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The Peruvian apple cactus makes for an exceptional ornamental plant in the home. The best part is it grows edible fruit. So whether you have the cactus or planning to buy one, this guide will help you care for this exciting plant.
More About Peruvian Apple Cactus
The fancy name for the Peruvian apple cactus plants is Cereus peruvianus or the Cereus repandus these days. You can enjoy a beautiful ornamental display or create an edible garden with one.
It is a tall, thorny column cactus and a beautiful flowering plant from South America found throughout Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It reaches incredible heights up to 20 feet in optimal growing conditions.
You can enjoy the soft edible fruit varying in color from violet-red to yellow at specific times of the year, and it remains an ideal plant to decorate your living space and garden. The apple cactus has a grayish-green to blue stem top. It also grows with a tree-like appearance.
The apple cactus remains a hardy plant to withstand different conditions for a long time. The more familiar names are Queen of the Night, hedge cactus, column cactus, and giant club cactus.
You can still find some of the indigenous tribes referring to the cactus as Cadush or Kayush. The reason for naming it Queen of the Night is the gorgeous cream-colored flowers that open for one night.
Hedge Cactus Care Edible Fruit and All
Maintaining the Peruvian apple cactus is easy as it does not need much watering and prefers sandy soil with drainage. What it does require is constant trimming when you grow it as an indoor plant. It is also a fast-growing plant that needs loads of space inside. Let’s look at the growing needs.
Peruvian Apple Cactus Preferred Soil Mix
The first crucial Peruvian apple cactus care is providing them with suitable soil. The Peruvian cactus thrives in a well-draining soil like a cactus mix. Yet, it prefers acidic soils with pH levels from 5 to 7.
A soil pH kit will help determine the correct pH level by taking a soil sample instead of spending a fortune on a lab test. We also recommend checking the potting medium to amend it for added drainage. The ideal soil is similar to the one you find in the desert.
Alternatively, you can add more sand to your cactus mix if preferred.
Light Requirements for Peruvian Apple Cactus
The Peruvian apple cactus is a desert cactus growing in bright light. So, if you grow your hedge cactus inside, place it in a well-lit window where it can receive direct sun. It also helps to ensure no obstructions in the plant’s way when growing outside.
During the spring and summer months, flowers will enter a dormancy period during winter. Hence, if you live in a cooler region, you may need to adapt the lighting using artificial lighting for your cactus needs.
But it will with seasonal changes to adapt the light to provide your plant with its lighting demands.
How Often to Water Peruvian Apple Cactus Plants
The cactus plant does not need much water because it has succulent leaves that store water to adjust to drought. So during the growing season of spring and summer, you can provide it with constant moisture. But it helps to let the soil dry between watering to prevent root rot.
During the winter months, your Cereus peruvianus needs little water as too much water negatively affects the plant’s health, resulting in more complications in the near future. Thus, it helps to adhere to strict watering schedules at this time, about once a week during the dormant phase.
The best way to determine if your Peruvian cacti need water is to check the soil. You can stick your finger about three inches into the potting medium. If you feel any moisture, then refrain from watering.
Furthermore, it only needs minimal watering per session, but the water frequency depends on the climate. You can sprinkle water over the surface to become moist. The water amount also depends on your cactus size and the pot.
A mature plant will need more water than a smaller plant, and always ensure that the excess water runs from the pot. After you water your cactus, do not disturb it. Let the water drain and remove it from the saucer it stands in.
Fertilizing Your Peruvian Apple Cactus
In optimal conditions, the succulent grows in potting medium without any nutrient values. So, frequent feeding is not a must. But you can add fertilizer to help boost your plant growing indoors.
It also helps determine what nutrients your cactus needs during the growth cycle. Finally, you can collect a sample of the potting mix to take to a lab for testing. The main components your cacti need are nitrogen to encourage the growth of the stem and leaves.
Potassium will help your plant during the flowering and helps develop the fruit. Next, it helps to apply the feed during summer to help encourage blooming. While lastly, it will need phosphorous for strong root growth and helps with seed germination.
You can add the feed when mixing the potting medium when transplanting using small pellets on the surface as it dissolves with water. The alternative is to combine the feed with water and use it when watering your plant.
Temperature and Humidity Level Needs
Enjoying those edible fruits helps plant your cactus outdoors where it can enjoy hot and dry conditions. The best is to provide your hedge cactus with temperatures ranging from 50°F to 70°F.
Luckily, the cacti species are not easily affected by salt and work well growing in the coastal climate. But during winter, you must provide the Peruvian apple with temperatures between 50°F to 55°F.
When it comes to humidity, the Peruvian apple loves low moisture levels as it prefers drier conditions compared to too much moisture in the air.
Cereus Peruvianus Growth and Fruits
As your plant matures, it produces blooms in spring and summer at night. Your cactus can produce cream, red, and white flowers that appear once in the dark. The buds have a sweet fragrance that attracts bats and moths for pollination.
If you do not have these pollinators, you can use small tools with a soft brush to help pollinate the flowers. Doing this produces fruits you can eat. The fruits you find growing in winter has a red exterior when ripe.
The Cereus fruits are white with crunchy black seeds you can eat on the inside. The fruits also have loads of health benefits rich in vitamin C, beta carotene, and other natural sugars and minerals.
Another essential step in caring for your cacti is pruning done in fall as it does not grow new branches. Doing this helps to prevent your Peruvian apple cactus not overgrowing.
Propagating Peruvian Apple Cactus
When you do the trimming, it is an excellent time for propagating cuttings throughout the growth cycle. You can grow them in pots or as outdoor plants. Yet, you will need to transplant your cactus often in containers during your younger years.
While mature plants might need trimming to keep the height in control and help produce new cactus offshoots. But only prune as necessary not to injure your plant leading to other concerns. Still, germinating the seeds can be challenging and very time-consuming.
The other alternative is planting the offshoots you find growing at the base. Another technique is to make a small cutting on the stem. Here is how you can do it:
First, look for a mature Peruvian apple cactus that has several stem extensions growing from the main stem.
Using a sterilized knife, make a cutting at the top part of the stem.
Leave the cutting for a week or two to dry out and place it in a cactus mix.
Then care for the new cactus plant by not overwatering it, putting it in bright light, and then moving it to full sun.
Peruvian Apple Cactus Varieties
In the apple cactus species, there are over 33 varieties that have unique features. You can quickly identify some common ones by the height and pale green pads. We decided to share some of the less common ones with you:
The apple cactus has a thornless stem and grows tall up to 20 feet. It is a flowering plant that produces delicious fruit you can eat. It needs the same care as the Cereus uruguayanus regarding water and only propagates this plant when required.
The flowering plant displays white flowers when it occasionally blooms and also produces fruit you can eat. The stems are cylindrical and segmented and need loads of lighting when blooming. The cacti are susceptible to root rot, so the ground needs to dry between watering.
The plant grows very high, and many gardeners mistake it for a fairy tale castle. The watering frequency is minimal and needs constant monitoring when still young and growing.
Monstrose Apple Cactus
The curiosity plant is a mutant as it grows shorter, producing thick stems with delicious fruit.
Peruvian Apple Cactus Diseases and Pests
The apple cactus is not a finicky plant, but it can get underlying problems like pests and diseases on those sensitive regions of the pads.
Cactus cyst nematode can damage your plant’s root as it affects the potting medium.
Twospotted spider mite creates web-like strings on the cactus pads with a brown color. You can use organic insecticides or a chemical treatment like Nissorum 10 WP.
Greenhouse firefly has a waxy white substance that covers the mature plant. Chemical treatment like Decis Mega can help.
Aphids leave brown spots on the stem, and you can treat the infestation with Mospilan 20 SG.
The leading cause of diseases on your apple cactus results from overwatering. Your plant will look saggy and weak with brown or black spots and a foul smell.
Bacterial soft rot will appear as brown spots on the stem, growing darker to black with time. If unattended, you will notice a foul smell, and use a chemical treatment as captain or champ helps. It helps to remove the infected parts and burn them.
Footrot looks like brown wet spots on the stem, and you see rotting at the base with white fluff over the entire plant. It happens with overwatering, and providing aeration and sunlight helps. You can use a fungicide on your infected cactus.
Phyllocystica pad spot forms a grey to a black spot on the stem with a circular appearance. Provide your cactus plant with aeration, remove the infected parts, and use a chemical treatment like bleach and water.
Cactus stem rot or crown rot first starts with brown spots turning black. It helps to remove the infected parts and dispose of them. Then, please treat it with a fungicide.
Anthracnose is irregular black spots found on the surface of the stem. Your plant will start to wilt, and best to avoid overwatering. Instead, you can use a chemical treatment from Bravo, Topsin, or Score.
For a more in-depth look at why your cactus has black spots, click here.
Dragon Fruit vs. Hedge Cactus
Everyone has heard of Hylocereus spp, and many wonder if the exotic fruit tastes the same as the apple cactus. One thing is for sure both are tasty fruits. Yet, when it comes to appearance, the Hylocereus spp looks as if it has wings, while the Peruvian cactus is smooth and smaller in size.
When the fruit of the Hylocereus spp is ripe, it has a deeper red color than the reddish pink to yellow of the apple cactus. The dragon’s flesh ranges in color from pink, deep purple, and white with black speckles. At the same time, the Peruvian cactus flesh is white with black seeds.
Even the texture differs as the dragon is smooth yet firm and juicy melting away in the mouth. At the same time, the Peruvian looks like shaved ice and melts in the mouth. Yet both have a tropical flavor, with the Peruvian fruit having a milder taste like sugarcane.
Where to Buy Peruvian Apple Cactus?
Well, one thing is for sure the Peruvian cactus is not a rare plant found at different local nurseries and online. Still, the fantastic news is that Plantly has this unique plant for you to look at here.
Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!