The Monkey Tail cactus, which is often mistaken for the rat tail cactus, has thick water-filled branches and leaves, making it drought-tolerant and relatively easy to care for. The scientific name of this plant is Cleistocactus colademononis, though it use to be Hildewintera colademononis.
Each plant has three to five stems that have a greenish-yellow color and some protruding soft hair-like white spines that face downwards. If you are looking forward to growing this succulent, this article is the best source of information so continue reading.
- What Is Monkey Tail Cactus?
- Monkey Tail Cactus Care
- Monkey Tail Cactus Problems
What Is Monkey Tail Cactus?
The Monkey Tail Cactus is also known as the soft monkey tail cactus and is native to the countryside of Bolivia. It grows in rocky soils and produces significant eye-catching bright red blooms. Their blooms turn into fruits after a few days, making this plant quite an adventurous succulent.
Monkey Tail Cactus Care
Although the Monkey Tail cactus is not too demanding, certain conditions are best for its development. Prolonged exposure to fluctuated conditions is usually harmful to these plants so, make sure you understand its requirements by reading this section.
– Water Requirements
Being succulent, the Monkey Tail cactus does not need regular watering. Make sure that you deeply water this plant once the soil has completely dried out. When water-starved, this plant’s roots start growing upwards toward the surface in search of water, thereby reducing the plant’s grip on the soil.
Consider watering this plant once every six to eight weeks and try to minimize the soil’s sogginess. The Monkey tail does not require much water during the winter season, so, you need to cut back a little on watering.
This plant goes dormant in winter and excess water leads to root infections that distort its beautiful appearance. Increase the watering frequency during spring and summer, in addition to making sure the soil has the quality to drain away excess water. Summer is usually hotter, causing the soil to dry out faster, so ensure that watering is done accordingly.
When you underwater the Monkey Tail cactus, its leaves become soft, and this increases its vulnerability to diseases. You will also notice the leaf tips wilting and turning brown. However, underwatering also causes the falling off of the Monkey Tail cactus’ spines and the plant becomes limp.
– Light Requirements
The Monkey Tail cactus can tolerate higher light levels and its development is determined by the extent to which it is exposed to sunlight. At the onset of spring, you will notice increased growth as the sunlight improves.
Photosynthesis is increased, thereby enabling adequate food production within the plant. Additionally, this succulent blooms during spring and summer when the light levels are high making it a beautiful sight.
Due to its yellowish-green color, the Monkey Tail cactus should be provided with direct sunlight for at least 10 to 14 hours each day. Nonetheless, bear in mind that a deep green color absorbs more light compared to a lighter shade, so move your plant accordingly to ensure sufficient light is provided. Consider placing this plant near the south-facing window for it to get direct sun rays.
During autumn and winter, the Monkey Tail cactus goes dormant as the light levels decrease. It is possible to grow this beautiful succulent outdoors where it gets lots of sunlight, but indoor growing makes it more productive as it is easy to maintain other care requirements like temperature and humidity.
Keep in mind that this cactus survives in temperatures as low as 22 degrees Fahrenheit but anything further below this benchmark causes dormancy, followed by bursting of cells, ultimately leading to plant death.
– Soil Requirements
The Monkey Tail cactus has a shallow root network and draws most of the much-needed nutrients and moisture from the atmosphere. The key use of the roots on this plant is to provide adequate support to the plant, including the hanging pieces.
Nevertheless, the Monkey Tail’s roots also absorb water and nutrients for its upkeep. Consider growing this fantastic plant in slightly acidic to acidic soil conditions.
Ensure that the soil pH ranges from 5.5 to 6.5. The pH levels are usually disrupted by the use of alkaline water that may fluctuate the acidity of the soil. You can purchase some fast-draining and nurturing potting soils like the Bonsai Jack soil mix. This soil mix is best for acidic soil thriving plants as it has an optimized pH of 5.5.
Ensure that the soil mix for your plant is well-draining because this succulent’s roots do not like prolonged exposure to wet soil. The roots of this plant are generally shallow and will not do well when exposed to extreme temperatures so consider protecting them by using mulch to insulate the heat or cold.
Water-holding soils must not be used at all, as cacti are very susceptible to soggy soil conditions that cause the discoloration of the plant. Note that, the shallow root nature of this plant implies that it can survive even by capturing the tiny drops of water on the surface.
– Humidity Requirements
Humidity levels between 40 to 50 percent are best for the Monkey Tail cactus. The natural habitat of this succulent has proper humidity so when growing it in other climates, ensure maximum moisture control.
This beautiful plant grows or develops during the summer season using the moisture in the air so, in this period, ensure that sufficient humidity is available. Bear in mind that temperature, sunlight, and watering also take part in increasing and reduction of moisture around the plant.
During winter, humidity must be kept low by reducing the water supply to the Monkey Tail cactus. This plant cannot tolerate higher humidity and excess water. In this case, we advise growing this succulent indoors because its care needs can be easily managed by using artificial supplements.
However, growing the Monkey Tail cactus in poorly ventilated environments encourages humidity fluctuations that cause the manifestation of mold on the plant. To avoid such problems, always ensure that there is enough air circulation to discourage fungal attacks.
– Temperature Requirements
The Monkey Tail cactus grows in a warm climate although it can also survive in zone nine conditions. It also tolerates temperatures around 21 degrees Fahrenheit, but cooler temperatures affect its upkeep and appearance.
Given that you live in cooler temperatures, consider moving your gorgeous plants indoors. Also, reduce watering when the temperatures are low, as water loss will be low.
The Monkey Tail’s succulent form allows it to store moisture in the stems so cooler temperatures freeze the stored water resulting in cell damage.
Consider gradual transitioning of this plant from more fantastic spots to warm ones to avoid plant shock that is caused by sudden changes in light or temperature exposure. During the growing season, high temperatures help the plant to develop to its maximum, giving it the best appearance.
– Fertilizing Requirements
The Monkey Tail cactus is not a heavy feeder so consider fertilizing it once a season that is during summer, fall, and spring. Remember to avoid fertilizing during winter when plant growth is limited.
Prioritize using feeds with low nitrogen content and a substantial phosphorus composition to aid cactus flower, seed, and fruit development. A significant amount of potassium is also needed to strengthen and beautify the Monkey Tail cactus stem.
Slow-release fertilizers are recommended for this cactus as they reduce the risk of shock. The ratio of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium should be kept at 5:10:5. Note that, fertilizers may increase the salt accumulation in the soil so a single application is enough for the entire season considering that the Monkey Tail is a light feeder.
– Pruning Requirements
There is not much to talk about when it comes to pruning the Monkey Tail cactus as compared to foliage plants. Consider using sterilized pruning tools to cut off dead, diseased, and pest-infected branches to maintain the plant’s beauty. Cutting off such parts on the Monkey Tail cactus helps to reduce the pest and bacterial count.
The best way to propagate the Monkey Tail cactus is through cuttings. Make sure that your cutting tools are clean or sterilized to avoid any bacterial transmission to your lovely plant. It is also possible to propagate this succulent plant using seeds although this method is not as effective as the stem cuttings strategy.
– Through Stem Cuttings
Cut off a healthy stem with an average length of five inches from the tail end of the Monkey Tail cactus and allow it to dry for a few days. Prepare a well-drained cactus potting mix and make sure that the pot has sufficient drainage qualities.
Now, make sure all the spines are removed from the cutting’s lower half and make a hole in moist soil. The cutting must be planted at least a single centimeter deep and avoid planting in wet soil to curb rotting.
It takes a month for the Monkey Tail cactus to develop roots and start growing. For best results, consider propagating your plant during summer when environmental conditions favor this plant’s development and blooming.
Never propagate your cactus during winter because plant growth and development are reduced due to relatively harsh climatic conditions. The tail ends that were cut will revert and grow pups that resemble fingers and when mature, they can be cut off for propagation as well.
The cuttings method has proved to be the easiest in propagating cacti, compared to the seed method. All you need to do is to make sure that your young plants are provided with all the necessary care to help them to establish and flourish. Once new growth develops from your new plants, you may consider repotting them to bigger pots that contain cactus soil.
– Seed Propagation
The Monkey Tail Cactus’ prickly hairs can get stuck to your skin so consider wearing gloves to collect ripe, healthy, and fresh seeds from the mother plant. Spread the Monkey tail cactus seeds in a clean glass tray or dish and allow the outer skin to dry overnight.
The next step is to use your hand or any other tool to remove the skin of the seeds. Make sure you have small pots filled with cactus soil, to begin with.
Sow a single seed in each of the small pots and cover them with a thin layer of soil. Place the pots on spots where they can get dappled sunlight and remember to keep the soil moist to encourage germination.
This process is relatively slow and can take several months for germination to occur. Once the young plants have grown enough, transplant them into larger pots with regular cactus soil.
Monkey Tail Cactus Problems
The Monkey Tail cactus is greatly affected by overwatering just like many plants. Its succulent form speaks out for itself that it is drought tolerant. Too much humidity is another cause of problems as it encourages pest and microbial attacks. When overwatered, the Monkey Tail cactus’ stem discolors, leading to its decay.
Pests hibernate and thrive in-between the Monkey Tail cactus’ hair strands, for instance, mealybugs. These tiny, oval, and light grey bugs have a powdery appearance that makes them quite similar to mildew.
We recommended that you regularly inspect your plants because once the mealybugs invade your Monkey Tail cactus, they reproduce rapidly, posing a danger to your plant’s development. These pests survive by sucking out the sap from the plant and they produce some sticky material known as honeydew on this succulent’s surfaces.
Honeydew attracts bacteria, fungi, and ants that feed on the plant, thereby disturbing its development. Mealybugs can be eliminated by spraying the plant with pressurized water but make sure not to saturate the potting soil with the water unnecessarily.
It is wise to use this method when the soil is dried out so that if the water falls onto the soil, it will not cause any harm. Cutting off the affected parts is another solution to make sure your plant is free from these bugs.
– Spider mites
These are tiny pests that are reddish-brown and are very sneaky to the extent that you cannot notice them until you see some deformations to your plant.
Spider mites hibernate on the undersides of the plant’s surfaces, especially under the leaves, flowers, and hairs. Once you notice some thin webbings on the plant, know that a spider mite attack has started. When you neglect the plant, spider mites can multiply rapidly, taking over the rest of the plant.
Spider mites cause several brown-colored patches all over the infected parts and this distorts the once beautiful Monkey Tail cactus plant’s appearance. Just like mealybugs, spider mites can be washed off using pressurized water spray but make sure that the water pressure does not destroy the plant.
Isolate the affected plants to prevent the spread of spider mites to other plants and treat them separately. When these bugs are completely wiped out, you can now move your succulent plant out of isolation.
Using insecticides that are specifically made for spider mites is a great idea for keeping your plants stunning. Some growers prefer introducing natural predictors like ladybugs to the growing environments so that they wipe out spider mites.
When scale attacks your plants, you will notice some honeydew excretions on the plant. You may also see ant infestation on the plant because these creatures are attracted by the honeydew substances.
Once you see ants on these plants, be on the lookout for scale and mealybugs. Wiping out scale using insecticides is not that easy because the exoskeleton of these pests cannot be damaged or destroyed by such applications.
Apply rubbing alcohol on the affected and infected parts to eliminate scale. Early detection and treatment help the plant to recover quickly and retain its gorgeousness.
– Root rot
Root rot is caused by excessive soil moisture. The Monkey Tail cactus is very susceptible to root corruption so be careful on watering this plant. The microorganisms that cause root rot manifest in soggy soil, especially those that have poor drainage qualities. When the roots are rotten, the plants start wilting and discoloring.
The growth rate of this plant is reduced and if the plant is in its flowering stages, the flowers will fall off.
An imbalance between watering and excessive humidity contributes a lot to the rotting of roots and stems of the Monkey Tail cactus because water loss will be generally low in such conditions. This means that the roots will remain exposed to soggy conditions for a long time so consider reducing the frequency of watering under high humidity conditions.
Early detection of root rot allows you to adjust the growing conditions accordingly and help your beautiful plants to recover. If you detect this problem early, it is advisable to stop watering, check for any bad roots, and trim them off using clean or sterilized shears.
In addition, when the bottom half of the stem has rotten up, it is unfortunate that your plant cannot recover, so cutting off pieces from the unaffected parts and saving them for propagation would be best. Do not worry about the quantity of the remaining roots, the Monkey Tail cactus’ roots will grow back and its original eye-catching beauty will be restored.
– Cactus Moth
Cactoblastis cactorum is another name for the cactus moth, and it causes the Monkey Tail cactus to turn white. This bug produces larvae that feed on the plant’s inner tissues and causes severe plant deformity and death.
When purchasing the Monkey Tail cactus, consider recommended and reputable suppliers to avoid getting an already infected plant. This moth can spread from one plant to the other, so, isolating an infected plant while treating it is critical.
You can use a cactoblastis cactorum spray to wipe out these bugs and prevent future attacks. The spray also works as a cactus moth repellent. If the plant is severely attacked, cutting off all affected parts and disposing of them helps reduce the larvae population making them manageable.
To avoid the cactoblastis cactorum, try not to plant the Monkey Tail cactus close to any plants that attract this bug. Such plants include potatoes and tomatoes. Regular plant checkups help you to detect any form of parasite attack in time and deal with them before they cause substantial damage to your lovely cacti.
Here are some highlights of the points that you should never forget as you take care of your plant:
- Being succulent, the Monkey Tail cactus does not do well in soggy soils, so make sure to water it once every six to eight weeks during the growing season.
- This cactus is native to high-temperature climates with low humidity levels so when growing it indoors, make necessary adjustments to suit these conditions.
- It is pretty easy to propagate the Monkey Tail cactus through stem cuttings as compared to seeds.
- Regularly check your lovely plants for any deformities and disease symptoms so that you can rectify them early before causing severe damage.
The Monkey Tail cactus is a must-have for cacti lovers due to its uniqueness, and the red blooms enlighten your places. Get your Monkey Tail cactus from a reliable seller and enjoy the cacti world!
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