A rhipsalis cactus can be found in almost every household. In terms of appearance, they are not typical cacti. The growth is usually hanging or overhanging and you usually look for spines in vain. Rhipsalis also do not hibernate. However, they are as easy to care for as most cacti. Read on to find out about the different rhipsalis types, their care, and propagation.
- 1 Characteristics of the Rhipsalis
- 2 Rhipsalis Types
- 3 Caring for Rhipsalis Cacti
- 4 Propagation
- 5 Diseases and Pests
- 6 FAQ’s
Characteristics of the Rhipsalis
- Plant genus from the cactus family
- It is characterized by branched, interwoven thin shoots
- Also known as chain cactus or mistletoe cactus
- Many species come from South America, from the rainforests
- Most extensive genus with epiphytic growing cacti
- About 35 distinct species
- Growth is shrubby epiphytic and hanging shoots
- Usually without thorns, but woolly or bristly
- Some great flowers, mostly in early spring
- Produce small berry-like fruits
- Branches about 80 cm long, young shoots grow upright before they continue to develop overhanging, golden-yellow bell-shaped flowers
Rhipsalis baccifera (Mistletoe cactus)
Rhipsalis baccifera (also known as Mistletoe cactus or Spaghetti cactus) is a graceful epiphyte succulent with long thread-like stems and numerous creamy-white flowers followed by mistletoe-like fruits. It forms large hanging clusters, 1 to 4 metres long (occasionally up to 9 meters). Like most cacti it has succulent stems, however in Rhipsalis baccifera these are weak, slender, narrow and pendent. It shows considerable polymorphism as a result of the existence of lots of geographically isolated populations and can be divided into numerous subspecies. Rhipsalis baccifera is the species most frequently grown.
Rhipsalis burchellii is an interesting species with up to 60 cm long purple-colored shoots, grows widely branched, and produces many white, bell-shaped flowers.
Rhipsalis campos-portoana (Jungle Cactus)
This type has quite short but richly branched shoots, and produces quite large, white flowers at the tip of the shoots.
The Rhipsalis cereoides is short, with only about 10 cm long shoots, triangular or square, and grows upright to semi-pendulous. Its flowers are white.
This species grows up to 60 cm long pale green shoots with leaf-like widespread limbs, notched leaf margins, not quite as hanging shoots, and produces small white flowers.
Rhipsalis cereuscula, is a shrubby to bushy succulent epiphyte, to 60 cm long, sometimes referred as ‘rice cactus’ or ‘coral cactus”. It is easily recognizable due to the multitude of tiny, cylindrical stems that are borne at the ends of long, slender branches. Plants are usually much branched, pendent and bear tiny creamy white bloom.
Rhipsalis clavata has pendulous habit, well branched, and white bell-shaped flowers. It is a good hanging plant.
With shrubby hanging shoots, these are dark green, shiny and rather flat, separated by constrictions, very characteristic, white flowers. Overall a very beautiful species.
Rhipsalis floccosa ssp. tucumanensis
Rhipsalis floccosa ssp. tucumanensis usually hang from the branches of the big trees jungle canopy and has many slender segment branches 4 to 10 mm in diameter and sometimes in whorls. It is similar to subspecies pulvinigera but with green stems without red coloring, and larger fruits that are red or white and to 10 mm in diameter. The stems have woolly areoles when young but soon becoming naked.
With graceful, long shoots, these have slightly red colored tips, and large, cream-colored flowers. Rhipsalis grandiflora makes a good container plant.
Rhipsalis houlletiana has stem-like, light green shoots. Each shoot can form two different types of branches:
- very slender, cylindrically shaped
- leaf-like and widespread
It has thin bristles, and produces many yellowish-white flowers.
Rhipsalis mesembryanthemoides is an epiphytic plant with strong stems covered by tiny branchlets. Initially this plant grows erect, later it is pendent, branching free. The main branches are elongated, cylindrical and woody, up to 20 cm long and 1 to 2 mm in diameter. The white flowers appear at areoles of the branchlets. The berries which adorn the leafy segmented stems are white and almost transparent.
Rhipsalis oblonga is a semierect to pendent, epiphytic or lithophytic shrubs, 2.50 m long, with main stems terete at base becoming flattened above and branching apical or lateral. It is a very free-flowering species with pinkish-white fruits.
Rhipsalis pachyptera is an epiphytic or lithophytic succulent plant, semierect to somewhat pendent, spineless, freely branching, 0.7-1.5 m long. The stems are robust, with many large wide leaf-like joints that are often referred to as leaves. These flattened stems are broadly elliptic and leathery, pale fresh green to deep green in color and sometimes tinged reddish. It is an outstanding species often developing many buds at one areole. Flower creamy-yellow or whitish followed by many white fruits.
Rhipsalis pilocarpa is a particularly attractive tropical epiphytic (rarely lithophyte) plant from Brazil with long hairy, cylindrical stems and white, very fragrant, flowers about 2 cm in diameter. The plant forms pendent bushes and is quite variable.shoots with reddish to purple colored edges, creamy white flowers, very decorative species
It is an epiphytic species, producing semi-trailing arching stems with flattened leaf-like joints, similar to Schlumbergera species up to 80 cm long.
Caring for Rhipsalis Cacti
Rhipsalis cacti are extremely easy to care for. You only have to have a hand for watering. They shouldn’t be too wet or too dry. Other than this, the plant substrate and the appropriate location are important. The Rhipsalis cannot stand direct, bright sun; they are rainforest plants that live in the penumbra of the large trees. It is only fertilized until the flowers open, never in winter. You don’t have to trim these cacti unless to remove damaged or too long parts.
Rhipsalis do not hibernate, can stand warm and bright and also need a little watering. The plants are propagated by cuttings. This also works quite reliably. Diseases are rare when cared for properly. Pests, on the other hand, occur, mainly during winter. Mealybugs then like to attack the plants.
The location for Rhipsalis should be very bright but not exposed to direct sunlight. Whether on the windowsill in the house or in the garden in summer, the Rhipsalis cannot stand bright sun. Morning and evening sun, on the other hand, are unproblematic.
- Bright location
- No direct afternoon sun
- Morning and evening sun is ideal
- Therefore a partially shaded location is best
- All year round in normal living rooms
- Also like to stand outdoors in summer, but without any intense sunlight
- The plants should be protected from wind and rain
- A slightly higher humidity is favorable
The soil for Rhipsalis is special. These plants do not get along so well with normal potting soil. You can use normal cactus soil, as is commercially available (read our reviews here), but it is better and cheaper to mix it yourself with this recipe.
Planting and Repotting
There is not much to consider when planting and repotting. The roots are usually small and delicate, which is why you should work carefully. The best time to plant and repot is spring, but in principle you can do it before autumn.
How to Repot Rhipsalis
- To do this, carefully remove the cacti from the substrate
- Clean the vessel
- Fill in fresh soil and put the cactus back in.
- Larger vessels are rarely necessary because the roots are usually very small
In order to encourage overhanging growth and to stimulate even growth, the plant should have even space on all sides. It is beneficial to turn the vessel regularly, whether it is a hanging basket or a plant pot. This way, all sides get enough light for continuous development and uniform growth.
The Rhipsalis must be watered carefully, depending on the season. It is important that very soft water is used because the cacti are very sensitive to lime.
When watering Rhipsalis, take note of these few things:
- Complete drying out must be avoided.
- However, they must not be watered too much under any circumstances.
- Always allow the surface to dry thoroughly.
- Water regularly during the main growing season in spring and summer
- Water significantly less in autumn.
- Water very moderately in winter.
- Use lime-free water, preferably rainwater
- Ensure sufficient humidity (evaporation container)
Fertilizing Rhipsalis will encourage buds to form. Fertilize every 14 days until some of the buds have opened.
Pruning is generally not necessary with the Rhipsalis cacti. Should it become necessary, for example because they are simply too big, they can be trimmed without any problems. Cut off shoots can be used for propagation. When trimming, make the cuts from an aesthetic point of view, where the wound is not immediately visible or where a joint ends. Even shoots with spots or damage can easily be cut off.
The plant is absolutely compatible with pruning. Always work with very clean and, if possible, disinfected cutting tools so that no pathogens get into the wounds.
In contrast to many other cacti, Rhipsalis do not hibernate. However, they are not hardy. They cannot survive outdoors.
During winter, do the following:
- Place water-filled bowls on the radiators to ensure sufficient humidity
- Check regularly for pests that form especially when the humidity is too low
- Water a little, but don’t let it dry out completely
- Do not fertilize
- Do not repot
The propagation is quite reliable. Cuttings are used that are separated from the mother plant. These take root relatively quickly and are best done in spring and summer. It is important that you do not plant immediately after the cut, but allow it to dry off first. Propagation by seeds is also possible, albeit more complicated.
Propagating Rhipsalis by Cuttings
- Take cuttings in spring and summer.
- Carefully separate 8 to 15 cm long shoots. These must be perfectly healthy.
- After the cut, let the wound dry for a few days.
- Insert cuttings in small groups about 4 cm deep into the substrate described above.
- Place in a bright, but not sunny location.
- Keep temperatures between 20 and 25 °C.
- Keep it slightly damp.
- The best thing to do is to put a transparent plastic bag over the container so that the humidity is consistently high.
- Ventilate daily to prevent mold growth.
- After 3 to 4 weeks, roots should have formed.
- Then the young plants can be cultivated normally.
Propagating Rhipsalis by Seeds
Anyone who has fruits on their Rhipsalis can use the seeds they contain for cultivation. However, these must first be removed from the pulp. It works well when the fruits are ripe and soft. Then you can put it in a plastic bag (breakfast bag) and gently squeeze and rub it so that the fruit mashes up. Then pour in some water and press further. The seeds need to come off.
Another way that is less messy is if you open the fruit and put it in sand. First, however, roughly free the seeds from the pulp. Then leave them in the sand for a few days. When the juice has dried, rub the sand with your fingers. This is how the pulp separates from the seeds.
- Best time : June to mid-August
- All year round in a well-lit and heated greenhouse
- Use herb soil, mixed with fine pumice gravel
- Do not cover the seeds with soil, just press lightly to stabilize them
- Place in a partial shade
- Keep evenly moist
- Temperatures between 20 and 28 °C
Diseases and Pests
Illnesses are quite rare if the care conditions are followed. Too much moisture damages the roots and causes them to rot very quickly. When it comes to pests, it is mainly mealybugs that bother the cacti. They need to be discovered early before they can reproduce.
Mealybugs can be recognized by fine, white webs and cotton-like small structures. They suck out the sap and can damage the plants considerably. It is important to isolate the infected rhipsalis so that more plants are not attacked. Systemic agents that are absorbed by the plants work best. When sucking up the cell sap, the pests ingest the poison and die. However, cacti do not tolerate these means well.
Are Rhipsalis poisonous, especially for cats and dogs?
The problem with Rhipsalis is that they are very often confused with the succulent Euphorbia, also called the spurge. There are also some very similar types. In the case of cacti, however, the white sap that is so typical of the spurge plants does not escape when cut. That is the most obvious difference.
Spurge plants do not have to be toxic (not all are), but the sap causes skin irritation in many people and, when consumed, causes malaise, stomach cramps and vomiting. Rhipsalis cacti are usually considered to be conditionally poisonous or unknown, which is certainly not helpful. It’s better to be careful if you don’t know for sure.