Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus – Rainbow Cactus

Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus. Huh? I know…that’s a mouthful.
We went to a Central Florida Cactus and Succulent Society’s sale last summer and brought home a couple of trays of those little 2″ pots, full of unusual cacti and succulents. One of those finds was this green and raspberry colored cactus.
The plants were potted up and not given any particularly special attention. Now nine months later, our Rainbow Cactus, one of the names commonly used Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus, has grown to about six inches tall and over two inches wide. Pink Comb Cactus or Arizona Ruby Red Hedgehog, as it is known in some parts, will grow to between eight and twelve  inches tall.

Rainbow Cactus Flower (Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus)
Rainbow Cactus Flower (Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus)

They like full sun to light shade. However, full sun doesn’t work so well during those ninety plus degree summer days. It’s best to give them a little protection, not unlike many of our other cacti. Folks hear the word cactus and automatically think all cacti can handle any amount of scorching sun for any length of time. Not so, my gardening friends. I’ve toasted (more like sun dried) a few cacti by underestimating the power of the sun.
So, we watched this Pink Comb grow all winter (they are good to about 25 degrees) and into spring. Planted in light cactus mix, watered lightly over winter, and then given regular drinks throughout spring has given ours a nice shape and outstanding color. Deep green with raspberry spines. The spine’s color can vary from plant to plant. Raspberry, hot pink or magenta are common colors.
A few weeks ago we noticed a little bump pop up on the top dome. Fuzzy white at first, it soon sprouted longer spines. Ahhh, flower time? Knowing that spring in the southwestern US and northern Mexico(Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus’ native home), was about the same time as ours, we started paying a lot more attention to this little colorful cactus.

Rainbow Cactus Flower Bud
Rainbow Cactus Flower

The bud grew larger and longer. Finally, arriving  home one late afternoon, we found this outrageously beautiful flower wide open, reaching for the sun.

When viewed from the side, we could see how the flower aims itself like a satellite dish, towards the light.

Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus flower
Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus

The late afternoon sun shining directly into the throat of the blossom, the center appeared illuminated from within.

Pink Comb Cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus)
Pink Comb Cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus)

This little Ruby Red Hedgehog has been a great gardening treat.
The overly large bloom opened in the morning and closed at night for several days before withering and falling off. It left a small fuzzy scar, a small trade-off for the pleasure of seeing the bloom. Besides, just as it finished it’s life-cycle, another bud has swollen, and we now have had two blooms, with more buds starting to appear.
Our tips on this cactus…..don’t be too fussy with it, don’t over water it in the winter, give it a bunch of good drinks in the spring, and  don’t “sun dry” it in the summer!
If all goes well and you keep a sharp eye out for those new spots, you will be rewarded with beautiful cactus flowers from June to August. Echinocereus pectinatus rubispinus is a cool cactus with simple requirements and beautiful blooms.

Arizona Ruby Red Hedgehog
Arizona Ruby Red Hedgehog

Happy Gardening,
Dave and Trish
Thanks to:

Two Florida gardeners living in a sub-tropical paradise. Find us on Google+!


  1. Hey, congratulations!! Pictures of this plant is just breath-taking and these tips are very helpful! I have the same plant, it is a small seedling, and was able to survive the crazy hot summer (I am living in Southern Turkey, Mediterranean coast). I am wondering how come yours looks plump and healthy as mine seems to be skinny. It has a light soil in a 2″ plastic pot, getting full sun (now it is fall, I let it absorb direct sun rather than filtered), I slightly water it every 2 weeks – so afraid to overwater it as I’ve lost many cacti that way. I have also another question what kind of mineral fertilizer you used? I would be happy to get some more tips.

    1. Thanks for the comments!
      I would consider planting yours into a slightly larger pot. A larger pot will allow it to fill out a bit.
      We get quite a lot of rain here for many months, which does not seem to hurt the plant. This one seems to do ok as long as the soil drains water easily.
      We do not use any special fertilizer, just good cacti soil and a re-potting (refreshing of the soil) about once a year.
      Hope this helps and good luck. These are wonderful cacti to collect.

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