Myrtillocactus, it’s a name that’s a bit hard to pronounce but even then you can tell that it is a type of cactus. This, in fact, is the genus of cacti plants and is found quite extensively from Mexico to Guatemala. Myrtillocactus geometrizans, also known as Blue Candle Cactus, is the plant that has made this genus popular and here’s all you need to know about caring for these plants.
- 1 Types of Myrtillocactus Cacti
- 2 How to Grow and Care for Myrtillocactus
- 3 How to Propagate Myrtillocactus
Types of Myrtillocactus Cacti
Myrtillocactus cochal is a large sprawling shrub or small tree with many compact, candelabra-like branches from a short woody trunk, 5-13ft in diameter and 3-13ft tall. It is occasionally grown in pots but is less common in cultivation than the very similar but more frost-tolerant Myrtillocactus geometrizans. It lives only a few decades.
Myrtillocactus geometrizans (Blue Myrtle-Cactus)
Myrtillocactus geometrizans is a highly branched columnar candelabra like tree cactus that creates a dense growth of stems growing closely together. In nature grows up to 15ft tall, with the crown reaching up to 16ft in width.
Myrtillocactus geometrizans is commonly used as understocks for grafting cacti. It’s very easy to grow and is an excellent stock for small globular cacti that tend to rot off on their own roots and for slower growth seedlings such as Ariocarpus and Turbinicarpus that do not graft very well onto Trichocereus spachianus.
Myrtillocactus schenckii is less branched than other species in the genus, but taller up to 16ft tall, with a very stout trunk and short ascending branches. Its flowers are rather small, whitish or crème up to 1.5 inches, somewhat resembling orange flowers, having scarcely any tubes; and the short stamens are almost entirely exerted.
How to Grow and Care for Myrtillocactus
If etymology is your thing, you might enjoy knowing that the word Myrtillocactus has its origins in the Greek word ‘myrtillus’. It means cactus and small myrtle. But if you are just here to know about how to take care of the plant, let’s get right to business.
This is a fast-growing large cactus succulent plant that reaches 12 to 16 feet in height when it is fully mature. The plant takes time to grow branches. So, don’t worry if you don’t see them for a long time. This is also why some varieties are called blue candles.
These plants will have stems that have short spines that grow from the areoles. Speaking of which, you will see several of them with blueish-gray colored stems that are two to four inches thick. You will also notice about five to eight ribs over time.
Once the plants are mature enough, the stems will be dense and heavily branched along with a crown that will be about 8 to 12 feet wide.
Now, similar to other cactus plants, the Myrtillocactus plant needs a good deal of sunlight. But when the plant is still young, keep it in a light shade area away from full and direct sunlight. But once it matures, you can shift it to a fully sunny location.
The blue myrtle, however, is semi-hardy and in the US it is good to be grown in USDA zones 9a to 11b.
This is a cactus plant which is a xerophyte that makes them fairly resistant to drought situations. But in the summer, they do appreciate water like most succulents.
If you have a whortleberry cactus, you must water it thoroughly just once and wait till the soil is dry for the next round. Always make sure that these plants do not have standing water because that will kill them. Overhead watering is also a bad idea.
In the winter, the plant must be watered very little to keep the soil from getting cold. If it is wet for too long, you will see root loss.
Since these plants do not grow well (or at all) in waterlogged soil, you must get a well-draining soil mix. This is particularly applicable if you have a bilberry cactus, a type of Myrtillocactus plant.
You must also consider adding a little gravel to the soil mix to make sure it drains well. Every other year, you must repot these plants because once they start growing, they will quickly get dense and will need space to spread.
During spring and summer, you must add specialized fertilizer that is meant for cactus plants. These are the seasons when the plant will be in its growth period. Avoid feeding fertilizer to the plant in winter when it is going to be in its dormant stages of growth.
The Myrtillocactus grows well when the temperature is down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit but not below that because it is a semi-hardy plant. When the weather is extremely cold, you must protect it from frosting. Otherwise, the plant will die.
At night, if the temperature is likely to drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you must bring it indoors to make sure it grows properly.
Luckily for beginners, Myrtillocactus plants don’t need too much care in terms of pruning once they start growing and have been moved to a big container. Just keep the light and water conditions optimum and they will take care of the rest.
Pests and Diseases
Some varieties of the Myrtillocactus plants like the blue myrtle attract butterflies, moths, bees and birds. So, pest infestation is a good possibility. While some varieties are not exactly susceptible to diseases, the roots might start to rot if there is more water than required (which tends to attract birds) in the pot.
How to Propagate Myrtillocactus
Myrtillocactus are not hard to grow. For instance, if you have a blue myrtle and can’t get more seeds, you can cut the stems from your existing plant in the summer and plant them.
You can also do the same with ripe fruits. All you need to do is clean the seeds and dry them before sowing them into the soil directly. You want to cut the callouses and let them dry for two to three weeks before sowing them in well-drained soil. The end of frost season is the perfect time to do this.
Once the soil intended for the new plant is dry, you can start watering them as you do with the adult plant.