Discocactus – the most popular of the flowering cacti – Beautiful indoor plants

The blooming king among globular cacti – discocactus – is not a simple plant, but a charming one. The nocturnal aromas that exude the large flowers of this eminent succulent can outshine even the recognized flowering favorites among herbaceous plants and shrubs. To bloom, discocactus will need a special wintering in the cool, but otherwise this is one of the most capricious flowering cacti. And one of the best species to get started with the peculiarities of growing flowering succulents.

Discocactus is the most popular flowering cactus. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com cactusforum

Description of discocactus

The ability of cacti to bloom effectively is often the deciding factor when choosing these easy-to-grow and highly popular succulents. After all, the time when in homes and offices cacti were used only to purify the air and compensate for the abundance of digital technology is long gone. Today, cacti are grown primarily because of their hardiness, minimal maintenance and their decorative effect.

They move from ordinary pots to desert florariums and create bizarre imitations of the corresponding landscapes in miniature. And one of the most beloved plants of modern florists and interior designers is discocactus. It is most often found on sale and in amateur collections.

Representatives of the genus Discocactus from the extensive family cactus (Cactaceae) belong to the class of globular cacti. The appearance of discocactus is often compared to echinocactus, but they differ in their flowering mechanism. They got their name for flattened-spherical single stems resembling discs.

Discocactuses were discovered only in the 19th century. In nature, they are found only in South America. Most of the species are concentrated in Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. These are mid-mountain tropical cacti growing up to 1200 meters in rocky areas.

Room discocactus (Discocactus) – medium-sized, unbranched, solitary cacti. Beautifully flowering discocacti are grown by grafting them onto other cacti to obtain more original forms, increase developmental stability, but, most often, for faster growth and accelerated flowering.

Grafted discocacti are capable of forming cephalics in two years. Own-rooted discocactuses do not grow so quickly, it takes 4-6 years for them to form a full-fledged cephaly and start flowering. They are less prone to degeneration and death at the slightest problems with lighting, but they also require a more specific substrate. They develop well only in gravel culture, ideal for florariums and are more capricious.

On sale today, grafted discocacti are more common. It is safer to buy them non-flowering, before the formation of cephalic, because such plants delight the owners longer.

Most species of discocactus develop in the form of flattened globular dark green trunks, the diameter of which is twice the height. The matte surface emphasizes the bluish and purple tints of the color. Adult discos are limited to a maximum of 6 cm in girth, larger plants are considered a rarity in rooms.

On the trunk, 17-18 ribs are clearly expressed with densely spaced large tubercles-areoles. The spines are short, appressed, dark, accentuated by the small white edge of the areoles. In discocactus, large pubescent zones are formed – cephalia, with the onset of growth of which the growth of the stem itself stops completely. Unlike echinocactus, which release flowers from individual areoles, discokactus form a temporary cephalius, from which numerous flowers develop. Cephalia are decorated with dark, well-visible and stiff bristles and dense white pubescence.

Discocactus horstii
Discocactus Horstii. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Sergio de Azevedo

How does discocactus bloom?

The main pride of the plant is its huge tubular flowers, the diameter of which is most often 1 cm larger than the diameter of the cactus itself – up to 6-7 cm. Unlike many other flowering cacti, discocacti open flowers completely, wide, as if spreading numerous narrow and long petals in sides.

The flowers are not characterized by symmetry – they are somewhat sloppy, but amazingly voluminous. The large size of each flower is even more impressive, thanks to the ability of the discocactus to release several flowers at once. Large, lush bouquets sometimes rise above the neat trunks of plants. The color palette of Discocactus is limited: they only produce white flowers.

The flowering period of discocactus traditionally falls on the summer, but the timing can be controlled and extended. If cacti go through the classic dormant period (from early October to early March), they bloom very profusely in the summer.

If you lower the temperature of the content and carefully control the intensity of the lighting, ensuring constant supplementary lighting, you can achieve year-round flowering from discocactus with short interruptions. In this case, cacti release only single flowers, in fact, the usual flowering is stretched and divided into mini-periods.

This is the only cactus that allows owners to choose the number of flowers and even the duration of the entire flowering in general. Discocactus is completely dependent on growing conditions and caring for it.

Discocactus are among the most spectacularly blooming and most fragrant members of their family. These are nocturnal cacti, whose flowers bloom, like many exotic plants, at dusk. The aroma of discocactus is considered to be a perfumery one – complex, refined, strong and bright.

The main disadvantage of all discocactus is their fragility. After a violent flowering, plants are able to please with a few more flowers or even waves, but most often they quickly lose their decorative effect and need to be replaced.

Discocactus zehntneri
Discocactus zehntneri. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com George

Types of indoor discocactus

In indoor culture, discocactus most often remain without a specific name (with one rare exception), since all plants are very similar between themselves.

The most fragrant, and even the most beloved type of discocactus, the full botanical name of which is sometimes indicated in catalogs – discocactus Horsty (disco cactus horstiisti). This is a charming medium-sized spherical cactus that very rarely stretches out in indoor conditions, retaining the shape of a flattened ball.

The average diameter of Horsty’s discocactus is about 5 cm, with an average height of up to 3 cm. The brownish-green color of the plant is emphasized by an unusual edge in the form of dark and small spines pressed to the ribs, as well as light villi on the areoles.

It is easy to distinguish it externally from three more original types of discocactus:

  • discocactus of Zentner (Discocactus zehntneri) with large areoles and more noticeable brown numerous spines, practically devoid of the characteristic white pubescence;
  • with weakly pronounced ribs, capable of growing up to 21 cm in diameter with a height of only 8 cm, with almost no tubercles on the ribs, medium-sized cephaly, but very large flowers (more than 7 cm in diameter) discocactus unremarkable (Discocactus pseudoinsignis);
  • costal, hairless, bluish, with smaller and more neat flowers discocactus semicolucus (Discocactus heptacanthus); this cactus can grow up to 16 cm in diameter, ribs and thorns may differ from standard ones.

The rest of the discocactus species are practically indistinguishable in the collections.

Discocactus pseudoinsignis
Discocactus pseudoinsignis. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com cactus-world

Growing conditions for indoor discocactus

Discocacti are not quite typical indoor succulents. They develop better not in heat, but in coolness, but they are extremely photophilous. These are one of the most adaptive cacti, allowing you to use the possibilities of decorative lighting when looking for a place in the interior. Their fragility, like the difficulty of reproduction, is often discouraged. But for lovers of blooming cacti, it is quite difficult to find a more beautiful plant.

Lighting and placement

Extreme light-requiring is both the best and worst trait of discocactus. They bloom and grow only with a sufficient amount of bright light, do not tolerate even the slightest shade, and often suffer in northern rooms. But on the other hand, they are surprised by the fact that the source of light for them can be any – both natural and artificial.

In rooms where supplementary lighting is not planned, for discocactus you need to choose the most brightly lit places – window sills of partially southern or southern windows. It should be borne in mind that grafted discocactus can suffer from sunburn and are better protected from direct sunlight (especially in summer at noon). Own-rooted discocactus are much more resistant.

Discocacti can be grown in whole or in part under artificial light. Constant supplementary lighting, which creates a diffused, bright, stable regime with a day length of more than 10 hours, allows you to extend the flowering period and enjoy large flowers all year round. Additional lighting on cloudy days, in autumn and winter, stimulates the second wave of flowering or extends it for several weeks.

Temperature control and ventilation

Belonging to cacti does not make this plant heat-loving. Discocactus grow best and bloom for the longest in a cool environment, at a moderate air temperature. If they want to achieve year-round flowering from the plant, then it is better to keep the temperature range within 18-22 degrees Celsius, even in summer.

If discocactus are grown with a classic stormy summer flowering, then the temperatures may be higher, but the plant will need wintering from October to March at 16-18 degrees Celsius and with limited watering. The minimum reading for discocactus is limited to 15 degrees.

It is better to protect these cacti from sudden changes in conditions of detention. They do not react well to a strong jump in temperatures, the proximity of heating devices or air conditioners. These cacti, as a rule, do not tolerate fresh air in summer.

Discocactus care at home

The only feature of the discocactus that may surprise those expecting to add a drought-resistant cactus to their collection is the love for stable moisture. This is a tropical cactus, which in the heat will not refuse spraying, and throughout the year prefers a very light, but constant substrate moisture. For the rest, caring for discocactus is quite simple.

Watering and air humidity

Discocacti are content with minimal watering, but not minimal moisture. They reveal the beauty of flowering only when they do not suffer from waterlogging or from a very long drought. When grown in florariums and on inert soil, it is enough for them to carry out 1 water procedure per week in summer. But it is better to set the watering frequency so that the substrate or inert soil remains slightly moist all the time (the next watering is carried out when the soil is almost dry at the bottom).

In winter, unlike many other cacti, discocacti do not transfer to a completely dry period, reducing watering and reducing moisture, but still keeping the substrate slightly moist.

Discocacti are capable of absorbing moisture from the air, they feel good at high humidity levels, but they are not afraid of a dry environment. At high air temperatures for this cactus, it is better to spray frequently or install humidifiers. All discocactuses feel better at air humidity values ​​from 50 to 70% at temperatures exceeding 20 degrees. If the indicators are below 18 degrees, spraying is not worth it.

Discocactus heptacanthus
Discocactus heptacanthus

Top dressing and composition of fertilizers

Discocacti are fed only during the period of growth and flowering, if the plant blooms year-round, then this is done constantly. The optimal frequency of feeding is once a month. For this cactus, you can only use special fertilizers for cacti and succulents. It is better to halve the dosage recommended by the manufacturer for discocactus.

Transplant, containers and substrate

Discocacti are never transplanted unnecessarily. They do not have impressive roots, but their sensitivity to contacts and fear of any root injuries can surprise even fans of capricious plants. Discocactus are transplanted as the seedlings grow or after inoculation immediately to a permanent place.

When grown in florariums, decorative compositions, in inert soil, they can remain in one substrate until the loss of decorativeness or a general transplant of all plants. The contaminated topsoil is changed annually to ensure the cleanliness of the materials. When grown in an ordinary substrate, the plant can be transplanted several times before the formation of cephalic, but it is also better to immediately plant it in a permanent place.

All discocactus can be grown in gravel culture, but for own-rooted plants this is also the most reliable option. The grafted discocactus can be planted in a regular substrate for succulents (only light, loose, rather poor soil with a pH reaction of 5,0 to 6,0 is suitable) or in inert materials. Common discocacti – into gravel, decorative stone chips, sand and other types of decorative soil, suitable for creating desert florariums.

Diseases, pests and problems in growing discocactus

This type of cactus is considered one of the most resistant. Only in extreme heat, in violation of care, waterlogging, plants suffer quite seriously from rot, mealybugs and spider mites. But much more often there are difficulties in development – growth arrest, loss of elasticity, with which the cactus signals the need to water or lower temperatures.

Discocactus are propagated primarily by seeds.
Discocacti are propagated primarily by seeds. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com ermolenko

Reproduction of discocactus

Discocacti are propagated primarily by seeds. Plants require cross-pollination with other types of cacti, are sterile, and the process of growing from seeds is considered quite difficult.

Seeds are sown in mini greenhouses superficially, in sand or light sandy substrate, maintaining the air humidity of about 70% and ensuring that the air temperature remains in the range from 20 to 22 degrees, avoiding overmoistening of the substrate. Miniature seedlings are kept in similar greenhouse conditions for up to 8 weeks, until they are strong enough to be transplanted into a permanent substrate.

Discocactus seedlings are grafted onto Cereus, Echinopsis and other hardy and affordable cactus species at 3-4 months. The stock is selected according to the size of the scion, connecting according to the standard technique of grafting cacti.


Discocactus - the most popular of the flowering cacti - Beautiful indoor plants
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Anna Evans

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