Cereus hildmannianus

Cereus hildmannianus dragon fruit tree

Cereus hildmannianus (also known as Cereus peruvianus, Stenocereus peruvianus, Cereus alacriportanus, Piptanthocereus alacriportanus, Piptanthocereus bageanus, Cereus milesimus, Cereus neonesioticus, Piptanthocereus neonesioticus, Cereus neonesioticus, Piptanthocereus neonesioticus, Cereus xanthocarpus, Piptanthocereus xanthocarpus, the Peruvian apple cactus, the Peruvian Candlepitahaya, pitaya or dragon fruit) is a perennial treelike cactus that grows like a candelabrum with several columnar branches, reaching 15m in height and having distinct trunks. It bears a profusion of dazzling white flowers, followed by goose-egg-sized succulent fruits with a delicately sweet white pulp and deliciously crunchy black seeds. 

The Peruvian Candle is a species of columnar cacti native to Argentina and widespread in South America.This cactus was found on rocky outcrops in southern humid/subhumid forest, and dry shadow soils in mata de planalto, cerrado, and pampas. Loss of habitat owing to urbanization, agriculture, cattle ranching, and forestry is the most serious danger. Hummingbirds, carpenter bees, honeybees, houseflies, wasps, and a variety of lesser arthropods pollinate during the day, while moths and nectar-eating bats are the primary pollinators at night.


Cereus is a genus of columnar cactus found in South America (east of the Andes) and the southern Caribbean islands. The New Cactus Lexicon recognizes 23 species, however there are numerous unresolved names, and a complete examination of the genus is long overdue. The most common species in California is definitely Cereus hildmannianus, however it is frequently mislabeled as Cereus peruvianus.
The colloquial name “apple cactus” is occasionally used to this species because of its smooth round crimson fruit.

Cereus hildmannianus is a large plant with many dull green to bluish-green branches that can reach a height of 30 feet (9 m), record is 15 meters. The stems typically have 5 or 6 ribs and a diameter of 6 inches (15 cm), with small constrictions that mark the end of one year’s growth and the beginning of the next. Older plants normally have a small wooden trunk beneath the lowest branches, however this is not always the case. The spines vary in length, with most plants in cultivation having extremely short spines and others having taller ones.

Plant type:Tree, Shrub
Light preference:Full sun
Water:Water only occasionally, if at all
Propagation method:Seed, stem cutting
Hardiness zones:Sunset 13, 16-17, 21-24
USDA 9 (protect from cold) to 11
Soil:Acidic, nutritious and friable. Well drained mineral soil is best
Fertilizer frequency:
Medium, fertilize only during active growth (minimum during resting periods)
Temperatures:Moderately warm (+18 - +25°C)
Maximum height: 9-15 m
Flowering time:Late spring, early summer
Flower color:White
Flower size: Width 15 cm
Flowering period: A few times yearly, opening time night (dusk to dawn), flower lifespan on plant 1 day
Mature fruit colors:Red, yellow / golden
Landscape uses:Interiorscape / indoor plant, container planting
Disease and pests:Susceptible to root rot in damp poorly drained soils

This plant blooms late in the summer and into early autumn (generally between July and early October). The flowers are 4 to 512 inches (10-14 cm) across, with the lower section being a smooth green tube with no spines or hairs and the top part funnel-shaped and made up of numerous tepals. The outermost tepals are green and sepal-like, giving way to red-tinged ones above, and eventually to white inner ones that form the flower’s mouth. Spikes are usually absent, older stems sometimes have a few golden or brown spines.

The lower section of the bloom swells to create a smooth oval fruit after pollination, while the upper part withers and goes brown. As the fruits mature, their color changes from green to purple to pinkish-red. When they reach maturity, they break open to reveal the white pulp, which contains the little black seeds. The fruit is sweet and edible, and both birds and humans consume it.

It grows swiftly (a young plant can easily grow more than 30 cm per year), and a plant cultivated in loose fertile soil with plenty of water can reach up to 9 meters tall with hundreds of branches in only 10 years.


Cereus hildmannianus is a species of plant in the genus Cereus of the cactaceae family (Cactaceae). The species epithet hildmannianus honors the German cacti breeder Heinrich Hildmann, who owned a cactus nursery in Birkenwerder.

Karl M. Schumann was the first to name Cereus hildmannianus in 1890. Cereus uruguayensis, identified by Roberto Kiesling in 1982, was reduced to C. hildmannianus subsp. uruguayensis by Nigel P. Taylor in 1998, giving rise to the autonym C. hildmannianus subsp. hildmannianus. Subspecies hildmannianus has the same distribution as the species and is normally spineless, as opposed to subsp. uruguayensis, which is exclusively found in Uruguay.

About Cereus genus

Cereus is a cacti genus (family Cactaceae) that contains approximately 33 species of enormous columnar cacti from South America. Cereus was one of the first cactus genera to be described. The term “cereus” can also refer to any cactus with an extremely elongated body, including columnar growth cacti and epiphytic cacti. Cereus are shrubby or treelike plants that can grow to considerable heights (C. hexagonus, C. lamprospermus, C. trigonodendron up to 15 m). Most stems are angled or noticeably ribbed, with ribs that are 3-14 cm long, fully developed, and have enormous areoles that usually carry spines. Cereus mortensenii generates pseudocephalium in the absence of cephalium.

Flowers are funnelform, 9-30 cm long, generally white, occasionally pink, purple, cream, yellow, greenish, and open at night. Fruits are 3-13 cm long, fleshy, naked, usually red but sometimes yellow, with white, pink, or red pulp. The seeds are big, bent oval, and glossy black. The term Cereus comes from a book published in 1625 by Tabernaemontanus and alludes to the candle-like appearance of the species Cereus hexagonus. Philip Miller identified it in 1754, and it includes all known cactus with unusually elongated bodies. Cereus was further subdivided by Britton and Rose (1919-1923) and Alwin Berger (1929).

The 33 or so Cereus species that remain are mostly plants that have not been moved out of the genus, rather than plants that have been included because they suit the description of Cereus. This inclusion-by-lack-of-exclusion results in a disorganized and poor grouping. Cereus now includes the genus Mirabella as a subgenus, C. subg. Mirabella.

Flowers and fruits

Season of bloom: It blooms at night from spring to summer. The buds proliferate swiftly, sprouting from the branches. Within two weeks, dozens of blooms bloom, always at night, and all or nearly all bloom at the same time. All had closed and drooped by midmorning the next day

Cacti appear to be using this as a water-saving tactic. The plant typically buds and blossoms two weeks after any warm-season rain. The fruits ripen in about a month. Buds may appear late in the season, even in early January, if temperatures and precipitation are enough. During dry spells, the buds frequently break off before opening.

The fruit is similar to the pitayas (in English: dragonfruit), the epicarp is smooth, the size is that of a lemon, slightly oblong, of red color little saturated in maturity. Fruits are pear-shaped, red with white edible pulp. The seeds are black. The cactus begins fruiting 3-4 years after sowing.

Cultivation and propagation

Cereus Hildmann grows at altitudes from 0 to 1000 m above sea level in southern wet and semi-moist forests, on stony plots and on dry soils in shady lowland forests, in savannahs and pampas on rocky ledges. The main threat to this species is destruction of its habitat as a result of urbanization, development of agriculture, cattle breeding and forestry. Cactus pollinators are hummingbirds, carpenter bees, honeybees, flies, wasps and a host of smaller insects during the day and moths and nectar-eating bats at night.

Peruvian Candlepitahaya is well recognized among cactus enthusiasts worldwide. It is very easy to grow, propagate, tolerates moderate frost, and produces a large number of stunning white flowers 15 cm wide. It is one of the most popular cactus species. The fruits are tasty, and the plant is used to make living fences.

Cereus hildmannianus ripe fruit photo


When growing in a pot, standard cactus soil should be used. If growing outdoors, the site should be well-drained, with a thick layer of soil, although the cactus will do well in less ideal conditions as well. This species is sensitive to soil salinity.


Because they are large plants, they require a lot of space for their roots. Repotting should be done every other year or when the plant outgrows its container. Use a pot that has good drainage.


Water regularly in the summer, but don’t overwater, and let the soil dry completely before watering again. Its roots are readily lost in containers that remain damp for an extended period of time. In the winter, it should not be watered at all. During the dormancy period, the humidity should not be high. If there is too much water and not enough light, the cactus will stretch out and look untidy.


Young cactus should be slightly shaded, later the plant needs full sun. When growing outdoors, Cereus hildmanna prefers direct sunlight, but tolerates a slight shading during the hot summer months as well. Indoors, it needs bright light and some direct sun.


During the growing season, you need to enrich the soil using fertilizers rich in potassium and phosphorus but poor in nitrogen, since nitrogen is not good for succulent plants and makes their stems too soft and watery.


Light shade at first, then full sun afterwards. Outside, it prefers direct sunlight, but it is tolerant of light shade during the hot summer months. Inside, it requires bright light and some direct sunlight.

Garden applications: Excellent as a landscape or patio plant. It is appropriate for “desert” gardening when combined with other xerophytes. Where open-air growing is not possible due to the climate, it should be grown in a container to protect it throughout the winter. It appears to be fine in a cold greenhouse and frame.


Cereus hildmannianus propagates easily from cuttings or via seeds (seeds should be planted in a well-drained soil mix). A severed limb should be allowed to callus for a week or more before being implanted into a pot or the ground and allowed to root. The most important thing is to be conscious of how large the plant grows so that it does not end up in a bed with insufficient space. The seedlings should not be disturbed until they are well rooted, at which point they can be placed in small pots separately. The cuttings quickly grow into a tall columnar. It is cold-hardy down to 25° F (-4° C), however cold periods that fall below this temperature might harm it.

Food applications

Every year, it produces more than a hundred delicious fruits, all of which attract birds. The fruits are edible and can be consumed fresh, dried, or juiced. The ripe fruits must be consumed within twenty-four hours of being gathered, or they will ferment.Plants grown experimentally in Israel’s severely dry Negev Desert have shown promise for fruit production. ‘Freshwater-irrigated plants produced more than 20 kg of fruits only six years after being planted as cuttings.

Other uses

The cactus is grown to be used as a live fence. To build a fence, cut straight lateral shoots of the desired height and plant them closely side by side in a trench deep enough to assure their sturdy standing. The cactus roots so easily that it is difficult to notice a gap, resulting in a completely impenetrable hedge. Slow-growing and delicate cactus species can be grafted onto Cereus hildmannianus rootstocks for rapid growth.

In addition to this, C.hildmannianus is used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory disorders, rheumatism, and as a topical treatment for wounds and lithiasis. In vitro and in vivo pharmacological actions of C. hildmannianus cladodes included gastroprotective, antioxidant, antifungal, ovicidal, hemagglutinating and slimming, and anticancer activity.


Cereus peruvianus is a tall, prickly columnar cactus native to Peru. It is an undiscovered, underutilized cactus that is only planted as a decorative plant despite producing lovely, edible fruits. Flowers bloom for one night only. The thornless fruits range in skin color from violet-red to yellow. The flesh of the fruit, which is edible, is white and contains small, tasty, and crunchy seeds.

Cereus hildmannus is a very popular cactus throughout the world. It is easy to care for, easy to propagate, tolerates mild frosts and produces many spectacular white flowers 15 cm in diameter. This Cereus grows quickly, the young cactus grows more than 30 cm. per year.

This plant, like other cactus, prefers very good drainage, warmth, light, and low humidity. The Peruvian apple cacti is ideal for a sunny south, east, or west window. The plant can tolerate low light levels but thrives in high light levels.


What is Cereus hildmannianus?
This is a cactus that is native to South America. It is also known as the Peruvian apple cactus or the columnar cactus.
Where can I find this plant?
Cereus hildmannianus can be found in the deserts of South America. It is a cactus that can grow up to 9-15 m tall. The plant has white flowers that bloom at night.
How to grow these cacti?
To grow Cereus hildmannianus, start with a cutting or seedling. Plant in well-draining cactus mix and water when the soil is dry to the touch. Place in an area that gets bright light. Allow the plant to acclimate to its new environment for a few days before watering.
Anna Gorelova
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