What are Hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs (Echinops) are small succulent plants with long stems and leaves. They grow in many shapes and sizes, but they all have three main characteristics: their stem is slender; they have spines along their stems; and they usually flower once or twice a year. Their common names include prickly pear, star-shaped, and star-lily.
The name “hedgehog” comes from the fact that they resemble a hedgehog when viewed from above. The word “cacti” means “little humped.” These plants belong to the family Echinodermata, which includes such familiar members as amaranth, beansprout, cabbage and corn.
How do Hedgehogs Grow?
Hedgehogs grow best in well drained soil, but they will tolerate poor drainage. They prefer full sun and moderate temperatures. They need plenty of room to spread out and can survive without water for short periods of time if necessary. If you live in a dry climate, it’s not recommended that you keep them outdoors since they may die due to lack of moisture.
Most hedgehogs enjoy a sunny location, but they shouldn’t be placed in areas that are extremely hot. They also need protection from frost.
Like most succulents, hedgehogs have shallow roots, so they’re not very demanding when it comes to soil type. It’s best to keep the soil on the dry side.
Tips for Growing Echinopsis Hedgehogs:
Hedgehogs grow well outdoors in pots or in the ground. They can be easily propagated from stem or leaf cuttings.
They are tolerant of severe pruning, which can be done to control their size and shape. In the landscape, they can serve as good Privacy Screen.
Propagation of Echinopsis
Hedgehogs are easy to grow from seeds. The seeds should be soaked in water for at least 24 hours before sowing them in soil.
It’s best to sow the seeds in individual pots so that they can be easily transplanted. The soil for these plants must contain some organic material such as rotted manure or humus.
After sowing the hedgehog seeds, cover the container with a pane of glass or plastic to maintain high humidity. Misting the soil with water once every day will also help to keep the soil moist.
The seeds should begin to sprout within two weeks. Once they have sprouted, grow them for a year before planting them in their permanent locations.
More Hedgehog Facts
When a hedgehog is grown it resembles a ball of prickles and flowers. The old prickly pear cactus that most people think of when they hear the word “prickly pear” is a variety of hedgehog.
The large “flower” on the top of this plant is actually a year-round bloomer. It is not really a flower but a head of leaf buds that never open. The prickly pear fruit is edible, and it is covered with small bristles or spines.
Hedgehogs are useful plants for controlling erosion on rocky hillsides. They can also tolerate drought conditions and survive in inhospitable soils where other plants cannot grow.
They are not without problems, however. They are very susceptible to over-collection and over-picking.
These pretty cacti have been popular for a very long time as a food source and for their spines, which were used for making needles. Even in prehistoric times, people ate hedgehogs.
The Aztecs used to grind them up with corn to make tortillas. The spines can cause itching and sometimes even a rash if they come in contact with bare skin. If a hedgehog becomes overloaded with water it may split open, which is how it got the name “prickly pear.”
Most varieties of prickly pear are hardy only in zones nine and warmer. They cannot tolerate temperatures below 25 degrees for any length of time.
There are some varieties that can take colder conditions, but these tend to be less colorful. Prickly pears are late-blooming plants, so they make lovely additions to the fall garden. They can also be grown in pots and brought into the garage or house during the winter months.
Sources & references used in this article:
Cactaceae alkaloids VII: Alkaloids of Echinocereus merkeri by S Agurell, J Lundström, A Masoud – Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 1969 – Elsevier
GIS and path analysis: examining associations between the birds, the bees, and plant sex in Echinocereus coccineus (Cactaceae) by S Scobell, S Schultz – In: Gottfried, Gerald J.; Gebow, Brooke S.; Eskew …, 2005 – fs.usda.gov
Phylogeny in Echinocereus (Cactaceae) based on combined morphological and molecular evidence: taxonomic implications by D Sánchez, T Terrazas… – Systematics and …, 2018 – Taylor & Francis