Boobie Cactus: How to grow this striking plant indoors

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

The Boobie Cactus has a unique curvy form that gives rise to its common name.

When you think about the plant’s latin name – Myrtillocactus geometrizans ‘Fukurokuryuzinboku’, it’s no wonder that its more descriptive name has gained currency.

What gives the Boobie Cactus its name are the distinctive tuberculate ribs that appear like breasts or, less controversially, like series of pouches or bubbles along its columns.

This cultivar of the Myrtillocactus geometrizans, or Blue Myrtle Cactus, has this much more pronounced and unusual ribbing compared to the standard species, which typically features smoother, more uniform blue-green columns.

The standard species grows tall and straight, while the ‘Fukurokuryuzinboku’ variety tends to be shorter and more sculptural which is what makes it a desirable ornamental houseplant.

The Boobie Cactus is a cultivated variety rather than one found in the wild. It was developed by Japanese growers, hence its cultivar name.

The species Myrtillocactus geometrizans has long been used by indigenous people in Mexico as an ant-inflammatory. Interestingly, research has shown that extracts from the plant may have role to play in cancer care.

Boobie Cactus key facts

  • Scientific name: Myrtillocactus geometrizans ‘Fukurokuryuzinboku’
  • Meaning of name: The species name ‘geometrizans’ suggests the geometric shape of the plant’s structure, and ‘fukurokuryuzinboku’ is a Japanese term where ‘fukuro’ means bag or pouch, reflecting the plant’s distinctive ribbed appearance.
  • Common names: Boobie Cactus, Blue Myrtle Cactus
  • Plant family: Cactaceae
  • Origin: Central and Northern Mexico
  • Type of plant: Succulent/Cactus
  • Indoor size: Up to 2 feet tall
  • Foliage: Waxy, blue-green, with typically 5-6 ribs, each bulging in a distinctive way
  • Flower: Small, creamy-white flowers that bloom in spring
  • Fruit: Inedible blueberries-like fruit, usually in late summer
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to pets and people

Boobie Cactus growing conditions

Unlike the common Myrtillocactus geometrizans, which can get pretty big, the ‘Fukurokuryuzinboku’ is well-suited to indoor conditions, reaching a manageable size that makes it ideal fas an indoor plant.

It is valued not only for its unusual form but also for its ease of care, as it requires similar growing conditions to other cacti: ample light, minimal water, and well-draining soil. Like most cacti, it is better off being neglected a bit rather than over-fed or over-watered.

Read more in our comprehensive guide to the 7 critical requirements of house plant care here.

Boobie Cactus care guide

  • Light: Bright, indirect light
  • Water: Moderate, allowing soil to dry between waterings
  • Humidity: Low to moderate
  • Temperature: 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C), with a minimum of 50°F (10°C)
  • Soil: Well-draining cactus mix
  • Fertiliser: Half-strength cactus fertiliser during growing season
  • Propagation: Stem cuttings or seeds
  • Repotting: Every 2-3 years, in spring
  • Pruning: Minimal, only needed to shape or remove damaged parts

Light

The Boobie Cactus thrives in bright, indirect light. A spot near an east or south-facing window is ideal. Too much direct sunlight for too long can scorch its skin, while too little will stunt its growth and fade its colour.

House plant bright light
Boobie cactus: ideal location for optimum light

Soil and feeding

A well-draining cactus mix is vital to prevent root rot.

During the growing season, feed with a balanced, half-strength fertiliser to promote health and growth. Over-fertilising can damage the roots and cause weak growth.

The ideal cactus mix for the Boobie Cactus (or any other cactus, for that matter) should be porous and fast-draining to prevent water from pooling around the roots.

A quality cactus mix typically contains a combination of organic and inorganic materials such as composted bark, perlite, sand, gravel, and finely ground bark. This blend ensures that water drains through freely, mimicking the dry conditions of the cactus’s native habitat.

The organic matter helps retain the slight moisture necessary for roots, while perlite and sand facilitate the drainage, preventing root rot.

Watering

Water when the top inch of soil is dry, reducing frequency in winter. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while under-watering causes the plants ribs to shrivel.

The ‘soak and dry’ method of watering is best.

This is where you water the soil thoroughly until excess drains from the pot’s bottom. Then, wait until the top inch of soil dries out before watering again.

This method ensures the roots get enough moisture without staying wet for too long. Always use a pot with good drainage holes, and empty the saucer underneath to avoid letting the cactus sit in water.

In winter, reduce watering significantly as the plant enters a dormant phase.

Boobie Cactus
Boobie Cactus

Pruning

Prune sparingly to remove any damaged parts or to control its shape. Use sterilised cutters if you can to prevent infection.

Propagation

The best propagation method is through stem cuttings in spring or summer. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose a healthy stem and cut it using a clean, sharp knife or pair of scissors. The cutting should be about 4 to 6 inches long.
  2. Allow the cutting to dry for about a week until the cut end forms a callous. This step is vital as it prevents rotting when planted.
  3. Fill a pot with a cactus mix and moisten the soil slightly.
  4. Plant the calloused end of the stem cutting into the soil, burying it about an inch deep.
  5. Place the pot in a warm, brightly lit area but out of direct sunlight to avoid scorching the cutting.
  6. Water sparingly, just enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Overwatering can cause the cutting to rot.
  7. In a few weeks, the cutting should start to root. You can test for root growth by very gently tugging on the cutting to feel for resistance.
  8. Once the cutting has established roots, care for it as you would a mature plant.

This video is really helpful on the subject of propagation:

Boobie Cactus common problems and solutions

Cacti are pretty trouble free with enough light and not too much water. But, here is a run down of some of the problems that can occur.

Boobie Cactus troubleshooting guide

Leaves and shoots

  • Discolouration indicates light issues; adjust placement.

Roots

  • Soft, brown roots suggest overwatering; allow soil to dry out more.

Pests

  • Mealybugs are common; treat with insecticidal soap.

Diseases

  • Fungal infections due to overwatering; improve drainage and reduce watering.

Boobie Cactus winter care

In winter, reduce watering and stop fertilising. Ensure the plant has enough light and is protected from cold drafts.

Read more about how to overwinter your house plants here.

Boobie Cactus frequently asked questions

1. Can the Boobie Cactus handle full sun?

It can tolerate full sun, but in an indoor setting, bright, indirect light is best to avoid its flesh becoming scorched.

2. Why are my cactus’s ribs shrinking?

This is often a sign of under-watering. Increase watering frequency slightly.

3. Is this cactus fast-growing?

It has a moderate growth rate compared to other cacti.

4. How do I know when to repot?

Repot when the cactus outgrows its pot, usually every 2-3 years.

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