Hilocereus is a plant from the Cactaceae family, which is a large cactus with long shoots that resemble a thorny vine. It comes from Central America and lives mainly in tropical areas, but is also common as a house plant. Due to its unique features, it was popularly called the "king of cacti".
Hilocereus vine shoots with a thickness of about 6-8 cm can reach a length of 2-3 meters, and sometimes up to 5 m, forming a tall spreading bush with a height of 2 m for a short time.
Fleshy, thick shoots are from blue to dark green in color and a triangular, flat or tetrahedral cut (depending on the variety). They creep intensively on both horizontal and vertical surfaces.
In the internodes, filamentous roots are formed, which receive the nutrients necessary for the plant from the air and allow them to attach to the support. The spines that form on the pointed ribs are 1 cm long and are slightly sharp or soft.
Crown-shaped flowers can be purple, white or milky. Hilocereus flowers are rightfully considered the largest among the Cactus, their sizes vary from 10 to 30-40 cm in diameter.
The main difference is that the buds open exclusively at night and delight with a heady aroma that has a relaxing effect. Pollination occurs at the expense of nocturnal insects.
The fruit has a purple or pink skin, white pulp and black seeds throughout the pulp, tastes good and is actively used by chefs to prepare new dishes. By the name of the fruit, the cactus itself is sometimes called.
Due to the undemanding nature of the hilocereus, it is enough to just take care of it, so even a beginner can handle it. The following conditions must be observed:
- The soil... Choose light fertile soils for planting, neutral and slightly acidic with good water and air permeability, it is allowed to use ready-made mixtures for cacti. You can also prepare the substrate yourself: mix equal amounts of peat soil, sand and turf soil, having previously laid a drainage layer on the bottom of the pot.
- Lighting and temperature... The brightest possible lighting is recommended, location on the south, west or east side of the house. Direct rays will not harm anything, on the contrary, they stimulate the growth and flowering of the cactus. The optimum temperature is room temperature, about 20 ° C, withstands a cold snap to 0 ° C.
- Watering and humidity... Hilocereus does not need frequent watering. It is enough to water it once a week in summer and once every 3-4 weeks in winter, use rain or settled water to provide the plant with the necessary salts. The main condition is that the soil has time to dry out enough before watering. The air humidity should be high, about 60%, if necessary, spray the cactus with a spray bottle.
- Top dressing... You can fertilize 2-4 times during the period of active development of the plant (from April to October); in winter, fertilizers are not required. A ready-made mixture is enough for cacti, ficuses or succulents.
- Transfer... Held in the spring after flowering. Transplanted only if absolutely necessary (the root system is very sensitive). After transplanting, you need to limit watering and feeding for some time.
The seeds must be dry, well-ripened and undamaged., the age of the seeds is at least two years. Sow in a mixture of leafy earth and sand in a 1: 1 ratio, slightly moisten the soil before planting.
- Lay pebbles or small expanded clay as drainage on the bottom of the pot before filling the soil.
- Spread the seeds over the surface, then press them into the ground by 1-1.5 cm.
- Instead of watering, spray from a spray bottle, keep under a film or glass at an optimal temperature of 20 ° C until the first shoots appear, that is, about 20-21 days.
- Leave the cut stem in the fresh air for 2 days, then plant it in sandy soil or a mixture of leafy earth and sand, you can use a container with water and a growth stimulator.
- Until the roots appear (rooting will take about a month), keep in partial shade, systematically moisten the soil by spraying or watering through a pallet, then gradually accustom it to sunlight and start caring like an adult plant.
Despite being relatively resistant to parasites and pests, Hilocereus can undergo improper care. In this case, you should find out what caused the problem.
- Decay of roots or stems, lethargy and softening of the shoots. The main reason is too much watering. Cut off the damaged parts, sprinkle the cuts with coal powder, cut watering.
- Lack of flowering... The cactus either has not yet grown enough green mass, or it does not have enough light. In the second case, it is worth moving to a more illuminated part of the house, for example, to the south side.
- Deterioration in appearance... The problem lies in too hot (more than 25 degrees) or too low (less than 0 ° C) temperature.
- Pests... Basically it is a spider mite or mealybug. Their attacks are associated with excessive dryness during the heat. It is worth regularly sprinkling the cactus with water or treating it with insecticides to prevent repeated attacks.
Benefits and Applications
Fast growth, large buds and nighttime fragrance give it a special grace that can decorate any place in the house, and thanks to the filamentous roots, the cactus twists around the supports, which looks elegant and neat.
The fruits are also widespread, despite the fact that until a few decades ago, no one remembered them. In cooking, they are used as an independent dish, to add flavor to baked goods, or as an addition to meat. Drinks are also made from pitahaya, including alcoholic... The presence of a large amount of antioxidants and vitamins makes dragon fruit extremely beneficial for the human body.
Also, a cactus, due to its vitality, can become a stock for other succulents and epiphytes, however, one should take into account the different attitude to low temperatures in different species.
Costa Rican (Hylocereus costaricensis)
Shoots are dense, creeping, fleshy, with large inflorescences and three straight ribs. Petals are white, purple edging may be present. This variety is grown commercially for egg-shaped or round purple fruits. It got its name because of its wide distribution in the territory of Costa Rica.
Narrow-winged (Hylocereus stenopterus)
One of the most compact types up to 15 cm high... Stems are chestnut, thin, purple or pink flowers with a shortened flower tube. The size of the roundish fruit does not exceed 7 cm.
Another name is winding. It is distinguished by triangular stems, long (up to 5 m) and wavy. Stiff needles are located on the side faces. The flowers are white, the fruit is red, no more than 27 cm in length.
The stems reach 2 m and have an emerald-grayish color. The soft yellow needles are bunched to protect the sharp edges. The flowers, white with light green streaks, reach a diameter of 30 cm. The pink fruits inside consist of yellow or orange flesh. Resistant to fungus and therefore most often used as a rootstock for other species.
As the name suggests, a creeping shoot has three facets.... The spines are brown or yellow, the flowers are snow-white and very large.
The flowers are also white and the stems are colored greenish blue. The fruits smell nice and have a yellow or pale red skin. It grows in large quantities in Mexico and Guatemala.
The species is common in Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti... The color of the stems is light green, characterized by a large number of aerial roots. Fruits are small, red, white flowers, solitary, up to 20 cm in diameter.
Let's summarize. Hilocereus is not a capricious, but a very beautiful and useful plant that can decorate a garden, cottage or balcony. Resistance to diseases and parasites allows the cactus to grow and bloom unhindered, and the ease of care will enable novice growers to start this plant. In addition to decorative, there are many other uses, and the abundance of species allows you to choose the most suitable hilocereus for your home.
The video tells about caring for the hilocereus and gives the characteristics of the cactus, and also shows the transplantation process: