The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Toothpick Cactus

Toothpick cactus, also known as Stetsonia coryne, is a beautiful and unique cactus that is native to South America. Here are some tips for caring for your toothpick cactus
Toothpick cactus on a pot.

Native to Bolivia and Argentina, the Toothpick cactus sports a beautiful, fanned-out shape and delicate white flowers. This plant is unique in appearance and makes an excellent addition to any home. Its relatively long spines resemble a toothpick you would use on your teeth hence the name “Toothpick cactus.” The spines come in tight clusters of up to ten. Like any other cactus plant, the Toothpick cactus requires proper care to remain healthy and thrive in your home.

So, how do you care for a Toothpick cactus? To begin with, you will need to provide your Toothpick cactus with plenty of light. Your cactus should receive at least four hours of direct sunlight per day. Toothpick cacti love well-draining soil with plenty of gravel. The soil should have a good balance of nutrients and be slightly acidic, with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.5. It’s also important to water your Toothpick cactus regularly. However, moderation is key. Avoid over-watering because it can lead to irreversible damage. Feed your cactus with a well-balanced organic fertilizer during the active growing season. Be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging for application rates.

This blog post discusses everything you need to know about caring for your Toothpick cactus. Read on to learn more.

Toothpick Cactus: A Quick Overview of the Plant

Stetsonia coryne, commonly called the Toothpick cactus or Argentine cactus, is one of the most fascinating and eye-catching cacti species. The succulent is mainly cultivated as a houseplant in different parts of the world.

It features dense clusters of spines that resemble toothpicks. The cactus is native to the semi-deserts and deserts of Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia. The cactus can reach up to nine meters tall in its natural habitat, making it one of the tallest cacti species.

A toothpick cactus.
It is one of the most fascinating and eye-catching cacti species.

This cactus is a relatively slow-growing succulent that can take up to ten years to reach maturity. It produces branches that resemble candle flames and eventually bloom in late spring with white flowers.

Caring for Your Toothpick Cactus: Tips and Tricks

The key to a healthy Toothpick cactus is the right care. Here are some tips to help you keep your cactus thriving:

1. Watering

The Toothpick cactus is one of the best drought-tolerant succulents that doesn’t require frequent watering. The Toothpick Cactus can survive for several months with water. You only need to water it when the potting mix is completely dry.

Typically, you should water your cactus in the summer months and reduce the amount of water during winter. Make sure to use lukewarm water and not cold or hot.

When potted, water it slowly from the top and wait for it to flow to the bottom. Stop watering once you notice plenty of water flowing through the drainage holes. Don’t let it sit in excess water for too long because it can lead to root rot.

The cactus grows actively in spring, summer, and fall, sliding into dormancy during winter.

Consider watering it twice a week during the active growing season but cut it down to once a week or two weeks during winter.

The best type of water to use is rainwater or distilled water since it is free from chemicals and other contaminants that can harm your cactus.

A woman watering the cactus.
Don’t let it sit in excess water for too long because it can lead to root rot.

Avoid tap water since it contains chlorine and other minerals that can wreak havoc on your cactus.

Long-term use of tap water can lead to soil compaction. Do everything possible to avoid soil compaction since it can hinder the growth and development of your Toothpick cactus.

2. Light

The Toothpick cactus loves a lot of bright light and direct sunlight to stay healthy. Generally, it requires at least four hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive.

Place the plant near an east-facing window or outdoors in partial shade during summer. A south-facing windowsill can still be a good option if you don’t have an east-facing one.

You should avoid exposing your Toothpick cactus to extremely hot or cold temperatures because it could damage it.

If growing your cactus indoors, use artificial grow lights to ensure your plant gets enough light. This is especially important during winter when the days are shorter and natural sunlight is scarce.

Aim for at least eight hours of indirect sun or fluorescent light.

3. Temperature and Humidity

Closely related to the aspect of light is temperature and humidity. If you want your Toothpick cactus to thrive, it needs temperatures between 55-90°F (13-32 °C).

Regarding humidity, the Toothpick cactus thrives in dry conditions like its natural environment. It doesn’t require high humidity levels like other succulents.

Consider placing a shallow dish of water near the cactus to help increase humidity levels but keep it away from direct sunlight.

Alternatively, you can purchase a humidifier and set it up near the cactus. Be sure to monitor the levels of humidity. It is best not to have any extreme highs or lows.

4. Soil

Cacti plants thrive in well-draining soil that mimics the arid conditions of their natural habitat. The best type of soil for cacti is a mixture that provides good drainage while retaining some moisture.

Ideally, you want the soil to stay moist, not wet. You can purchase commercial soil from your local plant store or make your soil at home.

A cactus soil.
The best type of soil for cacti is a mixture that provides good drainage while retaining some moisture.

To make your cactus soil, consider using a mixture of standard potting soil and sand in a ratio of 2:1. It means that for every two parts of potting soil, add one part of sand.

You can also add some pumice or perlite for better drainage and aeration. You should avoid using too sandy or clay-like soils because they can cause root rot.

If growing outdoors, choose an area with sandy, well-draining soil. If growing indoors, repot your cactus every two to three years to refresh the soil.

5. Container

Closely related to the aspect of soil is the type of container. One of the most critical factors you must remember when choosing a container for your Toothpick cactus is drainage.

Always choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes to allow excess water to drain quickly. This prevents root rot, one of the most common problems for most cacti plants.

Choose a pot with plenty of room for your cactus to grow and spread its roots. Generally, bigger pots are always better than smaller ones since they allow the roots to spread.

You should also pay attention to the potting material. Ensure that the material used allows air to flow through it. Terracotta or ceramic containers work best because they have excellent drainage and aeration properties.

Avoid plastic pots as much as possible since they tend to trap moisture and can increase the risk of root rot.

6. Fertilizer

The Toothpick cactus doesn’t require much fertilizer, but it can benefit from a light application of liquid fertilizer once or twice a year during active growth periods (spring and summer).

Use a balanced fertilizer manufactured explicitly for cacti and succulents, such as 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. Make sure to read the instructions on the packaging and mix the fertilizer with equal parts of water.

Only fertilize your cactus during its active growing season, and never use a high-nitrogen fertilizer, as it can burn the plant’s roots.

7. Pruning

Pruning is not necessary for a toothpick cactus, but you should remove any dead or damaged stems or leaves that may be present.

You can also prune your cactus to control its shape and size. You can easily cut off excess growth with a sterile knife if your cactus is getting too tall or wide for its pot.

A lady finger cactus exposed to light.
You should remove any dead or damaged stems or leaves that may be present.

Be sure to sanitize the knife before use and wear gloves if you have sensitive skin. After pruning, let the cactus heal by keeping it dry for several days.

It would be best to avoid direct sunlight after pruning since it can cause damage to the plant’s exposed parts.

8. Repotting

Even though a Toothpick cactus is a relatively slow-growing plant, it may need repotting every two or three years.

Repotting your cactus is essential to provide fresh and nutrient-rich soil to continue growing healthy and strong.

It’s best to repot your cactus during its active growing season in the spring or summer. Choosing a pot one or two sizes larger than the current one is also essential.

For instance, if your cactus is currently in a 5-inch pot, choose a 6- or 7-inch pot for repotting. Make sure to use fresh and well-draining soil, as mentioned before.

Remove the cactus from its current container and shake off any excess soil when repotting.

A golden barrel cactus on hand being repot.
Repotting your cactus is essential to provide fresh and nutrient-rich soil.

After repotting, avoid direct sunlight for several days and keep the new soil consistently moist until your cactus has become established in its new home.


The Toothpick cactus is a low-maintenance succulent that doesn’t require much care.

To ensure the health and growth of your cactus, choose the right pot with lots of drainage holes, only use fertilizer during its active growing period, and report it every two to three years.

Your Toothpick cactus will surely thrive and bring you joy for many years with proper care and attention. Good luck!

Last update on 2023-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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