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Echinocereus engelmannii

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About Calico Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) The Calico Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) is commonly found in desert areas of the southwestern United States and the adjacent areas of Mexico, including the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Baja California and Sonora. In California it is found in the lower Colorado and Mojave deserts. There are five recognized varieties in the state; Echinocereus engelmannii var. howei is a rare plant on CNPS list 1B.1. Calico Cactus grows in clusters, sometimes up to 20 and more stems. Its bright magenta flowers bloom in April in its southern extremes to late May at northern locations. The flowers are borne at the upper half to one third of the stem. They are funnelform in shape, up to 3.5 inches long with dark-green stigmas. The fruit is very spiny. At first it is green, becoming pink and drying when ripe. The ripe fruit has spines which are easily detached. The seeds are black, and around a tenth of an inch in size. The stems are initially cylindrical and erect in young plants, but later with the stem base lying on the ground. The stems are usually 1.5 to 3.5 inches in diameter and up to 25 inches high, and obscured by heavy spines which tend to angle downwards. The plants have around 10 ribs, which are somewhat flattened and tuberculate. It is not often used, even in desert gardens, because it is very slow growing and tends to not flower until it has reached mature size. Nevertheless, the flowers are a beautiful reward for the patient desert gardener.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Shrub, Succulent

Max. Height
0.29 - 2 ft (0.09 - 0.6 m)

Max. Width
4 ft (1.2 m)

Growth Rate


Flower Color

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Most often found on rocky desert slopes, sometimes growing out of cracks in large boulders


Elevation ?
229' - 8222'

Annual Precip. ?
3.5" - 29.9"

Summer Precip. ?
0.38" - 2.88"

Coldest Month ?
32.2° F - 59.4° F

Hottest Month ?
57.2° F - 88.3° F

Humidity ?
2.47 vpd - 40.67 vpd

Soil Description
Rocky, sandy


Sunset Zones ?
2, 3, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

Companion Plants
Use with other Desert or Desert-edge species such as Indian Mallow (Abutilon palmeri), Desert Agave (Agave Deserti), Desert Lavender (Condea emoryi), Cholla Cactus (Cylindropuntia sp.), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus), Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), Chuparosa (Justicia californica), Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia sp.), Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis), Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), and Mojave Yucca (Yucca shidigera), as well as various Desert annuals.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low, Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Rarely Used

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist


Common uses
Deer Resistant

Other Names
Botanical Names
Echinocereus engelmannii var. engelmannii

Common Names
Engelmann's Hedgehog Cactus

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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