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Dog Tail Cactus: Best Grow & Care Guide

Dog Tail Cactus outstands most creeping houseplants for its long, cylindrical stems with small spine dots, demanding little care.

Generally, Dog Tail Cactus requires 4-6 hours of bright indirect light, 40ºF-90ºF temperature and above 50% humidity. Also, it demands weekly watering with a monthly balanced fertilizer and occasional pruning and repotting once every two years.

Though Cactus are a less demanding plant, you should not neglect their basic care requirements. Scroll down to get some tips for growing Dog Tail Cactus successfully. 

Overview of Dog Tail Cactus

Dog Tail Cactus is a native of the South American rainforest, growing as an air plant broadly in the wild.

Scientific NameStrophocactus testudo, Selenicereus testudo
Common NameDog Tail Cactus, Pitaya De Tortuga
USDA ZoneZones 7-11
Growth SizeApprox. 10 feet in wild
Approx. 6-9 feet in indoors
Grown ForExotic trailing skinny-tail with spine dots
Leaf FeatureCylindrical leaf with small dotted spines.
Bloom colorWhite or pink, resembling Orchids
Flowering seasonMarch to July
AvailabilityPretty common
NatureEpiphytic covering nook and crannies of trees

Dog Tail Cactus: A Detailed Care Guide

It is epiphytic plant that lives on and winds around large trees, so it becomes dramatic in its growing needs when plucking out indoors. 

A template containing all the basic care requirement for Dog Tail Cactus
Maintaining the basic requirement to the optimum level for better results is better.

As its trailing habit, Dog Tail Cactus can be good for perching on shelves, pedestals and in hanging baskets.

1. Sunlight & Temperature

Being a creeping plant, Dog Tail Cactus requires at least 6 hours of bright light, with partial shade if kept outdoors but should get ample sunlight.

You need to consider growing these plants outside under a stable temperature of 40-90ºF.

The inconsistent temperature and dim light make your stem appear weak and thin, making them lose its green vibrancy.

Consequently, in case of bright, scorching light, the tips turn yellow, and the growth gets slowed down.

So try to maintain the light and heat by growing them a few feet away from the sunny South-West facing window.

You can keep the plants on a patio or hang them on the balcony with a roof outside. 

However, amidst all the location changes, do not let your plant suffer from frost, as Dog Tail Cactus cannot tolerate temperatures below 25ºF.

So better to cover them with a frost blanket and install grow lights to deter cold drafts.

2. Watering & Humidity

Unlike other Cacti, Dog Tail Cactus requires more frequent watering, at least once a week in summer but do not be uptight about following the schedule.

You need to check at least 3 inches of soil from the top before the next watering.

Moreover, humidity is also a factor in determining the watering schedule, as Dog Tail prefers air moisture to be around 50%.

However, any fluctuations in humidity lead your plant to suffer from overwatering or underwatering, depending on the humidity level.

Dog Tail Cactus loves dryness and humidity just at the point, as higher air or soil moisture invites overwatering, making the plant limp and mushy and inducing root rot.

Besides, the long dryness and lack of moisture cause underwatering, leading the plant to wilt, wrinkle, and grow excess aerial roots.

So try to treat the dry heat by installing humidifiers or grouping the plant together.

3. Soil & Fertilization

Dog Tail Cactus prefer a moisture-retaining, well-draining cactus mix that is slightly acidic to neutral, with a pH of 4-6.5.

However, avoid using too porous soil, unable to hold the water, as that will make your plant suffer from underwater conditions.

You can make a DIY potting mix using ingredients like fine perlite or sand and organic matter in a ratio of 2:1.

Alternatively, you can buy cactus mixes such as Harris Premium Mix and Hoffman Cactus Mix and enrich them with nutrients.

To feed Dog Tail Cactus, employ a diluted low-nitrogen fertilizer (5-10-10) or balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) in the growing season every four weeks.

dog tail cactus in basket
Do not fertilize Dog Tail Cactus in winter or dormancy.

And if you aim to enjoy the blooms, enrich them with a bloom booster and phosphorous supplement twice a year.

However, try not to overfertilize them as that increases the soil’s toxicity level, discouraging root tips’ function and leading the plant to droop.

Also, do not keep your Dog Tail Cactus malnourished for longer, leading to yellowing stems.

Tip! Avoid fertilizing the Dog Tail Cactus in winter since they are dormant during the cold drafts.

4. Potting and Repotting

To be on the safe side, always plant the Dog Tail Cactus in a terracotta pot with enough drainage holes.

It ensures your cacti are not under water stress and allows you to water the plant from a bottom-up approach, pouring water into the plate under the pot.

Small and plastic container makes your Dog Tail root-bound, increasing the growth of aerial roots and leading to ground root rot.

However, do not try to pull out or bump the roots when repotting, as it can create trauma and shock the entire plant.  

Fill the right cactus mix in the pot and repot the Dog Tail letting the plant stand dry for at least a week before first watering.

A 5.0 inches pot requires 0.8 cups of water at an interval of 9 days in the absence of direct sunlight.  

5. Periodic Pruning

Pruning occurs when Dog Tail Cactus have dead and diseased stems due to pest infestation and bacterial growth with overgrown aerial roots.

Usually, pest attack is rare in Dog Tail Cactus, thanks to their sharp armor of bristles saving them from their enemy.

However, scales and mealybugs find their way into the trails of the cacti, sucking the nutrients off them.

So, prune off the stems and rotted roots of Dog Tail in their active growing season and maintain a regular watering schedule.

To prune, use sterilized scissors or a gardening pruner and cut the trails at their branching point without hurting the main stem.

You can even use cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to rub over the stems of Dog Tail affected by mealybugs and scales or spray insecticidal soap.

Spray the Cacti with Copper-based fungicide to treat the fungal growth once in the growing season as a preventive measure.

Dog Tail Cactus: All About the Growth Rate

As a Cacti variety, Dog Tail takes up a slow and steady growth rate, attaining at least 6 feet indoors and spreading up to 15-24 inches in about 2-3 years.

Besides, the trailing plant can extend up to 10 feet in its natural habitat around tree trunks, living for centuries.

The foliage of Dog Tail bears long, broad stems with spine dots on the upper surface, giving a dark green shade.

Meanwhile, they give orchid-like fragrant white blooms.

Sadly, the flowers of Dog Tail are a nocturnal bloomer, opening up only at night during spring and summer.

Common Cactus take 1 to 10 years to make a single bloom, so keep some patience!

Toxicity of Dog Tail Cactus 

Dog Tail contains no toxic compounds and is safe for pets and humans.

Meanwhile, the spikes on the Dog Tail surface also help in keeping the pets away from chewing on them.

Although you can be safe to be beside the plant, the spikes on the skin of stems can penetrate your skin, so try not to touch it without wearing gardening gloves.

Propagation Methods for Dog Tail Cactus

You can populate Dog Tail easily using stem cuttings and root division in spring.

These cacti are easy to break off but get in gloves first!

1. Propagation via Stem Cuttings

Before starting, select a plant with a healthy stem, allow it to dry in the bright sun for a day, and follow the steps.

  • Put a cut at the joint segment of the stem with the help of a sterilized gardening knife but be careful not to hurt the main plant body.
  • After that, let the stems dry and form callous, which usually takes 4 to 7 days.
dog tail cactus
Keep Dog Tail Cactus under 40˚F-90˚F when propagating.
  • Meanwhile, fill a pot with well-draining store-bought cactus mix and bury the stem 1 to 2 inches deep into it to let the roots develop.
  • At last, water the plant lightly after a week of planting to allow the roots to establish fully.

2. Propagation via Root divisions

Select the healthy stem and bend down to bury it along the mother plant. 

Though it seems like air layering, you need to cut roots at the end when roots develop from the buried stems. 

  • Mist the buried portion, attached to the mother Dog Tail, with a sprayer once every four days.
  • Continue the same process for about three weeks till you see new root growth.
  • After the roots have developed, cut them from the mother plant and let them grow as a single plant.

3. Propagation via Seeds

Growing Dog Tail from seeds is challenging as the seedlings are fragile and should always have successful pollination to form seeds.

  • Take a terracotta pot having enough drainage holes and fill it with an appropriate mix.
  • Spread the seeds over the soil and cover them lightly with sand.
  • Let the seeds dry out before shifting them to a dry, shaded location.
  • After drying out the seeds, mist them lightly daily till germination occurs.

Dog Tail Cactus for Sale

Some of you might already have the Dog Tail in the house, while some might be a new homie of Cactus.

ShopsShipping Time
EtsyWithin 1 to 4 business days
AmazonWithin 4 to 6 days
nnplantWithin 1 to 3 days
ShoptansyWithin 4 to 7 days
EbayWithin 3 to 4 days
You can also add Blue Torch CactusBunny Ear Cactus, and Mexican Fence Cactus to your succulent collection. 

Dog Tail Cactus vs. Rat Tail Cactus

One of the closest members of the Dog Tail, resembling the same creeping nature with a trailing tail and areole, is Rat Tail Cactus.

FactorsDog Tail CactusRat Tail Cactus
Plant TypeEpiphyteEpiphyte and Lithophyte
Plant Size6-9 feet indoors3-6 feet indoors
Flower ColorWhiteViolet-pink, red, orange
Light RequirementFull sun to partial shade and bright lightBright direct sun
USDA Zone7-119-11

Dog Tail Cactus vs. Dragon Fruit

Comparing Dragon Fruit to Dog Tail Cactus might be shocking and weird for many, but they both belong to the Cactaceae family.

FactorsDog Tail CactusDragon Fruit
FoliageRounded, green with spikes all over the bodyFlat, green with spike on each segment
Plant Size10 feet in wild8-20 feet in wild
Flower ColorWhite and orchid-likeWhite with yellow inside
FruitSpherical, black and not edibleEgg-shaped, red and are edible
USDA Zone7-1110-12

Wrapping Up…

Dog Tail Cactus has prevailed in houses for its exotic downwards trailing greenery and long tubular stems.

They can offer cascading effects like a falling spring if grown in a hanging basket.

And because of their survival ability, Native Americans use it as a symbol of warmth and unconditional love.

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