Dog tail cactus vs rat tail cactus is a popular debate among cactus lovers. Both plants are gorgeous ornamental hanging species that you can grow indoors, and both are low maintenance and easy to look after.

Find out some of the main ways they differ from each other in this comprehensive, debate-ending guide.

What Is the Difference Between Dog Tail Cactus and Rat Tail Cactus?

There are a couple of notable differences between the dog tail cactus and the rat tail cactus, such as the colors of their flowers and the time of year they bloom, among others. Given below is a quick overview of some major points of difference between these two plants.

Dog Tail Cactus Rat Tail Cactus
Scientific Name Strophocactus testudo Aporocactus flagelliformis
Common Name commonly known as the dog tail cactus The rat tail cactus
Type of Plant
  • The dog tail cactus is a succulent type. It is a perennial plant.
  • Dog tail cactus is among the polymorphic species of plants, which means that it changes its shape as it grows.
  • This plant is also epiphytic. It can grow on the ground as well as on top of other plants.
  • This plant is also a perennial succulent.
  • It is considered both epiphytic and lithophytic. This means that it is capable of growing on the ground, on top of other plants, as well as on rocks and boulders.
Size of Plant This plant can grow to become as tall as 9 to 10 feet in height. The maximum height that the rat tail cactus can achieve is up to 6 to 9 feet tall.
Hardiness Zone This plant grows best in US hardiness zone 7-11. This cactus grows best in US hardiness zones 9-11.
Bloom Time Dog tail cactus bloom during the hot summer months each year. The rat tail cactus bloom occurs between late spring and early summer months.
Flower Description 
  • The dog tail cactus produces large flowers that are pure white in color.
  • These flowers are nocturnal bloomers, meaning they appear only at night time.
  • It is also possible that your dog tail cactus might not bloom at all. It is often very difficult to get this plant to flower.
  • The dog tail cactus flowers are quite fragrant and showy.
  • The flowers of the rat tail cactus plant are mostly of a violet-pink-red color.
  • Sometimes, a plant variety may also produce orange or pink flowers.
  • These flowers are tube-like and can grow up to 3 inches long and 2 inches wide.
  • Rattail is known for its extremely short-lived flowers. They usually die within days of blooming.

Dog Tail Cactus vs Rat Tail Cactus: Comparing Their Cultural Needs

One of the best ways to compare two similar species is to find out the differences in their cultural needs and requirements. Let’s compare which cactus likes to grow under which conditions below.

– Light

The light requirements of both these cacti tend to vary slightly. One likes to grow under partial sun whereas the other can tolerate direct light. In this section, we’ll learn about their light requirement differences in detail.

– Dog Tail Cactus

The dog tail cactus needs bright sunlight of moderate intensity. It is best to grow them indoors in a very brightly lit room.

Grown under adequate sun conditions, this plant will develop its characteristic short, sharp spines.

In the absence of enough sunlight, your plant leaves will lose their fresh green color. The spines will also become soft, flimsy and hair-like. Take care not to expose your plant to very intense light.

As indoor succulents, they are prone to sunburn and damage very easily. Artificial lights in the spectrum of orange-pink also work great for these succulents.

– Rat Tail Cactus

Rat tail cactus plants like to grow under direct sun exposure. They can also tolerate lights of very high intensity.

When grown as an indoor plant, place or hang them near windows that receive the maximum sunlight during the majority of the day.

– Water

The dog tail cactus generally needs more water as compared to the rat tail cactus. Find out why below.

– Dog Tail Cactus

Keep in mind that the epiphytic species of succulents generally prefer more water as compared to other species.

Don’t forget to water your plant regularly, especially during the growth period between the spring and summer months. Water once a week at least and use abundant water each time, directing it towards the soil.

Use a well-draining soil or potting medium. Your pot or basket should also have proper drainage holes because you want all the excess water to drain out of the soil and pot if you want to avoid developing fungal root rot.

– Rat Tail Cactus

As a desert succulent, the rat tail cactus is generally a drought-resistant plant. However, you should still water it regularly during the warmer months when its growth is occurring. Start tapering off the water at least two months prior to the start of winter. In fact, during the winter dormancy months, this plant does not need water at all.

Insert a pencil into the soil or the potting medium to check if it is dry before watering. Unless you live in a very hot, dry place, you will probably need to water it only once per month at most.

– Soil

As succulents, both these cacti need loose, well-draining soil with good air circulation.

– Dog Tail Cactus

The dog tail cactus can tolerate a variety of soil types. Choose a cactus mix that is loose and drains quickly. You can make your own potting mix by using one part organic matter with one part inorganic matter such as sand, stones or perlite.

– Rat Tail Cactus

This succulent is very tolerant when it comes to the type of soil you grow it in. Any good quality succulent or cactus mixture would work. Make sure the soil is well-draining and doesn’t retain undue moisture for long periods of time.

– Humidity and Temperature

Find out the key differences between the humidity and temperature needs of both these cacti.

– Dog Tail Cactus

This cactus can tolerate temperatures as low as 40 degrees to as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It cannot tolerate frost at all, so during winters, move them indoors. Dog tail plants have quite high humidity needs. You should definitely think about investing in a humidifier for this species.

– Rat Tail Cactus

This succulent is very temperature hardy and can tolerate temperatures ranging between 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. During spring, summer, and fall, it’s best to grow them at room temperature. During winters, however, allow the temperature to fall to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Normal home humidity levels are just right for the rat tail cactus. You don’t want your plant to develop root rot as this is the most common among the rat tail cactus problems.

How To Propagate These Cacti

Both dog tail and rat tail cacti are known for being propagated via their stems. Learn the right way to propagate them in this section.

– Propagate Dog Tail Cactus

It is possible to propagate the dog tail cacti from seeds, but it is a very time and energy-consuming method. Instead, we usually recommend propagating this cactus through stems.

Choose springtime for propagation. Select a healthy-looking stem and cut it at its node. Allow the cut stem to dry out for a whole week by placing it on a paper towel.

Choose an appropriately-sized pot or basket and fill it with the correct succulent mix. Dampen the potting medium a bit and then plant the dried stem at least 2 inches deep into the soil. Don’t water the soil except for keeping it a bit damp until roots start to form, which could take a few weeks. Resume a normal watering schedule when young shoots emerge.

– Propagate Rat Tail Cactus

Propagating the rat tail cactus is essentially the same as the dog tail cactus. Take note to cut a long enough piece of stem, which should be at least 2 inches long.

Allow it to completely dry before planting in the correct potting medium. Place this new pot under plenty of sunlight and maintain the right humidity levels for a healthy cactus.

 

Conclusion

You now know the main differences between both the rat tail cactus and the dog tail cactus as well as how to propagate and care for them. Why don’t we go over some pertinent points one more time?

  • Dog tail cactus is an epiphyte as it grows on the ground as well as on larger trees and shrubs. The rat tail cactus is both an epiphyte and a lithophyte as it can also grow on rocks and boulders.
  • The dog tail cactus grows up to a height of approximately 10 feet and produces nocturnal white flowers in the summer.
  • The rat tail cactus grows to about 6 to 9 feet. It produces very short-lived flowers that are mostly of a violet-red color.
  • The dog tail cactus likes to grow under partial bright light conditions. It also needs to be watered more than other typical succulents. Water this plant at least once a week.
  • The rat tail cactus is drought-hardy and should be watered once a month during hot months. In winters, you can skip watering it altogether.
  • Make sure your potting medium for both succulents is loose and well-draining.
  • The dog tail cactus plant requires relatively higher levels of humidity than the rat tail cactus.
  • You can propagate both these cacti by cutting off a part of their stems, drying them over a week, and then planting them in suitable soil.

So what are you waiting for? We suggest you go and buy both of these beautiful plants as worthy additions to your home’s succulent collection.

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