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Growing Apple Cactus: Cereus repandus

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A member of the Cactus family Cactaceae, the genus Cereus contains about 33 species of large, columnar, spiny cacti. Cereus repandus, the common Apple Cactus, produces spineless, edible fruit. Two other species are also known for their palatable fruit: Cereus jamacaru, Jamacaru, and Cereus hildmannianus, Hedge Cactus. All of these have large, spectacular, night-blooming flowers that last only one night. They are grown for their ornamental value as much as for their fruit.


Form: Columnar cactus.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Evergreen/Deciduous: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to fast depending on cultivation.
Mature Size: 12-30' high.
Flowers: Red buds become 6" diameter, fragrant flowers on long tubes with narrow, white petals, opening for only one night.
Bloom: Up to twice a year, with dates dependant on location and climate.
Self-fruitful: Self-pollination rates are low and a second plant is needed. Cereus jamacaru and Cereus hildmannianus can also be used to pollinate this plant. Hand pollination is used commercially.
Years before fruiting: From cuttings, 1-2 years; from seed, 4-5 years.
Fruit: Thornless, round, apple-sized, orange, pink or red skin, white flesh with black seeds distributed throughout. Tasting sweet, juicy and crunchy when fully ripe, it has been compared to a cross between shaved ice and melon or kiwi. The skin is not edible.
Months for fruit to ripen: 6 weeks. The fruit become ripe upon a change in color, with violet-red indicating the best flavor. They often split open, still attached to the trunk, when fully ripe. Genetic breeding has reduced splitting in commercial cultivars.
Storage after harvest: Unwashed fruit can be refrigerated up to five days.
Leaves: None.
Stems: Blue-green, with clustered spines on undulating ribs, on a columnar, slightly segmented trunk. Branching columns start at the base of some segments. Spines have been observed to decrease with age.
Roots: Susceptible to root rot in damp, poorly drained soils.
Cultivars of Note:
A cultivar grown commercially in Israel was reportedly developed from hybrids of C. repandus and C. jamacaru.
Wildlife: Flowers attract bats and pollinating insects. Fruit attract bats and birds.
Toxic / Danger: Spines.
Origin: Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 9-11. Tolerates 20°F with tip protection.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Water after becoming established: Every one or two weeks in summer. In commercial operations, drip irrigation is applied at 10% of the rate used for fruit trees.
Soil: Very well draining, dry, best production with 30% organic material, pH 6.1-7.8 (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline). The presence of salt reduces flowering.
Fertilize: Use organic fertilizer to reduce salt build-up. Commercial growers use a 23/7/23 N/P/K ratio, with minor elements, in dilute amounts within drip irrigation.
Mulch: Organic material, keeping it 6" from the trunk.
Spacing: Forms thickets in the wild.
Planting: Can be grown in containers.
First Year Care: This plant uses a nurse plant in the wild to become established, so provide 50% shade the first year in temperatures over 90°F. Protect column tips with insulated covers in freezing temperatures. Avoid fertilizer.
Prune: Only to remove awkward branches.
Litter: Low. Flowers and fruit.
Propagation: Fresh, unrefrigerated seed. Stem cuttings, cut in the middle of the segment, allowed to callous over, and planted right-side up.
Uses: Ornamental, edible fruit.


Cereus repandus is much better adapted to hot, dry climates than the Hylocereus species called Dragon Fruit, and is easier to grow.
Cereus repandus is sometimes labeled as Cereus peruvianus, or Peruvian Apple Cactus, although it did not originate in Peru. Another species, Cereus hildmannianus, Hedge Cactus, is also sometimes called Cereus peruvianus and may be confused with Cereus repandus. C. repandus tends to grow in a taller tree shape, while C. hildmannianus grows in a shorter shrub shape, branching at the bottom. These two can hybridize and make identification difficult.

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By pizzodisevo, slowly i will recover from Centobuchi, Italy - Cactus flower, CEREUS PERUVIANUS Uploaded by uleli, CC BY-SA 2.0,

By I likE plants! from Tamarac, FL, US (Peruvian Cactus Apple 076) CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Latest update: December, 2018