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The Dinosaur Back Plant

The Dinosaur Back plant, Myrtillocactus geometrizans f. Cristatus, is native to central and northern Mexico. Also known as the myrtillocactus (sometimes spelled myrtillo cactus), Crested Blue Myrtle, and Crested Blue Flame, this unique cactus gains its name from its resemblance to the skin of a dinosaur. 

Myrtillocactus geometrizans f. Cristatus

Dinosaur Back Plant Appearance

The Dinosaur Back Plant thrives equally well both indoors and grown outside. The Myrtillocactus grows to a height of 12 inches (30.5 cm) tall and 36 inches ( 91 cm) wide. This cactus grows blue-gray trunks which fan out to form overlapping clusters. The thick and waxy branches feature long thorns that protrude from the surface. Blooms are small, cream-colored and appear in the summer. 

Dinosaur Back Plant Light Requirements

In the spring and summer, provide mature plants with full sunlight from an east-facing window, or southern exposure in the northern hemisphere. Younger myrtillo cactus plants prefer protection with filtered light. Avoid total shade for both young and mature plants as it inhibits growth. In the winter, provide partial shade to aid in dormancy.

Water Needs

Use the soak and dry method for watering the Dinosaur Back plant. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Continue watering until moisture runs out the pot’s drainage holes. Water more frequently in the spring and summer, tapering off in the fall. Withhold water in the winter to allow the myrtillocactus to go dormant, which promotes blooms next summer. 

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and Humidity
Piece of Eden

Temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) are ideal for optimal growth. Cooler temperatures below 25 degrees Fahrenheit ( 4 degrees Celsius) affect the plant’s appearance and often lead to fungal growth issues. Provide average household humidity, ensuring the plant is not placed in bathrooms or the kitchen where humidity levels are highest.

Soil and Fertilizer

The Dinosaur Back Plant requires a fast-draining cactus soil or potting soil amended with pumice, gravel, or perlite. Feed the myrtillo cactus once per month in the spring and summer with a cactus fertilizer. Add the fertilizer directly to the soil or dilute in your watering can.

Dinosaur Back Plant Propagation

Propagate the myrtillo cactus by cuttings in the summer. Use a sharp and sterile knife to remove stems from the mother plant. Ensure you wear gloves to protect your hands from the plant’s thorns. Allow the cut end of the plant to callus before planting. Fill a pot with a cactus soil and insert the cut end into the soil. Water the cutting lightly to keep the soil moist and place the pot in full sun until new growth starts. Once the plant is established, move the plant to filtered light and water when the soil dries.

Dinosaur Back Plant Pests and Diseases

This cactus is most vulnerable at the end of the growing season when its epidermis is softer. Mealybugs are a common pest for these infestations, which attack the bare stems of the plant. If caught early, remove individual insects with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Control larger infestations with a whole-plant treatment of neem oil. 

Root rot and fungal growth are common diseases of the Dinosaur Back plant. Both are caused by overwatering your plant. Reduce the watering frequency and ensure the plant is located in proper temperatures. Cut away black and mushy roots to control the root rot. To rid your plant of fungus, mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with one quart of water and mist the plant’s affected areas. Repeat the process every few days until the fungus is gone. 

For houseplant lovers looking to add a unique plant to their collection, you can’t go wrong with this prehistoric-looking cactus. As with most cacti, its care needs are straightforward. Enjoy the eye-catching Dinosaur Back plant either in your home or garden.

Dinosaur Back Plant FAQ
Giromagi Cactus and Succulents

Dinosaur Back Plant FAQ

When Should I Repot My Dinosaur Back Plant?

Repot the Myrtillo cactus every one to two years when it becomes rootbound. Summer is the best time to move your plant to a new, larger pot.

In What Zones Can I Grow My Dinosaur Back Plant Outdoors?

This cactus will thrive outside in USDA zones 9a to 11b. 

Is The Dinosaur Back Plant Rare?

The myrtillocactus is considered rarer than most other cacti varieties and, as a result, can be more expensive to purchase than other houseplants.

What is the Growth Rate of the Dinosaur Back Plant?

The Dinosaur Back plant is categorized as a fast growing cactus and is capable of reaching a height of 3 feet in a few years.

What Type of Pot Should I Grow My Dinosaur Back Plant in?

As with most cacti, an unglazed, clay pot is recommended as they wick excess moisture away from the soil.