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A complete care guide for keeping your rare spiral cactus happy

Grow your own spiral cactus with these tips

Rare plant varieties are a delight to look into, and if you're a collector who loves plants, you might not be able to resist getting a few. There are rare and unique plants in every subsection of plants, and cacti are no exception. For example, there's the rare spiral cactus. Before you invest in this plant, we suggest getting to know what the plant needs and what sets it apart from other cacti. Luckily, we have all the tips and tricks you need!




1 hour

What You Need

  • Moisture meter

  • Balanced fertilizer (or low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus plant food for blooms)

  • Heavy pot

  • Gloves

  • Pesticide or insecticide

Cereus forbesii
LAB design / Shutterstock

What is the spiral cactus?

The spiral cactus, or Cereus forbesii, is native to Peru and, for a long time, was so rare that only wealthy plant enthusiasts who could afford to fund biologists had the pleasure of owning it. Now it’s becoming more popular, but it’s still relatively challenging to find when you compare it to commonplace cacti.

When fully grown, the spiral cactus can reach heights of 6 to 13 feet tall and be 4 to 5 inches wide in diameter. Contrary to what people believe, not all cacti are slow growers. The spiral cactus is one of the fastest-growing cacti, so you’ll be rewarded quickly for giving this plant proper care and attention.

The plant has a blueish-green color and feels waxy to the touch. It is a heavy bloomer, and the flowers that it produces are beautiful, showstopping blooms. If you’re lucky enough to experience these blooms, you can pollinate them to produce a large, non-poisonous purple fruit. We can’t promise that it will taste good if you decide to try a bite, but it’s non-toxic if a child or pet chooses to give it a try.

An assortment of small, potted cacti
Westend61 GmbH / Alamy

Care tips for a spiral cactus

Since this plant is rare, you’ll have a harder time finding it. Additionally, you’ll have to invest more money into obtaining one. This means that if your spiral cactus dies, you’ll have a more challenging time replacing it, and your wallet won’t be too happy with you, either. So here is a complete guide to caring for this twisty cactus.

Step 1: Water your cactus regularly during spring and summer, then cut back on water during fall and winter.

Cacti grow more slowly during cool weather, which means that they use less water. If you don't reduce your watering when the weather begins to cool off, you're more likely to see signs of root rot.

Step 2: Invest in a moisture meter to measure the amount of water in your cactus' soil.

Step 3: Remove the cactus from its tray when watering so that excess water can drain properly.

Watering your cactus while it's still in the tray can lead to improper drainage. If you see water pooling in the tray, dry it with a towel to avoid letting the cactus sit in water.

Step 4: Keep young spiral cacti in mixed sun and shade.

They should get at least 4 hours of sun a day, but avoid leaving them in full sun. Young plants are more sensitive to light, and cacti are no exception!

Step 5: Watch for pale spots on young cacti.

Pale spots mean that your cactus is getting too much light. If you notice these, move your plant to a shadier location.

Step 6: Place mature plants in full sun.

Step 7: Twice a month during the growing season, feed your spiral cactus with a balanced plant fertilizer.

Don't feed your plant during fall or winter.

Step 8: Avoid exposing your spiral cactus to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or rapidly fluctuating temperatures.

Drafty windows and air vents can weaken or even kill your cactus over time.

Step 9: Handle your cactus with care and keep it away from children and pets.

Although it isn't toxic, the sharp spines will still hurt to touch! Wear gloves to protect your hands.

Step 10: Repot the spiral cactus every other year to freshen up the soil or when the plant has outgrown the pot.

Since these cacti get tall, you’ll want to use a heavy pot to prevent the cactus from tipping over.

Spiral cactus
Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Flickr

Common problems with the spiral cactus

The Cereus forbesii is susceptible to pests such as mealybugs and scale. Unfortunately, the spiral grooves make perfect homes for these critters, and they can be hard to detect before you have a full-blown infestation. To get rid of these nasty pests, use an insecticide soap and apply it to the plant according to the label instructions.

Spiral cactus bloom
María Elena López / Flickr

How do you get a spiral cactus to bloom?

Spiral cacti bloom around late spring and early summer, and their showstopping, funnel-shaped flowers even open at night. If you're wondering how to get them to bloom, here's what you need to know.

Step 1: Make sure that you're giving your cactus enough light.

An indoor plant is less likely to bloom. If you can, try to give your plant, granted that it is a mature one, 8 hours of full sun per day.

Step 2: Only water your plant when it is completely dry.

Coming from arid deserts, cacti do not need to be watered frequently.

Step 3: If a balanced fertilizer is not doing much, try applying a low-nitrogen and high-phosphorus fertilizer to give your plant nutrients that encourage blooming.

Cacti are fun to collect, and finding a rare beauty such as the spiral cactus will be a joy for any cactus lover. These plants are sure to brighten your home with lovely blooms and a twisty structure that you can enjoy all throughout the year. Just be sure not to overwater them and keep an eye out for those yucky pests.

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Rebecca Wolken
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rebecca's has written for Bob Villa and a Cincinnati based remodeling company. When she's not writing about home remodeling…
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