How to Grow Uebelmannia Cacti Indoors

uebelmannia cactus

The Spruce / Anastasia Tretiak

Though often used to describe a singular type of cactus, the name Uebelmannia actually refers to an entire unusual genus of cacti. Composed of only three species, Uebelmannia was only brought into the mainstream trade from their native South America during the mid-sixties, and at the time was unlike any cactus ever seen. They are unique in appearance and can be truly impressive, featuring distinct vertical ribs covered in areoles in white, black, or gold. They're usually cylindrical, and their skin has an odd, waxy look to it. Together, the effect is truly one-of-a-kind among cacti.

Uebelmannia cacti are beloved by serious collectors, especially U. pectinifera, which has black spines, a purple body, and can grow up to 12 inches tall under perfect conditions. Their beauty, however, is matched by their rarity and their difficulty. These cacti are very hard to track down and can be expensive; in cultivation, they have specific and difficult requirements that can make them a real challenge to grow.

For that reason, these cacti are best left to experienced growers. If you do choose to try your hand at growing Uebelmannia cacti, you can tend to them year-round indoors, where they'll grow slowly, eventually reaching up to 3 feet over time when given the proper conditions.

Botanical Name  Uebelmannia
Common Name Uebelmannia
Plant Type Cacti
Mature Size 8-32 in. tall, 2-7 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Dry, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral to acidic
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 10-11 (USDA)
Native Area South America
closeup of uebelmannia cactus

The Spruce / Anastasia Tretiak

top view of uebelmannia cactus

The Spruce / Anastasia Tretiak

Uebelmannia Cactus Care

Even for cacti, Uebelmannia plants have a low tolerance for cold temperatures, and letting them into even temperate conditions is an easy way to damage them. Make sure to keep well-watered, as well, and give them lots of light. Their roots need some space and really good drainage and keep an eye out for common pests that can damage them.

These are such rare and difficult plants that only those with lots of practice growing cacti will likely even have access to them. They're likely to only be found in specialty shops, and novice growers may have difficulty in getting them to thrive.

Light

Uebelmannia cacti love warm, bright light and need at least eight to 10 hours of direct sunlight every day to thrive. Consider leaving the cactus on your sunniest windowsill, or move it throughout your home over the course of the day to allow it to get the most sunlight possible.

Soil

A neutral pH soil is best for your Uebelmannia cactus, and it absolutely must be well-aerated and well-draining—your cactus should never be allowed to sit in water. Look for a soil mixture that's been specifically formulated for cacti, or consider amending a general potting mixture with sand or grit.

Water

Water your cactus regularly during its growing season from spring to summer, allowing the soil to dry out completely between each session. Come winter, you will only need to water occasionally throughout the season, and even then do so sparingly. Once established, your cactus will be extremely drought-tolerant.

Temperature and Humidity

Uebelmannia cacti need consistently warm temperatures year-round. During their growing season, they should be kept in very hot conditions, and even in winter, they should never be allowed to dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

They also love humidity, so consider keeping your cactus somewhere that boasts natural moisture in the air, such as a kitchen or bathroom. If your home is dry, you can spritz the plant occasionally or buy a small space humidifier.

Fertilizer

Feed your uebelmannia cacti regularly during their growing season with a balanced fertilizer that's been diluted to half-strength. The easiest method is to mix the food into water before tending to your cacti.

Uebelmannia Cacti Varieties

The three species in this genus are U. pectinifera, U. gummifera, and U. buiningii, although there are hybrids that exist and other closely-related cacti as well. The most popular of the three is probably U. pectinifera, while many of the others are quite esoteric. For example U. gummifera for is so rare that it only grows in very specific types of quartzite sand in Brazil and is almost never found elsewhere.

Propagating Uebelmannia Cacti

It is quite difficult to propagate Uebelmannia. Though they can grow from seed, in common practice they are most often grafted onto another plant to help them survive. Some variants, like U. pectinifera, need to be grown from seed to grow well. They are finicky in early life; generally, propagating these cacti from scratch should be left to the experts.

Potting and Repotting Uebelmannia Cacti

If free-standing in their pots, Uebelmannia can be repotted at the beginning of each growing season by carefully lifting the plant out as a whole and replacing it in a larger container, making sure to spread the roots out in the new soil. Make sure not to pack them in too tightly, as this can damage their root systems and make it hard for them to retain water.

Common Pests/Diseases

Like most cacti, Uebelmannia is susceptible to a variety of common diseases such as scale, mealybugs, and spider mites. If you spot signs of infestation, quarantine your infected plant immediately and treat the pests with a mild insecticide or horticultural oil.

Cacti can also experience environmental ailments, including root rot, sunburn, and over-watering. Avoid these issues by maintaining strict growing conditions and keeping a close eye on the needs of your plant.