Cereus peruvianus monstrose (SER-ee-us per-u-vee-AN-us MAHN-strose) is a member of the Cactaceae family of plants. It is a large, tall, thorny succulent perennial plant, recognizable by its towering columnar or candle-shaped limbs.
Cereus peruvianus monstrose, along with its relative Cereus peruvianus, is native to:
- South America
- The Caribbean
- Rio de Janeiro
It thrives in sub-humid or humid forests, as well as on rocky outcroppings.
You may hear this plant referred to as:
- Monstrose Apple Cactus
- Peruvian Apple Cactus
- Queen of the Night
- Hildmann’s Cereus
- Andes Organ Pipe
- Giant Club Cactus
- Hedge Cactus
Cereus Peruvianus Monstrose Care
Size and Growth
Apple Cactus can reach a height of 15′ – 20′ feet with a spread of 10′ – 15′ feet.
There are several varieties of Cereus, but the monstrose type is the largest. It displays columnar growth, with each appendage attaining a diameter of about 6″ inches.
The ribbed limbs have wavy edges. Side branches are sparse, small, and rather contorted.
Peruvian Apple Cactus has an extensive root system and a very deep taproot. Its root system can spread to several feet around the plant.
The thick, convoluted spines of this cactus are grayish-blue or grayish-green in color. The columns may be twisted, and the rib edges are quite bumpy.
Flowering and Fragrance
The flowers of the Apple Cactus have an unusual circadian flowering rhythm. The large white flowers almost only bloom at night, opening at sunset and closing at sunrise.
They follow a 24-hour rhythm for 3 to 4 days within the lunar cycle. Typically, they bloom the most during the full moon.
Flowers are approximately 6″ – 10″ inches across and are of a loose funnel shape. Blossoms are usually white or rose-colored with white centers.
The tubes of the flowers are pale green and are approximately 8″ – 10″ inches long. The stamens and anthers are cream-colored.
Immature plants do not bloom. It takes several years for a plant to become mature enough to begin blooming at all.
During the night, the flowers are attractive to night-flying insects and bats. Very early in the morning, hummingbirds enjoy the blooms.
Blooms transition into small, green fruits, which gradually become violet and then red. The ripe fruit resembles apples. Its pulp is very flavorful and juicy and, often said to be as sweet as sugar cane but with a very crunchy texture.
Many say that the fruit of this cactus is somewhat like Dragon Fruit in flavor and structure. The flesh of the fruit is quite juicy and filled with a great many tiny, crunchy, edible black seeds.
It takes quite a while for the fruit to mature on the plant, but once picked, you must eat it right away or it will ferment.
Light and Temperature
Cereus peruvianus monstrose is quite tolerant of both warm temperatures and cold. It can withstand temperatures as low as 20° – 25° degrees Fahrenheit as well as desert-like temperatures in the hundreds. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11.
This cactus does well in full sun but must be appropriately acclimated to prevent sunburn. It can also do well in partial shade.
Watering and Fertilizer
This very drought tolerant cactus does quite well with a single deep monthly irrigation. Twice a month is preferable, especially if your soil is extremely fast draining.
If you keep the plant in a container, it may need supplemental water more often. In any event, always be sure to water deeply and then wait until the soil is relatively dry before watering again. Too much water leads to root rot.
This cactus family member has no real need for fertilizer. But a single feeding of a diluted, balanced fertilizer application (20-20-20) can encourage growth in the springtime.
Soil and Transplanting
This plant does well in gravelly, sandy, well-drained potting medium with a good bit of loam soil and other organic matter, as with most cacti. Slightly acidic soil with a pH level lower than 6 is best.
NOTE: Any quality potting mix for cactus works well for Cereus cactus plants.
Be sure to protect recently transplanted cactus from the harsh sun and other extreme elements.
Grooming and Maintenance
Harvest the fruit when it is ripe. Protect the tips of the plants’ branches from frost by covering them with Styrofoam cups during a cold snap. This is especially important for small, young plants.
How to Propagate Cereus Peruvianus Monstrose
It is easy to grow this cactus either from stem cuttings or from seed propagation. As with most cacti, allow cuttings to callus over before planting them in fast-draining soil.
Protect cuttings from frost and other harsh weather conditions for the first several years.
Cereus Peruvianus Monstrose Pests or Diseases
As with most cacti, poorly draining soil and cool, wet weather will cause root and stem rot. Cacti with too much water, too little light, or are otherwise poorly kept are subject to infestation by mealybugs and scale. Young plants placed in full sun are subject to sunburn.
Is the Monstrose Plant Toxic to People or Pets?
Cereus peruvianus monstrose is not toxic, and its fruits are edible and delicious.
Is Peruvianus Monstrose Considered Invasive?
This large, slow-growing, rather particular cactus is not invasive.
Suggested Cereus Peruvianus Monstrose Uses
This fascinating, unusual-looking treelike cactus makes beautiful container specimens. Remember, it can get quite large, so you will need to be sure to have plenty of room for it to grow.
This imposing cactus grows naturally in areas when planted in a row and used as a living fence.
In Israel, Cereus peruvianus is commercially grown for its delicious fruit.
These cacti help as hosts for propagating slow-growing cacti. Cuttings of other types of cactus are often grafted onto Cereus peruviana’s rootstock to encourage quicker growth.