Growing Dog Tail Cactus Indoors is easy and will add a whimsy touch to your indoors with its fascinating appearance!
Native to Central and South America, the Dog Tail Cactus is prized for its long and thin curved stems covered with fuzzy spines, replicating a dog’s tail—pretty much justifies the name! If you are eager to bring home this houseplant, here’s an informative care guide to help you!
- Botanical Name: Strophocactus testudo
- Popular as—Dog Tail Cactus, Pitaya De Tortuga
- Thrives in a temperature range of 40-80 F or 4.4-27 C
- Enjoys low humidity levels of 40-50%
- Non Toxic to pets, but the spines might hurt their soft skin
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Dog Tail Cactus Plant Profile
Dog Tail Cactus flaunts a unique and striking appearance, with a flattened and disk-like shape main stem, throwing out thin, trailing stems covered in a pattern of ridges and furrows. The cactus is typically green in color and can grow up to 1-5 feet under suitable conditions.
Its stem segments are slightly raised and can have a wrinkled or puckered appearance, giving the cactus a distinct texture. The succulent produces small, yellow, or pink flowers in the summer months. Although the plant is non-toxic, ensure your furry friends don’t pounce on the stems, as the spines might hurt their delicate skin.
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Dog Tail Cactus Flowers
While the trailing succulent is known for its distinctive and attractive appearance, it is especially admired for its flowers. They typically bloom in the late spring to early summer months, usually between May and June. These blooms are typically a bright white or pink and resemble pretty orchids. Getting your Dog Tail Cactus to bloom might be challenging, but a favorable condition might reward you with a bloom or two!
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Dog Tail Cactus vs Rat Tail Cactus
Dog Tail Cactus and Rat Tail Cactus are two different cactus species that share some similarities but also have some notable differences. Here are the basic differences you must know!
- Botanical Name: The Dog Tail Cactus is scientifically known as Strophocactus testudo, while the Rat Tail Cactus is popular as Disocactus flagelliformis.
- Appearance: The former has a flatter and disk-like shape, with a pattern of ridges on its surface. In contrast, Rat Tail Cactus has long, thin, and vine-like stems that can grow up to several feet long.
- Flowers: Both species produce attractive and colorful flowers, but the flowers of Disocactus flagelliformis are larger and shower and come in orange and pink shades, with a distinct trumpet-like shape, while the flowers of Strophocactus testudo are smaller and less conspicuous and exhibit a white to pink color.
- Growing Habits: Rat Tail Cactus is a trailing cactus that can be grown as a hanging plant or trained up a trellis or support. Strophocactus testudo is a compact and slow-growing cactus best suited for small pots or rock gardens.
- Care Requirements: Both species require similar care, including bright, indirect light, well-draining soil, and regular watering during the growing season. However, Rat Tail Cactus may require more frequent watering and fertilization due to its faster growth rate and more vigorous habits.
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Ideal Pot Size
A 4-6 inch pot is suitable for a young or small Selenicereus testudo plant. Keep an eye on the bottom of the pot and on the soil surface; if you see the roots peeping out, consider upgrading to a one-size bigger container. Ensure to drill enough drainage holes and explore options like hanging baskets, cute figurines, or big coffee mugs to crown this classy cactus in your home.
Propagating Dog Tail Cactus
Propagating Dog Tail Cactus is a pretty straightforward process and requires a free-draining potting mix, a sterile clipper, and a healthy, disease-free plant to take the cutting from. Here are the steps to follow:
- Select a stem that is at least 6 inches long and has no signs of disease or damage.
- Cut 6 inches of the stem using sterile clippers and allow it to dry for a few days until a callus forms over the cut end. This will help prevent rot when you plant it.
- Use a cactus potting mix, or make your own by mixing sand and peat moss. Make a small hole in the soil and insert the cutting, burying it about an inch deep.
- Water the cutting sparingly, but not soggy. Too much water can cause the cutting to rot.
- Place the cutting in a bright, indirect light location. Direct sunlight can scorch the cutting.
After a few weeks, you should see new growth starting from the top of the cutting. This indicates that the cutting has rooted and is beginning to grow.
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Requirements for Growing Dog Tail Cactus
Dog Tail Cactus thrive in direct sunlight. If cultivated in low light, its stems typically become overly thin and dull in color. Moreover, plenty of sunshine promotes strong, short, and pointed spines as opposed to softer, hair-like ones. So if you wish to enjoy the plant in its full glory, hang it near the southern windows where it can receive maximum sunlight throughout the day.
Keep grow lights or LED strips handy for cloudy days or if your home doesn’t receive ample sunlight.
The ideal potting medium to grow Dog Tail Cacti is in a cactus mix that drains and dries quickly. This will guarantee that your cactus will keep potential issues at bay. Combine two parts of gritty sand, perlite, or fine gravel and one part of organic matter to provide the right blend of drainage and nutrients.
Using a contaminated or clayey mix is a big NO while growing cactus, so you better refrain from it.
Dog Tail Cactus is a desert cactus that is adapted to survive in dry and arid conditions. As such, it has relatively low water requirements and can tolerate periods of drought. So allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings is the right way to go with it.
Do remember that overwatering is the easiest way to kill a cactus, so it is better to err on the side of underwatering rather than the former. In general, watering once every 2-3 weeks during the spring and summer is sufficient for this cactus, while in the winter months, it may only require watering once a month.
The epiphytic cactus prefers warm and dry conditions with a wide temperature tolerance of 40-80 F or 4.4-27 C. However, it is important to protect it from frost and extreme heat. During the winter months, keep the cactus in a dry place with constant temperature to and zero fluctuation to promote dormancy and prepare it for the upcoming growing season.
Keep the plant away from cool or heating vents to prevent root shock.
Strophocactus testudo prefers low humidity, as high moisture can increase the risk of fungal diseases and other issues. In general, a relative humidity of around 30-40% is ideal for this cactus. By providing the right amount of water, temperature, and humidity, you can help your Strophocactus testudo thrive and grow into a healthy and beautiful cactus.
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Pests and Diseases
Use a balanced fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. During the growing season, which typically runs from early spring to early fall, fertilize your Dog Tail Cactus every two to four weeks. In the winter, reduce the frequency to once a month or stop altogether.
Apply the fertilizer in the morning or late afternoon when the plant is not exposed to direct sunlight. Do NOT forget to dilute the feed to 1/4th its strength to protect the plant from nutrient burn.
The Dog Tail Cactus, enters dormancy during the winter, therefore, requires a little extra care to thrive back as the days get warmer. To overwinter your plant, keep it near a south-facing window or an indoor greenhouse. However, keep it away from glass windows at night. You can also cover the cactus with a protective cloth or blanket during cold snaps or place it in a covered area where it will be sheltered from the wind and rain.
Additionally, cut back on watering and allow the soil to dry out between waterings to prevent the cactus from rotting.
Pests and Diseases
Strophocactus testudo is a hardy cactus species, relatively resistant to diseases and pests. However, it can still be vulnerable to infestations of mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites, as well as fungal diseases like root rot and stem rot.
Inspect your cactus regularly and provide it with proper care, including well-draining soil, sparse watering, and appropriate levels of light and humidity. On spotting any infestation, spritz the affected portions with insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to ensure the plant stays healthy and safe.
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Where to Buy Dog Tail Cactus?
You can often find Dog Tail Cactus for Sale at local nurseries or garden centers that specialize in cacti and succulents. You may also browse online from various retailers and plant shops. When buying a houseplant, make sure to choose a healthy and well-cared-for plant that is free of pests or diseases.