Photo Credit: Cindy Ramos

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Interesting Facts

The wide, flattened spines are there for a reason.  The spines reflect light away from the cactus to prevent the stems from overheating.  The white color and the flat shape of the spines increase the amount of sunlight that can be reflected and will promote better temperature regulation.

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Paper Spine Cactus   (Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus)

The Paper Spine Cactus is a popular South American cactus that is known for its oddly shaped, flattened spines that give it its common name.  Its spines (which some may say look like long fingernails) and its distinctly segmented stems give the Paper Spine Cactus a unique look which can compliment any desert garden.  Has a little more diversity than most cactus as it can handle the chill of some colder regions and still performs beautifully.

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Plant Types: Interior Plant, Perennial, Succulent
Light: Full Sun
Height: 6 inches to 1 foot
Width: 1 foot to 1 foot 3 inches
Zones: 8b to 10b
Bloom Color: White, Yellow
Bloom Seasons: Late spring, Early summer, Mid summer
Special Features: Deer resistant, Not North American native, Rabbit resistant
Shape: Upright or erect
Fertilizer: Miracle-Gro® Shake 'n Feed® Continuous Release All Purpose Plant Food
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Plant Care

Propagate from the seed.  Pre-soak seeds before planting.  Plant in spring when temperatures are at least 70ºF (21ºC).  Can also propagate from stem segments which easily detach from the plant.

Plant Growth:

Slow-growing cactus.  Needs full sun exposure and warm temperatures for good growth.  Tephrocactus is used for outdoor landscaping in warm desert areas such as Arizona.  Elsewhere, raise plants indoors in a greenhouse.


Blooms flowers in a range of colors such as white, yellow, and red.  Followed by dry fruit.

Soil and Irrigation:

Does best in moderately fertile soil, well-draining, gritty and humus-rich.  Standard cactus potting mix works fine for indoor plants.  Between early spring and mid-fall provide water only when the soil is drying out.  Keep dry at other times.


From early spring to mid-fall, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer 3-4 times.  Make sure to dilute from 1/4 to 1/2 strength before applying.


Maintain a healthy framework.  Remove dead/damaged parts.


Commonly affected by cladode rots, zonate leaf spots, black spot, scale insects, and mealybugs.  Also prone to bacterial soft and viruses.