Cereus repandus, also known as the ‘Peruvian Apple Cactus’ or ‘Night Blooming Cereus’ is a species of cactus that is native to the Andean regions of Peru in South America.
The Peruvian Apple Cactus has been used for medicinal purposes by the indigenous people of Peru. The cactus is believed to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, headaches, and fever. The cactus contains mescaline, which is a psychoactive compound that can cause hallucinations when consumed in large amounts.
The Peruvian Apple Cactus is a fast-growing columnar cactus that can reach heights of up to 30 feet and 8 feet in diameter, but will grow to be much smaller if kept indoors. The multi-stemmed cactus has bluish green stems that multiply as it ages. Thorns can grow along each rib, but are variable with some plants growing many thorns while others have no thorns.
The Peruvian Apple Cactus is known for its large, creamy white flowers that bloom at night in the summer months. The flowers can reach up to 12 inches in diameter and are pollinated by bats and moths. After pollinated flowers are spent, a fruit commonly referred to as the Peruvian apple or pitaya forms in their place. The skin of these fruits redden as they ripen. The edible center is white with black seeds. These fruits are an important food source for birds. A Peruvian Apple Cactus is not likely to flower or fruit when grown indoors due to a lack of sunlight and temperature changes.
One of the unique features of the Peruvian Apple Cactus is its ability to survive in cold temperatures. This cactus can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees fahrenheit, making it a great choice for gardeners in colder climates. It can be grown in a container or in the ground, but it is important to protect it from frost during the winter months by wrapping it in frost cloth.
There is a unique growth type on some Peruvian Apple Cacti which is a natural mutation that causes the columns to grow deformed with a knobby look to them. The unique growth patterns of these montrose types is more sought after than the traditional, smooth growth type.
Propagating a Peruvian apple cactus from a cutting is a great way to create new plants without having to purchase seeds or seedlings. It can also be done to salvage parts of a sick plant. Here are the steps for propagating a Peruvian apple cactus from a cutting:
Collect a cutting: Choose a healthy and mature stem from your Peruvian apple cactus. It should be at least 6 inches long. Use a sharp and clean knife to make a clean cut through the stem.
Allow the cutting to callus over: Leave the cutting to dry for a few days in a warm and dry place. This allows the cut end to callus over, which helps to prevent rot and promotes rooting.
Plant the cutting: Once the cutting has callused over, you can plant it in a well-draining cactus or succulent soil mix. Make sure the cut end of the cutting is planted about an inch deep in the soil.
Lightly water the cutting: Water the cutting sparingly, making sure the soil is dry before watering again. It's important to be careful not to overwater, as this can cause rot.
Provide the right light: Peruvian apple cactus needs bright sunlight to root and grow. Provide plenty of indirect sunlight while the cutting is rooting.
Wait for roots to form: Roots will typically form within a few weeks to a month, depending on the conditions. You can check for roots by gently tugging on the cutting. If it resists being pulled out of the soil, it has rooted.
Transplant to a larger pot: Once the cutting has rooted, it can be transplanted to a larger pot. The pot should have drainage and be made of a porous material such as clay or ceramic.
When grown outdoors, the Peruvian Apple Cactus should receive full to partial sunlight. The more sunlight the cactus gets, the faster and larger it will grow. If growing a Peruvian Apple Cactus indoors, provide the cactus with as much sunlight as possible to help it thrive. Place it in a south-facing window or use a grow light to provide the necessary light. A grow light should be kept on your cactus for 12 hours per day if there is little to no natural sunlight in your home. If your Peruvian Apple Cactus begins stretching towards a light source it is a sign the cactus is not receiving enough light.
The Peruvian apple cactus is a drought-tolerant plant, so it does not require frequent watering. Wait until the soil is completely dry before watering. A Peruvian Apple Cactus grown outdoors will need more frequent waterings than one grown indoors. When grown outdoors, watering can be as frequent as once a week, especially during the summer months.
When grown indoors, the Peruvian Apple Cactus should be watered less frequently at about every 3-4 weeks. Signs of excess soil moisture are a yellow, transparent color to the stems and black lesions along the stems.
The Peruvian apple cactus does not require regular fertilization because it stores nutrients in its tissues. You can feed it once a month during the growing season (spring and summer) with a cactus or succulent fertilizer.
Pests & Disease
Like any other plant, the Peruvian Apple Cactus can be susceptible to pests. Here are some of the most common pests that can attack a Peruvian apple cactus and what you can do to prevent or eliminate them:
Mealybugs: Mealybugs are small, white, cottony insects that can be found on the stems of a Peruvian apple cactus. They suck the sap from the plant, which can cause dead spots. To get rid of mealybugs, you can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe them off the plant, or an insecticidal soap spray.
Scale insects: Scale insects are small, brown or black insects that can be found on the stems of a Peruvian apple cactus. They suck the sap from the plant, which can cause dead spots. To get rid of mealybugs, you can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe them off the plant, or an insecticidal soap spray.
Aphids: Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that can be found on the stems of a Peruvian apple cactus. They suck the sap from the plant, which can cause dead spots. To get rid of mealybugs, you can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe them off the plant, or an insecticidal soap spray.
Spider mites: Spider mites are tiny spider-like insects that can burrow into the flesh of the Peruvian Apple Cactus and suck the sap from the plant. Spider mites are difficult to treat on a Peruvian Apple Cactus because insect sprays are not able to penetrate the scabbed over holes they burrow into the plant. There are however sprays designed specifically for mites such as Mite-X that can help prevent their spread. A systemic pesticide that is watered into the plant’s roots and taken up in all parts of the plant can be the most effective treatment.
Root rot: Root rot is a fungal disease that can occur if the soil is too wet. To prevent root rot, make sure the soil is well-draining and that you are not watering the plant until the soil has dried out. If you notice that the roots of your Peruvian apple cactus are brown and mushy, it is likely that the plant has root rot and should be removed from the soil. Cut away any rotten roots, allow the roots to dry out and repot into fresh soil.
It is important to use pesticides sparingly to prevent harm to beneficial pollinators.
In conclusion, the Peruvian apple cactus is a beautiful and versatile plant that is well-suited for gardeners in a variety of climates. It is easy to grow, and it provides a stunning display of large, colorful blooms in the summer months. If you're looking for a unique and eye-catching addition to your home or garden, the Peruvian apple cactus is definitely worth considering.