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Dog Tail Cactus Care: The Definitive Guide

Dog Tail Cactus Care: The Definitive Guide

Scientifically known as Strophocactus testudo, the Dog Tail cactus belongs to a polymorphic species and is native to the tropical rain-forests of South America.

If you are a new plant parent, the Dog Tail cactus is a great place to start—it can survive almost anywhere, thanks to its robust nature.

You can identify them through their long, thin trailing stems in the shape of a dog’s tail (thus the name!).

They add an aesthetic component to your house, especially if you mount it in hanging baskets in front of your window—this becomes a necessity when you have pets at home because let’s face it, they will paw at anything, and these have cylindrical leaves lined with small spines on the edges grow downwards, that could potentially hurt a nosy feline or two. 

 

Dog Tail Cactus Care

Even though the Dog Tail cactus falls under a hardy family of cactus, it still requires some specific care and nurture to bloom. A well-drained soil-mix is required using two parts of sand, perlite and gravel, and one part of natural organic matter. The Dog Tail cactus does fine in temperatures between 39°F to 80°F (4-27°C) and enjoys lower humidity levels (50% is the absolute max). Oh, and remember, don’t overwater the plant as you could be unwillingly contributing to its wilting. These epiphytic plants consume the majority of their nutrients from the air directly, so no problem there!
 

Soil

The ideal soil mix for a hanging basket is made up of two parts of either sand, fine gravel, or perlite and one part of natural organic matter.

This is absolutely necessary because you definitely want to avoid any excessive moisture buildup in your plant.  If water starts to stand near the base of the plant, the roots will begin to rot, so you can’t risk that either.

Making your own mix is actually quite easy.

I specifically use two parts of either sand, perlite and fine gravel mixed with one part of organic matter, this mix is relatively fast-drying which is ideal for the plant.

Throw in a couple of pebbles or sand on the surface, so that water does not collect on the top part.

The Dog Tail Cactus prefers a slightly acidic soil of pH (3.5- 4.4), but can also thrive at a neutral pH (6.6- 7.3). 

 

Light

The Dog Tail Cactus grows perfectly under well-lit conditions, so a major part of the care you need to provide is centred on appropriate light conditions.

If proper light is supplied, the spines grow up to a shorter length and become sharper to touch, else they droop to a softer configuration and become hair-like.

Another downside of not receiving enough sunlight is that the stems usually become pale and lose their vigor or rigidity, and often become too thin—in turn losing their beauty.

Keep in mind that we are talking about the amount of sunlight, and not the intensity.

Intense sunlight can char the plant’s epidermis so no matter how concerned you are about it, don’t just flood your precious plant with very intense sunlight! 

Here’s a little hack—the Dog Tail Cactus also prefers the colors green and pink in the spectrum of light. Therefore, for better results, you can provide it with artificial lighting.

 

Watering

Honestly, the trickiest part to maintain a cactus at home is to keep the watering under control

Epiphytic cacti like more moisture than the other species and require more water during summer. But you need to make sure that the water is not stagnant and drains away, keeping the cactus mix dry.

Excessive water or stagnant water near the roots will cause the roots to rot, like we said earlier.

On the contrary, if the Dog Tail fails to receive sufficient water, the roots and stems will look asymmetrical and disproportionate with the stems growing thin and pale— now, we can’t afford that, can we? 

To keep the water in check, I have a trick up my sleeve for you— dig your finger into the soil surface and feel the moisture. If the top inch (3 cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water the plant.

 

Temperature  

The Dog Tail Cactus can tolerate temperatures from around 40-80ºF(4-27ºC) and cannot tolerate frost, like most cacti.

However, they can tolerate cold temperatures, given they are strictly kept indoors. So under any condition, don’t leave it out if it gets too frosty at night! 

 

Humidity

Unlike the other species in its genus, the Dog Tail Cactus prefers more humidity in the atmosphere, rather than the dry heat in which most cacti thrive. They favor moisture from the air, rather than the soil.

 

Fertilizer

The Dog Tail Cactus needs to be firmly placed in the soil to be able to fully absorb the nutrients from the fertilizers provided. The fertilizer must be designed especially for the cacti. 

A slow-release fertilizer is suggested for these potted epiphytic plants, but I would suggest going the natural way.

For instance, I add tea leaves or manure to the base of my sapling, as it adds to the soil’s fertility and it is easily available(and cheap!).

Too many chemicals can damage the plant, so it is important to follow the directions in the chemicals to determine the quantity, the frequency, and the usage of such chemical bases (If you really need one).

If you want your dog tail cacti to bloom, then you can use some blooming fertilizers to help it accentuate the progress.

The flower bloom is usually observed from March to July, so I would suggest using these fertilizers only during this window.

 

Growth

Dog tail cacti are known for the length they showcase in their growing stages, by how much they can spread. The height of such plants can range from 1 to 6 feet or 0.3 to 1.8 meters. The space which this cactus possesses ranges from 15 to 24 inches or 38 to 61 cm. 

 

Potting

You can start by planting the cacti in a small container. When you feel the need to increase its growth space, simply increase the size of the container.

However, if you keep it in a smaller pot, it will form an increased number of aerial roots, and the plant will not be as healthy as it should.

Also remember, while repotting, see that the new soil is dry and gritty for the stem to stay erect. 

 

Dog Tail Cactus propagation steps

Stem Cutting is the safest way to propagate this succulent.

  • The first thing you need to do is get a pair of sharp scissors. Plus, get hold of a healthy cactus, a pot for your plant to grow into, and a little water.
  • Locate the stem that you think is ideal for propagation and make an incision at the joint. Make sure that the cut portion is dry, before replanting. This can take up some days, so patience is the key. 
  • When you pot it into the new container, make sure the soil has proper drainage, and is lightweight. The soil should be slightly damp for the roots to get enough space to spread, but do not over water it. 
  • The plant should also be as erect as possible. You can begin normal watering after the roots become firm.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Common Problems Found with Dog Tail Cacti

 

Darkening of the Tips

Sometimes, you might observe a little patch of dark shriveling, near the edges or the tips. This problem might be due to the incidence of too much light.

When the chlorophyll is being reduced, the underlying pigments become visible. Something similar might also happen during fall when the red and yellow coloration becomes dominant.

If this happens, you need not worry. Just place the pot into a location that still has a good amount of sunlight but with less intensity than what the plant is currently experiencing.

 

Wilting

Sometimes, you might observe that the plant is wilting or looking not as rigid as it usually is. This is probably due to overwatering or you might have unintentionally allowed the presence of stagnant water near the roots. The roots will start to rot when this happens.

Add a little more time in between your watering sessions, and provide a well-draining soil mix. This will allow easier drainage and will simultaneously get rid of the excess water, so that your plant can bloom in peace! 

 

4 Tips to maintain a healthy Dog Tail Cactus

Take necessary steps to maintain a happy and healthy dog tail at your home and ensure that all its needs are met with.

  1. Choose a soil that has a good mixture of minerals and organic matter. Provide a proper water drainage facility along with it.
  2. Light should be provided in a large quantity, but avoid direct and intense sunlight on the plant. Also, make sure that the temperature is not below the minimum threshold (about 39F or 4 degrees Celcius respectively) allowed and frost does not accumulate.
  3. You can add bloom boost fertilizers during the spring and summers, to observe the proper flowering of the buds.
  4. Avoid overwatering the plant, as it causes the roots to rot away, eventually killing the plant. Water the plant at certain intervals—when you observe the soil to be too dry.
     

Conclusion

Compared to the other flora adorning your home, the dog tail requires little to no efficient attention. They have a wide range of humidity, temperature, and lighting tolerance and are easy to maintain, even by beginners.

Keep in mind all the above-mentioned tips and you certainly won’t have many issues with this low maintenance beauty i.e. the Dog Tail Cactus!

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