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The Gymnocalycium, despite the rather strange name, are among the most widespread cacti, among collectors and not only; they come from South America, and there are dozens of species, most of which are available in nurseries or in cactophilic stores. They have a fairly slow growth, so it is common to find small specimens, which do not exceed 4-5cm in diameter; the stems are roundish, sometimes briefly columnar. The stem has obvious ribs, and areolas with spines of varying size depending on the species.
Most species produce single specimens, only rarely or in some species, it is possible that they produce lateral shoots, giving rise to small colonies. Success in cultivation of the gymnocalycium It is due to the fact that in spring they produce, at the apex of the stem, small flowers, of pink, red, white or yellow color.
The flowers have a particular cup without thorns or hair, hence the name, in fact gymnocalycium means to bare glass.

Grow Gymnocalyciums

These cacti come from areas with a dry or arid winter climate, with fairly wet spring and autumn and dry summers; They don't like temperatures below 3-4 ° C, therefore it is advisable to grow them in a cold green house or in a sheltered place. If you want a healthy and floriferous gymnocalycium remember to allow the plant to go into vegetative rest during the winter, avoiding bringing it into the house, where the climate is "spring" throughout the year. If you do not have a cold greenhouse, place the plants on the balcony or on a luminous windowsill, covering them with non-woven fabric, to prevent them from being exposed to frost.
As with most cacti, even the gymnocalycium love a porous and very well drained soil, not excessively fertile; a growing medium is prepared by mixing universal soil with coarse sand and pumice stone, so as to obtain a very well permeable soil, where it is difficult to create water stagnation.
From April to August we provide our gymnocalycium with water and nourishment: every time the soil is completely dry we supply water, taking care to wet the soil thoroughly; every 12-15 days we add to the water of the watering of the fertilizer for succulents, poor in nitrogen.
The plants have a slow development, so they can find a place in a vase about one or two centimeters in diameter larger than the diameter of the plant; when the stem approaches the edge of the container it is time to repot the plant, choosing a pot slightly larger than the previous one, filled with porous and well-drained soil. The repottings of the cactaceae are practiced in autumn, before being sheltered for the winter, or at the end of winter.

The gymnocalycium and the sun

Many cactaceae love full sun for most of the year, but most species of gymnocalycium are half-shade plants; so let's position them in a very bright place, where they can enjoy a few hours of direct sun, in the coolest part of the day, then possibly in the morning.
These plants in nature live in arid areas, but not in the desert; therefore they are used to dwell near shrubs, herbaceous perennials or other plants, which provide a certain amount of shading during the hours when the sun is scorching.
Placing a gymnocalycium in the complete sun we do not risk killing the plant, but with good probability we will burn the epidermis of the stem, which could take on strange, bronze or brown colors.
The Gymnocalycium and grafting
Surely all of us have seen one, a small prickly cactus, so strange and peculiar that we certainly remember it, because it was red, yellow, pink.
For some strange reason the Gymnocalycium (in particular those belonging to the mihanovicii species) tend to produce some mutant specimens, completely free of chlorophyll, if sown.
So instead of the green fabric layer, we see a layer of various colored fabric. These plants obviously cannot live in nature, and therefore generally die after a short time, not being able to synthesize nutrients from sunlight, through chlorophyll photosynthesis.
In the case of mutant gymnocalyciums, however, the man intervened, who began to graft small colored cacti onto other cacti, often columnar. The host cactacea, in addition to passing nourishment to the small gymnocalycium, often also guarantees it a growth slightly faster than normal; so in a short time we get those strange cactuses of bizarre color. These cacti often produce basal suckers, which can in turn be grafted onto other cacti with chlorophyll.
Obviously, if we undermine a red gymnocalycium from the host on which it was grafted, it will die in a short time.