Cereus Peruvianus Care: Learning To Grow The Peruvian Apple Cactus



It’s great when you can find a plant that doesn’t mind the low humidity, likes it on the dry side and takes up little space.

What plant am I talking about? The Cereus peruvianus (Cereus repandus)


Cereus Peruvianus “Peruvian Apple Cactus” Facts

  • Origin: South America
  • Family: Cactaceae
  • Botanical Name: Cereus peruvianus (see’-ree-us)
  • Common Name: Peruvian Apple cactus, apple cactus, Queen of the Night, column cactus
  • Plant Type: perennial
  • Height: 12″ inches to 25′ feet tall
  • Leaves: Ribbed sea-green and gray-green stems, brown or black spines
  • Flowers: Free-blooming plant, White flowers, slight fragrance
  • Bloom Time: June through August
  • Hardiness: Outdoor USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 10
  • Exposure: Full sun, partial shade with bright light
  • Soil: Well-drained catcus soil with lots of sand
  • Watering Needs: During active growth water thoroughly allow soil to dry, minimal watering during winter
  • Fertilizing: Half strength liquid cactus fertilizer about every ten days during the growing season.
  • Propagate: Large leaf cuttings directly “stuck” into the container.
  • Pests & Problems: Scale and Mealybug

Cereus Peruvian Apple Cactus Care

The Peruvian apple cactus, also known as the Cereus repandus, picks up the common name, because of its 1″-2″- inch fleshy, apple-like red fruit.

The common names: Peruvian Apple cactusapple cactusQueen of the Nightcolumn cactus or correctly Cereus peruvianus.

You’ll find the cereus cactus plant grown normally for use indoors as multiple “cuttings” planted in various heights, such as a 2′ and 3′-foot trunk planted in a 10″-inch container.


Larger pots of the columnar Peruvian apple cactus are grown in 14″ and 17″-inch and planted with 3 or 4 of the columnar trunks of different lengths reaching a height of 4′-6′ feet and occasionally taller.

The stems or trunks have a gray-green coloring along with 6 to 8 vertical ribs. When the flowers emerge they are typically 2″-4″- inches and white.

The Cereus peruvianus is a very upright blooming cactus plant and is used mainly as a floor plant.

Taking smaller plants, elevating them and combining some unique pottery or containers can create some very interesting effects and looks… sort of like “living art”.

Many people think from the start that since the plant is a cactus or in the cactus family (like the Opuntia prickly pear) it shouldn’t be watered or it only needs a little. In the watering department, it wants to be watered well.

Peruvian apple cactus plants wants what most cacti like:

  • A well-drained soil
  • Warmth with bright light
  • Low humidity

This plant is a perfect candidate for a sunny south, east or west window.

The Peruvian apple cactus can handle low light levels but thrives during the summer months in bright light.

Popular Cactus species of this plant family include:

Cereus Peruvianus Monstrose (cereus peruvianus monstrosus) – also known as a curiosity plant. The monstrose cactus can grow up to 15′ feet tall and grows in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.

Cereus peruvians "Monstrose" outdoors in full sun

Cereus Hildmannianus monstrose – a species found in South America in the countries if Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. It can grow up to 33′ feet and bear white flowers.

Some consider the Fairy Castle Cactus (Acanthocereus Tetragonus) a cultivated variety of Cereus hildmannianus.

Cereus Jamacandu – also known as the mandacaru or cardeiro. It’s usually found in Northeast Brazil and grows up to 20 feet tall.

Cereus Tetragonus – a species also belonging to family Cactaceae, native to North America. These grow as tall plants and should not be confused with fairytale castle, a dwarf and common succulent.

High or Bright Lighting

If your Peruvian apple cactus plant is placed in high or bright lighting, allow the plant to dry out between waterings.

When the column cereus care involves maintaining plants’ lower light levels the soil should be allowed to dry out to about 75% percent.

Don’t just look at the soil. Make sure that the blades and stems are soft and spongy before you water.

Do not allow the apple cactus Cereus to sit in water. If your plant is being overwatered it may have yellowing stems or blades, mushy stems, root rot or smell funny.

The most common pest for Peruvian apple cactus is easy to control plant scale and an occasional mealybug outbreak.

Many interiorscapers control insect pests successfully with organic insecticides.

When transporting the plants, watch out for the typical cactus spines on your hands, clothes, and vehicle.

I should also point out that because of the spines the Cereus may not be the best choice for people with young children.

Most growers wrap extra paper around the stems to protect people as well as the other stems from being pierced in shipping.

Like the candelabra Euphorbia cactus– you may be surprised at how heavy a Cereus peruvianus is.

This is because of the amount of water held in the stems. This weight can make moving the plant around difficult.

The same holds true for the hedgehog cactus plants like the Echinocactus golden barrel cactus and the giant Mexican Cardon cactus – Pachycereus Pringlei.

To be successful with the Cereus peruvianus give it good light and proper watering.

You’ll have a strong stable plant that provides a unique or interesting look to your indoor “art collection”.




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