Rhipsalis is a genus of epiphytic cacti that are native to the rainforests of Central and South America. They are unique and fascinating plants that have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people have discovered their beauty and ease of care.
Origin and Habitat
Rhipsalis is a member of the cactus family and belongs to the subfamily Cactoideae. They are found in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Florida. Rhipsalis plants are epiphytic, meaning they grow on trees or other plants rather than in the ground. They are adapted to grow in the canopy of the rainforest, where they receive filtered sunlight and high humidity. Rhipsalis plants have evolved to be able to absorb water and nutrients from the air and rainwater that collects on their leaves.
Habit: Pendulous cactus without the typical spines producing succulent pencil thin stems that can grow as long as 2 m in length. Plants are epiphytic in nature growing in the upper branches of trees but can easily be grown in hanging pots in a well drained media mixed with extra sand or grit.
Temperature: Plants grow best between 20 to 27ᐤ C during the growing season and temperatures between 10 to 15ᐤ C during the cold dormant season.
Light Exposure: Rhipsalis plants prefer bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can burn their leaves, so it's best to keep them out of the direct sun. In their natural habitat, Rhipsalis plants grow in the canopy of the rainforest, where they receive filtered sunlight. Indoors, they can be grown near a bright window, but should be protected from direct sunlight.
They can withstand lower light situations but will not grow very strongly, will appear stretched (etiolated) and will tend to be more susceptible to pests and diseases. Plants exposed to direct sunlight will develop scorched and burnt leaves reducing the beauty of the plant.
Watering: Given that the plants are potted in a very free draining medium, they can be watered once a week during the rainy season, once every two or three weeks in the cold dry season and once to twice during the hot dry season.
Humidity: Rhipsalis plants thrive in high humidity, which can be difficult to achieve indoors. To increase humidity, you can place a humidifier near your plant or place a tray of water near your plant, which will evaporate and increase the humidity around the plant.
Fertilising: Mistletoe Cacti need to be fertilised with a well balanced fertiliser at half strength only once per month. Plants can be damaged by over fertilizing so one must be careful.
Pruning/Repotting: Rhipsalis plants prefer to be pot-bound, meaning they like to be in small pots with limited space for root growth. Pruning is mainly only needed to help shape the plant and repotting is usually necessary only when a plant outgrows its pot or to divide, multiply and repot in similar sized pots. Use a well-draining potting mix with a high percentage of organic matter, such as peat moss or coconut coir. When repotting, make sure to use a pot with drainage holes to prevent water from pooling in the soil.
Pests/Diseases: The only real pest that affects the Mistletoe Cactus is mealy bug while fungal pathogens that cause root rot will easy kill plants that are overwatered.
In conclusion, Rhipsalis plants are unique and fascinating plants that are easy to care for and can add a touch of tropical beauty to any indoor space.