Clever Cactus of the Month September; Smallflower Fishhook Cactus

Smallflower Fishhook Cactus – Clever Cactus of the Month

Not sure about you, but September always feels like the beginning of a new year. Even though it’s more like the beginning of the end of the year. Pretty sure this sensation dates back to our school days, when we packed up our new backpack with all our new school supplies and dragged yourselves, filled with equal parts excitement and trepidation, to the bus stopped.

Ah the good ol’ days.

The point is, September always feels like a mini-fresh start. That makes it a great time to review your annual goals and see where you stand. Then adjust and reposition yourself so you can finish the year on a high note (or get back on track, if you drifted off course, as one does).

Wherever you are in your goal-achieving journey, remember that you can do it! Every step is progress (even if it’s sideways or backwards) because you learn and grow every day.

Speaking of growing every day… September’s cactus channels our inner fisherfolk, casting our lines to catch inspiration and reeling it in to achieve our goals! Read on to learn all about the Smallflower Fishhook Cactus.

Sclerocactus parviflorus is a real catch!

By Laura Dicker
  • Name(s): Smallflower fishhook cactus, Sclerocactus parviflorus, Devil’s-claw cactus, hard cactus
  • Species: Parviflorus
  • Genus: Sclerocactus
  • Home: North Arizona, northwest New Mexico, southwest Colorado, east Utah
  • Natural habitat: Grassland, pinyon-juniper woodland, sandstone plateaus, canyons
  • Height: Up to 15 inches high, though half that is more typical
  • Flower: Bell-shaped purple, pink, yellow, up 1.2 to 2.2 inches
  • Blooms: Spring, summer
  • Availability: Hard to come by; you may be able to find these rare plants in specialty shops
Sclerocactus parviflorus - photo credit Rebou, CC BY-SA 3.0
Rebou, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Small yet making big waves

The Smallflower Fishhook Cactus has always been a big deal. Its name, Sclerocactus, has its roots set deep in Greek epidemiology, translating to “hard cactus.” More like hardcore cactus! This cactus family has over 150 different species types! And all these cacti can survive between 50 to 200 years in the desert!

Sclerocactus’s tough exterior makes it so that it can live comfortably in the sub-zero temperatures of its favourite habitats, American deserts. They’re naturally designed for survival, which is conducive to those lengthy lifespans: during the colder months, Fishhook cacti opt for a wee nap, going dormant during the winter. Dormancy means growth slows, water reserves are preserved, sun needs dwindle, and fertilizer requirements become moot.

Wild and fishing for compliments

The spring and summer seasons are productive months for these cacti, blooming with colourful, bell-shaped flowers lasting as little as one week to as long as the full summer season. Native to the American Southwest, the cacti’s green-brown shades transform into quite the vision. The otherwise flat, unassuming plains erupt into waves of pink and purple flowers that leave any spectator in awe.

Sclerocactus parviflorus typically has a cylindrical shaped stem varying in length and colour, with central spines curving into a hook shape (hence: “fishhook”). Their ribbed stems vary in length and colour, and the hooked spine obscures most of the plant, giving it an all-around shaggy, wild-thang appearance.

Smallflower Fishhook Cactus Survival Guide

While Fishhook cacti can survive the cold winter season in the desert, spring and summer are the seasons that float their boat. Here’s what you need to do to lure your fishhook cactus towards full bloom:

  • Sunlight: Full sun
  • Water: Allow the water to dry completely between watering
  • Soil: Sand, loam, well-drained
  • Temperature: Resistant as low as -7 degrees Celsius
  • Fertilization: Give it a high-potassium fertilizer once every two to three months during the growing season.
Smallflower Fishhook Cactus; Copyright Clever Cactus 2021

Reel it in: repotting your fishhook

If your Smallflower Fishhook Cactus’ roots are poking out its pot’s drainage holes, you know it’s time to up-size your planter! Here’s how to repot these cacti:

  1. Make sure the soil is bone-dry.
  2. Gently twist the cactus and the soil attached to it out of the planter.
  3. Shake off old soil remnants and prune any dead or damaged roots.
  4. Choose a container that is one size larger than its original planter and add a layer of rocks in the bottom.
  5. Sprinkle in a layer of fresh soil.
  6. Gently place the roots of your cactus into the planter, adding soil overtop until they’re no longer visible.

Ideally, you want to repot your cactus during growth season, so that it can acclimate to its newest home. Water your repotted cactus once it’s settled and on a more regular-ish schedule during its growing season. Remember to switch to a more spaced-out watering schedule during dormancy!


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