Echinocereus viridiflorus (Nylon Hedgehog Cactus)

Echinocereus viridiflorus (Nylon Hedgehog Cactus)

Scientific Name

Echinocereus viridiflorus Engelm.

Common Names

Nylon Hedgehog Cactus, Small-flowered Hedgehog Cactus, Small-flower Hedgehog Cactus, Green Pitaya, Green-flowered Pitaya, Green-flower Pitaya, Green-flowered Torch Cactus, Green-flower Torch Cactus, Green Hedgehog, Green-flower Hedgehog Cactus, Gold-spine Hedgehog Cactus, Golden Spine Hedgehog, Varied Hedgehog, Varied Hedgehog Cactus


Cereus viridiflorus, Echinocactus viridiflorus, Echinocereus chloranthus, Echinocereus standleyi

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Pachycereeae
Genus: Echinocereus


Echinocereus viridiflorus is a small cactus with spherical or cylindrical stems up to 12 inches (30 cm) and up to 3.6 inches (9 cm) in diameter. It is mostly unbranched, but it may occur in squat clusters of several stems. The body of the plant is ridged and lined with many areoles bearing spines. The spines are red, yellow, white, purplish, or bicolored, sometimes with darker tips. The flower is up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) long and has tepals in shades of yellowish, brownish, greenish, or occasionally red, with darker reddish mid stripes.


USDA hardiness zones 6a to 11b: from −5 °F (−20.6 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

If you can successfully grow other globular cactus, you can most likely grow Echinocereus well. One of the key factors in success with these is avoiding any hint of wet soil. Because their root systems are weak, they are especially prone to root rot, which will eventually kill your plant. Otherwise, they thrive on a program of intense, bright light, slight water, and a steady diet of light fertilizer. These cacti are vulnerable to mealybugs and aphids.

Echinocereus are slow-growing cacti that should only need repotting every other year or so. You can prolong the time to repotting by removing plantlets and potting them up in their pots. When repotting a cactus, carefully remove it from its pot and knock away any clumped soil. These plants tend to be shallow-rooted with weak root systems, so take care not to damage their roots. See more at How to Grow and Care for Echinocereus.


Echinocereus viridiflorus is native to the central and south-central United States and northern Mexico.


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Incorporating Cacti into Landscape Designs

Here in Santa Fe and throughout the western US, waterwise (Xeric) garden designs are becoming increasingly popular. Xeriscaping not only promotes water conservation, but it also emphasizes the importance of using plants that are well suited to our rugged, arid climates. Indeed, cacti are ideal xeric plants and will greatly enhance any landscape planting by adding colorful flowers and a year-round structural element with their handsome evergreen stems.

The key to creating a satisfying garden design that includes cacti is an understanding of how they can be used in combination with other plants. In their natural habitat, cacti are found growing among a variety of succulent and non-succulent plants. It is important to dispel the misconception among some gardeners that cacti can only be planted with other cacti. This type of design fails to take advantage of the beautiful plant combinations made possible by combining non-succulents with the cold hardy cacti. It also avoids the negative result that I have heard termed a “pincushion garden”.

Gardening with cold-hardy cacti is a great opportunity to explore different design philosphies, and allows you to create beautiful, educational, pollinator-friendly garden spaces.

There are several design philosophies that can be used as guidelines for creating a good-looking garden that includes cacti. From the standpoint of native plant use, I recommend making a plant list based on species found in a given region of the western US or recommended for desert lanscaping. This approach will make a replica of the landscape you might encounter if you were hiking in the Colorado foothills or along a mountain path in the Chihuahuan desert. Or if you live above 7,000ft, look for high altitude plants. Done in an aesthetically pleasing manner, this type of garden can be beautiful, educational, and attractive to hummingbirds and other creatures that recognize home.

The other approach that I often suggest is to make a plant list that includes a variety of compatible cold hardy xeric plants, such as the Delosperma (Ice Plant), without regard to the plant’s status as native or non-native.

The plant list would also include succulents from the genus Ruschia, some Lavender cultivars, and other interesting rock garden plantsfrom the Mediterranean region of Europe.

Additional plants would include some US natives, such as Agave and Agastache. This more cosmopolitan design is also recommended for areas outside of the western US with climates that would be mismatched to the preferences of xeric western native species.

Echinocereus viridiflorus

Echinocereus viridiflorus is a species of cactus known by the common names nylon hedgehog cactus, green pitaya, and small-flowered hedgehog cactus. It is native to the central and south-central United States and northern Mexico, where it can be found in varied habitat types, including desert scrub, woodlands, dry grasslands, and short-grass prairie. [1]

This cactus has a small spherical or cylindrical stem 3 centimeters to over 30 centimeters tall and up to 9 centimeters wide. It is mostly unbranched but it may occur in squat clusters of several branches. The body of the plant is ridged and lined with many areoles bearing spines. The spines may be red, yellow, white, purplish, or bicolored, sometimes with darker tips. The flower is up to 3 centimeters long and has tepals in shades of yellowish, brownish, greenish, or occasionally red, with darker reddish midstripes. The tepals are thin at the tips. [1]

The taxonomy of the species is uncertain, with authors recognizing several varieties which are sometimes treated as separate species. One variety, var. davisii (sometimes called Echinocereus davisii), Davis' green pitaya, is federally listed as an endangered species. This taxon is very small, reaching no more than 3 centimeters tall. It becomes smaller when water is scarce, withdrawing under the ground, sometimes leaving just some spines sticking out. [2] [3] It has yellow-green flowers. This rare variety is endemic to Brewster County, Texas, where it grows in beds of Selaginella in rocky soils of novaculite origin. [4] There was only one population known as of 1984, and it probably will not expand its range because it is limited to a specific mineral substrate. [3]

Plants→Echinocereus→Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus viridiflorus)

Common names:
(3) Hedgehog Cactus
(1) Green Pitaya
Nylon Hedgehog Cactus
Green-flowered Pitaya
General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit:Cactus/Succulent
Life cycle:Perennial
Sun Requirements:Full Sun to Partial Shade
Minimum cold hardiness:Zone 6a -23.3 °C (-10 °F) to -20.6 °C (-5 °F)
Flower Color:Green
Other: Yellowish green
Bloom Size:1"-2"
Flower Time:Spring
Late spring or early summer
Suitable Locations:Xeriscapic
Uses:Will Naturalize
Resistances:Drought tolerant
Containers:Suitable in 1 gallon
Needs excellent drainage in pots
Miscellaneous:With thorns/spines/prickles/teeth
Conservation status:Least Concern (LC)

Range: southeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota south to eastern New Mexico and western Texas. Additional info: pitaya (pronounced pee-tah'-yah) is the phonetic spelling of the original Spanish pitahaya, a name given to species of Echinocereus but more broadly applied to a number of cacti which produce sweet, edible fruit.

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