Gymnocalycium saglionis-Giant Chin Cactus

Gymnocalycium saglionis on 3-30-19, #557-14.

Giant Chin Cactus

Gymnocalycium saglionis 

jim-no-kal-LISS-ee-um  SAG-lee-oh-nis


Gymnocalycium saglionis subsp. tilcarense

Synonyms of Gymnocalycium saglionis (9) (Updated 12-7-20): Brachycalycium tilcarense Backeb., Echinocactus hybogonus Salm-Dyck, Echinocactus saglionis Cels, Gymnocalycium saglionis var. australe H.Till, Gymnocalycium saglionis f. columnare H.Till, Gymnocalycium saglionis var. jujuyense Backeb., Gymnocalycium saglionis var. minus H.Till, Gymnocalycium saglionis f. splendens H.Till, Gymnocalycium saglionis subsp. tilcarense (Backeb.) H.Till & W.Till

Gymnocalycium saglionis (F.Cels) Britton and Rose is the correct and accepted scientific name for this cactus. It was named and described as such by Nathaniel Lord Britton and Joseph Nelson Rose in Cactaceae in 1922. It was first named Echinocactus saglionis by François Cels in Portefeuille des Horticulteurs in 1847.

Possibly Gymnocalycium saglionis subsp. tilcarense (Backeb.) H.Till & W.Till. This subspecies was named and described as such by Hans Till and Walter Till in Gymnocalycium in 1997. It was first named and described as Brachycalycium tilcarense by Curt Backeberg in Jahrbuch der Deutschen Kakteen in 1941. The subspecies is listed as a synonym of the species by Plants of the World Online.

The genus, Gymnocalycium Pfeiff. ex Mittler, was first named and described by Louis (Ludwig) Karl Georg Pfeiffer but the name was not validated. Then Ludwig Mittler described the genus using Mr. Pfeiffer’s description, giving him credit, in Taschenbuch für Cactusliebhaber in 1844.

Plants of the World Online still lists 61 accepted species in the Gymnocalycium genus (as of 12-7-20 when I am updating this page). It is a member of the Cactaceae Family with 144 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made.


Gymnocalycium saglionis on 3-30-19, #557-15.

I brought this plant home from Lowe’s on March 29 (2019). The label stated it was a Gymnocalycium saglione but that is an incorrect spelling. It is, in fact, Gymnocalycium saglionis. It is from Altman Plants and I was glad to find one without the “strawflower’ hot-glued to the top.

It was in an 11 oz. (3 1/2” diameter x 3 1/4” tall) pot. The plant measured approximately 1 1/8″ tall x2 5/8” wide without the spines.

The label states:

“Gymnocalycium saglione, native to Argentina, forms flattened globes to 10” in diameter. Grayish-green globular cactus with elliptical areoles and recurved spines. Flowers are 2” diameter and white. Must be quite mature to flower. Protect from frost. Provide filtered light; hardy to 32F; to 10” tall. Water thoroughly when soil is dry.”

Gymnocalycium saglionis on 3-30-19, #557-16.

Since this plant is small, it has 1-3 nearly straight central spines depending on where you look, and 7-8 recurved radial spines. Llifle says the species has 1-3 central spines and 10-15 radial spines. The felted areoles sit on top of strangely large and globose looking tubercles. The subspecies Gymnocalycium saglionis subsp. tilcarense has longer spines and larger tubercles than the species. I haven’t seen the species in person, but my plant appears to have large tubercles and fairly long spines. So, it could possibly be the subspecies.

Gymnocalycium saglionis on 3-30-19, #557-17.

According to the Llifle (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) website, this plant needs a low pH soil or will stop growing. They tolerate bright light but can suffer from stunted growth and sun scorch if overexposed to direct sun during the hottest part of the day during the summer. Click on the link to Llifle below for further information.

Gymnocalycium saglionis (Giant Chin Cactus) on 6-19-19, #592-19.

I decided I needed to put this cactus in a larger pot on June 19. Not only had it outgrown its pot, but there was also a lot of excess potting soil around it.

Gymnocalycium saglionis (Giant Chin Cactus) in its new pot on 6-19-19, #592-20.

It is quite happy now in its new pot. I used about 50/50 Miracle Grow Potting Soil and pumice. I used to use 2 parts of good potting soil with 1 part perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Pumice takes the place of both perlite and chicken grit plus contributes added nutrients to the soil.

Gymnocalycium saglionis (Giant Chin Cactus) on 6-22-19, #593-22.

I really like this cactus…

Gymnocalycium saglionis (Giant Chin Cactus) at 2 3/4″ tall x 2 7/8″ wide on 10-11-19, #639-39.

I had to move the potted plants inside on October 11 because an “F” was in the forecast. I always take photos of the plants and measure the cactus and some of the succulents. At the time, this plant measured 2 3/4″ tall x 2 7/8″ wide. It measured approximately 1 1/8″ tall x2 5/8” wide when I brought it home on March 30.

Gymnocalycium saglionis (Giant Chin Cactus) on 10-11-19, #639-40.

What can I say? I like photographing this plant…

Gymnocalycium saglionis (Giant Chin Cactus) on 10-11-19, #639-41.

This seems to be a very happy cactus and easy to grow as long as you follow a few basic rules. Bright light, very well-draining potting soil, water when dry during the summer and barely ever in the winter (like maybe once in the middle). I just make sure they have a good drink before I bring them inside.


Gymnocalycium saglionis (Giant Chin Cactus at 2″ tall x 3 3/8″ wide on 10-15-20, #747-42.

I had to bring in the potted plants inside for the winter on October 15 because an “F” was in the forecast. As always, I took photographs and measurements. The Gymnocalycium saglionis did well during the summer and has grown to 2″ tall x 3 3/8″ wide (not including the spines).

I really like this cactus and was glad to find a Gymnocalycium baldianum (Dwarf Chin Cactus) at Wal-Mart on December 2, 2020. I am sure I will like it equally as well. I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.

Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Argentina
Zones: USDA Zones 9b-11 (25-40° F)
Size: Approximately 11-16″ diameter x 6-12″ or taller 
*Light: Sun to part shade
**Soil: Very well-draining soil. Potting soil amended with pumice or chicken grit and perlite
***Water: Regular watering during the summer. Very little in winter if any.

*During the summer, I keep most of my cactus on the back deck where they receive full sun. I will have to watch this one to make sure the sun isn’t too intense for it. In the wild, they grow in the shade of tall grass, small trees, and shrubs. During the winter most cactus aren’t picky about the light because they are basically dormant. For several winters, mine were in front of the east-facing sliding door in the dining room so they didn’t get much light. I built a new shelf for the bedroom so now they are in front of a west-facing window. The succulents are on a shelf in a south-facing window in a cool bedroom because they need brighter light during the winter than cactus.

**I used 2 parts Miracle Grow Potting Soil with 1 part additional perlite and 1 part chicken grit for many years. I started using a 50/50 mixture of Miracle Grow Potting Soil and pumice in 2018 with favorable results. I also use Schultz Potting Soil which has fewer chunks of bark. I purchased the pumice online from General Pumice but you can get smaller quantities on Ebay. The problem with Miracle Grow and other peat-based potting soil is that once it gets dry it doesn’t absorb water very well. So, during the winter months, the mixture can become hard. Sometimes I re-pot in the fall with a fresh mixture so the potting soil will be loose for the winter. The timed-release fertilizer in the potting soil won’t be activated until you water anyway. Pumice also has nutritional value. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts recommend not to use peat-based potting soil, but around here that is difficult to find. I haven’t tried coir yet… There is a lot of cactus and succulent recipes online and you just have to experiment to see what you and your cactus-like.

***I water my cactus and succulents on a regular basis during the summer but barely ever in the winter (maybe a little in January) until close to time to take them back outside. 

You can read my Cactus Talk & Update and Cactus & Succulent Tips to get my opinion about growing cactus and succulents.

When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to se if they are wet. If so, you may want to go ahead and re-pot. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cactus and succulents.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.


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