The peanut cactus (Echinopsis chamaecereus) blossoms on the rocky Argentinian mountains, their native grounds, all year round. This species is a great choice for indoor gardening, cherished for their fuzzy, peanut-shaped stems and scarlet-orange spring and summer flowers. They are easy to care for, and their otherworldly appearance is priceless and worth any hassle. Like any other cactus, you can easily get impressive results with minimal effort.
What does it take to grow a peanut cactus? To sprout quickly, grow your peanut cactus from the parent’s stems. Harvest a young stem from the cactus stump at the tail-end of fall. Nip the fingers from the plant’s base and regrow the budding shoot in commercial cactus soil mix or a homemade potting mix of sand, peat moss, and loam in the ratio 2:1:1. Each cutting is to be planted in its pot protected from direct sunlight. Give them just the right amount of water and watch the bloom. For better results, enrich their soils with fertilizer, two-three times a year.
This article will expound in depth all the factors that go into successful propagation and care of the peanut cactus. It will delve peanut cactus’s basic traits, best conditions for growth, its varieties and hybrids, aesthetic uses, illuminate tips for cactus propagation, transplanting, watering and grooming. This will include pests and diseases that affect this species. It will also point at special care tactics that suit the plant’s seasonal needs.
Characteristics of the peanut cactus
- They grow as a clump of stems that mimic human fingers. New stems are usually erect and plump while old ones turn woody and brown. The stems have shallow ribs coupled with six to nine ridges covered in small white bristly spines. They are a low-growing species that grow to about 15 cm tall and 30 cm wide.
- They grow relatively fast compared to other cacti species. The numerous offsets will easily crowd a pot sooner than other cactus plants can.
- They flower in early summer and late spring, producing oversized brightly-colored red and orange flowers – 3 inches long and 2 inches wide.
- Its flowers are funnel-shaped with hairy floral tubes. Depending on the variety, they can either be nocturnal or diurnal. These blooming characteristics make it a desirable choice for cactus gardening.
- They produce hairy globular fruits with mushy insides. Within the fruit are seeds that can be used to propagate the peanut cactus.
- They are spiny and wind in a spiral manner. The spines are, however, soft and do not penetrate the skin. This makes them ideal for indoor landscaping for homes with curious kids and notorious pets.
- They succumb easily to flooding and over-watering.
- They do not tolerate extremely cold winters.
- They require full to partial sunlight to get by, especially in summer. Peanut cactus requires at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day for its survival. This cactus may, however, require some shading, particularly during spring. Under poor lighting, the stems can grow long and thin. It would be best if you aimed to strike a perfect balance for light exposure and shade to prevent scorching the stems or undernourishment.
- The species goes through a dormancy period where they shrivel up abit and acquires a slight reddish tinge on their stems. The dormancy antecedes the flowering season. During this period which the green creeps back the stems as watering continues in spring.
Propagating peanut cactus
As much as they are flowering desert plants, peanut cacti are easily propagated using stem cuttings or offshoots from the mother plant.
Here is a step-by-step guide on its propagation:
- Hold up the spiny offsets using tweezers and cut the stem right from the base. The offsets are easy to detach from the mother plant since they are weakly attached naturally.
- Dip the snipped part in a growth hormone and cure using an antiseptic solution before planting it into potting mix. An antiseptic solution like cinnamon helps to keep fungal and bacterial activity at bay.
- Before planting, allow the slit part to form a callous. The callous is a sheath that protects the plant from pathogens.
- The cultivars are then grown in a potting mix. You may opt to purchase your cactus mix online or make your own soil mix at home.
- Within a few weeks, your cuttings should develop roots and grow into a healthy cactus with the right care.
Peanut cactus can still be propagated using seeds. However, this is not recommended because the plant will grow at a snail’s pace when propagated compared to cuttings. Cuttings are far along the germination process, unlike seeds that have only just begun. The beauty is that it can form many offsets all at once, many times in its lifetime.
Applying fertilizer to a peanut cactus will cause tremendous growth spurts. However, dosing up the plant with fertilizer, all at once, is not preferred. They would rather take it in small amounts- keeping them nourished all year long. While applying fertilizer once a year is acceptable, doing it at least twice is the regarded even better. Too much of anything can be harmful, and this also applies for plants. Excessive application of fertilizer can scorch the cactus. A good gardener would probably make a fertilizer feeding chart for better management of the fertilization schedule.
Growth options and conditions
Peanut cactus can be grown as a houseplant or outdoor cactus, dictated by the area’s climate. It thrives in zones 10 through 12 of plant hardiness. These zones ranges between 30˚F to well over 45˚F in temperature. This species is known to grow outdoors in regions like California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. Despite this, this hardy, versatile species can grow anywhere in the world. You can grow it indoors, provided it does not miss out on adequate sunlight.
Watering the peanut cactus
Peanut cacti, like other cactus species, require watering in moderation. The species is adapted to seasonal deluges or no water for days. The soak and dry method is ideal; water is added whenever the soil appears or feels dry. To test this, stick your finger in the mound of soil. Water the cactus if at least one inch of the soil feels dry.
Water the plant from the sides rather than directly pouring water from the top. Overhead watering is wasteful and, if done in the heat of the day, can cause increasingly high rates of evaporation. Watering below ensures that the water seeps down the soil into the roots. They are best watered at dusk or dawn.This way, they get to utilize the moisture rather than losing it through evaporation.
Under-watered cacti tend to fall over thanks to the little water in their stems. Water plays a critical role in the turgidity and support of stems. Without water, its cells are flaccid, and this may cause them to droop over. It would help if you struck a fine balance in your watering regime to avoid deprivation or overabundance.
Repot your peat cactus every three years using damp soil with excellent drainage. Repotting is a crucial and less recurrent step that happens in the life of every potted cactus. This should be done with care to keep the roots from breakage and injury.
Cacti roots may run out of breathing space, and hence, repotting gives it room for growth. Once a peanut cactus matures, it produces a dozen offshoots and stems. This bunch of stems can be reduced to cuttings that you can pot separately to grow into mature peanut cacti.
Transplanting is a great hack for disease prevention. Murky and poorly-drained soils harm your cactus’ roots. This can result from overwatering or using poorly-drained soils for cactus potting. To spot an ailing cactus, be on the lookout for wilting.
A sickly peanut cactus improves drastically when potted in fresh soil. Frequently changing the soil can help kick disease to the curb.
The other reason for transplantation would be increased nutrition. In about two years, the cactus plant sitting in the same pot has chugged down any growth nutrients and the soil slowly loses its fertility. New, freshly prepared soil mix is a natural way to replenish long-lost nutrients and boost the plant’s overall health. Commercial fertilizers can still be used, but fresh home-made soil mix comes with purely natural elements that help the cacti thrive till the next repotting.
Fortunately, the peanut cactus does not require any pruning. No tipping, topping, head-tracking, or plant mutilation is unnecessary. Trimming columnar cactus might be tricky and is done when part of the plant experiences damage.
Uses of the peanut cactus
The miniature plant displays a beautiful array of bright crimson-orange, unscented flowers during spring and summer that is such a beauty to behold. They do well when grown on hanging baskets or pots placed to flatter your window sill or office desk.
Peanut cactus can be grown together in the same pot with other flowering cactus perennials sporting different shades of color. This contrast will help create a most desirable floral display. Pair the peanut cactus crimson-orange flowers with yellow flowers from ball cactus or the star cactus’ white flowers, and watch your cactus garden transform.
This cactus variety is an ideal species for xeriscaping. Grow your peanut cactus in a rock garden. This is a popular xeriscaping trend that you must try. Peanut cactus will get you there and fulfill your gardening fantasies. A flowering cactus is a great way to complement a regular garden. As a rule of thumb, fill up spaces and vacuums. In a garden, this can best be done using succulents like the peanut cactus.
Peanut Cactus Varieties
This plant has been immensely hybridized with other diverse species considered a subset of the same genus. Crossbreeding in cacti is advantageous as it helps introduce new desired traits such as drought tolerance that improve survival. It helps enhance already present desirable traits as well purge and dilute the least desirable qualities.
One of the peanut cactus varieties that came about as a result of crossbreeding is the yellow stemmed peanut cactus (Echinopsis chamaecereus var. lutea).This variety lacks chlorophyll and cannot survive under direct sunlight. It has been grafted with a green stemmed species (Hylocereusundatus) to enhance its chances of survival.
Peanut cactus has been extensively hybridized with members of Echinopsis species, yielding hybrids with larger showy flowers with red, orange, and magenta hues. Duotone blooms of pink and yellow and pink and red colors resulted from hybridization, creating a colorful species. The hybrids are erect and have wider stems. Other clones such asx Chamaelobivia f. cristata have fuzzy stems that resemble caterpillars.
Pests and diseases
Peanut cactus is highly susceptible to cactus spider mites but can be infested with weevils, mealy bugs, whitefly and scale. Spider mites sap the plant’s juices. They manifest as small yellow or white patches that appear on the stems. To shoo them away, spray the stems with water. You can also use a miticide to mitigate infestation effectively.
For biological control, Phytoseuiluspersimilis is a potent natural predator that helps abate pest infestation. Other bug infestations can be controlled using insecticidal soaps and contact or systemic insecticides.
Black stem and root rot
This is a fungal infection caused by overwatering. The rot creeps from the plant’s base and eventually leads to poor growth, discoloration and eventually, death. Root rot is a deadly manifestation because it occurs in the roots, where you may not easily notice until it is too late. The damage caused with extensive progression may be irreparable.
Dealing with the stem and root rot
- Use thick gloves or a newspaper, remove the cactus from the pot.
- Observe the condition of the root and the stem. Healthy cactus roots are white in color while infected roots appear black or brown. Salvage the rest of the healthy white roots by cutting away the black-brown rotten roots.Discard the plant if all its roots are rotten.
- Leave the cactus to dry until callouses form on the cut regions.
- Repot the cactus using fresh cactus potting soil.
To avoid this in the future, watering sparingly will help minimize the rot.
Signs of nutrient deficiency in peanut cactus
Nutrient deficiency diagnosis for the peanut cactus can be easily done from it physical traits. For instance, stems falling over the place can be suggestive of undernourishment. Nutrient deficiency is easily overlooked since its manifestations may either resemble a pest invasion or seem like an accident. The main culprits behind stems dropping down are nutrient depletion in the soil and inadequate exposure to sunlight.
Inadequate nutrients in the soil – In some cases, cactus roots become too weak to support the plant’s frame thanks to malnutrition. To salvage this, a balanced fertilizer is highly recommended, with phosphorus in higher abundance than nitrogen in a 5-10-5 solution.
Insufficient sunlight – Cactus stems tend to droop with inadequate sunlight. Stems begging for sunlight will grow gravitating towards a window or any source of natural light.By nature, plants are phototropic – survival instinct that enables them to reach sunlight. This growth inclination towards the direction of sunlight is referred to as phototropism. With easily detachable stems like the peanut cactus, it is only a matter of time before the stem falls over. So, the next time you notice fallen stems, try and understand why it happened. It is, however, no cause for alarm; you can easily rectify the problem. All you have to do is place the pot under the light that the plant yearns.
Special treatment during winter
The peanut cactus requires that extra care during winter since they cannot tolerate these extremely cold conditions. When night temperatures drop to just about the freezing point, consider taking the plant back to the house.
Place it in a cool place for the rest of the months to come. During this season, you may not need to water the plant as it would be in its dormant stage. Make sure the cactus pot has a drainage hole to pass out the excess water.
Towards the end of winter, bring the plant to a warmer spot. This gradual change of temperature prevents the plant from experiencing heat shock – a major cause of distress in plants that can detrimentally affect its growth. Heat shock manifests as wilting.
Before the start of bloom, transplant your peanut cactus to its final home, where it will remain for the rest of the blooming season. Remember, repotting in the flowering season will sabotage the process.
For the peanut cactus, you have to work a little harder to achieve the desired floral display for the season to come. Optimizing growth conditions will likely lengthen the blooming period and yield a spectacular floral bloom. Increase watering as spring approaches. Add liquid fertilizer when watering the cacti. Liquid fertilizers are easier for plants to utilize since they are readily absorbed. Flowering lasts one to two weeks. Once the flowers start to wither, move the plant near a sunny window or outside altogether. Ensure the plant gets access to full sun after flowering.
The peanut cactus is a great cactus option for a gardening experience. They are an easy-to-grow succulent with close-to-nothing requirements that grow fast and bloom in spectacular, showy flowers you can brag about. If it isn’t for the bristly segmented pickles sprouting from the ground as a clump, the flowers that crown the plant’s apex are worth the gardening experience. It will also add to your botanical genius growing this rare and exotic species.