Since I am having such great luck with my cactus plants, I decided to add another one to my collection. Off to the nursery for a stroll around and a cup of tea in the lovely tea garden.
I spotted a gorgeous dark emerald green cactus covered with patches of lovely white woolly spines.
These white dots give it the fun name Domino Cactus. Much like the white dots on the blocks used in the famous game. The spines are soft and not prickly, which I enjoy, so you don’t need to be afraid of getting spiked.
It has the tongue-twisting Latin name of Echinopsis subdenudata or Echinopsis ancistrophora.
It is also known as the Easter Lily Cactus and the Night Blooming Hedgehog. This name refers to the fact that they only produce flowers at night and they wilt when the sun rises.
The plant is native to Bolivia and Paraguay. Unlike most cacti, they don’t grow in open deserts but prefer mountainous regions and hillsides.
Let us take a deeper look at how to care for these delightful little plants.
Domino Cactus Care
For ideal Domino Cactus care, give it well-draining soil that will dry out between waterings. The Domino Cactus needs at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Fertilize only in the growing season with a natural Cactus mix. It thrives best in temperatures between 70°F and 80°F (21°C to 27°C). Do not allow it to be subjected to frost or very humid conditions. Indoors, the perfect spot will be on a sunny south-facing window sill, shelf, or accent table.
The Domino Cactus enjoys well-draining soil that dries out in between waterings. A loam-type soil is best. This mixture consists of sand, silt, and a smaller amount of clay in a composition of 40–40–20%.
Because I have been successful with my own mix, I used it for my Domino cactus. I make this mix using a 50/50 peat/perlite combo.
I also add in some pumice, mulch, and organic manure. When I have coco husk chips available, I throw some in too. They increase drainage and also add extra aeration into the soil.
Domino Cactus enjoys slightly acidic to neutral soil with a PH ranging from 5.0 to 7.0.
Domino cactus soil tip: If you don’t want to spend time making your own soil mix, ask for a Cactus Soil Mix at your local nursery.
The Domino Cactus loves light and sun. It will be most happy with 6 or more hours of full sun per day. It can also tolerate partial shade, provided that it gets direct sunlight for at least 2 to 6 hours per day.
For indoor plants, place on a window sill or shelf that faces south (if you live in the northern hemisphere). You will not need to worry about sunscreens or filters for this little cactus. For outdoor plants, a bright sunny spot is ideal.
If you find that you are not getting enough indoor light in Winter, you can consider using a grow light. Grow lights can be LED or Fluorescent.
LED lights are more expensive but they do have advantages. They last longer and use less electricity. They also do not contain mercury, making them more eco-friendly.
Domino Cactus light tip: Grow lights do not have to be bulky devices. You can buy very attractive lamps that attach to the side of a desk or window sill with clips.
For best watering care for your Domino Cactus you need to think hot and dry, but don’t think desert. This plant likes water more than your average cactus. During the growing season, your plant can be watered once every 2 to 4 weeks, only when the soil is dry.
In Winter, you can reduce watering to only once a month.
The worst thing you can do to your Domino Cactus is over-water. Make sure that the roots of the plant never end up sitting in water that has accumulated at the base of your container.
Ensure that the drainage holes are open and that the water can run out. If the run-off accumulates in your drip tray, empty out the tray.
For outdoor Domino Cactus plants, keep an eye on the rainfall. If they are getting too little rain, water your plant with a hosepipe or watering can and allow it to dry out completely before watering again.
Remember this Domino Cactus water care tip: Your plant will not appreciate a dose of icy cold water. If your tap water is very cold allow the water to stand until it has reached room temperature.
Your Easter Lily Cactus is not a fussy plant. It can deal with both high and low temperatures. It does enjoy hot summers and prefers to be cooler in winter when it becomes dormant.
It is most comfortable in temperatures from 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C). It can withstand lower temperatures down to 50°F (10°C) for short periods of time. In these lower temperatures, ensure that your soil and plant are completely dry.
Do not let your Domino Cactus stand in the frost, it will get badly damaged and may even die.
During its growing season, the Easter Lily Cactus will produce flowers at night. To encourage flowers to bloom, you need to ensure that a temperature of around 70°F (21°C) is maintained.
If not, you probably won’t get to see the fabulous flowers that everyone wants to catch a glimpse of.
Domino Cactus temperature care tip: When your plant goes dormant in the winter months, it prefers to be in a cooler spot. If possible, move it to a cold, but not freezing spot. An enclosed patio or garage will do fine.
Your Domino Cactus loves a hot and dry climate. Humid conditions are not ideal for this cactus. If your home has an average humidity of around 40%, it will do well as long as it gets around 6 hours of full sunlight per day.
If you find that your home is getting overly humid, open the windows and allow it to ventilate for a few hours. If you live in a cold climate and don’t want to do this, try to place your plant where it has moving air, but not a draught.
Domino cactus humidity care tip: Installing a dehumidifier will reduce the level of humidity in your home.
High humidity encourages the growth of mold and bacteria and can create a musty smell in your living space. Not good for plants or people!
Are you like me and tend to over-feed your plant in the hope that it grows faster and better? Well, don’t do it! Too much fertilizer is not good for any plant, and especially not good for your Domino Cactus.
When it comes to fertilizing, I always go for a natural organic mix in place of chemical fertilizers whenever possible.
A good cactus fertilizer mix contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can ask for a Cactus Fertilizer at your local nursery.
Using home-made compost is also fine. I like to make up a mix of mulch, peat, coco husks, perlite, crushed bark, and pumice.
Care tip for feeding Domino Cactus: Only fertilize during the growing season. Do not feed your plant when it is dormant in Winter.
The Domino Cactus can be propagated from offsets or seeds.
Using seeds is a much slower process. It can take up to a year for the seedlings to take root. If you are not patient, like me, it is faster to use the offsets and repot them. I then get many plants, without having to wait for ever.
Further on, I give a detailed guide on how to propagate your Domino Cactus.
Domino Cactus is a fascinating plant – it produces glorious flowers only at night and only if the growing conditions are ideal.
The plant has a small stout round shape and is a gorgeous emerald green color. Dotted over the body are spots of soft white woolly hairy spines, or areoles, that are not too prickly.
The flowers are produced at night and emerge from the center of the plant. They have a long stem and a show of glorious pink and white petals.
The flowers last only for a few hours into the morning. So, set your alarm to get up early to make sure you are ready to snap those pictures. As the day progresses, the flower will wilt and die.
The stem can reach a length of 5 inches to 9 inches (15cm to 22 cm) in height. The older the Domino Cactus is, the more flowers it will produce. Flowers are only produced in Spring and Summer.
The flowers of the Night Blooming Hedgehog have a unique and delightful fragrance. It can best be described as a mix between a Jasmine and a Lily scent.
In a pot, your plant remains small and compact, reaching a height of 2 inches to 4 inches (5cm to 8 cm), and a width of 4 inches to 8 inches (7cm to 12 cm). If grown outdoors, they will get larger and may reach a height of up to 12 inches (30 cm) depending on their growing conditions.
The Night Blooming Hedgehog looks stunning in a small pot where it can fill up the entire space. I love using Terracotta pots. They look so earthy and natural and the porous sides allow water evaporation.
Prepare your pot with a Cactus Mix and water well. To aid in water drainage, you can first place a layer of small pebbles at the base of the pot. Domino Cactus does not do well if the roots sit in clogged up water. Ensure that the container has adequate drainage holes at the base.
Push a hole into the soil in the center of the pot and place the plant into it. Don’t let the roots touch the base of the pot, they will need some space to grow.
The round shape of the plant makes it easy to pot. Simply allow the ball to rest on the soil and ensure that the roots are covered.
If you are going to plant your very young Easter Lily cactus outdoors, first allow it to stand in a half-shaded spot to avoid sunburn.
You can then move it into a full-sun spot. Ensure that when planting you add fertilizer to the soil and water it well to give it an initial boost.
Repotting is not necessary unless you leave the pups to grow and the plant requires a larger pot. If so, do this in Spring when the plant comes out of hibernation.
Domino cactus in-depth propagation guide
Propagate Domino Cactus from offsets
- You will notice that your Domino cactus will start to grow pups or offsets from its base
- The offsets can be removed and replanted to create new plants
- The best time to do this is in early Spring to late Summer
- If the plant of blooming, wait until the flower has wilted – you won’t have to wait too long as the flowers only live for a day
- You do not need to remove the mother plant from its container
- Ensure that you have some soft gloves or use a thick tissue to take hold of the plant
- Using a sharp sterile knife gently cut the offset away from the plant
- You can also gently twist them off by using your fingers
- When you remove the pup, you may see that it already has started growing roots
- Place the offsets onto a dry plate or paper towel
- Remove as many offsets as you require
- Allow the offsets to dry out in a warm place for a few days
- You will see that a callus forms over the cut surface and becomes dry
- Once the callus has formed, place the new plant into a pot filled with a cactus soil mix
- You can use toothpicks to hold the plant upright until it gets strong enough to stand on its own
- Water and keep in a warm place until new roots emerge
Common problems with Domino Cactus
Like all plants, your Domino Cactus can be attacked by pests. A common pest that you may find attacking your plant is the scale insect. Scales tend to hide under the woolly areoles.
Spray your plant with diluted rubbing alcohol. Use a stiff paintbrush to brush over the spots where the scales are attached.
They should come loose and fall off. If they don’t, take a hose and give your plant a fairly strong blast of water. You can lift off the scales with the tip of a knife or tweezers, but ensure that you don’t cut into the plant.
Plant withers even though you are watering
One problem with growing a cactus in a small pot is that the roots can become very thick, tight, and clogged up. They twist and turn around each other and reach a point where they are unable to absorb water.
Your plant will start to desiccate or wither. You can sort this out by repotting your plant. Remove it from its container and give the roots a good blast of water.
Pry them apart using your fingers. It may take some time and strength. Remove any dead roots that you find and replant into fresh soil.
Plant starts to rot
This is usually caused by allowing your plant to stand in cold weather while it is wet. Try to revive the plant by moving it to a warm, dry spot.
Tips to grow Domino Cactus problem-free
- Avoid overwatering
- Do not allow roots to stand in water
- Plant into a cactus soil mix
- Give your plant at least 6 hours of direct sun every day
- Do not leave outdoors in cold weather
- Move indoors to a cooler spot during the hibernation period
- Do not grow in very humid conditions
- Fertilize only during Spring and Summer
- Plant into terracotta pots that allow water to evaporate faster than plastic pots
Frequently asked questions about Domino Cactus
Can Domino Cactus grow indoors?
Yes, it can. This is a stunning plant that will add interest to any window sill, shelf, or accent table. It is ideal to include in a small rock garden. The Domino Cactus will also look great on a patio.
Is it easy to care for Domino Cactus?
Yes, this is the perfect plant for beginners as it requires very little maintenance. The Domino cactus can survive with very little water. It only needs a warm spot with sunshine and infrequent fertilizing during the growing period.
Is Domino Cactus prickly?
This cactus is one of the few that has relatively soft spikes. They are not the prickly type and can even be carefully touched by hand. However, it is probably better to keep them away from small children.
This fabulous cactus will delight you every now and then with a glorious flower that only grows at night. What a treat to see it and smell the glorious fragrance.
For the rest of the year, it is adorable to look at with a deep emerald green color, dotted with spots of soft woolly white spines.
Once you have a healthy and happy Domino Cactus, you can get ambitious and add other cacti to your collection. I have just bought a Ming Thing Cactus.
The Ming Thing is a cool name for this plant – it grows into strange club-like shapes with black spikes that contrast nicely with my Domino Cactus.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.