With a fascinating columnar form and atypically gray-blue to gray-green stems, Cereus peruvianus is an extraordinary succulent. It grows incredibly tall for a succulent, up to 8 meters tall, albeit slowly. The flowers are exquisite but rare.
Cereus peruvianus “Monstrosus” (Monstrose Apple Cactus, Andes organ pipe, ) [AKA Cereus hildmannianus, Cereus repandus, Cereus uruguayanus, Cereus uruguayanus ‘Monstrosus’]
Hardiness Zones: 9-11 (may require protection in zone 9)
Height: 4.5-8 meters (15-25 feet) tall (individual stems grow up to 13 centimeters (6 inches) tall)
Diameter: up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) wide
Growth Rate: slow (typically 7 centimeters (3 inches) indoors) to moderate (potentially 30-60 centimeters (1-2 feet) per year in optimum conditions)
Age: perennial, long-lived
Root System: extensive, a taproot system with several lateral roots spreading several feet in diameter
Tolerates: intense heat, drought, salt (moderately tolerates)
Problems (major): Improper watering leads to root rot. Sunburn may occur if these are brought into an area of total sun too quickly.
Problems (minor): mealybugs, scale
Poisonous: presumably no (not sufficiently researched)
Soil requirements: needs well-drained soils, either sandy or gravelly-loam mineral soils with a pH below 6 preferred
Air Requirements: requires consistently hot, arid air
Watering requirement: very low, water only once or twice a month (make sure that the top inch of soil is dry before watering), do not irrigate unless absolutely necessary
Sun requirement: requires full sun
Primary photosynthetic organ: stems
Leaf/stem color: gray-green to gray-blue
Leaf shape: Spines up to 4 centimeters (2 inches) long
Produces a rosette: no
Asexual reproduction by: vegetative propagation
Monoecious or dioecious: monoecious
Monocot or dicot: dicot
Monocarpic (flowers once and then dies): no
Flowering structure: Flowers are white, up to 6 inches across, displayed from a tube-like structure. Fruits are small (about 2.5 inches in diameter), red, and look like apples.
Flowering frequency: Flowers open at night; the flowers persist for less than 24 hours. These do not begin flowering until several years old.
Fertilizer is completely unnecessary, but a 20-20-20 (balanced) mix encourages early spring growth. Cereus peruvianus is not officially recognized, but the name is commonly used nonetheless.
Grown as a specimen or ornamental. Infrequently planted due to its enormous size.
- Perl, Philip, and Enrico Ferorelli. Cacti and Succulents. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life, 1978. Print.
A close-up of the stem and leaves (seen as spines) of an E. peruvianus ‘Monstrosus’ at Alsip Home and Nursery in Frankfort, Illinois (photo taken May 1, 2014)
The images provided were taken by me may be used for educational or informational purposes provided that this article or online journal is cited or referenced correctly first.