The Dog Tail Cactus, also known as Pitaya De Tortuga, is a popular choice for hanging baskets and container plants because of its long, skinny tail-like trailing stems. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know to successfully grow and care for this epiphytic (air plant) cactus.
Types of Dog Tail Cacti
The Dog Tail Cactus belongs to the Strophocactus genus and has several species, including:
- Strophocactus brasiliensis
- Strophocactus wittii
- Strophocactus sicariguensis
Sun and Soil Requirements
Dog Tail Cacti prefer full sun, which encourages healthy, short, and sharp spines. They require fast-draining soil or potting mix that does not retain excessive moisture, as they are susceptible to root rot. A cactus mix with two parts mineral (such as sand, perlite, or fine gravel) and one part organic matter is ideal.
Watering and Fertilization
Unlike many other cactus species, Dog Tail Cacti require more regular moisture during summer because they are epiphytic. However, it is crucial to ensure the soil or cactus mix dries out completely in between watering to avoid overwatering. Once established, a well-rooted Dog Tail Cactus can benefit from regular, diluted fertilizer feeding during growth periods, preferably formulated for cacti.
Temperature and Humidity
Dog Tail Cacti are among the hardier cactus species and can tolerate temperatures from around 40˚F up to 90˚F. They prefer humidity over the dry heat that many other cacti thrive in. However, they cannot tolerate frost and are better suited to indoor growth in cooler regions.
Pruning and Propagation
Pruning a Dog Tail Cactus is not essential unless you notice dead or diseased parts of the stem, in which case you may prune carefully. Propagation with seeds can be challenging, but it can easily be done using root division or cuttings in the spring.
To propagate with cuttings:
- Choose a stem and let it dry fully before cutting it at the joint.
- Allow the cutting to form a callus.
- Wait three to four days before planting the cutting in a potting mix.
- Mist the mix and wait for roots to develop before relocating.
- Once roots are established, you can water normally.
To propagate with root division:
- Root a stem from your cactus.
- Bury a part of the stem in rooting soil or potting mix.
- Mist the stem every three to four days.
- Wait about three weeks for new roots to develop.
- Remove the stem from the mother Dog Tail Cactus.
It is best to overwinter Dog Tail Cacti indoors, particularly in an unheated garage near a window or grow lights. They can withstand cold temperatures but are sensitive to wet soil caused by snow or frost.
Dog Tail Cacti will produce white, fragrant flowers nocturnally when properly cared for. The bloom time is usually between March and July, and the flower opens late in the day and stays open during the night.
Problems with Dog Tail Cacti usually arise from overwatering, under-watering, or insufficient light. Discoloration on the stems is likely a result of poor watering practices, and weak stems may indicate the need for more exposure to light.
By following these tips for growing and caring for the Dog Tail Cactus, you can enjoy its unique and beautiful trailing stems in your home or garden.