Ariocarpus fissuratus is a rare yet coveted houseplant that has become increasingly popular among enthusiasts. This unusual-looking cactus doesn’t need a lot of love to thrive, but it can suffer in the wrong conditions.
In this guide, our experts explain everything you need to know about growing a healthy Ariocarpus fissuratus at home.
What Is Ariocarpus Fissuratus?
Ariocarpus fissuratus, also known as the living rock cactus or the false peyote, is a flowering succulent native to Mexico but also found in the desert regions of Texas.
It is a small, unusual cactus, and it’s a protected species according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The name “ariocarpus” came from Greek and was given because the shape and texture of the plant resemble the cap of an acorn.
This Mexican cactus is probably one of the strangest cacti you’ll ever see. It has a squat, flat shape, with green, fleshy stems displayed in a concentric pattern. These stems are also known as tubercles.
Although this cactus isn’t spiky, the top of the plant is covered in white or cream-colored wool from which the flowers emerge.
Ariocarpus fissuratus grows very slowly and can take up to 50 years to reach around 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter.
The plant’s main feature is the flower. Ariocarpus fissuratus blooms in October and November, producing a pink or magenta flower about 2 inches (5 cm) tall. The flower is short-lived and will wilt after three or four days. However, it will produce seeds, which can be used for propagation.
Is Ariocarpus Fissuratus Rare?
The living rock cactus is a rare plant, growing in an extremely limited natural range and taking decades to reach maturity. Sadly, it is precisely this rare status that threatens its survival, with thousands of cacti being illegally removed each year to meet collectors’ demands.
Ariocarpus fissuratus can make a cute houseplant, but before you buy one, make sure that the seller is legitimate and can provide proof that the cactus comes from a nursery.
Is Ariocarpus Fissuratus Toxic?
Ariocarpus fissuratus is listed in the U.S. Food & Drug Administration database of poisonous plants. It contains a chemical substance called hordenine, which can increase the heart rate and blood pressure if ingested.
The effects are short-lived and are only noticeable in high doses, yet we still recommend that you keep this cactus away from pets and children.
Ariocarpus Fissuratus Care Guide
The living rock cactus is a remarkably hardy plant. Here’s what you need to know to keep yours happy and thriving.
Ariocarpus fissuratus needs full sun exposure to grow and produce flowers. Ideally, it should receive around eight hours of sunlight per day, which can be difficult to achieve in most homes.
Try growing it on a windowsill in a room with western exposure or keeping it in a room that’s facing south. In winter, we recommend keeping it under a grow light.
The easiest way to meet the living rock cactus sunlight requirements is to grow it outdoors. You can plant it in a succulent or rock garden, in the sunniest spot you can find.
If you’re growing it in a container, we suggest keeping it outside during summer, on a balcony or a patio. You can acclimatize it to the increased sun by gradually exposing it to a bit more light each day until you can leave it in full sun.
Ariocarpus fissuratus can tolerate the average temperature found in most homes. However, for faster growth, the ideal range should be between 80 F and 90 F (27 C to 32 C).
Keep in mind that this plant grows very slowly and that light and high temperatures are important factors if you want it to bloom. The living rock cactus is considered winter hardy in USDA zones 10 and higher. This plant is not frost-tolerant and can suffer if it’s exposed to temperatures below 50 F (10 C).
This Mexican succulent plant is very sensitive to overwatering. The large, tuberculous roots of the Ariocarpus fissuratus can easily develop root rot if they stay wet for too long.
If your living rock cactus is planted in a shallow container, you can also use the bottom watering method for this plant. Simply soak the container in a pot with water for 5 to 10 minutes, then allow the container to drain before placing it back on its tray.
In winter, the living rock cactus needs very little water. You can reduce your watering schedule to once every six weeks. It’s also safe to not water it at all from late autumn until early spring.
The plant has adapted to extremely arid conditions, and its thick stems hold enough moisture to allow it to survive a dry winter.
Ariocarpus fissuratus has low humidity requirements. It has evolved fleshy stems and bulbous roots which store moisture, allowing it to withstand drought and an arid environment. The average home humidity, which is around 30 to 40 percent, is more than enough for this tough plant.
The ideal soil mix for Ariocarpus fissuratus should be porous, aerated, not too rich in humus, with a neutral pH, and very well-draining. Universal potting mixes are not suitable for this plant, as they are often too rich in nutrients and retain too much moisture. If you do plan on using them, always make sure that you include soil amendments to help improve drainage.
You can plant your Ariocarpus fissuratus in cactus soil or even bonsai mix, preferably amended with a handful of pumice. If you want to make your own potting mix, we suggest combining equal parts topsoil, calcined clay, coconut fiber, and perlite or pumice.
The type of container used for this cactus is just as important as the soil mix. Ariocarpus fissuratus has very thick, tuberous roots, and often the roots can be almost twice as big as the plant.
To keep them healthy, we recommend a wide container with at least one drainage hole at the bottom. This will prevent “wet feet” and allow the soil to dry out in between waterings. The best material is either ceramic or terracotta, which prevents the soil from staying wet too long.
Ariocarpus fissuratus is a very light feeder. Throughout spring and summer, you can give this plant a monthly fertilizer application. In winter, you can cut down on fertilizers entirely, as this can stress the plant and can even encourage pathogen growth in the soil.
Use a fertilizer that’s specifically designed for succulents, which should be low in nitrogen, but rich in potassium and phosphorous. To prevent fertilizer burn, you should dilute it to a quarter of the strength recommended on the label.
Repotting Ariocarpus Fissuratus
Ariocarpus fissuratus has a very slow growth rate. This cactus takes several decades to reach its full size, so you can wait many years before you need to repot it. Not only that, but the plant doesn’t like being repotted too often.
We recommend checking the underside of the container and repotting it only when you see that the roots are coming out through the drainage holes.
The best time to repot Ariocarpus fissuratus is in spring, as the plant enters its growing stage. Gently remove the cactus from the soil, and handle the roots as little as possible. The roots can be very easily damaged, which can cause transplant shock, and may even kill this delicate succulent.
Ariocarpus Fissuratus Propagation Guide
There are two ways you can propagate Ariocarpus fissuratus: through seeds or tubercles (sometimes called stem cuttings). Given the fact that this cactus is an extremely slow grower, both methods will require a lot of patience. So don’t lose heart if months go by and you’re not seeing any signs of growth.
Let’s take a closer look at each method:
– Ariocarpus Fissuratus Tubercle Propagation
This method works best if you have an older plant with plenty of stem-like tubercles. We recommend using it at the same time as repotting your living rock cactus. This is because the tubercles grow very close to the soil, so the easiest way to access them is by removing the plant from the pot.
- Use a sharp, sterilized blade and cut a couple of tubercles from the bottom of the cactus.
- Keep the cuttings in a dry, well-ventilated place for about a week until they develop a callus at the bottom.
- Prepare a wide, shallow tray filled with coarse sand.
- Apply a rooting hormone to the base of the cutting, then lay the cutting down on the tray. Keep the base of the cutting lightly covered by the sand.
- Lightly water the sand, and place the tray in a warm room, away from direct sunlight.
The cuttings can take several months to develop roots. What we recommend is keeping them in the tray until you notice that they are developing new growth. You can then move them to a separate container filled with well-draining potting mix.
– Ariocarpus Fissuratus Seed Propagation
Seed propagation is a bit more user-friendly, which is why we recommend using this method. Ariocarpus fissuratus seeds are small and black, and if your plant has flowered, you can collect them from your own cactus. Here’s our step-by-step propagation guide.
- Fill a wide, shallow tray with a well-draining succulent soil mix.
- Use a spray bottle to moisten the soil.
- Place the seeds on top of the potting mix about an inch apart.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of horticultural sand on top, then mist it with the spray bottle. The seeds will need moisture to germinate, which is why we recommend covering the tray with a transparent plastic bag.
- Keep the seed tray in a warm room, away from direct sunlight. The ideal temperature for germination is around 72 F (22 C). Check the seeds regularly to make sure that the substrate doesn’t dry out.
Ariocarpus fissuratus seeds can take up to three months to germinate, so don’t discard the tray if it looks like nothing is happening.
Once the seedlings make an appearance, keep them covered with the plastic bag until they are at least half an inch tall. You can then transplant them into individual pots.
Common Pests and Problems
Ariocarpus fissuratus is resistant to most pests and diseases. However, it is deathly sensitive to overwatering, which can cause root rot. Always allow the soil to dry out in between waterings and reduce the amount of water used in winter. Also, avoid getting the stems or the wool wet, as this can also lead to crown rot.
On rare occasions, Ariocarpus fissuratus can become infested with mealybugs, which will usually hide between the thick stems. To remove them, soak a cotton swab in an insecticidal soap solution and use it to dab each infested area once a week.
Ariocarpus fissuratus can be a very unusual cactus at first sight. But with the right growing conditions, it will thrive in your care for many decades and reward you with truly charming flowers. Let’s go over the basics one more time:
- Ariocarpus fissuratus is a flowering cactus native to Mexico.
- It has a very slow growth rate and can take decades to reach 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter.
- Easy to care for, this succulent needs plenty of light, warm temperatures, and well-draining soils.
- Propagation takes a long time and can be done through seeds or tubercles (stem cuttings).
Ariocarpus fissuratus is a rare houseplant that is endangered in the wild, and it often falls prey to poaching. So if you’re planning to add this spectacular specimen to your collection, always make sure that you buy it from a reputable houseplant seller.
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