Echinocereus are delightful little cacti that generally only reach around 12 inches in height. They are very easy to care for as long as you don’t overwater them.
Apart from having quite attractive cylindrical stems with multiple spines, these cacti produce the most gorgeous large flowers in spring. These blooms come in a variety of different colors and are quite amazing to see. Many Echinocereus cacti also produce edible fruits, however, you have to remove the spines first.
There are over 130 species of Echinocereus cacti varieties with some of them being subspecies and others, cultivars. We’re going to look at the more common ones that cacti lovers grow.
This cactus produces short, cylindrical stems that have ribs, wooly areolas, and short spines. The central spine can sometimes be black and the radial spines are usually white with darker tips.
The flowers are frilly and dark pink or purple with a profusion of yellow stamens in the center.
This is a branching cactus that bears bright pink flowers at the tips of the branches. The stems are heavily covered with spines that are usually white in color. The stems are generally tapered towards the tip.
The stunning flowers open up to reveal a multitude of bright petals and a center with yellow stamens.
Echinocereus coccineus (Scarlet hedgehog cactus)
If you live in a climate where you can grow this cactus outside, you’ll discover that it will produce a large colony of stems over a long period of time. This is a clumping cactus and thus, produces offsets readily, even when grown in a pot.
The erect stems are dark green in color. Whether these stems have spines depends entirely on the individual plant. Some plants will be densely spined while others may have hardly any spines at all. The spines are yellow to start with but they turn gray as they age.
The flowers on this cactus can reach a diameter of 1.2 inches (3 cm). They can range in color from scarlet to dark orange or even pink.
Echinocereus dasyacanthus (Texas rainbow cactus)
This cactus will sometimes grow as a single stem and other times, it may produce a small number of offsets to create a loose clump. This plant is heavily spined and the spines overlap, thereby obscuring the green stem underneath. The spines can range in color from yellow, tan, or pink.
The flowers on this cactus are simply stunning. They appear from the sides of the stem and are bright yellow. These blooms have a green throat and white tips on the petals. They can be as large as 5 inches (12.5 cm) in diameter. This plant also produces dark purple fruits once the flowers have finished.
Echinocereus engelmannii (Engelmann’s hedgehog cactus)
This species was named after physician and botanist, George Engelmann, back in the 1800’s. It has cylindrical, ribbed stems that can grow in clusters. The stems are covered with curved spines that can be red, white, gray or yellow in color.
The flowers are a gorgeous magenta in color, although some can be pale pink. After flowering, the plant produces spiny, red fruits.
Echinocereus enneacanthus (Strawberry cactus)
This is another Echinocereus with bright pink to purple flowers. It’s also clump-forming with erect, green stems. These stems have slightly curved spines. The radial spines can be up to 1.8 inches (45 mm) long. On the other hand, the central spines can be up to 3.7 inches (95 mm) long.
The gorgeous pink or purple flowers are funnel-shaped and can reach a diameter of 4.4 inches (11cm). To add to the spectacular display, the flowers have a deep red throat.
This Echinocereus is slightly different from many of the other species. It has plump, soft, flattened stems that are dark green with paler ridges. It only grows around 5 inches (10 cm) tall. This species has very few spines compared to many of the others.
The flowers are quite stunning. Generally, they’re a pearl pink color with petals that resemble those of a daisy. The bright yellow stamens add an interesting contrast to the delicate pink petals.
This branching cactus has the most spectacular large flowers. The plant produces many offsets from the base which means it can grow to a clump of around 20 stems. The stems are cylindrical and completely covered with red and white spines.
The flowers are large and funnel-shaped and can be either deep pink or clear violet. These grow out of the sides of the stem on a long, hairy tube. When the flowers are fully open, they look similar to a dahlia flower with their long, pointed petals.
This Echinocereus might not be readily available and you might have to hunt for some seed but we’ve included it in the list because it is quite unusual and has the prettiest flowers. The cactus itself is branching but the stems are quite thin compared to other species. They are commonly a reddish-brown color and do have small spines growing from evenly spaced areolas on the ribs of the stems.
The flowers are borne on the ends of the stems and open up to a daisy-type bloom with pointed petals. They are white to pale pink in color and have a dark red or dark pink throat.
This lovely species is heavily clumping and the green stems are heavily covered with fine white spines. These spines completely obscure the green stem underneath. When grown in a pot, it will produce a lovely clump of short cylindrical stems that have a fuzzy look due to the spines.
In contrast, the flowers are large and glossy. They can be pink or purple and many shades in between. The flowers can reach a diameter of 2 to 3 inches and they are often larger than the stems that they grow on.
This is another Echinocereus that produces flowers on long, hairy, and spine-covered buds from the sides of the stems. Generally, the stems on this cactus are solitary but some plants can form clumps.
Each stem is heavily ribbed and covered with sharp black spines that grow out of wooly areolas. The flowers are quite large and funnel-shaped. They are bright pink with yellow to green throats.
This small cactus produces multiple stems from the base. The stems are cylindrical or tapering with obvious ribs and many spines. These spines start out a dark brown color and age to white or yellow.
The beautiful magenta flowers are funnel-shaped and open up fully to reveal yellow to white centers.
Echinocereus pectinatus (Rainbow cactus)
One of the most outstanding features of this cactus is the short, interlocking spines that range in color from yellow to pink or brown. They almost obscure the green stem beneath.
The bright pink flowers grow from the sides of the stem and are funnel-shaped with fluted petals. Some plants may have lavender or yellow flowers. These blooms can reach a diameter of 3 inches (8cm).
Echinocereus pentalophus (Lady finger cactus)
This interesting species forms multiple stems that are green to reddish-purple and finger-like. Each stem has a number of ribs and multiple short spines.
The flowers grow from the sides of the stems and are often bright pink in color. These blooms can reach a diameter of 6 inches (15 cm) and can have white centers. After flowering, the plant produces green fruits.
Echinocereus poselgeri (Dahlia cactus)
This Echinocereus species is quite unusual in that it forms a shrubby habit with erect or sprawling stems. These stems can reach a length of 4 feet (120 cm). The stems are covered with grayish-white spines.
The flowers are quite spectacular and almost look like open dahlia flowers. They are generally pink in color with the petals having a darker stripe along the center. After flowering, the plant produces dark green to brownish fruits.
Echinocereus reichenbachii (Lace hedgehog cactus)
This is a small-growing Echinocereus that only grows to a height of around 8 inches (20 cm). It has cylindrical stems with spines that are flattened against the stem.
The flowers are quite large and can reach a diameter of 2.5 inches (6.5 cm). They can be either rose pink or bright purple in color. The edges of the petals are sometimes notched which give the flowers a frilly appearance.
Echinocereus rigidissimus (Arizona rainbow cactus)
Even when not in flower, this delightful cactus will add a little color to your collection. The solitary green stem is covered with colorful spines. These spines start out being red to magenta and over time, fade to yellow or light pink.
This plant gets even more colorful when it flowers throughout spring. The blooms are bright pink and have a white throat.
This is another interesting specimen with multiple stems that can be either upright or prostrate. These stems can reach a length of 28 inches (70 cm). They’re heavily ribbed and have multiple spines.
The flowers are borne on the sides of the stems on buds that are sharp and spiny. Flower color can vary greatly from plant to plant. These colors include purple, red, scarlet, salmon, and pink. Each bloom can last for around 1 week. After flowering, the plant produces bright green, oval fruits that have a white pulp.
Echinocereus stramineus (Strawberry hedgehog cactus)
This is a heavily spined cactus that can form compact clumps. The spines are quite large and obscure the green stem beneath. The stems only grow to a height of around 10 inches (25 cm).
This plant produces bright pink flowers that have a darker center and lighter tips on the petals.
Echinocereus triglochidiatus (Kingcup cactus)
The Echinocereus triglochidiatus is commonly referred to as Claret cup cactus, this is one of the most popular of the Echinocereus genus that people like to grow. It has erect, blue-green stems that form large clumps. This cactus has many sharp spines that adorn the ribbed stems.
The flowers are quite spectacular. They are normally bright red to deep orange in color with rounded petals. When open, the flowers form a colorful cup. The flowers are followed by juicy, edible fruits that are green, yellow, or pink.
This is a profusely branching cactus with bright green stems that have deep tuberculate ribs. The stems have clusters of yellow spines that grow from evenly spaced areoles.
The flowers are a bright pink color and funnel-shaped. They can reach a diameter of 4 inches (10 cm).
Echinocereus viridiflorus (Nylon hedgehog cactus)
This is another colorful cactus that can have bright red spines. The spines can also be yellow, white, or purple. They are quite profuse all over the green, cylindrical stems. Sometimes, this plant will produce small clusters with several stems.
The flowers are also quite profuse and can be either yellow, brown, green, or, sometimes, red. They are funnel-shaped and can be 1.2 inches (3cm) long.
For more cacti to grow, check this list of easy to grow cacti.