Dog tail cactus care infographicDog Tail cactus (Strophocactus testudo) is an epiphytic cactus native to the dry forests of tropical South America. This plant is characterized by its long stem with fuzzy-looking spines.

Read this article to know how to care for your Strophocactus testudo.

What Is Dog Tail Cactus?

Dog Tail cactus is a native cactus of the tropical parts of South America. It can also be called Pitaya De Tortuga. In its native habitat, this plant usually grows on trees (i.e. it is epiphytic just like air plants). It is a perennial cactus and is loved by succulent hobbyists as it is drought tolerant.

The Dog Tail plant is common in homes. You can grow it in your succulent garden. What makes it special is that it is very beautiful in hanging baskets because of its trailing stems.

– Identifying Dog Tail Cactus

Dog Tail cactus is very easy to recognize. Here are some distinctive features:

  • Stems: Dog Tail cactus plants have a long stem. The stem of matured plants can grow over 100 inches. The stems trail as they are too thin and heavy to grow erect. They become broader as they mature.
  • Spines: The stems of Dog Tail cacti are covered in brown and pointy stems. These spines can hurt people if the plant is not carefully placed, so beware!
  • Flowers: Dog Tail cactus has white or pink flowers that resemble orchids. These flowers have a pleasant scent and they bloom at night. If you properly care for your plant, it will bloom around March to July. Each bloom lasts for five days.

You should grow Strophocactus testudo in your home. Continue reading to learn how to grow and care for the cactus.

Dog Tail Cactus Care

The growing season of Dog Tail cactus is from mid-spring to late summer or early autumn. It is easy to grow so long as you stick to the tips below:

– Where To Plant

Remember that Dog Tail cacti have long and trailing stems. If you do not plant them far from people, they can easily hurt children or wound others. In your succulent garden, place the stems where people can see them but can get hurt by them.

As for hanging baskets and containers, hang them far from the ground. Do not hang them in a tight passage or where people pass through regularly.

– Suitable Potting Mix and Container

Like every other plant, the secret to successfully growing Dog Tail cactus is in the potting mix. Mix two-part grit (e.g sand, vermiculite, and rocks) and one-part organic matter such as topsoil and compost to create a suitable potting mix.

The medium should have a pH of 5.5 – 6.5. If you cannot mix a suitable potting mix, consider buying a cactus or succulent mix from garden shops.

– Light and Humidity Requirements

In their natural habitat, Dog Tail cacti receive bright but indirect sunlight. You want to mimic this by giving your plants more than six hours of sunlight, but in a shaded location. You can shade your plants by growing them close to a tree or even hanging them on your balcony.

If you are growing your Strophocactus testudo under a grow light, you can add green or pink rays for the plant as they help your plants to grow faster. For sufficient light, you should grow your plants in the south-facing parts of your home as these places receive the highest light.

Strophocactus testudo loves humidity. Make sure that you are growing it in a location where it receives around 50 percent humidity.

– Temperature

Strophocactus testudo grows best in the USDA hardiness zone 7-11. It can tolerate 40 – 90 F (4.4 – 32 C). You should not expose your Dog Tail cactus to frost as it does not tolerate it.

Strophocactus Testudo Indoors

If you experience frost in your area, you should take your Strophocactus testudo indoors when winter is approaching. You can bring it back outside in early spring.

– Water Requirements

Dog Tail cactus plants are among the cacti species that love water. Even though you can water your plants more regularly than other cactus and succulents, you still have to wait until the soil is dry before you can soak them with water. Between each water bath, you can mist the stem of your plants with water droplets.

You should only bathe or mist your Strophocactus testudo with water in the morning. The afternoon sun can help dry out water trapped between the spines of the plant.

– Fertilizer

You do not need to fertilize your Strophocactus testudo in the first year after planting. The nutrient-rich topsoil or compost can provide enough nutrients for the plant in the first year. When the plant is well-established, however, you should spray diluted fertilizer. Only fertilize your Dog Tail cactus in the growing season.

If your Strophocactus testudo is not blooming, consider using a bloom booster fertilizer to encourage the growth of flowers. You can also give your plants phosphorus supplements twice yearly for successful blooming and pollination.

– Repotting

Dog Tail cactus grows slowly, so you do not have to repot Dog Tail cactus cactus yearly. The major reason people repot their Dog Tails is because of aerial roots. The presence of these roots means that the container is too small and should be changed.

You can also repot your Strophocactus testudo if the potting mix holds more moisture than needed.



This beautiful cactus is fairly easy to propagate. Unlike other succulents, you cannot propagate Dog Tail cacti from their leaves. Luckily, there are multiple ways to multiply your plant. Here are some methods:

– Broken Stem

If you can get up to 6 inches of stem, you can get a new plant. All you have to do is prune out the cutting and wait for it to form a callus. After three or four days, when the stem is dry enough, you should plant it in a suitable potting mix.

Make sure that you plant the cutting bottom end down as it will not grow if you bury the top side in the potting mix. You can mist the potting mix after planting. If you want to water the cutting by soaking it in water, you have to wait for two weeks as the plant should have developed some roots by then.

– Rooting Stem

If you do not want to cut the stem of your Dog Tail cactus, you can still multiply your plant by rooting a stem. You can root a stem by burying a part of it in a suitable soil or potting mix and mist that region every three or four days.

All you have to do is place the stem on the potting mix and bury it with the medium. In less than a month, the region of the stem will develop roots. If you can see a new stem growing from the buried part, you can finally cut off the stem from the mother Dog Tail cactus.

This method is quite difficult especially when you are growing your Dog Tail cactus in hanging baskets. It is best for plants growing in your succulent garden.

– Seeds

If you are lucky, your Dog Tail cactus can have successful pollination after blooming. The success rate of pollination can increase if you have multiple plants and your plants are growing in a well-ventilated room or where pollinators can visit.

After a successful pollination, your Dog Tail cactus will produce seeds. Allow the seeds to dry. You can store them in a dark and dry place. In the coming spring, place the seeds of your cactus on a suitable potting mix (this time, add more organic matter) and bury them with a thin layer of sand.

Mist the seeds until they germinate. After a month or two, you can start watering the seedlings just the way you water mature plants. How will you propagate your Dog Tail cactus?


Dog Tail cactus plants are easy to grow so long as you pay close attention to your watering and fertilizing methods.

Dog Tail Cactus Common Problems

Well, you may still face a few challenges when growing this plant. Some problems that you can face are:

– Pale Stems

The most common problem that succulents can face is overwatering. In the case of pale stems, however, your plants are not being watered enough. Since many cactus and succulent plants do not grow in wet or waterlogged soil, you might forget to water the plants as often as you should.

The stem of thirsty Dog Tail cactus plants becomes pale when they do not receive enough water. You should give them a bath immediately. Remember that this species loves water more than many other cactus species.

– Weak Stems With Dark Tips

When the stem of your Strophocactus testudo looks weak and has dark-colored tips, you need to take your plants outside or increase the intensity of light that reaches them because they need more light. Dog Tail cactus, just like other cacti species, need as much light as they can get.

Even though they do not like direct sunlight, you should place them in a location where they can get more hours of shaded light. For example, you can keep them outside while shaded by other plants or you can keep them on a sunny windowsill.

– Rot

The other problems listed above are caused by the lack of water or light. What happens when you overwater your Dog Tail cactus? Root rot. Root rot occurs when the potting mix is too moist and is now home to some fungi species that can harm your plant by destroying the roots.

To prevent these fungi from growing in the potting mix, wait until the soil is dry completely before watering your Dog Tail cactus. Remember that Dog Tail cactus plants need less water and more light. 

No matter the problem you face, remember that you can always revive Dog Tail cactus cactus by giving it enough light and growing it in the right substrate.


Should I cut off Dog Tail Cactus pups?

It is generally recommended to cut off Dog Tail Cactus pups to promote healthy growth and prevent overcrowding. Pruning can encourage new growth.

Can I break off a piece of Dog Tail Cactus and replant it?

Yes, you can break off a piece of Dog Tail Cactus and replant it. Ensure the cutting has calloused before planting in well-draining soil.

How do I tell if my Dog Tail Cactus is dehydrated?

Signs of a dehydrated Dog Tail Cactus include shriveled or wrinkled stems, dry soil, and wilting. Increase watering frequency gradually to revive it.


Strophocactus testudo is a special cactus as it needs more water and less light than other types of cactus. Here are more useful tips that you should remember:

  • Strophocactus testudo may not bloom, so you should give your plants a bloom booster fertilizer.
  • This special cactus needs bright indirect light. Grow it in a shaded location.
  • The suitable potting mix for Strophocactus testudo is two-part grit to one-part organic matter.
  • Strophocactus testudo cannot survive frost, so take your plants indoors in winter.
  • Remember that Dog Tail cactus plants have pointed spines, so grow them in locations where they cannot harm people.

Now that Strophocactus testudo has been fully demystified for you through this guide, when do you intend to start growing yours?

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