Pereskiopsis is the genus name of the family Cactaceae that have characteristics unlike many other cacti. Their name comes from there likeness to the genus pereskia, also untypical looking cacti with leaves. There are eight known species: p. aquosa, p. blakeana, p. diguetii, p. gatesii, p. kellermanii, p. porteri, p. rotundiflia, and p. spathulata. The species p. spathulata is the most commonly encountered and used by cacti horticulturalists. Pereskiopsis cacti contain glochids and areoles similar to the opuntia genus.
Basic Characteristics – Cactus with Leaves
They often have tropical features unlike many other cacti with their affection towards regular watering and humidity. They are often found throughout South America in a variety of ecosystems, not exclusive to deserts. However, several species are noted to be in Central America including Mexico. Yet their presence is quite rare in these instances. Research suggests that they are a highly primitive form of cacti and may give horticulturalists and botanists clues as to what cacti originally looked like before subsequent evolution.
Pereskiopsis are often grown by cuttings. Seeds are very rare in the wild and are unheard of in cultivation. Getting pereskiopsis to flower is also quite rare with no clear cut techniques in pollination. Cuttings are taken from plants that are mature but not too woody. Woody plants become far too tough and dangerous to work with. The glochids can also become a real pain if not handled properly. These little cacti spines will lodge into your skin and become a real irritant all day! Keep a pair of long tweezers to hold the pereskiopsis cuttings and plants, but also a small precision pair for removing the glochids.
History of Pereskiopsis
Pereskiopsis have not taken on a common name beyond their botanical one. This is due in large part to their absence from greenhouses and gardens. Cacti grafting is quite a niche hobby and specialty that an Anglicized common name has not been adopted. This in turn is connected to why you will not often seem them available to purchase.
Guide to Growing Pereskiopsis Plants
Growing pereskiopsis is not difficult at all. In fact the plant is quite tolerant of many mistakes you might throw at it, but there are some considerations you must take before planting your new grafting stock.
Preparing Pereskiopsis Soil
Unlike most other cacti pereskiopsis will put up with a lot of organic material in their soil. Although you should not use a rainforest mix (unless you own a professional greenhouse or live in the deep south of the United States) you can and should have a soil mix that is a little more than 75% organic soil.We do this because unlike most other cacti, pereskiopsis are heavy feeders. They grow far more quickly thanks to their leaves, and their roots are far more reaching.
The other 25% should consist of an even mix of perlite, pumice, rock and sand. All of these four provide excellent drainage oxygen flow in the soil. Root rot is common in pereskiopsis but is easily avoided by adding these.
Plant the Pereskiopsis
Depending on the number you have and how you will want to display them will dictate how they are planted. Another consideration is whether you received them as cuttings or as fully rooted plants.
A tray that does not separate the different plants is perfectly acceptable. However to make grafting easier as well as future cuts, it’s best to use a cell that separates the plants, one per cell. This will also make it easy to separate them when you are ready because the roots are very aggressive and will branch out.
Light Sources and Humidity for Pereskiopsis
As with just about every cactus a lack of light will really harm them if you expect growth and continue to water them. You will wait for a long time if you do not have an artificial light source and humidity.
This is where I expect most people to be growing their pereskiopsis year round. Take a look at my resources page for more information on growlights, humidity domes and heat sources that I recommend. All of them are affordable and can be purchased together for less than $100. All of mine were and still last. You can always upgrade as your collection gets bigger.
As you will read in a Cactus Odyssey, pereskiopsis live in very tropical, wet and humid regions of Central and South America. This is easy to recreate with your grow light and indoor greenhouse set up. But you must be careful to allow air circulation. This is one of the number one killers of cactus and pereskiopsis in general behind over watering. If you have an indoor greenhouse you can easily do this by opening up the tent for several hours a day and choosing one day a week in which it is open all day. You should have two angles for air circulation to navigate. No artificial fans are need but can be helpful.
Lighting requirements for pereskiopsis plants are about 10-14 hours of light a day. I would suggest 8 hours is a minimum and getting closer to 18 is too much. Find a balance that fits your lifestyle and that of the plants. If they react negatively toward your specifications, make the appropriate changes. I like to turn them on before I leave for work in the morning and turn them off just after dinner in the evening. This gives me about 12 hours of light a day.
Of course, if you are just growing them during the summer, most northern states and even portions of Canada can maintain pereskiopsis outside. The months of June, July and August will be perfect for pereskiopsis in clay pots. Do not bother watering them and just let the rain take care of them. If you are in the western states which are much drier, just water them when the soil becomes dry. Believe it or not these cacti will be tolerant of regular potting soil in a sunny and warm location with good air circulation.
Unlike most other cacti, pereskiopsis have the unique property of wanting more water. Don’t make the common mistake though, most cacti would prefer if you watered them more. However the soil, heat and light that you have are probably not enough to accomodate them. Even in their natural habitat, cacti would prefer more water than they receive.
You do not have to use special water, water from the tap is fine to use with pereskiopsis. I tend not to water with a cup from the top or watering can because it often results in a lot of flooding, washing away a lot of soil and making a big mess.
Instead get yourself a couple of spray cans from your local dollar store. You can fill these up and pour the water on the surface of the plants, saturating the entire soil. Then screw the spray handle back on and spray the tops of the plants as well as the surrounding walls of your humidity dome, tent or greenhouse. The water you poured over the surface should only have to be done once or twice a week. Get in a regular habit of spraying daily. It takes less than a minute and really has noticeable benefits to the growth of your plants.
Growing Pereskiopsis Cuttings
Growing most cactus cuttings can be difficult but like so many other areas of growing them, pereskiopsis are so much more tolerant of mistakes or sloppiness. You will likely stand a better chance of success letting the cuts heal over before planting but either way they should work.
Place the cuttings in the soil with the end you cut from being placed in the soil. If you cannot remember which end you cut from examine the glochids (the groups of spines that come out the side of the cactus). The glochids should be pointing out in just about every direction but directly up. Many will go straight up and several will be shooting at an angle downward, position them like this.
Before placing them in the soil they could easily benefit from rooting hormone. I simply dip them in the powder and bring them out. Often that is more than enough to speed up the process and create incredible long term growth. This is my favorite rooting hormone.
Place them in dry soil and do not water them for several days. Use the same soil mixture highlighted above for pereskiopsis. Keep them near a window but not intense direct grow lights yet. After several days use your spray bottle and damp the surface of the soil, but do not drench. You will now introduce them to the artificial light. Just like new grafts, acclimate them to the light, heat and humidity with patience.
If your cuttings had leaves on them that did not drop you should expect to see growth signs within a week. This includes a lighter green color in the cutting and new stems emerging from the top or sides of the plant, perhaps new stems. If you used older, more woody and less leaved cuttings you should expect to see growth prospects in about 10-14 days.