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Past Articles Library | Growing Beehive Cactus

I am always looking for different plants that I can utilize in trouble spots of my garden.  While I never really thought I could ever grow cactus outdoors in Indiana, I was surprisingly mistaken.  Believe it or not, you can grow several different types of cacti in cold weather and the beehive cactus is just one of them.

Esobaria vivipar is a cactus that thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 11.  It is a small barrel-shaped cactus that produces pink, red, lavender, and yellow-green flowers that appear on the top of the plant.  While you can find these plants growing by themselves, they can also grow well in groups or mounds.

As beautiful as the flowers are, take advantage of the bloom.  Depending on the environmental conditions, the bloom itself typically only remains open for an hour a day.

The growth requirements of this plant are vast but one requirement that it does not fluctuate from is soil moisture.  It does require a well-draining soil and if the soil is too wet the plant will rot.  As far as the other soil needs, it can tolerate a soil pH of between 6.1 and 7.8.

The beehive cactus can also utilize different amounts of sunlight, which includes direct sunlight to light shade.

Beehive Cactus Propagation

The beehive cactus can be propagated in two ways, which includes woody stem cuttings and seed.  To start this cactus from a woody stem cutting is simple but will require some time and equipment.  One of the most important pieces of equipment is gloves. 

To begin this process, begin to take a look at your cactus.  If your cactus is mature, you will begin to see little cacti beginning to form along the bottom of “mother cacti.”  These can just be removed from the mother plant by hand or cut off.  After that is done, set the small cactus aside.  Why?  Well, the reason is simple.  Cacti starts need to calluses over where they were cut or pulled off.  If planted directly into the soil, the moisture coming out of the cut will moisten the soil and cause the start to rot.  The solution to this problem is to allow the plant material to heal over.  This can take several months and in doing so you will need to be patient. 

While there is a debate about dipping the “cut” into a rooting hormone or powdered sulfur before healing, this is simply up to the gardener but my experience is that this step is unnecessary.

While you are waiting for your cactus to heal over, take this time to make up a good potting soil medium.  This can be used as a medium to “root” you cactus in and to plant it in a container.  There are two recipes for this soil medium.  Choose the one that is easier for you to create.

Type 1 soil medium consists of 3 parts washed sand, 1/part pea gravel, and `1/10th rock dust.  The latter may be hard to find but you can find it on the Internet.  The second type, which I refer to as type 2 requires 1 part of type 1.  Yes, I know I said to choose the one that contains the supplies you have on hand but this second type is great to create if you have a small amount of type 1 left and you do not want to make more.

To continue with the type 2 recipe, you will also need 3 parts good quality potting soil, 1 part native soil, and 1/10th part of rock dust.

Mix ingredients completely before moving on to the next step.

Now that you have your potting medium(s) made and your beehive cactus has healed over, the next step is to clean and sterilize a flat.  This is easily done by washing a flat in water that has one capful of bleach added to it.  Scrub to remove any remaining soil.  Once that is done, rinse in clean water and set outside to dry and finish sterilizing.

Next, fill the flat with your choice of planting medium described above.  Place your beehive cactus starts in the medium with healed side down.  Gently water in and place in a sunny location.  Monitor soil moisture but do not overwater.  At this point, it is a waiting game.  It can take several months for the “cuttings” to root.

How do you know if they have rooted?  Well, take a gently hold of your cutting.  If you feel a little resistance then the cutting has roots.

The beehive cactus can also be started from seed.  Yes, you can order your seed from a seed catalogue but another approach is to harvest your own.  Prior to doing this, make sure that you are not harvesting seed in a protected area. 

What you need to collect beehive seeds is easy.  You need to allow the blooms to die away, exposing the cactus fruit.  Yes, this fruit can be eaten by humans but before picking for seed harvesting, you need to make sure that it has completely ripened to the point of being overly ripe. 

Once you notice the fruit has become overly ripe, only select those that are perfect.  These will produce the best plants.  After you have picked these fruits, open them up and remove the seeds.  At this point, you want to make sure that the seeds are completely clean of any pulp.

Now, you can either store the seeds for later or plant them now.  If you decide to store for later, make sure to put the seeds in a breathable container, which includes anything made of paper.  If you want to plant now, I have an easy technique that will increase the chances of success.

What is this technique?  Well, what you are actually going to do is to create a mini-greenhouse.  The first step to this process is to get your supplies together.  You will need a clear, plastic bag, sand, a paper towel, and a shallow plastic container that fruits like raspberries come in at the grocery store.  This container will have open slits in the lid and sides.  This is fine and actually is what you want.

After you have all your supplies together, take your paper towel and place it inside this container.  Top the paper towel with sand and then sprinkle your seeds on top.  Gently water the sand in by misting the sand until it is completely moist.  Once that has happened, close the lid of the container and place the plastic bag.  Seal the bag up and place in a location that receives indirect sunlight. 

In a month, pull out your mini-greenhouse and check for little green dots.  If you do not see any, do not worry.  Simply place your mini-greenhouse back in its location and wait for another month.  Utilizing this technique will keep you from overwatering the seeds while keeping the sand evenly moist. 

Once you see little green dots appearing, remove the container from the plastic bag and place on a sunny windowsill.  Continue to monitor the soil moisture and water as needed.  After you begin to see the first “spines” on the seedlings appear it is time to transplant them in the landscape or in a container garden.


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Low Light House Plants

Many plants thrive on very little light, making them ideal for those parts of your house that are not well lit.

A couple good choices for areas without lots of light are:

Chinese Evergreen

For more information about this, watch our video on low light houseplants in the video tips section!

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