Discover the beauty and care requirements of the Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus, or Paper Spine Cactus. Learn about its unique characteristics, propagation methods, common issues, and how to ensure its long-term health. Dive into the world of this captivating desert plant and add a touch of beauty to your home with the Paper Spine Cactus.


Are you looking for a unique and beautiful house plant to add to your collection? Look no further than the Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus, commonly known as the Paper Spine Cactus. With its distinctive paper-like spines and compact size, this cactus is perfect for adding a touch of desert beauty to your home. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of the Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus, its care requirements, propagation methods, and common issues. So let’s dive in and discover all about this fascinating house plant!

Characteristics of Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus

The Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus, or Paper Spine Cactus, is a slow-growing cactus that features segmented stems. Its most distinctive feature is its soft, flat spines that resemble paper. These spines have a unique curling characteristic as they grow longer, adding to the cactus’s overall visual appeal. The cactus consists of small, oval segments that can easily detach. It typically reaches a height of up to 12 inches (30 cm). When in bloom, this cactus produces beautiful white bell-shaped flowers with a yellow center, each lasting for about 24 hours. It is important to note that while the Paper Spine Cactus is non-toxic to pets, the smaller spines called glochids can cause skin irritation, so it’s best to handle the plant with caution.

Care Requirements for Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus

Proper care is essential to ensure the health and longevity of your Paper Spine Cactus. Here are some key care requirements to keep in mind:


Place your Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus in a bright area of your home where it can receive plenty of direct sunlight. This desert-loving cactus thrives in strong sunlight, but providing some shade during hot summer months can help prevent damage from extreme heat.


The Paper Spine Cactus is drought-tolerant and does not require frequent watering. It is crucial to ensure the soil is completely dry before watering again. Water slowly and wait for the water to flow out of the bottom of the pot before stopping. Avoid water accumulation in the tray beneath the pot, as this can lead to root rot. During the growing season (spring, summer, and fall), water the plant once or twice a week. In winter, reduce watering to prevent excessive drying of the soil.


Use soil that is rich in gravel, well-draining, and fertile. A recommended soil mix consists of 20% coco coir or peat moss, 60% vermiculite, and 20% sandy soil. This type of soil allows for proper drainage and aeration, preventing root rot. The pH value of the soil should be between 6 and 7.


Fertilize your Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus once a month during the growing season using a low-concentration liquid fertilizer. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can harm the plant. During the repotting process in spring or fall, incorporate a small amount of slow-release fertilizer into the soil to provide essential nutrients for the plant during the winter months.


The Paper Spine Cactus thrives in desert-like conditions with high temperatures, strong sunlight, and minimal rainfall. It can also adapt to subtropical and tropical regions. The ideal temperature range for this cactus is between 68 and 95°F (20-35°C). Additionally, it should be placed in well-ventilated surroundings with low humidity to prevent issues such as fungal growth.

Pests and Diseases:

The Paper Spine Cactus is susceptible to pests such as anthracnose, stem rot, root-knot nematode, spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, rodents, and dry rot. Regularly inspect your plant for signs of pests, and if detected, take appropriate measures to control them. Treating infestations with rubbing alcohol or neem oil can effectively deter pests.


Minimal pruning is required for the Paper Spine Cactus. It is recommended to remove any dead or withered branches and flowers to prevent the spread of potential diseases. Additionally, ensuring proper airflow around the plant can help maintain its overall health.

Propagation Methods for Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus

If you’re interested in expanding your Paper Spine Cactus collection or sharing it with fellow plant enthusiasts, propagation can be easily achieved through stem cuttings. Here’s how you can propagate your Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus:

  1. Using a clean, sharp knife or scissors, carefully cut off a segment of the cactus stem. Ensure the cutting is a healthy and mature segment.

  2. Allow the cutting to dry for 1-2 days to allow the wound to callus. This callusing process helps prevent rotting and promotes successful root development.

  3. Once the cutting has callused, plant it in a new, shallow pot filled with well-draining cactus soil. Ensure the “wound” of the cutting touches the soil surface. It may be necessary to provide support by leaning the cutting against a small object.

  4. Place the pot in a sunny location with warm and dry temperatures. The cutting should receive ample sunlight to facilitate root growth.

  5. Water the cutting sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out completely between watering sessions. Overwatering can lead to root rot and hinder the rooting process.

Within six weeks to a few months, the cutting should start forming roots and establish itself as a new Paper Spine Cactus. It is best to propagate during the spring or early summer months to allow sufficient time for root development before the growing season ends.

Common Issues with Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus

While the Paper Spine Cactus is relatively low-maintenance, several issues can arise. Here are a few common problems associated with Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus:

  1. Root rot: Overwatering or improper drainage can result in root rot, characterized by brown and mushy roots. To avoid this issue, ensure the soil is well-draining, and water sparingly.

  2. Mealybugs: These common pests can infest the Paper Spine Cactus, causing damage to the plant’s health. Treat infestations by using rubbing alcohol or neem oil. Regularly inspect your plant to catch any pests early on.

By being aware of these potential issues and maintaining proper care practices, you can ensure the long-term health and vibrancy of your Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus.


In conclusion, the Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus, or Paper Spine Cactus, is a unique and captivating addition to any house plant collection. With its paper-like spines, compact size, and stunning white flowers, it adds a touch of desert beauty to your home. By following the care requirements, including providing ample sunlight, using well-draining soil, and watering sparingly, you can ensure the well-being of your Paper Spine Cactus. Additionally, propagation through stem cuttings offers an opportunity to expand your collection and share the beauty of this cactus with others. So why not give this fascinating plant a try? Bring home a Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus and enjoy the beauty of the desert in your own space!


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