How to Grow and Care for the Peanut Cactus

This trailing cactus is perfect for hanging planters

Clustered peanut cacti (Echinopsis chamaecereus) in bloom with brilliant red flowers

Dragan Smijikovic / Getty Images

The peanut cactus (Echinopsis chamaecereus) is a branched cactus with finger-like stems that has clustering and trailing growth habits. This growth habit makes it a great choice for hanging baskets and planters. Each ribbed stem can grow up to 6 inches long and 0.5 inches in diameter and is covered in small white bristles. 

While this cactus may look prickly, the bristles on the peanut cactus are actually relatively soft, although touching them still isn’t recommended as these fine bristles can still puncture the skin and cause discomfort. However, since the peanut cactus is soft it is easier to handle and grow than some of its spikier cacti relatives. 

The peanut cactus can be grown as a houseplant, but also grows well outdoors in frost-free climates. 

  Botanical Name Echinopsis chamaecereus 
Common Name  Peanut cactus 
Plant Type  Cactus 
Mature Size  6 in. tall 
Sun Exposure  Full 
Soil Type  Sandy, well-drained 
Soil pH  Acidic 
Bloom Time  Spring, summer 
Flower Color  Red 
Hardiness Zones  10a, 10b, 11a, 11b 
Native Area  South America 
Toxicity  Non-toxic
Close up shot of peanut cacti (Echinopsis chamaecereus) growing in dense clumps.

Nahhan / Getty Images

Peanut Cactus Care

The peanut cactus is a low-maintenance cactus that is easy to grow both indoors and outdoors. Native to Argentina, this mountain-dwelling cactus enjoys bright, sunny conditions and infrequent watering. While the peanut cactus cannot tolerate frost, it does require cooler winter temperatures in order to set buds for the following growing season. Healthy peanut cacti will display beautiful red flowers in the late spring to early summer.

Light

Like most cacti, the peanut cactus grows best in bright, sunny conditions. It can not tolerate being grown in full shade or low-light conditions. When grown outdoors, the peanut cactus should be planted in a full-sun location. In consistently hot climates, this cactus may appreciate some shade to protect it from the intense afternoon sun. When grown indoors, the peanut cactus should be placed in the sunniest location in your house. A bright west- or south-facing window is ideal.

Soil

In its native habitat, the peanut cactus grows in sandy, well-draining soil. If you are planting the peanut cactus outdoors, ensure that the soil is amended with plenty of sand and perlite to ensure water drains easily from around the roots. The peanut cactus is susceptible to root rot and cannot tolerate sitting in water. When growing the peanut cactus indoors, a standard cactus or succulent potting soil is ideal. 

Water

The peanut cactus is drought-tolerant thanks to its fleshy, water-storing stems and is easily susceptible to overwatering. Allow the soil to dry out thoroughly between waterings and then water deeply, soaking the soil completely. Cut back on watering in the winter when the cactus is dormant.

Temperature and Humidity

This cactus thrives in hot, dry climates and does not do well in moist conditions. The peanut cactus is not frost-tolerant and can only grow outdoors year-round in USDA zones 10a to 11b. That being said, it is beneficial to the cactus to be exposed to cooler temperatures during the winter to mimic its natural environment and encourage blooming. Temperatures between 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 7 degrees Celsius) are ideal. Average household humidity and temperature levels are usually fine for the peanut cactus, just avoid placing it in particularly humid locations of the home, such as the bathroom.

Fertilizer

The peanut cactus is not considered a high-feeder, and generally does not require regular fertilization. However, it can benefit from monthly fertilization during the first few months of the growing period with a balanced, low-strength fertilizer. Fertilizers designed for cacti and succulents are a great choice for the peanut cactus. 

Is the Peanut Cactus Toxic?

The peanut cactus is non-toxic to pets and humans. Despite this, it is not necessarily considered edible due to the spines that cover the entire surface area of the plant, even though they tend to be relatively soft. 

Peanut Cactus Varieties

Echinopsis chamaecereus has several cultivators and varieties including:

  • Echinopsis chamaecereus f. cristata
  • Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Annie’
  • Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Arlequin’
  • Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Boom’
  • Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Yellow Bird’
  • Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Rose Quartz’
  • Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Violet’

Propagating the Peanut Cactus

As with most cacti, the peanut cactus can be easily propagated through stem cuttings. Simply allow the ends of broken branches or stems to callous over for 12-24 hours (until they aren’t “wet” anymore) and then push the base of the stem down into freshly prepared cactus or succulent soil. Wait to water the newly planted stem until roots have begun to sprout, approximately 2-3 weeks.

Potting and Repotting the Peanut Cactus

The peanut cactus is slow-growing and should only be repotted once it has outgrown its previous container. Take care when repotting a peanut cactus as the branches can break off easily when handled. Wearing protective gardening gloves is also recommended during repotting.

Choose a pot size that is 2-3 inches larger than its previous container. Plastic or terracotta pots are both great choices for the peanut cactus, as long as the pot has a drainage hole to allow excess water to drain out. Since the peanut cactus has a trailing habit as it matures, it also looks great in hanging containers or baskets.

Common Pests and Diseases

This cactus is generally disease and pest-free, although it can be susceptible to some common houseplant pests such as mealybugs. The most common disease for the peanut cactus is root rot which is caused by excess moisture in the soil. This can be avoided by choosing the correct soil and potting container for the cactus, and watering infrequently.