RHIPSALIS - HATIORA/MISTLETOE CACTI
Top Tips & Info
- Care Difficulty - Easy
- Rhipsalis can be situated in most locations found in a home, ranging from deep shade to partial sun. For those in shady spots, be sure to allow all of the soil to dry out in between waters to avoid root rot. For others in partial sun, only allow the top half to dry in between waters to avoid thorough dehydration.
- Heavy-foliaged plants (pictured above), should be watered using the bottom-up method of submersion. Rehydrate the soil once the pot begins to feel light again, and always remember to keep it on the drier side to life.
- Average room humidity is enough to please this species, but introduce a pebble tray to keep the surrounding moisture high in locations near a heat source (heaters or radiators).
- Fertilise using a 'Houseplant' or 'Cactus' labelled feed every four waters in the spring and summer, reducing this to every six in the colder months.
- Regularly check for pests, most notably Mealybugs and Scale that'll inhabit the cubbyholes of the stem.
- Keep the ambient temperature above 10℃ (50℉) throughout the year, especially if placed outdoors in the summer.
- Repot every three years using a 'Cactus & Succulent' potting mix, in the next sized pot with adequate drainage holes.
Location & Light
Rhipsalis are best kept in a location with around an hour or two of sunlight per day. Although they can be exposed to slightly more than this, the risk of sun-scorch is high and therefore should be limited somewhat. Further, Rhipsalis can also be kept in relatively dark situations, where natural lighting is to a minimum. Remember to keep the specimen on the drier side to life to avert the risk of over-watering or excessive moisture settling on the leaves, which could cause leaf spots.
Depending on the light levels, Rhipsalis like to be kept more on the drier side. If yours is in a bright, indirect location or in deep shade, allow the majority of the soil to dry in between waters. For those in direct light, only allow the top half to dry for the avoidance of dehydration. Under-watering symptoms include little to no new growth, a much-needed transplant and drying leaves. Over-watering symptoms, on the other hand, include yellowing leaves that soon drop off, little to no growth and root rot. These are common with too much soil moisture, an improper soil medium or deep shade. If the foliage directly above the soil line becomes brown and mushy, the chances are root rot has occurred; take stem cuttings on non-affected growth by following the tips mentioned in 'Propagation'.
Average room humidity is enough to occupy Rhipsalis; however, as the heaters begin to be switched back on, introduce a pebble tray to counteract the risk of dry air.
Fertilise every four waters during the growing period before reducing this to every six in the autumn & winter. Although a 'Houseplant' fertiliser will still do the job, we'd recommend using a specific 'Cactus' labelled feed as it'll support the vital thirteen nutrients that this species will need to grow.
Common Issues with Rhipsalis
Root rot is a big issue with symptoms including yellow lower leaves, stunted or softened growth - often accompanied by stem collapse. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect its root systems. Yellow roots translate to good health; however, brown and mushy sections with soggy soil is the result of over-watering.
A brown, rotten base is also another byproduct of over-watering. If the majority of the trunk has rotted over, stem cuttings must be taken to save the remaining section of the plant. Scroll down to ‘Propagation’ for more information!
For smaller compact specimens, yellowing central leaves or a naked base are products of excess moisture being allowed to sit on the foliage. Although watering from the top is acceptable, it's recommended to use the bottom-up method to reduce the chance of rotten foliage. For those that have a bare head over the soil, improve growing contains by using this method and increasing light levels. Promote a bushier appearance by taking vine cuttings and placing them halfway down into the soil once the stems reach over 5cm. Immediately remove yellowed or rotten debris as this will harbour both bacterial and fungal diseases that can both spread across to other sections of the plant.
Failed leaf or stem cuttings are a common issue among amateur gardeners, with damaged wounds or too small vines being the usual culprits. Although propagating all tropical cacti is relatively easy, people still find it hard to ace. Not only will the size of the vine dictate its success, damaging the leaves or vine can also hurt the chances of rooting. For more information about how to take vines, scroll to the 'Propagation' section of this article.
Too much sunlight will cause a red tinge to the foliage. Although Rhipsalis are best grown in locations offering just a few hours of sun, prolonged periods on non-acclimated specimens will lead to sun-scorch. If yours is a newly-purchased plant, build its tolerance to the sharp rays by increasing the amount of receivable light per week by an hour.
A lack of flowers is caused by immaturity or an insufficient dormancy period served in the winter months. Specimens will only flower once they reach maturity - which can take in the region of two to three years from a leaf cutting. Also, locations that offer near-similar temperatures all year round won't allow the plant to go dormant, resulting in poor spring growth. To achieve bud development, situate in a location that offers nighttime temperatures of around 12°C (54°F) with fewer waters. The combination of both cooler temperatures and dry soil during the colder months will help season the plant, thus leading to a better chance of flowers in the future.
Always use lukewarm water, and if you choose to use tap water, allow it to stand for at least 24hrs before application. Tropical cacti tend to be quite sensitive to temperature change, so pouring cold tap water immediately into the pot will not only ironise your roots but could even cause yellow edges, sudden flower loss and stunted growth.
Rhipsalis consists of thirty-five species that originate from tropical or subtropical locations around Central America, and in isolated parts of Western Africa. They can either grow on trees (epiphytic), on rocks (lithophytic) or rarely on the ground (terrestrial). The genus was first formally described back in 1788 by Joseph Gaertner (Easter Cactus) who initially classified it as part of the Cassytha. The scientific name, Rhipsalis, comes from the Greek word for 'wickerwork', referring to its leaf morphology.
10° - 26°C (50° - 78°F)
H1b (Hardiness Zone 12) - Can be grown outdoors during the summer in a sheltered location with temperatures above 12℃ (54℉), but is fine to remain indoors, too. If you decide to bring this plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure any direct sunlight as it may result in sun-scorch and dehydration. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back indoors.
Up to 2m in length with its width solely relying on diameter of the pot. The ultimate height will take between 5 - 8 years to achieve, but can live over twenty-five years or more in the right care.
Pruning & Maintenance
Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.
Via Seed or Leaf/Stem Cuttings.
- Choose which leaves to use. The ideal candidates are those that show no sign of damage, pests or diseases, and have small wires roots already-attached. Cuttings that don't sport any roots will still root, but it may take a little longer for its propagation. Each cutting must be around three inches in height, with at least two leaves).
- Delicately cut the end two leaves off from the vine, just above the second node (intersecting the third leaf that is still attached to the main plant). It's important not to cut directly across the nodes as this could prevent the development of new growth.
- Prepare the pot and soil. Choosing a free-draining potting mix, for example, 'Cactus & Succulent' compost, provides a nice balance of moisture-retention and drainage. Of course, 'Houseplant' compost is acceptable, but try to add some extra ingredients like grit, sand and perlite to help loosen it. If you've got any shallow and wide pots, for example, a Bonsai pot, this is the time to use it. Propagating tropical cactus cuttings won't require deep soil, so try and avoid pots that are too big. Terracotta and plastic pots are both acceptable in this instance.
- Place the cuttings ON TOP of the moist soil. Allowing both the plant and it's wound to callus over (dry up) will kick-start the rooting process, along with the prevention of rot. Keep the cuttings on top of moist soil for a week, misting the soil and foliage on opposite days.
- Provide a bright, indirect location with temperatures above 18°C (64°C) throughout this period.
- Once the roots begin to develop along the nodes, place it into the soil, submerging the bottom half. Make sure you don't set the cutting too far into the soil, as this may lead to blackleg (the rotting of its base).
- Do NOT pat down the surrounding soil to aid support. Tap the pot's side to consolidate (not compact) the potting medium. The ideal soil conditions need to be fluffy and oxygenated, so compacting the soil will result in the suffocation of roots that'll lead to root rot. If support is needed, use a small stick or cane, but be sure NOT to compact it.
- Aftercare - Maintain evenly moist soil, allowing the top third to dry out in between waters. The ideal location would be in a warm, humid room. Do not allow the cuttings to endure dry air or direct sunlight. After another month or two of being in the soil, treat it like a normal houseplant.
Rhipsalis will flower each spring with small rosette-shaped blooms that sport either red, yellow, pink or white appearances. Each flower will take several weeks to develop, lasting up to two weeks whilst open.
Repot every three years in the spring, using a 'Cactus & Succulent' labelled potting mix and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Rhipsalis are far better being potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock), so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary - restricted root growth will also increase the chance of blooms, too.
Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce an extra amount of perlite and grit into the deeper portion of the pot to downplay over-watering risks.
Pests & Diseases
Keep an eye out for mealybugs, spider mites, whitefly, scale & vine weevils. Typical diseases associated with Rhipsalis are root or leaf rot, leaf-spot disease & powdery mildew.
This genus is classified as non-poisonous. If large quantities of the plant are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur.