...to go along w/ the grafted Lophs I'll be gifting! It's kind of long, but I think it covers everything fairly well. Just looking for some feedback, things I missed, etc. Also just realized that I forgot to talk about temperature tolerances, on the low end of the spectrum.
I know it's long, but I'll be sending it as a Google Doc, that way they can use the search/find function for specific issues/questions.
Grafted Lophophora Information and Care Sheet
There are two cacti in this pot:
The rooted columnar cactus was grown from seeds coming from a clone/cultivar of Echinopsis pachanoi [syn Trichocereus pachanoi], native to more mountainous regions of Central and South Americas. The physical characteristics of the seedlings align quite well w/ the mother species, but there is a chance it’s a hybrid or crossed w/ another variety of pachanoi, given the natural pollination process.
The scion was identified as a caespitose form of Lophophora williamsii. Cactus enthusiasts w/ more experience than I have seen photos and lean towards agreeing w/ the original ID. But Lophs are notoriously difficult to ID w/o seeing their flowers.
The term “caespitose/caespitosa” simply means that this particular individual has a mutation which causes it to create many pups (babies) as it grows. This mutation is common in many different types of plants, but it can prevent flowering because it’s essentially reproducing asexually.
Lophophora species typically grow slowly, though the caespitose forms do tend to grow a bit more vigorously. Grafting a Loph to a faster growing species, causes the loph to grow and mature in a shorter amount of time. Grafting also tends to increase the chance of flowering, which can help ID the species.
Flowers need no special care (if they occur). Lophophora williamsii is said to be self-fertile, while other species (diffusa, fricii, jourdaniana, etc.) are self-sterile.
Lophophora Species ID:
Even with flowers, IDing a Loph can be difficult. The flower shape and structure is far more reliable than color, though it can help. Here is a chart of the flowers from different Lophophora species. Flower shape, self-fertility, and physical characteristics of the plant itself will help come up w/ a more accurate ID.
Williamsii is the only species to have a significant amount of goodies.
While Loph is grafted, follow care for Rootstock
For my cacti, I use a mix of ~40% perlite/pumice and ~60% potting soil. I typically use Fox Farm: Ocean Forest, but any non-woody, fluffy, loamy potting soil will do. You want the soil to be very fast draining, and to dry fairly quickly.
Lophs tend to grow in very mineral rich soils. They are commonly found in very lime and gypsum rich areas, with very little organic matter. They will grow well in nearly 100% mineral based substrate that matches these parameters, however the growth will be slow. There are many good recipes for this type of mix on Reddit. Just search “lophophora mineral mix”.
The mother plant that the scions came from is currently growing in a soil very similar to the rootstock. However, I have added some limestone, gypsum, and bone meal to bump up the calcium. As well as some extra perlite/pumice to help w/ drainage. Just don’t go too overboard, maybe 10% (total) lime/gypsum/bonemeal.
Additional Notes on Soil:
The main thing you’re looking for is to prevent the roots from being wet for too long. I don’t recommend a plate under the pot to catch the water, let it run out. It should be nearly dry a day or two after watering.
Follow rootstock watering rules, but while the graft junction is exposed do not allow it to get wet. If water gets trapped between the scion and the rootstock, rot can easily take over. Once the Loph grows enough to engulf the junction/top of the rootstock, water on top is okay but not at all necessary.
Watering is pretty easy. Like many plants: the trick to prevent over-watering is to wait until your plants ‘ask’ to be watered. If the cactus starts drooping a bit, or you see some wrinkles, it probably needs some water. Just a normal amount should do, no need to soak it or anything.
One thing I have found helpful w/ cacti, is to feel the plant. If it feels a little soft, it could probably use some water. If it feels firm, it’s fine. But in any case, curing rot is more difficult than hydrating a thirsty plant.
A Loph on its own healthy roots can be quite resilient. During the winter, Lophs often become flat and turn a brownish-gray color as they dehydrate. This is normal. Once the growing season arrives, a couple waterings should fatten it right up. But watering is discouraged if the temps are lower than 85-90F. The roots are not used to being cold AND wet, and this can cause rot.
This past year, I let the mother of these grafts go 23 days w/o water, during peak summer temps (115F) and in full sun. They can go a while w/o water and be just fine.
In my experience, they can take a good amount of sun. I give mine full outdoor sunlight for 6-8hrs a day. In the more Northern areas, this should definitely not be a problem during the summer.
In the cold North, some special precautions need to be taken. As the summer growing season winds down, watering should be tapered off. Then the cactus should be kept in a cool, dry, and dark place (basement, garage, etc.). The lower temps and lack of water and light should prevent etiolated growth. But be certain that it’s dark, a single window w/ indirect light can cause etiolation. Once the temps start warming up in the spring, the cactus can be re-introduced to sunlight. Watering may be needed at some points during dormancy, but it should be done sparingly and as needed.
During the winter, a larger Loph can become nearly flat and quite dehydrated, this is normal. But I would look at the rootstock to see if water is needed during dormancy. If it starts to get wrinkly, give it a tiny bit of water.
Cacti don’t need a lot of fertilizer, and only need it for the first 2/3rds of the growing season. A well balanced fertilizer is recommended, slightly higher N content is fine. Taper of fertilizer before tapering off the water, toward the end of the growing season.
Etiolation is what happens when a plant doesn’t have enough light/water/nutrients to grow, it’s also referred to as ‘stretching’. In the case of columnar cacti, this results in tapered/skinny growth. In a globular cactus, like a Loph, this results in the cactus looking more like a finger than a ball. Once this happens, only the new growth will fatten up. Examples:
It is possible to de-graft the scion, but this is best done once it’s grown to almost baseball size. The smaller it is, the faster it will dry out before getting a chance to put out its own roots. I have yet to de-graft, but I’ve seen people have luck by cutting the rootstock below the graft, then using a melon-baller to scoop out the rootstock that was left in the scion. The wound is left to dry and callous over, then rooted in soil. (always wipe hands/tools with iso alcohol)
I have never rooted any plant with a cavity inside of it, like a melon-balled Loph will have. But I have seen pics of it after the fact, so it can be done. I simply haven’t gotten to that part of the journey yet. I would imagine that the best way would be to let the callous get very hard and dry, then just lay it on soil until it roots.
Edit: upon further research, this guide comes highly recommended.
The rootstock shouldn’t need much care. And once the graft is gone, it should start pupping (putting off a new branch or two) and growing as its own plant. But if it’s too small/damaged, it may simply die off.
Leaning can happen due to water issues. But in the case of this graft, it may happen due to being top-heavy. This is a bridge that I have yet to cross, but if it cannot be propped up, de-grafting may be necessary.
This can be caused by a number of things: Being burnt by fertilizer, too much sun, over-watering, under-watering, etc.
If you suspect it’s fertilizer burn, flush the pot with water very well and let it dry out very well.
If you’ve been watering a lot, back away from the water and let it dry out very well.
If you haven’t watered in a while, give it some water and see if it perks up. If it does, wait a day or two and water a bit more. Then water as needed.
Too much sun is difficult to diagnose, and I haven’t seen any long-term effects so long as it is still mostly green.
Yellow with little to no green present is pretty bad. I’ve seen cacti out here live through it, but it’s definitely not a good sign. It’s likely due to low N in the soil, combined w/ too much direct sunlight. I have only seen this in cacti that get a full day’s worth of intense SoCal sun.
Yellow can also be a sign of rot.
These colors are more than likely all the same. A healthy cactus that receives too much sun will start to produce anthocyanin pigments to protect itself (much like tanning in humans). This combined w/ the varying shades of blue-green often seen in these cacti can create color ranges from red to brown.
If this occurs with great intensity, simply give it some extra shade. If it looks more like accent colors, just let it go (and keep an eye on it). Some amounts of stress can cause the cacti to become more potent.
These shades of brown can be worrying. In one case, it’s normal ‘corking’ that happens when the green skin is scratched, irritated, etc. In this case, it’s just a hard brown/tan skin that protects the inner-tissues.
If the brown area has a ‘bad’ looking brown/tan, and especially if it’s soft/squishy AND brown, then it’s likely an issue w/ rot. At this point a knife is the only possible solution. Essentially you will need to cut away the rot from the healthy tissue, if possible.
If rot occurs at the graft junction, start taking cuts just below the rot. Keep cutting from the rootstock until you get to healthy tissue. Then remove the rotting areas from the scion. Start by cutting just above the graft junction (if visible). If it’s not visible, use a melon baller to scoop out what you can. Then use a paring knife (or Amazon scalpel) to finish the job. Wipe the blade/baller w/ an iso alcohol soaked napkin between cuts. You don’t want to expose good flesh to the rot you just cut through.
Rot can often be too far gone by the time we see it, so it’s best to prevent it.