Fat plants

Selenicereus anthonyanus

Selenicereus anthonyanus

Selenicereus anthonyanus was successfully introduced in Europe only in the 50s, but in recent times it has been very successful and is becoming much more common in nurseries and even in supermarkets. It is highly appreciated for its relative ease of cultivation and for its beautiful flowers; however the aspect that distinguishes it is the very particular shape of the stems (zigzag or herringbone) that make it ornamental even in winter.

Description and origins

The Selenicereus or Cryptocereus Anthonyanus is an epiphytic cactus native to Mexico, more particularly of the pluvial forests of the Chapas, to around 800 meters of altitude. Like all epiphytes it grows by holding on, thanks to its aerial roots, rocks and branches and it thrives in tropical or equatorial environments, characterized by a warm climate, strong diffused or direct light and a high level of environmental humidity.
Its popular names (zig-zag cactus, herringbone cactus) refer to the characteristic shape of its stems. These are of a beautiful bright green and semi-mature habit, up to 75 cm long, flattened, with marked marginal incisions, up to 4.5 cm, and which lead to the formation of lobes. The areolas carry 2 to 4 light brown spines. Between spring and summer it produces trumpet flowers, up to 12 cm long, white-cream and with brick touches. They open during the night (hence the name, Selericereus, which means "candle of the moon") and give off a strong and characteristic sweet scent.

Cultivation notes

The cultivation of the zig-zag cactus is quite simple: it is a plant that can be grown both by those who live in the city and in the country, placing it outside in the warm seasons and repairing it in winter. It is not particularly delicate, if we exclude the little rusticity. A little more effort is required if we want to achieve a beautiful flowering. Here are some general indications.

Vase and soil

The selenicereus It is ideal to grow in hanging pots or baskets: its semi-habit and its flowers are more appreciated if looked at from below. Wanting it can also be bred as a climber, providing a support as a support. In any case, we must ensure that excellent drainage and drainage of the water is guaranteed: especially in the winter months it is important to avoid stagnation and consequently the onset of rot.
The ideal compote for epiphytic cacti is obtained by mixing in equal parts garden soil (not too clay), soil (or a mixture of soil and peat) and sand: this will allow a good nourishment and maintenance of the right degree of humidity. If we do not know where to get the garden soil a good alternative is given by a mixture of soil, sand and peat in equal measure. At the bottom of the vase we always create a drainage layer with expanded clay.

Climate and exposure

It is a tropical plant and therefore, to grow at its best, we must try to replicate its natural conditions of life. The ideal would be to provide medium-high temperatures and strong radiation throughout the year: this can, however, be guaranteed only by those who have heated greenhouses. More commonly we recommend growing it indoors in the winter season, in a very bright location. It is very sensitive to cold: it begins to suffer already under 15 ° C and dies if it reaches 8/5 ° C. In winter it should therefore be kept in a living room with a window facing South or East: loving humidity often grows well in kitchens and bathrooms.
When the warm weather arrives, it can be moved outside, gradually increasing the amount of light to which we expose it (thus avoiding dangerous burns). After this phase you will not have problems even with direct light.


During the summer the irrigations must be abundant, even daily, making sure that the substrate remains always fresh, but at the same time there are no stagnation. At the same time it is important to keep the ambient humidity high by often spraying the area or by placing in the area of ​​the balls of expanded clay to wet often. For all uses, it is strongly advised that rainwater or demineralised water is used because limestone is very harmful. In winter, in the apartment, we can suspend almost completely, making sure only that the earth bread never totally dry out.


During the summer the selenicereus has a very vigorous growth and, if well supported, it can give a spectacular flowering. It is therefore important, starting in March, to administer a fertilizer for flowering plants every 15 days: it must have an excellent supply of potassium and good nitrogen and phosphorus. Nitrogen should be administered carefully because it could cause very long, but fragile stems (in addition to attracting cochineal, its most frequent parasite). In winter we can suspend completely or reduce to a monthly administration (if it is in a very hot and well exposed room).