Family: Cactaceae
Habitat: South America: Mexico, Honduras, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay.
Cultivation: Choose a well-draining soil rich in humus,put it in semi-shade and water it regularly, keeping it at a temperature always above 8-10°C.
Curiosity: Its particular name derives from Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon, referring to the unusual characteristic of its nocturnal inflorescences: this cactus, in fact, blooms with wonderful flowers, very fragrant and large (up to 30 centimeters!) that open up, when the sun goes down and close up again when the sun rises.


Selenicereus is a genus of cacti native to several countries in South America. It is particularly famous for its wonderful blossoming that occurs during the night, to which it owes its common name, “moonlight cactus”.

Its habitat are either lowland rainforests or disturbed coastal sites, or also semi-arid areas, depending on the species. The epiphytic species, in fact, inhabit rainforests, as they grow upon the trunks of big trees (epiphytic plants are particular kind of plants which grow on other plants, without parasitizing them: the common Ivy is the most famous example); while the lithophytic ones inhabit arid areas. “Lithophytic” is the botanical term to describe a plant growing among rocks. Both epiphytic and lithophytic plants are equipped with aerial roots, which are a special kind of roots able to absorb the humidity required for the survival of the plant from the air and at the same time to ensure safely the plant to the rock or the trunk.

Selenicereus are climbing plants, with flattened or angled stems. In the most famous species in cultivation, S. anthonyanus, stems have a odd, special shape, which maks this plant very sought after by cacti collectors: they are flattened and show a zig-zag pattern, with alternate, triangular-shaped protuberances in the two opposite sides, like a double-faced saw. In other species, instead, stem can be also cylindrical.

Spines and areoles can be present or absent. When present, areoles are white and lined on the angles of the stem (we remind that the areoles are the typical buds of cacti, from which the thorns sprout). Spines, instead, are usually short and thin, whitish.

The gorgeous, night-blooming flowers are usually white, pinkish or cream-coloured, 25 to 30 centimeters long and 10 to 20 centimeters in diameter. Petals are numerous and mor or less oblong and narrow depending on the species. There is often a distinction between the outer circle of petals, which are narrow, lanceolate and oblong, and the inner ones, more broad and often white. The blooming time depends on the species: for example, S. anthonyanus and S. urbanianus bloom once a year, for only one night! Other species instead, such as the beautiful S. pteranthus, bloom all year round. Flowers starts opening around 10 P.M., are fully opened about mid-night and gradually wither about dawn.

Flowers turn into globular, red, variable in diameter fruits, often equipped with spines or bristles.

Roots are fibrous and aerial, more or less strong and intricate depending on the species.


Here below are all the accepted species of Selenicereus:

  • S. anthonyanus
  • S. atropilosus
  • S. boeckmannii
  • S. brevispinus
  • S. chontalensis
  • S. chrysocardium
  • S. coniflorus
  • S. donkelaarii
  • S. extensus
  • S. grandiflorus
  • S. grandiflorus
  • S. grandiflorus subsp. donkelaarii
  • S. grandiflorus subsp. hondurensis
  • S. grandiflorus var. irradians
  • S. grandiflorus var. ophites
  • S. grandiflorus var. uranus
  • S. grusonianus
  • S. hallensis
  • S. hamatus
  • S. hondurensis
  • S. inermis
  • S. innesii
  • S. jalapaensis
  • S. kunthianus
  • S. longicaudatus
  • S. macdonaldiae
  • S. macdonaldiae
  • S. maxonii
  • S. megalanthus
  • S. mirandae
  • S. miravallensis
  • S. murrillii
  • S. nelsonii
  • S. nycticalus
  • S. paradisiacus
  • S. pringlei
  • S. pseudospinulosus
  • S. pteranthus
  • S. pteranthus
  • S. rizzinii
  • S. rubineus
  • S. setaceus
  • S. spinulosus
  • S. testudo
  • S. tricae
  • S. urbanianus
  • S. vagans
  • S. validus
  • S. validus
  • S. vaupelii
  • S. wercklei
  • S. wittii

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Here below are our cultivation tips to grow Selenicereus:

  • Put these plants in semi-shade, as the majority of the species are epiphytic from rainforests and grow in the shade of bigger trees in their natural environment.
  • Keep your Selenicereus at a temperature always above 5ºC. It’s better to shelter it in Winter.
  • These plants should be watered regularly, as they are quite resistant to drough but shouldn’t dry out totally. Once a week in Spring is ok: in Summer, instead, they may require water also twice a week.
  • Don’t prune the aerial roots though they may appear sometimes unsightly: they are able to absorb humidity from the air and will ensure the survival of the plant when the soil is too dry.
  • Soil should be well-drained but rich in humus.
  • Fertilize once a year during the vegetative season using a specifical product for cacti, but pay attention: too much fertilizer will reduce blossoming to the benefit for stems growth.

Propagation is carried out usually through cuttings, which are rooted in moss!

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