Peruvian Apple Cactus Care: Learning To Grow The Cereus Peruvianus

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The Peruvian Apple Cactus, is a stunning columnar cactus native to South America. It’s towering presence and low maintenance needs make it a unique addition to any home or landscape.

The botanical name is Cereus Peruvianus. In recent times it is more commonly called Cereus repandus.


The common names for Cereus peruvianus include:

  • Apple Cactus
  • Peruvian Torch
  • Column Cactus
  • Night-blooming Cereus
  • Queen of the Night
  • Screw Cactus Plant

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, night blooming cereus, screw cactus plant, giant club 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 and direct light
  • Soil: Well-drained cactus soil with lots of sand
  • Watering Needs: During active growth, water thoroughly allow the soil to dry, with minimal watering during winter
  • Fertilizing: Half-strength liquid cactus fertilizer about every ten days during the growing season.
  • Propagate: Large stem cuttings directly “stuck” into the container.
  • Pests & Problems: Scale and Mealybug
Table Of Contents
  1. Cereus Peruvianus “Peruvian Apple Cactus” Facts
  2. Peruvian Apple Cactus Care
  3. Can I Grow Apple Cactus in a Container?
  4. What Is The Monstrose Cactus?
  5. How To Propagate Peruvian Cactus Apple Plant
  6. Peruvian Apple Cactus Problems: What Pests Attack Of Cereus Peruvianus?
  7. What are the Common Diseases of Peruvian Apple Cactus?
  8. Suggested Uses For Night-blooming Cereus
  9. Harvesting and Storing Peruvian Apples
  10. Frequently Asked Questions
  11. In Closing

Peruvian Apple Cactus Care

Caring for the Cereus cacti is relatively simple, making it a great choice for both novice and experienced gardeners. Here are some key aspects to consider for its care:

Size & Growth: How Tall Does Cereus Peruvianus Grow?

The Peruvian Cereus Apple is a fast-growing cactus that can reach impressive heights. In its native habitat, the grayish-green to bluish stems grow up to 25′ feet tall or 7.62 meters. It typically reaches 6′ to 10′ feet tall or 1.8 to 3 meters when grown in home gardens or as an indoor plant.

A tall, green Cereus Peruvianus cactus with multiple branches and long, thin spines growing in a rocky landscape.Pin

The Peruvian cactus has a columnar shape and a single, sturdy trunk. It develops branches or arms as it gets older. These arms reach upwards, creating a tree-like look. The plant’s surface is ribbed, with areoles or small bumps, where sharp spines appear.

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

Peruvianus cactus grows relatively fast compared to other cacti. It adds up to 12″ inches per year, particularly when young and in ideal conditions. The growth rate depends on light, temperature, water, and soil quality.

The cactus’s main stem can measure 4″-8″ inches (10-20 cm)  in diameter, with its branches being slightly narrower. Trimming can help manage the plant’s size and promote fuller growth.

The Apple Cactus is a plant with remarkable longevity, with some thriving for decades. Its rapid growth, impressive stature, and enduring vitality make it a standout selection for any garden or indoor plant collection.

Cereus Peruvian Apple Cactus Bloom: Flowering and Fragrance

The “night-blooming cereus cactus” is known for its stunning, night-blooming flowers. These flowers typically appear in the warmer months of the year. Each flower bud emerges from an areole on the cactus and grows for several weeks before it finally opens. The flowers open at night and last for only one night.

The flowers of the Peruvian torch cactus are large, often reaching up to 6″ inches (15 centimeters) in diameter. They are cream-colored to white in color with a complex structure with numerous petals forming a circular pattern. The center of the flower contains a cluster of yellow stamens.

A large Peruvian apple cactus bloom showcasing a beautiful large white night-blooming flower.Pin

One of the most remarkable features of these flowers is their fragrance. The scent is sweet and strong, designed to attract night-pollinating insects. After the flower has been pollinated, it will close and start developing a fruit. The fruit is round and red, resembling an apple, hence the common name “Peruvian Apple”.

As mentioned above, the flowers are only open for one night. Don’t miss your chance to see and enjoy your apple cactus flowers!

Queen of the Night Light & Temperature

The Cereus cactus, like most cacti, thrives in bright light. It grows outdoors in full direct sunlight. If you’re growing Peruvianus cactus indoors, place it near a south-facing window with lots of bright indirect light. If the light is too low, the cactus may become leggy and stretch toward the light source.

In terms of temperature, the column cereus prefers warm conditions. Heat is not an issue for this cactus. It can tolerate temperatures over 95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° Celsius). Peruvianus should be protected when temperatures drop below 35° degrees Fahrenheit (1.6° Celsius). If you live in a cold winter location, it’s best to grow your cactus in a pot and bring it indoors during the colder months.

Peruvian Torch Watering and Fertilizing

As a desert cactus, the Peruvian torch cactus doesn’t require frequent watering or lots of humidity. 

During the active growth phase in spring and summer, water thoroughly. Allow the soil to dry between watering. This helps prevent root rot, a common issue with overwatered cacti. 

PRO TIP: It is better to underwater than overwater when it comes to cacti.

In the summer, water once a week. In the winter, reduce watering to once a month.

To ensure strong, healthy growth of your night-blooming cereus, feed using a balanced cactus fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer). Follow the instructions on the package. Avoid overfeeding, which can result in excessive growth and weak, leggy plants.

Column Cereus Peruvianus Cactus Soil & Transplanting

The Queen of the night cactus prefers a well-draining potting soil mix to prevent waterlogging and root rot. A commercial cactus mix will work well, or you can make your own by mixing regular potting soil with coarse sand and perlite.

Transplanting should be done carefully to avoid damaging the root system. The best time to transplant is in the spring, at the start of the growing season. When transplanting, handle the cactus carefully to avoid injury from the spines. Use gloves or wrap the cactus in a thick layer of newspaper.

Can I Grow Apple Cactus in a Container?

Yes, you can grow Peruvian Apple Cactus in a container. In fact, it’s a indoor popular choice because of its columnar growth habit and small footprint. 

Growing Night Blooming Cereus Cactus in Pots

Growing the Peruvian Apple Cactus in pots is a great option, especially if you live in a colder climate where it can’t stay outside year-round. Choose a pot that’s slightly larger than the root ball of the cactus and has good drainage. The pot should be deep enough to accommodate the long taproot that the cactus develops.

When potting up the cactus, place a layer of gravel or small stones at the bottom of the pot for extra drainage. Then add the cactus soil mix and plant the cactus at the same depth it was growing at before. After potting, wait for a week before watering to allow any damaged roots to heal.

A potted Peruvian apple cactus with several columnar branches growing in a pot in Winter Park, Florida.Pin

When grown indoors in a pot will allow you to control its size. Pruning can keep the cactus at a manageable size, making it easier to move and handle.

In conclusion, the Peruvian Apple Cactus is a versatile and hardy plant that can thrive in the ground and pots. With its striking appearance, beautiful flowers, and easy care, it’s a great choice for both beginner and experienced gardeners. Whether you’re growing it for its ornamental value or its delicious fruit, the Peruvian cereus repandus will surely stand out in your plant collection.

Night-Blooming Cereus Grooming And Maintenance

This cactus is relatively low-maintenance. However, you might need to prune it if it becomes too tall for your space. When pruning, always use clean, sharp tools to avoid spreading diseases. Remember to let the cuttings dry for a few days before replanting them.

What Is The Monstrose Cactus?

The Monstrose Apple Cactus is a variant of Cereus peruvianus, known for its unusual growth habit. The term “monstrose” in the world of cacti and succulents refers to plants that exhibit abnormal growth. This often results in unique and interesting forms.

Cereus peruvians "Monstrose" outdoors in full sunPin
Cereus Peruvianus Monstrose growing in full sunlight

In the case of the Monstrose Apple Cactus, instead of growing in a straight, columnar fashion like the standard Peruvian Queen of the night cactus, it grows more irregularly, twistedly. The stems of the Monstrose variant can have multiple offshoots, bumps, and curves, giving the plant a somewhat “monstrous” appearance, hence the name.

Despite its unusual growth habit, the Monstrose Peruvianus shares the same care requirements as the standard Peruvian Apple Cactus. It prefers a sunny location, well-draining soil, and infrequent watering. It also produces the same beautiful, night-blooming flowers and edible fruits.

The Monstrose variety is popular among cactus enthusiasts and collectors due to its unique appearance. Each plant is truly one-of-a-kind, adding an element of interest and conversation to any garden or indoor plant collection.

How To Propagate Peruvian Cactus Apple Plant

Propagation by Seeds

Growing an Apple Cactus plant from seed can be fun but requires patience. Sow the seeds in a well-draining cactus mix and moisten the soil until germination.

Propagation by Stem Cuttings

Propagation by stem cutting is the fastest, easiest, and most popular method of propagating Cereus cactus. It’s relatively simple and can yield a new plant from a bare root cutting in a short amount of time. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

Step #1: Choose a Healthy Stem

The first step in propagating is to choose a healthy stem cutting from the parent plant. Look for a mature stem that is not old or woody. It should be firm and green, without any signs of disease or pest infestation.

Step #2: Make the Cut

Once you’ve chosen a suitable stem cutting, use a sharp, clean knife or pair of pruning shears to make a cut. The cut should be made at a 45-degree angle to increase the surface area for rooting. Make sure to protect your hands with gloves, as the cactus spines can be sharp.

Step #3: Let the Cactus Cutting Dry

After taking the stem cutting, it’s important to allow the cutting dry for a few days to a week. This allows a callus to form over the cut surface, helping prevent rot when the cutting is planted.

Step #4: Plant the Cutting

Once the cutting has dried and callused, it’s time to plant.

  • Choose a pot with drainage holes that is just slightly larger than the cutting itself.
  • Fill the pot with a good layer of a well-draining cactus mix. Fill with enough soil to create a stable base for the cutting. Buy a pre-made cactus mix or combine equal parts of coarse sand, perlite, and regular houseplant potting soil. The soil should be dry at the time of planting.
  • Make a small cavity in the soil where you will place the cutting. The cutting should be planted deep enough to stand upright (not more than 1″ – 3″ inches deep). The goal is to have the cutting stand up on its own but not so deep that the healthy tissue is buried. NOTE: If the cutting was cut at an angle, try to position the cutting so it’s as upright as possible.
  • Begin filling in with the soil mix around the base of the cutting.
  • Gently firm the soil around the base of the cutting to hold it in place.
  • Do not water the cutting immediately after planting. Wait until the temperatures warm up and are consistently in the upper 70s before watering.

Step #5: Wait for Roots to Develop

After planting the cutting, place it in a warm, bright location and wait for roots to develop. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.Avoid direct sunlight. Too much intense light can cause the cutting to dry out before it has a chance to establish roots.

Step 6: Care for Your New Plant

Once your cutting has developed roots, care for it as you would a mature Peruvian cactus. Provide plenty of light, water sparingly, and feed with a balanced cactus fertilizer during the growing season.

Propagation from a stem cutting is a great way to multiply your cactus collection or share them with friends and family.

Related: Growing San Pedro Cactus

Peruvian Cereus apple cactus growing in the landscape - Winter Park, FloridaPin

Peruvian Apple Cactus Problems: What Pests Attack Of Cereus Peruvianus?

Mealybugs and scale insects are common pests that attack Cereus Peruvian Apple. They feed on the plant’s sap. These pests can weaken the plant and stunt its growth if left untreated.  Severe infestations can kill the plant. Regular inspections and prompt treatment can help keep these pests at bay. Here’s how you can control these pests:


Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied insects that are covered in a white, waxy substance. They often gather in clusters on cactus.

Manual Removal: If the infestation is small, you can remove mealybugs manually using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. The alcohol kills the bugs on contact.

Insecticidal Soap or Neem Oil: You can use an insecticidal soap or a neem oil solution for larger infestations. Spray the solution on all parts of the plant, making sure to cover all areas where mealybugs often hide. Repeat the treatment every week until the infestation is gone.

Introducing beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, outdoors can help control mealybug populations since they are natural predators of mealybugs.

Plant Scale Insects

Scale insects are tiny round bugs that feed on plant sap. They have a hard shell-like covering, making them resistant to most insecticides.

Manual Removal: For a small infestation, you can scrape off scale insects using a soft brush or a toothpick. Be careful not to damage the plant.

Horticultural Oils, like neem oil, can effectively control plant scale insects by suffocating them through the blockage of their air holes. Apply the oil on the plant, ensuring all surfaces are covered.

Systemic Insecticides can be used to control severe infestations by being absorbed by the plant and killing insects that feed on its sap. However, they should only be used as a last resort since they can also harm beneficial insects.

Old Peruvian apple cactus with plant scale. Arcadia FloridaPin

Remember, the key to controlling pests is early detection. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests and take action as soon as you spot any bugs. You can keep your Peruvian Apple Cactus healthy and pest-free with prompt and appropriate treatment.

What are the Common Diseases of Peruvian Apple Cactus?

The Peruvian Apples are generally hardy plants, but they can be susceptible to a few diseases. The most common diseases are root rot and stem rot.

Root Rot

Root rot is a common cacti disease usually caused by overwatering. The excess water creates a damp environment ideal for fungi’s growth, which can infect the roots and cause them to rot.

Symptoms of root rot include: 

  • Yellowing or wilting of the plant
  • Slow growth
  • General decline in the plant’s health

In severe cases, the plant may collapse or die.

If you suspect root rot, remove the cactus from its pot and examine the roots. Healthy roots should be white or light tan and firm to the touch. If the roots are brown, black, and mushy, they are likely rotting.

To treat root rot:

  • Trim away the affected roots
  • Repot the cactus in fresh, well-draining soil
  • Be sure to let the cut ends dry out before repotting
  • Avoid overwatering
  • Make sure the plant is in a soil and pot with good drainage

Stem Rot

Stem rot is another disease that can affect the Peruvian Apple Cactus. Like root rot, it’s often caused by overwatering or poor drainage, leading to moisture buildup around the stem.

Symptoms of stem rot include a soft, mushy stem, often with a dark, discolored area where the rot is occurring. The cactus may also start to lean or fall over.

You’ll need to remove the affected part of the stem to treat stem rot. 

  • Use a sharp, clean knife to cut away the rot
  • Remove all the diseased tissue. 
  • Allow the cut end to dry and callus over 
  • Repot in fresh, well-draining soil.

Prevention is the best cure for both root rot and stem rot. Always make sure your cactus is planted in well-draining soil. Be careful not to overwater. Remember, cacti are desert plants and are adapted to dry conditions. They can tolerate drought much better than they can tolerate excess water.

Suggested Uses For Night-blooming Cereus

Ornamental Uses

The Peruvian Apple Cactus makes a great ornamental plant with its impressive height and beautiful flowers. It can be used as a focal point in a garden or as a unique indoor plant.

Edible Uses: The Fruit of Cereus Peruvianus is Edible?

Yes, you read that right! The fruits of Peruvian apples are not just edible but delicious. They have a sweet taste and can be eaten fresh or used in cooking. They serve as a wonderful source of food for both humans and the local bird population.

Harvesting and Storing Peruvian Apples

When and How to Harvest 

Peruvian Apples are usually ready to harvest in late summer or early fall. They should be harvested when they are fully ripe, as indicated by their bright red color.

How to Store the Edible Fruit

Peruvian Apples can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks. They can also be frozen for longer storage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Pollinate the Cereus Peruvianus Flower?

In nature, bats and moths help pollinate the peruvianus. But, if you want to try to pollinate your night-blooming cereus plant to produce fruit, follow these steps:

  • Spot the Flowers: Look for large, white flowers on your Peruvian Apple Cactus. They usually bloom at night and close by the afternoon.
  • Get Your Tools: You’ll need a small, soft paintbrush or cotton swab for pollination.
  • Collect Pollen: Use your tool to gently brush against the stamens (center part of the flower) to collect the yellow pollen dust.
  • Transfer Pollen: On a different flower, brush your pollen-covered tool against the stigma (also in the center, surrounded by stamens).
  • Wait: If pollination works, the flower will turn into a fruit over several weeks. Be patient as you wait for results.
  • Keep Trying: Not all pollination attempts will be successful, especially self-pollination. If your cactus doesn’t fruit, don’t worry. Keep trying, and you might eventually see a Peruvian Cactus Apple fruit.

What Is The Peruvian Torch Plant’s Origin?

The Apple Peruvian Torch Cactus, as the name suggests, originates from South America. Despite its name, it’s not exclusive to Peru and can be found in various regions across the continent.

How Is The Cactus Cereus Peruvianus Name Pronounced?

The botanical name, Cereus Peruvianus, is pronounced as “Seh-ree-us Per-u-vi-anus”.

What Family Cereus Does Belong To?

Cereus repandus belongs to the Cactaceae family, known for its diverse range of succulent plants adapted to arid environments.

Is The Cactus Apple Cereus An Annual or Perennial?

The Apple cereus is a perennial plant. It’s known for its impressive longevity and can tower over 25′ feet tall with proper care and favorable conditions.

My Apple Cactus is Leaning Towards the Left. What Should I Do?

If your Peruvian Apple Cactus is leaning, it might be due to insufficient light. Try moving it to a brighter location. You might need to stake the cactus to provide support if the leaning is severe.

PRO TIP: If your cereus is leaning because it is growing towards the light, rotate your plant a ¼ turn every week. 

Is Cereus Peruvianus Poisonous?

No, the Peruvian cactus is not poisonous. But it’s always a good idea to keep plants out of reach of pets and children. Also, wash your hands after handling any plant to avoid skin irritation.

How Often Does the Cereus Cactus Bloom?

The Peruvian Apple typically blooms once a year, during the summer months. However, the exact timing varies depending on the plant’s age and growing conditions.

Time Lapse Blooming of Apple Cactus Cereus Night

What Happens If You Get Poked by a Cactus?

Getting poked by a cactus can be painful but usually not serious. If you get poked:

  • Remove the spine carefully with tweezers
  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Apply an antiseptic to prevent infection

Can the Peruvian Apple Cactus Survive Frost?

The Peruvian Apple hedge cactus is not frost-tolerant. If you live in a region where temperatures drop below freezing, it’s best to grow your cactus in a container so you can bring it indoors during the winter months.

Cereus showing the affects of frost or cold damage in Palm Coast, Florida.Pin

Is Cereus Jamacaru, Cereus Hildmannianus, and the Screw Cactus Plant the Same as Cereus Peruvianus?

Cereus jamacaru, also known as the Jamaican Apple Cactus, is a species of cactus native to South America. It’s a tall, columnar cactus that can reach heights of up to 25′ feet. It produces large, white, night-blooming flowers are followed by edible fruits. The fruits are red and have a sweet taste, similar to that of dragon fruit.

Cereus hildmannianus, commonly known as the Hedge Cactus or Queen of the Night. It is another cactus species native to South America. It’s a tree-like cactus that can grow up to 33 feet tall. It has a columnar growth habit with branches that grow from the base of the plant. Like other members of the Cereus genus, it produces large, white, night-blooming flowers.

The Screw Cactus, scientifically known as Cereus forbesii spiralis, is a unique cactus known for its twisted, spiral-like growth habit. It’s a slow-growing cactus that can reach heights of up to 10 feet. The stems of the Screw Cactus twist as they grow, giving the plant its characteristic spiral appearance. It produces pink flowers followed by red, edible fruits.

These three cacti are part of the Cereus genus and share similar care requirements. They prefer a:

  • Sunny location
  • Well-draining soil
  • Infrequent watering

They also produce edible fruits, making them beautiful ornamental plants and useful ones.

In Closing

The Peruvian Apple cactus is a truly remarkable plant. Its towering height, beautiful flowers, and delicious fruits make it a great addition to any garden. Whether you’re a novice gardener or an experienced one, this cactus is sure to bring you joy and satisfaction. So why not give it a try? You might find that it’s the perfect plant for you.

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