THE only species of this desert cactus commonly grown as a house plant is T. spachianus (golden column or white torch cactus), which forms an erect column, usually branching from the base. The bright green stem can reach a height of 5 feet, but it is relatively slow-growing. A five-year-old plant is unlikely to be more than about 8 inches high and 1 ½ inches across. The stem has 10 to 15 broad ribs, with deep indentations in between.The areoles spaced about 1 inch apart along the ribs are yellowish at first but they gradually turn grayish. Each areole bears around eight brownish yellow, radial spines and one or two central spines of the same color. The radials are bristlelike and up to 1 inch long; the centrals arc slightly thicker and longer.
T. spachianus does not flower until it is at least 12 inches tall, at which time the plant will be 8 to 10 years old and will have several branches. Because the plant takes so long to bloom, it is generally grown for its impressive columnar form and colorful spines rather than for its flowers. When the flowers do appear, they are produced profusely from areoles at the top of the stems. Each trumpet-shaped, white bloom is about 8 inches long and 3 inches across. These enormous flowers open at night, usually fading during the morning of the following day. The normal flowering season for T. spachianus is summer.
Light Give these cacti direct sunlight all year long in order to ensure good spine color and prevent the stems from becoming unnaturally elongated. As with all columnar cacti grown indoors, the stems lean toward the source of light unless they are turned regularly (every three or four days) throughout the spring and summer period of active growth. Place them in outdoor sunshine during this period, if possible. They will benefit from the extra light and are less likely to grow one-sided.
Temperature Any normally warm room temperatures are suitable during the active growth period. During the winter rest period keep T. spachianus at a temperature below 50°F. This cactus can even withstand freezing temperatures under certain conditions.
Watering During the active growth period water moderately, enough to make the potting mixture moist throughout but allowing the top half-inch of the mixture to dry out before watering again. During the rest period give only enough to prevent the mixture from drying out completely. If, for any reason, indoor temperatures fall below about 35T, do not water these plants at all. Let the potting ; mixture remain completely dry until the temperature rises. The plants will not be harmed as a result.
Feeding Apply a high-pot tomato-type liquid fertilizeactively growing trichocereusius every two weeks if they based mixture. If plants are in a soil-based mixture, feed then; once a month.
Potting and repotting Use either standard soil-based or a peal potting mixture cause these cacti have vigorous root systems, a plant only 3 inches tall will probably need a 3-inch pot. Specimens will need correspond larger pots, especially as the plants branch at the base. Repot every spring, using a folded newspaper protect the plant (as well as the hands while removing it from the pot. If the current pot is tightly packed with roots, move the plant into a pot one
size larger. Otherwise, after gently shaking the potting mixture from the roots, return the plant to its old pot, which has been thoroughly cleaned and filled with fresh mixture.
Propagation If a trichocereus grown large enough to form branches, cut off one of these at the base to propagation purposes. The best time to do this is in spring or summer. Allow the cut end to dry for three days before pressing it firmly into the ; surface of the standard potting mix ture contained in a 3-inch pot. Then treat the newly potted branch as a mature specimen. An obvious objection to cutting off a branch is that it can spoil the look of the parent plant. For this reason most growers prefer to raise these cacti from seed. Young trichocereus seedlings are ; attractive and grow well.
Special points With age, the stem of s T. spachianus often becomes disfigured r with corky markings, particularly around the base. (The branches, if any, are not affected.) This is natural but 1 unsightly. It is advisable to cut across an affected unbranched stem about 6 inches from the base. Offsets will soon form around the edge of the cut ; surface. When these are 2-3 inches high detach them and treat as branches to make new, unmarked plants. This is best done in spring or summer. Use the top portion of the stem, provided it is not ; too badly marked, to produce a new plant by treating it in the same manner. Grow the parent plant on in the normal way.
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