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Peniocereus serpentinus (Snake Cactus)


Scientific Name

Peniocereus serpentinus (Lag. & Rodr.) N.P.Taylor

Common Names

Snake Cactus, Mexican Night-blooming Cereus, Mexican Night-bloom Cereus, Serpent Cactus, Queen of the Night


Cactus serpentinus (basionym), Cereus serpentinus, Nyctocereus castellanosii, Nyctocereus serpentinus, Peniocereus castellanosii

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Pachycereeae
Genus: Peniocereus


Peniocereus serpentinus, sometimes listed as Nyctocereus serpentinus, is a fast-growing columnar cactus that puts out offshoots at the base to form a cluster. The stems are slender, cylindrical, up to 20 feet (6 m) tall, and up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Initially, they are upright, but as they lengthen, they sprawl to the side unless supported by surrounding vegetation. There are 10 to 17 ribs, running down the length of each stem, with grooves between these. At close intervals along the ribs, there are clusters of 9 to 14 needle-like spines. They are up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) long, reddish-brown with darker tips initially, and whiten with age. The nocturnal flowers are white, funnel-shaped, up to 8 inches (20 cm) long, and up to 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter.

Peniocereus serpentinus (Snake Cactus)

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USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Like most cacti, Cereus are fairly low-maintenance and hardy. Ensure they receive enough water without becoming waterlogged, especially during the summer, and fertilize them for the best results. If the roots have become black or overly soft, the cactus could be experiencing root rot. Cutaway the affected parts and replant. Most gardeners interested in cacti should be able to cultivate these without much problem.

It may become necessary to repot your Cereus if it outgrows its container. If so, make sure the soil is dry and then remove the pot. Knock away old soil and prune away any rotted or dead roots, then replace it in a new pot and backfill with fresh soil. Make sure not to overwater cacti planted in new pots, as this can lead to root rot. It should be left dry for about a week and then watered lightly.

These cacti propagate quite easily from cuttings. Sever a branch and replant in moist, well-drained soil.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Cereus.


Peniocereus serpentinus is native to Mexico.


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