5 Cereus Cactus Types & How To Care For Them

cereus cactus

Children of the Cactaceae family, Cereus cacti are one of the most popular genera of succulents known to man. The name comes from Cereus, meaning candle or a torch. The cereus species are known for their columnar, treelike stems – justifying their etymology.

The wonderful thing about these cacti is that they are night bloomers. Other remarkable features include stubby and stout spines, large and fragrant white flowers, and pronounced ribs. Even their fruits are large, fleshy, tube-like, and hairless.

Natives of West Indies and South America, Cereus cacti are comfortable in arid, drought-like climates. They are usually grown as indoor plants, but not all species of Cereus are well-adapted for indoor gardening. Only some can be grown quickly among a wide range of approximately 33 varieties. Here is a quick list of a few.

Cereus cv. Wild Crest

Mexican darling Cereus cv. Wild Crest is the ideal succulent for growing indoors because of its bonsai size. The cactus shares a striking structural resemblance with fresh broccoli compared to its other tall Cereus siblings. Their large lumps are topped with white-fuzzy hair. Each lump is decorated with small henna-colored spines. They can be easily planted in small pots on your balcony or terrace garden. Like any other succulents, they can survive arid temperatures and require well-draining soil.

Cereus cv. Wild Crest
Photo from Planet Desert

Cereus Jamacaru

Brazilian native Cereus Jamacaru is a spectacular sight. Single-stemmed, it is columnar like other Cereus species, but its wavy look makes it distinct from all others. It is embellished with yellow-red thorns alongside the perimeter of the stems. Ultimately, its bluish-green color and sparsely-spaced ribs give it a funky look that is inimitable. The Jamacaru develops flowers that are large and whitish. A perfect visual treat – the Cereus Jamacaru is an excellent option for indoor gardening.

Cereus Jamacaru
By Hervé LEFEBVRE – (c) Hervé LEFEBVRE Lyon, 30 avril 2005, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia

Cereus Peruvianus

Natives to the tropical and subtropical gardens of South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico – these columnar cacti are decorative and majestic. They are also known as Peruvian Apple Cactus, Giant Club Cactus, and Hedge Cactus. They bear prominent fruits.

Globose, deep violet-red, and fleshy – these fruits are fist-sized and thornless. They are filled with edible white flesh and black seeds. Sometimes, they burst open during the ripening season. So, to an untrained eye, they may look like dragon fruits. Flowers produced by the Peruvian Apple are large and white, sometimes baby pink. They are also easy to cultivate and quick growers.

Cereus Peruvianus Monstruosus, Serres du Jardin Massey, Tarbes (France), Wikimedia

Cereus forbesii cv. Spiralis 

The mighty Cereus Forbesii cv. Spiralis resembles a corkscrew more than anything. It is a trunkless succulent and appears like a shrub with numerous spiral stems growing upwards from the base.

It is a proficient bloomer and pollinates easily. Its fruits are large and purple. It looks like a bright-colored Jujube. The spiral Cereus produces fairly sized white flowers, sometimes cream-colored with a splash of pink on the petals. This self-sterile cactus boasts a waxy sheen and is of easy culture. Its requirements are no different from any other succulents on this list.

Cereus orbesii cv. Spiralis
By Karl Thomas Moore – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia

Cereus Spegazzinii

Cereus Spegazzinii or Monvillea Spegazzinii is also popularly known as the Moonlight Plant. It is native to the dry forests of Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia. Hence, it cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. Several slim, snake-like stems grow from the base of the cactus. Its white and pink flowers give it a rustic, ornamental charm.

Cereus Spegazzinii
By Frank Vincentz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, WikipediaUnicode

How to Care for Cereus Cactus

There are fundamentals for caring for any succulent. The Cereus species are easy to care for and don’t require any special measures. Growing a Cereus in your backyard won’t be a difficult task, but here are some guidelines for the process.

Temperature, Humidity and Watering

Like most succulents, Cereus species prefer warm climatic conditions. Although they can sustain themselves in demanding terrains, they cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. If you live somewhere the temperatures dip below 10°, it might be wise to consider another species. Cacti usually need airy locations away from outer units of air conditioners and other humid conditions. Excess humidity can be harmful to your cactus’ well-being.

They need to be watered regularly but don’t water them excessively. Overwatering is a major cause of cactus death. It is better to err on the other side than to overwater. Ideally, make a watering schedule for ease. Also, water your plants seasonally. On hot summer days, your succulent requires more water than it does on cold winter days. Seasonal and scheduled watering reduces the chances of waterlogging and related fatalities.

Sunlight

A common misconception among cactus gardeners is that all cacti require a lot of sunlight. Although cacti benefit when exposed to as much light as possible, not all the light has to be direct sunlight. Most cacti, including the Cereus species, prefer filtered or indirect sunlight. When you first bring the plant home from a nursery, let it adjust to the strength of sunlight. On the contrary, if your cactus is not receiving enough light, you can opt to buy LED growth lights.

Soil and Potting

Cacti prefer a well-draining mixture that allows the soil and roots to breathe. Choose a cactus potting soil accordingly. Nowadays, it is trendy to use homemade cactus potting soil in place of commercial options. If you choose to do so, make sure you avoid water retaining materials like clay and use gritty components like coarse sand.

Repot them once they grow out of their current pot. This may happen once in a year for a Cereus. Avoid breaking or crushing roots during the process.

Pruning

Cactuses in this species vary widely in size, impacting how you prune the plant. You can effectively prune a small cactus using a knife, while the bigger ones would need you to use a pruning saw. Pruning is not vital to the plant’s growth, but it may be necessary to keep the succulent looking beautiful.

You should cut off the dry branches and leaves to make the plant look great. Sometimes you may want to remove some leaves to allow air and light into the plant. The best time to remove dry branches is at the end of the growing season. Pruning fresh leaves and branches for aeration and light should happen at the beginning of spring to ensure a quick recovery. Watch out for the spines as you prune, you can wear gardening gloves to be safe.

Fertilizer

Cereus cacti require regular feeding, unlike many other succulents, especially during its growing season. Use a water-soluble fertilizer, preferably 10-10-10 diluted to ¼ strength. Feed the plant with this fertilizer every time you water it. You can also use dry fertilizers if that is what you have available

Pests

Even though members of the Cereus family are relatively low-maintenance, if there is one such challenge that every gardener has to tackle, it is a gory pest infestation. To avoid it, regularly check your plant because pests like mealybugs and fungi have the gnarly tendency of spreading to other plants in the garden. You can also consider fumigating them a few times a year or using insecticides.

Propagation

Stem cuttings are the best way to propagate this plant. It is leggy; therefore, one stem can give you a number of cuttings from which you can propagate. It is best to acquire the cuttings during the plant’s spring and summer growing seasons. The growth period ensures the plant recovers quickly after cutting them. You can obtain them at the end of winter to root and plant the new plants as early as possible in the growing season since that is the best time to propagate. The plant’s cells are most active, so your plant will be established quickly.

The following are the steps to propagate using cuttings.

  • Cut a healthy stem or branch from the plant.
  • Leave it to be dry and callous
  • Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone,
  • Put some potting mix in a container and plant the stem cutting just above ground level.
  • After 3-7 days, or when the stems would have rooted, transplant to larger containers.
  • Transplant them outside to your garden in the spring

Watch out for the spines as you obtain the cuttings, you can wear gardening gloves to be safe.

Cereus Cacti FAQ

  • Is Cereus cactus poisonous?

It is non-toxic so you can keep it around pets and children, however, you should be careful to protect children and pets from the spines.

  • How often should I water my Cereus cactus?

How often you water the cactus depends on the weather conditions in your area. You water it more often during its growing season and also during the hot seasons such as summer. The temperatures vary from place to place and from season to season. The best way to know when to water is by doing a soil wetness test. Water if the top three inches of the soil is dry in spring and summer. Don’t water in the fall and winter unless the plant has clear signs of distress.

Cereus Family

The Cereus family tree is prolific within cacti fanciers. The popularity of this plant has spread all over the world, owing to ease of care and majestic structure – all of which make it excellent for indoor gardening.

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