Echinopsis chamaecereus, commonly known as Peanut Cactus, is most suited to container growing because it is a small, low-growing cactus that tends to get lost in the landscape. It grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12. Bright orange flowers, large for the size of the plant, bloom in spring and summer, often in large numbers.
Small white bristly spines clothe the 6 to 9 ridges along the stems, suggesting the lines down the outside of a peanut shell. The 0.5-inch (1.3 cm) wide stem joints tend to be about the size of an unshelled peanut as well, giving it its common name. The soft spines don’t penetrate your skin, making Peanut Cactus a good choice for children to grow. Stems branch freely, forming a dense mat. New growth is erect to begin with, up to 4 inches (10 cm) tall, but then stems crawl along the soil. Old stems become brown and woody. The plants flower when young, producing funnel-shaped, up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide and up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long bright orange flowers.
Peanut Cactus is native to Argentina. Most plants today came from the few plants originally collected from the wild. The plants apparently are closely enough related genetically so the flowers don’t set seed. As an ornamental plant, Peanut Cactus is grown around the world. It is easy to propagate by detaching the stems, which break off easily, and laying them on top of cactus potting mix in a small pot. They produce roots along the bottom of the stem.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Peanut Cactus needs a well-draining potting mix. Water the plant thoroughly until water comes through the pot’s holes and let the soil dry at least halfway down the pot before watering again. In winter, decrease or withhold water. The plant will look shriveled and stems can take on a reddish tinge, but the Peanut Cactus will plump up again and return to its normal color in spring.
The plants grow well in hanging baskets or shallower, 4-inch (10 cm) nursery containers, because the cactus is shallow-rooted. Hybrids can take deeper pots. It is difficult to transplant older clumps of Peanut Cactus because the stems break apart so easily. Fertilize the cactus once a year during the growing season using a balanced fertilizer at half the recommended strength. In areas with hot, dry summers like the Southwest, grow Peanut Cactus in areas that get partial shade. In areas with cool summers or in temperate climates, grow it in full sun.
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