Nyctocereus serpentinus (Snake Cactus): Care and Propagation Guide
Nyctocereus serpentinus is commonly referred to as the snake cactus. It is mainly native to various parts of Mexico while also becoming naturalized in parts of Australia, given its widespread cultivation.
The snake cactus grows in the form of columnar stems that also bear offshoots at the base. The stems also have ridges and white spines throughout the surface, in addition to white flowers that bloom at night.
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How to Care for Nyctocereus serpentinus
If you are a beginner in gardening and want to grow a cactus that is not too high in maintenance, this is the ideal choice for you. These cacti grow slowly but tend to have a long life if you get the basics right.
So, how do you take care of Nyctocereus serpentinus? Are there any special tips that you need to follow? Keep reading to find out!
Nyctocereus serpentinus needs bright light to grow well. This is why it matters a great deal where you place the snake cactus. Mostly, placing it near a balcony that receives bright sunlight will be ideal.
If you place it in a damp place, chances are it won’t bloom to its full potential and even shrivel and wither away. Flowering is also difficult if the snake cactus does not get ample sunlight. These plants can withstand slightly cold weather but they prefer warm temperatures.
Nyctocereus serpentinus does not need heavy watering. A good indication of when the snake cactus needs to be watered is when the top layer appears crusty and dry. On average, watering the cactus once every two weeks in the summer season and once a month during the winter season should suffice.
If you live in a humid area, you need to water the snake cactus even lesser. Overwatering should be avoided at all costs because it will damage the plant irreversibly.
Nyctocereus serpentinus does well in well-drained soil. A cactus mix works well for these plants. You can find these in any nursery easily or even online. If you have other cactus plants at your home, you can even use that soil for the Nyctocereus serpentinus, provided the soil is well-drained.
The summer seasons are ideal for spraying the snake cactus with cactus fertilizers. This can aid the blooming of flowers and also lead to faster plant growth. You should avoid something that is heavily concentrated and instead use a diluted fertilizer for best results.
A steady supply of light fertilizer periodically is the best way to keep these plants healthy and strong. You don’t have to go overboard and get a strong fertilizer. It won’t make any difference to the snake cactus.
Pests and Diseases
Scale insects and mealybugs are common in Nyctocereus serpentinus plants. The good thing is that these bugs can be easily dealt with. Repotting the plant periodically (0nce a year works well), avoiding overwatering it and spraying it with a natural insecticide such as neem oil is going to keep it free from pests and diseases.
How to Propagate Nyctocereus serpentinus
Nyctocereus serpentinus is an easy-to-grow plant and is also incredibly beautiful to look at. It works for both plant connoisseurs and those who are just warming up to gardening. It can also be propagated easily using a few simple steps.
Stems are most commonly used to propagate these plants. It is easy to do and very popular among professionals and those who do gardening on the side. Here is what you need to do:
- Remove a small stem from a fully mature Nyctocereus serpentinus plant.
- Let it air dry for some time so that it rids itself of moisture.
- Now take the stem and repot it in a well-drained cacti mix.
- Spray with well-diluted fertilizer and place the snake cactus in an area that receives bright sunlight.
- Within a few days, you will see it bloom.
Some people also use seeds to propagate Nyctocereus serpentinus. All you need to do is to get some seeds from a nursery or an online store and sprinkle them over a well-drained potting mix. You need to keep the soil slightly damp and moist to allow the snake cactus in good conditions to germinate.
If you do everything right, you should see the snake cactus come to life within two weeks.
While propagating, you need to remember that these plants are shallow-rooted and therefore, should be treated as such. If you bury them too deep, it can lead to rot and damage to the snake cactus.
Also, you need to repot Nyctocereus serpentinus once every year. This keeps the roots strong and sturdy and ensures that the snake cactus grows to its full potential.