The peanut cactus (Echinopsis chamaecereus) is a branched cactus with finger-like stems that has a clustering and trailing growth habit. This growth habit makes it a great choice for hanging baskets. Each ribbed stem can grow up to 6 inches long and half an inch in diameter and is covered in small white bristles.
While this cactus might look prickly, the spines 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, because 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|
|Mature Size||6 inches tall|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Hardiness Zones||10a to 11b|
|Native Area||South America|
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-orange flowers in the late spring to early summer.
Like most cacti, the peanut cactus grows best in bright, sunny conditions. It cannot tolerate being grown in full shade or low-light conditions. When grown outdoors, plant the peanut cactus in a full-sun location. In consistently hot climates, this cactus might appreciate some shade to protect it from the intense afternoon sun. When grown indoors, place the peanut cactus in the sunniest location in your house. A bright west- or south-facing window is ideal.
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 quickly 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.
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 environments. 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 for 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 acceptable for the peanut cactus, just avoid placing it in particularly humid locations of the home, such as the bathroom.
The peanut cactus is not a heavy 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.
Peanut Cactus Varieties
Echinopsis chamaecereus has several lovely varieties including:
- Echinopsis chamaecereus f. cristata stays quite small and has a twisted crested form. It has a purple tinge in cooler months,
- Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Annie’ has an upright growth habit and produces an abundance of pinkish-yellow blooms,
- Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Arlequin’ has an upright growth habit, extensively offsetting and blooming with bi-colored yellow and red flowers,
- Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Boom’ has an upright growth habit and produces reddish-pink flowers up to three inches in diameter,
- Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Yellow Bird’ as its name implies, this variety produces yellow blooms that are up to three inches in diameter,
- Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Rose Quartz’ has an upright growth habit and its blooms are rose colored tinged with purple,
- Echinopsis chamaecereus ‘Violet’ has an upright growth habit with violet-red blooms up to three inches in diameter,
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 into freshly prepared cactus or succulent soil. Wait to water the newly planted stem until roots have begun to sprout in 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 container. Take care when repotting a peanut cactus because the branches can break off easily when handled. Wearing protective gardening gloves is also recommended.
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 if the pot has a drainage hole to allow excess water to drain out. Because 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.