Aporocactus flagelliformis


Aporocactus flagelliformis var. leptophis
Aporocactus flagelliformis var. pfeifferi
Aporocactus flagriformis
Aporocactus leptophis
Cactus flagelliformis
Cereus flagelliformis var. leptophis
Cereus flagelliformis var. minor
Cereus flagriformis
Cereus leptophis
Cereus minor
Discocactus flagriformis
Disocactus flagelliformis


Aporocactus flagelliformis traces its origins to Oaxaca and Hidalgo, Mexico, though some theories suggest it might have native roots in South America. Additionally, reports indicate its presence in the wild or thriving in naturalized environments beyond its native regions. In its natural habitat, this resilient plant finds its niche in dry forests. Here, it showcases its adaptability by thriving as a lithophyte or epiphyte, making its home in these arid woodland environments.


The ‘Rat’s Tail’ cactus, Aporocactus flagelliformis, is a slender, gracefully branching plant that starts off upright, eventually meandering or even climbing. It’s been a cherished houseplant for nearly three centuries. This cactus is a star in modern collections and home decor, widely known and loved. Its slender stems, adorned with a profusion of vibrant crimson-pink blooms, make it a splendid choice for hanging displays. A mature specimen can be truly awe-inspiring, cascading out of its pot like a living waterfall. Many say it’s a top pick for easy cactus care.

The stems of this cactus are like delicate vines, initially reaching upwards before gracefully arching or hanging. They shift from a fresh green to a subdued grey-green hue, attaining lengths of up to 1.5 meters, or sometimes even more. In cross-section, they’re rounded and about 1-2 centimeters in diameter.

Subtle ribs, numbering from 7 to 12, line the stem, their edges slightly bumpy and inconspicuous. Tiny, pale areoles are evenly spaced, measuring 4-8 millimeters apart.

Its spines are small, needle-like, resembling bristles, and come in shades of reddish brown or yellow. They’re typically 4-5 millimeters long, although some specimens can have up to 10-millimeter-long spines.

When it comes to blossoms, they’re a daytime spectacle, unfurling to reveal vibrant hues of red to purplish-pink. Each bloom measures around 5-8 centimeters in length and 2.5-4 centimeters in width. The petals are symmetrically shaped, with an upward curve, creating an alluring zygomorphic pattern. Unlike many flowers, these bear no scent. The outer petals are slender and tend to reflex slightly, while the inner ones are narrower and may transition to a pinkish hue along the edges. Delicate stamens in shades of white to pale pink extend beyond the flower. The style stigma features 5-7 white lobes.

This cactus puts on its floral show in the middle and latter parts of spring, gracing its surroundings for several days. After the blooms, it produces small, round fruit with a reddish, bristle-like surface and yellowish pulp. The seeds are ovoid and have a reddish-brown hue.

It’s worth noting that this species also occasionally takes on crested forms, adding an intriguing variation to its already captivating nature.


Aporocactus flagelliformis is often considered one of the simplest species to grow, and it’s known for its relatively swift growth. It makes a stunning addition to a hanging basket or a bright window. To thrive, it requires well-draining soil and benefits from abundant sunlight, ranging from strong to partial. Position it in a sunny location to promote optimal growth. It can tolerate temperatures up to 5°C, but during winter, it’s advisable to provide shelter. Fertilize with a cactus-specific product at the start of spring. Consider repotting every 1-2 years, being mindful of the delicate stems.
During its active growing phase, which extends from October to March, regular watering is essential. It’s best to allow the soil to be thoroughly soaked, but ensure it dries out between waterings. In the winter months, or when nighttime temperatures dip below 10°C, it’s advised to keep the watering more restrained. This adaptable cactus can withstand brief spells of temperatures as low as -4°C.

Adequate ventilation is crucial for its overall health and well-being.

Here’s a pro tip: You can shape and train this cactus to your liking. It can be guided to grow along a support, left to dangle gracefully, or even grafted onto a straight stem of another species, creating a stunning miniature weeping tree. As the plant ages, any branches older than two years, which might turn brown and lose their visual appeal, can be pruned away without causing any harm to the plant’s overall appearance. This thoughtful maintenance ensures the continued beauty of this wonderful cactus.


You can propagate this cactus through two methods: seeds and cuttings.

If you choose to use seeds, spring is the ideal time to sow them in pots. Provide a warm and nurturing environment for them. Keep in mind that the seedlings are initially quite small and will take several years to grow into mature plants. They demand precise and gentle watering to flourish.

Alternatively, in late spring or early summer, you can opt for cuttings. Allow them to air dry for about a week. Then, plant them in pots filled with a nutrient-rich cactus soil mixture. Ensure they’re placed in a warm and comfortable spot to encourage healthy growth. This method offers an effective way to propagate this cactus, resulting in new, thriving plants.


In Mexico, the blossoms of this species hold significant traditional medicinal value. They are widely utilized and can be found in local drug markets, often referred to as “flor del cuerno,” for their therapeutic properties.
The etymology of the botanical name “Aporocactus flagelliformis”, instead, can be broken down as follows:
Aporo-: This prefix is derived from the Greek word “apóros,” which means “without pores” or “impassable.” It likely refers to the absence of noticeable pores or openings on the surface of the plant.
-cactus: This suffix is derived from the Greek word “kaktos,” which refers to a spiny plant or cactus. It is commonly used in the names of plants belonging to the cactus family.
Flagelliformis: This term is a combination of two Latin words. “Flagellum” means “whip” or “lash,” and “-formis” means “having the form of” or “resembling.” Therefore, “flagelliformis” suggests a plant with whip-like or trailing forms, which accurately describes the characteristic hanging branches of this species.

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