Scientifically known as Strophocactus testudo, the Dog Tail cactus belongs to a polymorphic species and is native to the tropical rainforests 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.
Table of Contents
Dog Tail Cactus Care
- Soil: Use a well-drained mix of sand, perlite, gravel, and organic matter to prevent root rot
- Light: Thrives in bright, indirect light
- Watering: Only water when the top inch of soil is dry
- Temperature: 40-80ºF (4-27ºC) works best
- Humidity: Prefers moderate to higher humidity levels, around 40-60%
Now, let us have a closer and more in-depth look at the various care aspects of the Dog Tail Cactus.
The ideal soil mix for a hanging basket comprises two parts of either sand, fine gravel, or perlite and one part of natural organic matter.
This is 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).
The Dog Tail Cactus grows perfectly under well-lit conditions, so a major part of the care you need to provide is centered on appropriate light conditions.
If proper light is supplied, the spines grow up to a shorter length and become sharper to the 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, lose their vigor or rigidity, and often become too thin—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 light spectrum. Therefore, for better results, you can provide it with artificial lighting.
Honestly, the trickiest part of maintaining 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 ensure the water is not stagnant and drains away, keeping the cactus mix dry.
Excessive or stagnant water near the roots will cause the roots to rot.
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.
The Dog Tail Cactus can tolerate temperatures from around 40-78ºF(4-26ºC).
It generally feels comfortable in a wide range of temperatures but is very sensitive to frost and extreme cold.
Unlike the other species in its genus, the Dog Tail Cactus prefers more humidity in the atmosphere than the dry heat in which most cacti thrive. They favor moisture from the air rather than the soil.
Dog Tail Cactus thrives in average to high humidity levels of about 40-60%.
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.
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.
You can start by planting the cacti in a small container. When you feel the need to increase its growth space, 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 be.
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 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 overwater 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 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.
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 the necessary steps to maintain a happy and healthy dog tail at your home and ensure that all its needs are met.
- Choose a soil that has a good mixture of minerals and organic matter. Provide a proper water drainage facility along with it.
- Light should be provided in large quantities, but avoid direct and intense sunlight on the plant. Also, ensure that the temperature is not below the minimum threshold (about 39F or 4 degrees Celcius respectively) allowed and frost does not accumulate.
- You can add bloom boost fertilizers during the spring and summer to observe the proper flowering of the buds.
- 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.
Compared to the other flora adorning your home, the Dog Tail Cactus 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.
Remember all the above-mentioned tips, and you certainly won’t have many issues with this low-maintenance beauty i.e., the Dog Tail Cactus!
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.