Bolivian Cactus – Lobivia famatimensis

The Bolivian Cactus has a very well deserved popularity: it is attractive in its own right, with a rounded shape and conspicuous spines. It is also very easy to bring the plant into flower.

Although the flowers only last a day or so, they appear throughout the summer months. At times they grow so profusely that they almost hide the plant. Large in comparison to the cactus, they are bell-shaped and usually red or yellow.

The genetic name, Lobivia, came about in an interesting and rather unusual way. It is actually an anagram of Bolivia, one of the many South American countries in which the plant occurs naturally.

A small cactus, it rarely grows taller than 15cm (6in) and 22mm (1in) in diameter. Most varieties produce offsets and can eventually form quite large clumps. The are round, but may become more cylindrical as they mature. Growth is fairly slow.

Lobivia famatimensis grows singly or in clusters. The spines are white, and the 5cm (2in) flowers are yellow tinged with red.Bolivian Cactus - Lobivia famatimensis

A smaller plant, L. hertrichiana is only 10cm (4in) in height, but produces scarlet flowers 5cm (2in) across. It is dark green and normally grows in clumps.

Looking after your plant

  • A winter rest period at cool temperatures is necessary to ensure a profusion of flowers in the summer. Keep at about 10°C (50°F) and do not water.
  • Water generously and feed regularly when the buds begin to form in spring.
  • If the compost is too dry the buds will wither and drop. Bud drop can also be caused by fluctuations in temperature and by erratic watering. Reduce watering during September and October.


Bolivian Cactus can be propagated from seed sown in March and germinated at a temperature of 21°C (70°F). However, it is much easier to increase your stock by removing the offsets.

1. Remove the small offsets carefully from the mother plant. If they have already formed roots, simply pot them up in individual small pots. Otherwise, allow the cut surface to dry out for a few days before planting.

2. If your plant has not produced offsets, cut the top off the mother plant. Although this may seem a drastic step to take, it will force the plant to produce small offsets around the edge which you can then use to increase your stock.

Pests And Diseases

The plant turns black or brown at the base if it has been attacked by a fungal disease that causes stem rot.

Stem rot

Treatment: You may be able to save your plant by cutting away the affected tissue. If the plant survives, allow the compost to dry out and water more carefully in future, as the disease usually occurs on plants that have been over-watered.

White woolly patches forming on the plant are mealy hugs.

Treatment: Dab the bugs with diluted methylated spirit. If this does not get rid of the pests, you should spray them with an insecticide containing malathion. As mealy bugs can also live in the compost, gently knock the plant out of its pot now and again to check for them, especially if you have found some on the plant. Bugs appear as whitish spots in the compost. Drench the compost with insecticide or repot in fresh compost after carefully rinsing off ‘the roots.


This plant is undemanding and will almost look after itself. Mist spray occasionally to remove dust or dirt.

  • Potting: Use a commercial cactus compost or one made from equal parts soil-based compost and sharp sand. Repot every two years in the spring. Make certain the compost is moist before repotting.
  • Water generously in the summer, allowing the compost to dry out a little between applications. Reduce watering in autumn and keep dry in winter. If kept in a warm room in winter the plant may shrivel: soak the compost and dry out again.
  • Feeding: Feed with a weak solution of a tomato-type fertilizer every 2-3 weeks in the growing season.


  • Light: The plant thrives in full sun, and a position on a south-facing window sill is ideal. Turn the plant by a quarter at regular intervals to encourage even growth.
  • Temperature: The plant needs as much warmth as possible in the summer. In winter, allow it to rest at about 10°C (50°F).

Buying Tips

  • Bolivian Cactus is available throughout the year but is best bought in the spring. It is available from florists, garden centres and nurseries.
  • Choose a firm, well-shaped plant.
  • Properly cared for, the Bolivian Cactus will live for many years.

Lobivia famatimensis has prominent ribs and light brown spines. The flowers are red and yellow.

One of the easiest and most rewarding of the cacti, the Bolivian Cactus is usually grown for its flowers, which are produced in profusion during the summer months.

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