This article will be devoted to the smallest cactus – Blossfeldia. We will not only describe its features but also share tips on how to grow the only species of this genus, the miniature Blossfeldia liliputiana, indoors.
Description of the genus Blossfeldia
The genus Blossfeldia is named after the German botanist Harry Blossfeld (1913-1986), who first discovered this cactus. The genus consists of only one species, Blossfeldia liliputiana, native to South America, in northwestern Argentina and southern Bolivia.
Although 5 other similar species endemic to South America were later described and included in the genus Blossfeldia, most morphological data confirm that this genus is monotypic and contains only one species, Blossfeldia liliputiana. On this basis, we will describe not only this genus, but also its single species.
This prickly plant can be found at 3900 to 11500 feet (1,200 to 3,500 m) in the Andes, in rock crevices.
Blossfeldia tiny is a solitary cactus that reproduces lateral offshoots at maturity. The stem is gray-green, disk-shaped, without ribs or spines, up to 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) high. The roots are tuberous.
Flowers white or rarely pink, up to 0.3 inches (0.7 cm) in diameter. The flowering season is brief, from late spring to early summer.
What makes Blossfeldia liliputiana unique?
- It is the smallest cactus in the world, rarely reaching maturity more than 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) in diameter and height.
- This representative of the Cactaceae has no thorns. Instead, its numerous tiny areoles are covered with dense trichomes resembling felt to the touch.
- The formation of roots in young individuals takes a long time. Most often, new offshoots grow from the parent plant, and not from its base, but from the apical tissues, which is another unique feature of this genus.
- Blossfeldia tiny is the only species with a unique growth feature. Its tiny stems lose almost all moisture in the dry season and shrink, becoming almost completely dry and flattened, and then regenerate their cells during rainfall (the so-called “resurrection plant”). Having lost up to 80% of its moisture in a year, the cactus can remain in a withered state for another year. It can then be revived by careful soaking.
This species has the lowest density of stomata of all terrestrial flowering plants (stomata are the pores by which plants regulate water balance and gas exchange).
- In nature, Blossfeldia liliputana reproduces with the help of ants, which are the main distributors of seeds.
The insects, attracted by the fleshy skin of the fruit, drag it into their nests, where they separate and eat the outer shell and throw the seeds outside. There they end up in a nutrient-rich ant heap, protected from other insects and with more suitable conditions for germination.
- Cacti of this genus are rarely seen among rare plant enthusiasts or on the Internet. Experienced cactus growers greatly appreciate them for their uniqueness and rarity.
How to grow Blossfeldia liliputiana cactus indoors
Blossfeldia liliputana’s unique environment and extremely dry climate have made this miniature cactus very sensitive to the environment. Because Blossfeldia grows very slowly and roots take several years to form, many cactus breeders often graft Blossfeldia. This results in them growing very fast and producing many side shoots, while losing their characteristic disc-shaped shape and becoming globular.
In the case of a grafted cactus, there are more requirements to consider in the care of the rootstock.
If you do not have a grafted plant growing on its own roots, then certain conditions must be maintained.
Grow Blossfeldia liliputiana must be grown in a very drained substrate, because the cactus is very sensitive to rot in conditions of high humidity and low temperatures. There should be no peat in the substrate. You can add some garden soil to the soil mixture, because it has nutrients. It is desirable to sterilize the soil mixture. It is worth adding perlite or vermiculite to increase drainage.
The optimal mixture for Blossfeldia is a mixture of vermiculite, fine gravel and poor garden soil in equal parts. If the soil mixture is too dense, you can add more fine gravel.
Blossfeldia tiny during the dormancy period (winter) should be kept in a cool place, Cactus can tolerate occasional frosts if stored in a dry place up to 14 °F (-10 °C). However, it is best not to expose it to temperatures below 41 °F (5 °C) when growing. This cactus tends to rot during the winter dormancy phase if kept in a moist, poorly ventilated room.
High air humidity is not allowed during the dormancy phase!
For Blossfeldia, a well-lit place with light shade is suitable (under direct sunlight, the flower can get burns). The plant requires good air ventilation in summer and especially in winter.
Water the soil during the growing season, beginning in March through October. Blossfeldia liliputiana has thin, fibrous roots that suffer when they get too wet. Water the plant only when the substrate is well dry.
Avoid soaking the stems and offshoots when they are in sunlight. Drops of moisture in the sunlight can increase the occurrence of sunburn, which can lead to problems and even death of the plant.
Starting in October, moistening the soil should be discontinued. Keep Blossfeldia completely in dry soil in winter at 41 °F (5 °C) or higher.
The cactus will grow better when using low-nitrogen fertilizers. Fertilizers should be applied in spring and summer. Do not fertilize Blossfeldia during the dormancy period.
It is worth knowing that Blossfeldia liliputiana is a miniature cactus and grows quite slowly.
As a rule, they should be transplanted no more than once every 4 years to plant the plant in fresh soil. This procedure is best done in the spring. After transplanting, do not water the cactus for at least a week. Repotting does not necessarily mean the plant will need a larger container.
Pests and diseases of Blossfeldia liliputiana
Plants in good condition usually rarely suffer from pests, especially if they are grown in a properly prepared soil mixture, with good light and ventilation. However, there are a few pests to watch out for:
- Spider mite: the parasite can be effectively eradicated by watering the infested plants well from above.
- Mealybugs: can be found as fluffy white waxy formations among the wool with the ugly results of their activities, but the worst species develop underground on the roots and are invisible except for their effects.
- Scabies: this pest is rarely found on cactus stems.
- Rot – you are unlikely to encounter this disease if the flower is properly watered and ventilated. Otherwise, fungicides are unlikely to help. To prevent rot, experts recommend surrounding its root neck with very coarse sand or fine crumbs, which promotes the rapid outflow of excess water.
How to propagate the tiny Blossfeldia cactus
These miniature plants can be propagated exclusively by seeds and grafting.
Tiny seeds should be sown on the surface of a very thinly sifted soil mixture. Sprouts germinate very slowly. The main problem is that they are very difficult to keep on their own roots for the first 4-6 months. Tiny seedlings should be watered regularly, thoroughly sprayed with a sprayer until they are big enough (2 to 5 years old!).
Packing the container with the seeds in a plastic bag is the preferred method of growing for this plant, of course maximum sterilization is important with this method, as you need to keep the bag sealed for up to two years. In this case, there is no evaporation of water and, therefore, no need to water during this time.
As an alternative to this complicated propagation method, many cactus enthusiasts graft tiny 2-3 month old seedlings onto a scion from other cactus species, thus guaranteeing further growth of Blossfeldia.
Varieties of the genus Blossfeldia
As noted above, this genus consists of one species, Blossfeldia liliputiana. It is indicated that several other species have been found and described. But in the course of morphological studies, it was proved that the species discovered and described later are varietal varieties of Blossfeldia liliputiana.
Let us name these species, which have become synonymous:
- Blossfeldia atroviridis;
- Blossfeldia campaniflora;
- Blossfeldia fechseri;
- Blossfeldia minima;
- Blossfeldia pedicellata.
It is also worth noting that enthusiasts have bred several cultivars, among which you can find unusual forms of cactus.
The article uses photos from the resource flickr.com
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