The coral cactus, Rhipsalis cereuscula, is an ideal indoor plant. It has easy care requirements, provides a pop of bright green cuteness, and doesn’t have thorns.
It grows in delicate tangles with candle-like arms. The Rhipsalis cereuscula flowers are pink, purple, and white. It is an ideal cactus for your house because it needs less sunlight than other cactus types.
Rhipsalis Cereuscula Overview
This small cactus is native to South America, where you will find it growing in the dappled sunlight beneath large trees. The Rhipsalis succulent gets the nickname coral cactus from the branching appearance of the arms. The cactus tends to grow in intertwining clumps that give it the appearance of aquatic corals from the tropics.
This species has different care requirements from other cacti. It will tolerate a wide range of conditions, but providing the ideal environment is essential if you want great results.
We will describe the optimal way to get excellent results growing the coral cactus as a houseplant.
You’ll learn how to grow, propagate, and even encourage your coral cactus to bloom.
Rhipsalis Cereuscula Care Guide
It helps to consider where this plant grows to visualize the ideal environment. The coral succulent is epiphytic, meaning it lives on other plants without harming them. You can find it climbing tree trunks, rocks, and other small plants. It tends to grow in precarious places along rocky edges where the branching arms hang freely.
The coral cactus is adorable when kept in hanging baskets or on plant stands. The cactus doesn’t grow very tall, but each branching arm can grow to more than three feet. In the right conditions, a mature plant will bloom. The trailing branches will erupt in a showy explosion of color.
– Light Requirements
Unlike the majority of cacti, the coral cactus does not need high levels of light. It grows best in moderate indirect sunshine. It will even tolerate a shady window, but you should avoid placing it in direct sunlight. You will notice the color change from minty green to orange when the plant is getting too much light.
A good way to provide proper conditions for these plants is to use a sunshade that blocks some sun rays. This practice will most similarly replicate the dappled shade these plants grow in the wild. Proper light conditions are essential for blooming. Too much or too little light will cause the plant to not bloom.
– Temperature Conditions
The coral cactus tolerates heat better than it handles cold. You should avoid having this plant near drafty air ducts or doors or windows that get opened in the winter.
The ideal temperature for this plant ranges from 65 to 85 degrees. A mature plant can withstand temperatures to 30 degrees F, but young plants will not tolerate those low temperatures.
Most gardeners in the U.S. will want to keep his plant as indoor houseplant or grow it in a greenhouse. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map indicates this plant can survive outdoors in 10a through 11b, including only those parts of the country with very mild winters. Summer temperatures in those areas may be too high to grow outdoors.
– Water Requirements
The coral cactus enjoys drying out between waterings and doesn’t need extensive irrigation because of the shallow roots. You can water this plant sparsely and infrequently, and it will be happy.
Despite the large size of the plant, the roots are relatively small and don’t gather much in terms of water or nutrients. Instead, the plant relies on the fleshy surface for the majority of its water needs. Avoid overwatering your coral cactus because the plant can easily rot in wet conditions.
You can water this plant as little as once per week during the growing season and less regularly in the dormant season. Avoid using cold water or tap water to water the coral cactus. The best way to water these plants is to let water in a container set at room temperature then slowly pour enough water to moisten the soil’s surface.
– Humidity Conditions
This plant prefers higher humidity than most other types of cactus. Ideal humidity ranges from 60 to 85 percent. Since this is often much higher than your home, you should consider other methods of increasing humidity.
The coral cactus benefits will benefit from regular misting with a spray bottle. A quick misting several times per week is sufficient to provide a moist and humid environment without encouraging problems. Misting helps to keep the plant clean and free of dust. Make sure you mist lightly it so that the liquid doesn’t pool and accumulate. Pests and diseases can infect these plants when they are too wet.
– Soil for Growing Coral Cactus
The ideal substrate is light and sandy. It needs to drain very well without compacting. A commercial potting mix for cactus and succulents works very well. This type of mix differs from other types of potting soil in that the ingredients help provide drainage.
You can mix your cactus potting mix yourself and save money when you need a larger amount than what is sold in stores.
The best way to mix cactus soil is two parts sand for each part of potting soil. The ideal type of sand is called coarse sand or builders sand, but you can also use playground sand in a pinch. You should add perlite to increase drainage and help aerate the soil. Avoid using garden soil, vermiculite, or compost because these materials tend to make a heavy, slow draining mixture.
– Choosing the Right Pot
A pot that doesn’t have proper drainage is a major problem for this plant. The pot can be small since the roots do not get large, but it must drain very well. Standing water will quickly result in rot that kills the coral cactus. Refrain using a deep pot or a huge pot; both of these designs will use more soil than necessary and run the risk of retaining too much moisture.
If you would like to use a deeper pot, a great gardening hack uses styrofoam pool noodles. The pool noodles are easy to cut into sections and fill in deep areas of your pot while enhancing drainage. While it used to be popular, we do not advise using rocks, gravel, or broken pots to fill in deep containers any longer. These materials tend to enhance the compaction of soil leading to root problems.
– Fertilizer Guidelines
The coral cactus will benefit from additional fertilizer in the spring and summer during the growing season. The best fertilizer is one that is made for cactus and succulents. You can also use a liquid fertilizer and dilute to half strength. Apply the fertilizer when the soil is moist to encourage the roots to absorb nutrients without burning.
Don’t fertilize your coral cactus in the dormant season or when the plant is in shock. If your plant recently had too much sun, too much water, or it was exposed to abnormal temperatures, adding fertilizer can cause the coral cactus more harm than good.
One of the reasons that cacti like this one is popular is how easy it is to share them with friends and fellow gardeners. The most straightforward method of propagating is stem cuttings.
To make a stem cutting, all you will do is select a healthy stem at least several inches long. Using a pair of sharp scissors that are sterile or a knife, cut the stem. Let the cut dry for two or three days until it develops a callous. Select a pot, fill it with the appropriate potting soil, and press the cut end into the dry soil. Do not water for three to four weeks to allow the roots to develop.
You can gently lift the cuttings to tell when roots have formed. New growth will appear within one to two months. After three months, you can treat the plant like a growing Rhipsalis succulent plant.
Another way you can propagate these plants is through a technique called air layering. As your coral cactus grows, you may notice aerial roots develop at nodes between the branching arms.
The plant uses these roots to climb, but you can use them to make a new plant. The easiest way is to wrap well-wetted peat moss gently around the aerial roots then wrap the moss in plastic cling wrap. This holds the moisture and moss in place while the roots develop.
About once a week, remove the plastic enough to soak the moss and check on the progress of the roots. After about three weeks, you will see healthy root development. Simply cut off the branch just below the moss bundle and place the cutting in the soil. Water the cutting well, and it will become a new plant in two to three weeks.
Problems and How to Solve Them
The most common problems with these plants have to do with unacceptable conditions and neglect. Few pests are common, but you may find the occasional mealybug, aphid, whitefly, or spider mite.
Usually, a direct blast with water will be enough to get rid of these pests. Use an insecticidal soap made from rubbing alcohol and dish soap in a spray bottle of water to handle severe infestations.
Diseases are more common than pests. The most frequent problem arises when these plants are grown in poorly draining soil, containers without drainage, or too much water. The roots and stalk are highly susceptible to rot. Rot is common in damp, wet soil with warm conditions.
Most of the time, you won’t notice rot on these plants until it is extensive. The first signs are mushy and yellow areas of the stems at the soil line. The growth pattern of these plants makes it difficult to notice the damage until the branches begin to yellow and die.
If you suspect root rot, you should remove your plant from the pot and carefully inspect the roots. Any areas that are swollen, slimy, or smell rotten must be cut off and thrown out.
Rot will spread up the center of the cacti so you should carefully inspect areas that might be infected and cut them off. If the rot is too severe, you should cut the ends of the branches and propagate them to save as much of the plant as possible.
– Encouraging Blooming
Once your cactus is about one year old, it may be ready to begin flowering. To trigger the bloom cycle of these plants, you will need to allow the average temperature to drop to around 65 degrees for one to two months. You will see the buds begin to form.
Once the plant blooms, increase the temperature to 75 degrees, and the blooms will stay open for several weeks. As the flowers begin to fade, you can reduce the temperature again and encourage a second bloom.
- The Rhipsalis cereuscula is called the coral cactus because of the unique growth pattern
- It is grown as a houseplant because it isn’t tolerant of the cold
- The coral cactus thrives in indirect light and doesn’t like to be in bright sunshine
- Water is best given sparingly to prevent rot and other problems
- Soil and pot selection is key — both must be fast draining and not retain water well
- This is an easy plant to propagate using cuttings from the branches
- Very few common problems impact this plant — most frequent issue is rot from improper watering
Growing the coral cactus is an entertaining experience. It tumbles from the pot in a delightful cascade of thornless arms. The plant makes for an excellent hanging basket display or a plant stand. When the rambling arms get too long, you can just cut them off and put them in a new pot to create new cacti to share with friends and family.
Once you have the ideal conditions in place for growing your coral cactus, this plant will be rewarding to grow and display. It looks right at home in an indoor vivarium or as part of larger cacti and succulent collection. The Rhipsalis cereuscula coral cactus is an interestingly unique type of cactus that makes for one of the best you will find.
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