Scientific name: Rhipsalis cassutha
Synonyms: Mistletoe cactus
There are around 40 species of Rhipsalis around and they are becoming very popular for a reason - they are striking plants to have in your home but very easy to care for! Its scientific name comes from the Greek for ‘wickerwork’ which is reference to the abundance of intertwining stems as it grows into a beautiful hanging plant.
Note: Please be aware that whilst the plant is non-toxic and pet friendly, it’s best to keep out of reach of children and pets (hanging it would be a great way of doing this!)
- Scorched red/ shrivelled leaves : Your houseplant is getting too much sun and not enough humidity; move to somewhere more shaded and humid (a bathroom with bright, indirect light would be great!).
- Limp or wilting stems: This is a sign of a watering issue and could be a result of either root rot or prolonged under watering. Inspect the roots of your Rhipsalis to determine the cause. If the roots of have been very wet and started to rot, you should take cuttings to propagate and create a new plant. If it’s excessively dry, increase watering gradually. If your plant is in terracotta, be aware it will need watering more regularly.
- Pests: Incorrect care and lack of humidity are the main reasons pests may appear, red spider mite, mealy bugs and thrips are ones to be particularly aware of in warm, dry conditions. Keeping the humidity up is the main deterrent, but if pests are present, this houseplant can be treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Repeat weekly and keep plant in isolation until completely pest-free.
- Plant collapse: This is often caused by root rot as a result of prolonged overwatering, especially in winter or if the plant is in very dense potting mix.
- No flowers or fruit: This plant is known as a mistletoe cactus because it sometimes produces little fruit that are often a creamy-white shade that look similar to mistletoe berries. Before these appear the plant will bloom with very small dainty white flowers, but don’t panic if this hasn’t happened to yours yet - it is generally more mature plants that put on this pretty display (something to look forward to!).
- Origin: Native to Central and Southern America with lots being found enjoying the dappled light and high humidity of the tropical rainforests of Brazil.
- Height: up to approximately 2 meter height / 0.5 metre spread indoors. Outdoors in its natural habitat it can grow to great lengths of 6 metres or more where it is found growing off trees!
- Light: Moderate indirect light is best and protect from harsh sun which can make the plant blush red and shrivel the stems.
- Water: Water when the top layer of potting mix has dried out slightly using water at room temperature, and make sure the plant is not left to sit in water. Reduce watering in Winter.
- Humidity: As a Jungle cacti, this Rhipsalis requires moderate humidity, and regular misting will be beneficial and promote healthy growth.
- Temperature: The mistletoe cactus will grow happily in temperatures of 12-25°C.
- Soil: As an epiphytic plant, a free-draining organic potting mix with added perlite and bark will be the best choice, which will allow adequate breathability for the roots. You can also use a soil specifically formulated for cacti and succulents.
- Fertilizer: Rhipsalis cassutha will benefit from a monthly feed during the growing season (Spring and Summer). Use a cactus and succulent fertiliser at half the recommended dilution level for this plant. If the potting medium is particularly dry, water lightly before feeding to avoid fertiliser burning the roots.
- Repotting: Jungle cacti have quite a small root structure in relation to their size and grow best when slightly root-bound so don’t need to be repotted regularly, making for effortless ownership. Roots ‘circling’ around the bottom of the nursery pot is an indication that repotting is needed. Increase pot size by just a few centimetres at this stage, no drastic jumps.
- Pruning: If desired, you can prune your Rhipsalis cassutha when the stems get particularly long. Use a sharp, sterile blade to give the plant a trim at the joint of the stems. Be careful of the white sap that will leak out here; wear gloves as this can be an irritant.
- Propagation: After you have taken cuttings, leave the ends dry over for a couple of days (this helps to prevent the stem rotting) before placing in cacti and succulent compost. At this point, it is beneficial to keep the humidity high so cover your cuttings in a propagator / humidity dome…or plastic bag and place in a well-lit spot.
If in stock, shop for Mistletoe Cactus and other Rhipsalis here.