Melocactus or the melon cactus, also popularly known as the Turk’s cap cactus, has a red circular ring at the top of the plant. There are over 40 species found within the Melocactus. They are also easy to take care of, as we will see through the following sections.
Types of Melocactus
Melocactus andinus hernandezii
Melocactus azureus is one of the most desirable of the Brazilian melocacti because of its striking frosty blue epidermis, this plant has a reputation for being more difficult to cultivate than most.
Melocactus bellavistensis is a rare species with red bristly cephalia. Unlike most other melocacti, it is rather uniform in vegetative characters but with spines variable in stoutness.
Usually stay solitary, mature plants are easily recognizable by their cephalium. The immature plant looks like a smallish barrel cactus, and there is nothing in its appearance that would suggest a Melocactus.
Melocactus conoideus is a short-spined small species.
Melocactus curvispinus caesius
The Melocactus caesius is usually solitary and is now often considered as a subspecies of Melocactus curvispinus. The plants show a considerable variation, especially in the number of ribs.
Melocactus curvispinus dawsonii
Melocactus curvispinus koolwijkianus
Melocactus curvispinus loboguerreroi
The Melocactus loboguerreroi is strictly related to the typical Melococactus curvispinus found in Mexico and central America, it is characterized by areoles 2-2,5 cm apart, radial spines medium sized and very recurved, seeds spherical-ovoidal and smaller than in the other subspecies (approx 1-1,1 per 1-1,1 mm).
Melocactus ernestii is one of the larger Melocactus and one of the longest spined species of the genus, it is also a very variable species in size color and form of the spines.
Mature plants are easily recognizable by their cephalium, which has a covering of wool and bristles, while the immature plant looks like a smallish barrel cactus, and there is nothing in its appearance that would suggest a Melocactus. Plants of this genus attract more attention in collections than those of any other cactus genera.
This is a small species with highly attractive bluish stems and tall creamy-white cephalia.
Melocactus harlowii is a Cuban species with bright green, ovate to cylindrical usually solitary stems that reach a height of about 25 centimeters and a diameter of 10-20 cm. The spines are initially reddish and become yellowish as they age, they are 3 to 4 cm long spines and can not be divided into central and radial spines.
This species will yield a great amount of variability, a trait that makes the plant fascinating to the collector and worthless to the nurseryman since the offspring are sort of unpredictable. When they are mature, the body stops growing and produces a crown on its apex named cephalium.
This densely spined area is where the flowers and fruit will be produced and grow 5 to 10 cm high and in diameter. The striking difference between the body and the cephalium, reminds of a cap, hence the name Turk’s Cap Cacti given to many specimen in this genus.
Melocactus intortus intortus
Melocactus intortus domingensis
Melocactus matanzanus is one of the smallest and most popular species that produce its cephalium (the structure, where the flower buds will form) and flower when quite young. It is perhaps the best and more commonly grown species. Plants of this genus attract more attention in collections than those of any other cactus genera.
Melocactus oreas cremnophilus
Melocactus oreas cremnophilus is a strongly spined solitary cactus easily recognizable by its cephalium. This plant has smaller depressed globose stems, mostly less than 12 cm tall.
Melocactus pachyacanthus is recognizable by the greyish-green to the bluish-green body with stout brownish-red spines. It is distinctive but some authors consider it only a variety of Melocactus azureus. This plant has a reputation for being more difficult to cultivate than most.
This species has globose to elongate stems that are often strongly glaucous, especially when young.
Melocactus peruvianus is an extremely vaiable solitary globose cactus.
Melocactus salvadorensis is a large Melocactus recognizable by the bluish-green body and reddish-brown spines. It is similar to Melocactus ernestii but ribs more triangular-acute and spines shorter.
Melocactus schatzlii is one of the few Andean Melocacti, characterized by a peculiar white cephalium with short bristles almost completely concealed in the wool. In time the cephalium forms a 12 cm column that towers over the body. The fruit is bright pink.
Melocactus violaceus margaritaceus
Melocactus zehntneri is one of the more common Melocactus from Brazil. It shows great variation and is sometimes difficult to separate one local form from another. Many of these forms have received unnecessary names. The great variation in almost all characters of Melocactus zehntneri has led to confusion in taxonomy.
How Do You Find Melocactus?
You can find Melocactus naturally growing in parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil and other parts of Central and South America. They generally grow in hot but somewhat moist environments.
One of the easiest ways to locate the Melocactus is through its distinctive feature—the red and woolen cap-like structure on top of the plant that is full of bristles. Flowers can also bloom from these bristles.
How Do You Take Care of Melocactus?
While taking care of a Melocactus, you need to keep factors such as light, water, temperature, fertilizers, container and more in mind. Let’s take a look at some of these in further detail.
How Much Light Does Melocactus Need?
The Melocactus needs plenty of direct sunlight to be able to grow to its capacity. For this reason, you should grow this plant in a spot where it gets over six hours of sunlight each day. This is much easier for you if you grow it outdoors.
However, if you prefer to grow it in a pot indoors, you can simply find a spot in your house that receives direct sunlight for a long time, such as a windowsill or balcony.
They also need warm temperatures to thrive. Ideally, anything above 70℉ should create a good environment for your cactus.
How Do You Water Melocactus?
As compared to most other cacti, the Melocactus actually requires more regular watering so that they can grow healthily. This is perhaps because they originate from more tropical climates.
Therefore, you should water the Melocactus once in a few days by checking how dry or moist the soil is. You should not wait for the soil to fully dry out; some part of it should still be mildly moist.
At the same time, you must also ensure that you do not overwater the cactus or create waterlogging as this could make the roots rot, causing the plant to die without chances of revival.
How Do I Repot Melocactus?
The Melocactus tends to prefer and thrive well in compact and confined containers, which is why you must ensure that you pack the soil around the plant tightly enough. This can work well in a small pot.
Whenever you need to repot the Melocactus (usually right before the growing season), carefully pull out the plant from the soil, brush off and clean up the roots and place it in a new ceramic or clay pot filled with a fresh soil mix.
The pot should have drainage holes or must be porous enough to ensure quick water drainage. It should be slightly bigger than the previous pot, but not too much to maintain the compactness.
Does Melocactus Need Fertilizer?
Melocactus does require a sufficient amount of fertilizer to keep it healthy and to help it grow well. For this, you can easily find the appropriate kind of fertilizer through stores. These are specifically the ones made for succulents and cacti.
Make sure that you dilute your fertilizer with water so that you can fairly balance it out to suit the plant. Keeping it as it is could prove to be extremely strong for the plant and might do more harm than good.
You should add in this fertilizer mix in spring and summer so that it can aid the growth of the cactus. You do not need to do this during winter since it usually lies dormant at this time.
How to Propagate Melocactus
The best way to propagate the Melocactus is by using seeds. Go through the following steps to figure out the process:
- Take a pot or container and fill it sufficiently with a good soil mix that also comprises a strong draining material such as pumice.
- Sow in the seeds and cover the pot up with plastic.
- Once the seeds germinate into seedlings, you can start placing the pot in sunlight. Start off with gradual time periods so that the seedlings can get used to it before you keep in the sun for a long time.
- Once these initial few steps are done, you can move on to regularly taking care of the plant by giving it enough sunlight and water.
How Do You Germinate Melocactus Seeds?
In order to germinate Melocactus seeds, you should first keep them in warm water for a while. You can then sow them into the soil mix in the container. You should seal up the pot to ensure that they retain heat and humidity for the seeds to germinate and form roots.
Once this is done, you can remove the cover.