Acanthorhipsalis monacantha: The Epiphytic Cactus with Fleshy Flare

Imagine a cactus that defies all stereotypes – it’s flat, fleshy and likes to hang around! Meet Acanthorhipsalis monacantha, the one-spined wickerware cactus that will captivate you with its unique charms. Originally from Bolivia and Argentina, this quirky plant is an epiphytic wonder that attaches itself to trees and rocks in the wild. With flattened green stems draped like vines and bright orange flowers, it’s a showstopper you won’t want to miss. Keep reading to unlock the secrets to keeping this South American beauty thriving in your home!

acanthorhipsalis monacantha

About Acanthorhipsalis monacantha

Unlike typical cacti, A. monacantha is a branching epiphyte with pendent (hanging down) stems up to 20 inches long. The fleshy, flattened green stems look like thick leafy vines and produce small spines. In spring, vibrant orange-red flowers up to an inch across bloom along the stems. Native to tropical forests, this unique cactus grows on trees and rocks, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the air and debris around its roots.

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How to Care for Acanthorhipsalis monacantha

Light Needs

A. monacantha loves bright, filtered light but can’t handle intense direct sun which can scorch its fleshy stems. An east or west-facing window is ideal. If natural light is low, use a grow light suspended 12-18 inches above the plant for 12-14 hours per day.

Water Requirements

While most cacti are drought-tolerant, this tropical epiphyte needs more frequent water – about once a week in spring/summer. Always wait for the soil to dry out before watering again. Reduce watering in winter to every 2-3 weeks. Mist the stems occasionally if the air is very dry.

Soil Preferences

A. monacantha likes a well-draining, slightly acidic potting mix with a pH between 5.5-6.5. Combine 1 part peat moss or coir with 1 part perlite or coarse sand and a handful of compost or aged bark. The peat moss helps maintain the ideal slightly acidic pH, while the perlite or sand provides drainage and aeration. The compost or bark adds extra nutrients to the mix. This provides the ideal balance of moisture retention and good aeration that the plant needs to thrive. Avoid using alkaline soils.

acanthorhipsalis monacantha

Fertilizing Advice

Feed A. monacantha every 4-6 weeks during spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. While manure is usually avoided for cacti, this epiphyte benefits from the addition of some well-aged cow manure to the potting mix. The manure produces luxuriant, vigorous growth for this tropical plant. No fertilizer is needed in winter.

Temperature and Humidity

Acanthorhipsalis monacantha thrives in warm temperatures between 65-90°F and moderate to high humidity around 50-70% relative humidity. It cannot tolerate freezing temperatures.

This tropical cactus is only hardy outdoors in USDA zones 10-11. In cooler climates, it must be grown indoors or brought inside for winter. Avoid exposing it to cold drafts or dry heating vents which can damage the fleshy stems. Consistent warmth and humidity will keep this epiphyte happiest.

Pests and Problems

Root rot from overwatering and fungal diseases can affect A. monacantha. Inspect for mealybugs, spider mites and scale that may appear if conditions are too dry. Use insecticidal soaps or neem oil for pest control.

acanthorhipsalis monacantha

Pruning Tips

In early spring, prune off any dead, damaged or unsightly pendent stems to keep the plant tidy and control its size and shape if desired.

Potting and Repotting

Grow A. monacantha in a hanging or standard container with drainage holes. Choose a pot just slightly larger than the plant’s root system. Repot every 2-3 years in late winter, refreshing part of the potting mix.

Propagating Acanthorhipsalis monacantha

One of the coolest things about A. monacantha is how easy it is to propagate new plants from cuttings!

  1. Take 4-6 inch stem tip cuttings in spring or summer using clean shears
  2. Allow cuttings to dry for 3-4 days until calloused over
  3. Dip cut ends in rooting hormone powder if desired
  4. Plant cuttings vertically in well-draining potting mix
  5. Enclose pot in a plastic bag to maintain humidity
  6. Remove bag once new growth appears in 4-8 weeks
  7. Water sparingly until roots are established

With its unique fleshy foliage and hanging habit, Acanthorhipsalis monacantha makes an awesome addition to your houseplant collection. By providing the right care, you can enjoy this tropical cactus delight for years to come!