Cereus peruvianus, or Peruvian Apple, is a large almost treelike cactus native to Argentina, Brazil and Peru. The plant in nature can reach up to 10 feet (3 m) in height with an equal spread. It has 4-6 ribs with the trunk up to 4.5 inches (10 cm) thick. Plants have a grey-green color with short spines at each areole usually 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1.3-3.8 cm) long. Care should be taken when handling this cactus and other species. They are very easy to grow and can get quite large in containers. Plants are hardy in the landscape in USDA zones 9-11.
Blooming: Peruvian Apples bloom in the spring in our greenhouse, with 7 inch (nearly 18 cm) diameter flowers. The flowers are followed by red fruits 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) in diameter. They are very showy and mildly fragrant. In nature, the plant can bloom from spring to fall if conditions are right.
Culture: Cereus peruvianus need full sun to light shade with a well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix of equal parts of loam and coarse sand with small gravel added to increase the drainage. The plants are well watered and allowed to dry before watering again. We fertilize plants once during the growing season; this is done in spring before the plant produces flowers. Since the plant is a moderate grower in containers, it should be re-potted every couple of years to keep the plant growing vigorously. Growth rate can be slowed if the plant is left in the same container for years. During the winter months, water should be restricted to enough to keep the ribs from shriveling.
Propagation: Cereus peruvianus is propagated from cutting and from seed. Seed does not store well and should be planted soon after harvesting.
Cereus peruvianus was featured as Plant of the Week May 1-7, 2009.
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Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.