a unique and somewhat brain-like appearance, which is where it derives one of its common names. The ribs are adorned with small areoles that produce spines, which can vary in color from white to brown.

Native: Stenocactus multicostatus is native to the arid regions of Mexico. It thrives in rocky, limestone-rich soils found in desert and semi-desert environments.

Plant Type and Habit: This cactus is a perennial succulent, characterized by its slow-growing nature. It typically grows as a solitary stem but can occasionally form small clumps with multiple heads. The growth habit of the brain cactus is compact and low to the ground, making it well-suited for rock gardens and container cultivation. The plant’s structure allows it to conserve water efficiently, a crucial adaptation for survival in its native arid habitats.

Size: Stenocactus multicostatus is relatively small in stature. It usually reaches a height of 3 to 5 inches (6-12 cm) in height and 3 to 6 inches (6-15 cm) in spread. Its diminutive size makes it an ideal candidate for small garden spaces, rock gardens, and indoor plant collections. Despite its small size, the cactus’s unique ribbed appearance gives it a striking visual impact.

Flowers: The flowers are another highlight of this species. They are typically small, funnel-shaped, and grow from the apex of the plant. The flowers range in color from white to pink or pale purple, often with darker midstripes on the petals. The delicate flowers contrast beautifully with the rugged texture of the plant’s body and spines, adding an element of surprise when they appear. The blooming period for Stenocactus multicostatus generally occurs in the spring and early summer. Under optimal growing conditions, flowers can appear from March to June. The flowering period may vary slightly depending on the climate and growing conditions, but the plant reliably produces blooms annually once it reaches maturity. After flowering, the plant may produce small, dry fruits. These fruits are typically not very prominent and may go unnoticed due to their small size.

Body: it has a green, fleshy stem that functions as its primary photosynthetic organ. The stem has numerous narrow, wavy ribs, giving it a wrinkled, globular appearance. It has 6 to 18 short, soft, flattened brownish spines. The stem’s numerous ribs increase the surface area for photosynthesis while also allowing the plant to expand and contract as it stores and uses water.

Uses: Stenocactus multicostatus is primarily used as an ornamental plant. Its unique appearance makes it a popular choice for succulent and cactus collections, rock gardens, and desert-themed landscapes. It can also be grown in containers, making it suitable for patios, balconies, and indoor environments with ample sunlight.

Award: Recipient of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Hardiness: Stenocactus multicostatus is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11. It can tolerate temperatures down to about 25°F (-4°C) if kept dry, but it thrives in warmer conditions.

Toxicity: Stenocactus multicostatus is not known to be toxic to humans or animals. However, its spines can cause physical harm if not handled carefully. It is advisable to wear gloves when handling the plant to avoid injury.

Wildlife: In its native habitat, Stenocactus multicostatus provides shelter and occasional food sources for various desert-dwelling wildlife. The flowers attract pollinators such as bees and other insects, contributing to the local ecosystem’s biodiversity.

Deer and Rabbit: Generally resistant to deer and rabbits, due to its spiny nature.

Drought: Highly drought-tolerant, requiring minimal water, making it suitable for xeriscaping and arid garden designs.

Invasiveness: Not considered invasive; it’s a slow-growing, contained plant suitable for controlled environments.

Benefits: The primary benefits of growing Stenocactus multicostatus include its low maintenance requirements, drought tolerance, and unique aesthetic appeal. It adds a distinct visual element to gardens and collections with its ribbed structure and beautiful flowers. Additionally, it contributes to biodiversity by providing habitat and food for pollinators.

Brain Cactus Growing Tips

Light: Prefers full sun to light shade.

Soil: Requires well-draining cactus or succulent mix. Add sand or perlite to improve drainage.

Water: Water sparingly; allow soil to dry completely between waterings. Reduce watering in winter when the plant is dormant.

Fertilizer: Feed with a balanced, diluted cactus fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer). Fertilize every 4-6 weeks.

Pruning: Pruning is not necessary. Remove any dead or damaged parts as needed.

Propagation: Best propagated from seeds or offsets. Allow offsets to dry for a few days before planting.

Pests and Diseases: Watch for pests like mealybugs or spider mites. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so ensure proper drainage.

Requirements

Hardiness 9 - 11
Plant Type Houseplants, Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Cactaceae
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 3" - 5"
(8cm - 13cm)
Spread 3" - 6"
(8cm - 15cm)
Spacing 3" - 6"
(8cm - 15cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen, Plant of Merit
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil, Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees
Garden Uses Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?

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Echeveria
Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 9 - 11
Plant Type Houseplants, Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Cactaceae
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 3" - 5"
(8cm - 13cm)
Spread 3" - 6"
(8cm - 15cm)
Spacing 3" - 6"
(8cm - 15cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen, Plant of Merit
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil, Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees
Garden Uses Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?

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