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Button cacti; Full sun
Astrophytum (as-tro-phy-tum) is a small but gorgeous genus of cactus plants with a cute button shape that is sure to melt your heart. The name literally means "star plant" and refers to the apparent star shape these plants have when viewed from above.
- Form: Astrophytum are small, globose cacti with very apparent ribs. Most are flattened on top and appear like a coat button.
- Colors: Mostly green with white speckles. The number and exact shade of these speckles vary dramatically.
- Foliage: Some species have foliage in the form of long spines.
- Flowers: All of these plants have yellow flowers with fuzzy floral tubes. A few species have flowers with a red centers as well.
- Light: Although these plants can tolerate light shade, they love to be in the sun.
- Soil: Pick a gritty, well-draining mix like a cactus and succulent soil (available at garden centers) or mix your own (more info).
- Water: Water deeply enough for water to run out the container’s drainage hole. Allow soil to completely dry before watering again. Keep dry in winter.
- Hardiness: Astrophytum are not frost hardy and should be brought indoors to a sunny window sill if there is a chance of frost. (What’s my zone?)
- Propagation: Astrophytum rarely offset so seeds are your best chance for propagation. Fortunately, they are some of the easiest cacti to germinate.
NOTES FROM THE NURSERY
Astrophytum consists of only 5 wild species that grow natively in the Chihuahua desert of Mexico and southern Texas. All others are cultivated varieties that came about from hybridization or somatic mutations (like variegation). These species have been incredibly popular since the first Astrophytum was discovered in 1828. This find kicked off a frenzy of discovery and, by 1845, all but one of the species was discovered. That one species (Astrophytum caput-medusae) was discovered in 2001.
Not only are they popular with scientists, but collectors and hobbyists alike have found these plants to be low maintenance and charming. As such, there are many fantastic forms and colors, introduced by human intervention and selection. Hybridizers from California to Mexico to Japan have made their mark in the annals of horticultural history by hybridizing their own version of this incredible plant.