Rhipsalis paradoxa is unique for its chained, succulent leaves that make your home garden stand out. If you are a fanatic of succulents and uniqueness, this easy-care plant is a must-have, whether you are a beginner or expert. It is perfect for busy people who have less time to attend to their houseplants but still want the chance to enjoy the modern jungle room appearance that comes with this plant.
This article is a compilation of all the information that you need for growing Rhipsalis paradoxa.
Rhipsalis Paradoxa: The Overview
Rhipsalis paradoxa, which belongs to the Cactaceae family, is also known as the chain plant, Rhipsalis cactus, trailing Rhipsalis, or chain cactus. The Rhipsalis plant is described with terms such as “chain” and “trailing” due to the nature of its leaves, which appear like rings of a chain connected together.
This plant is native to Brazil. It is now found in 10 tropical rainforests of South and Central America and tropical parts of Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Africa. Its appearance looks perfect when the plant is placed in a hanging basket, with its leaves falling down to provide a unique jungle vibe to your home or office.
There are no available reports that suggest that Rhipsalis paradoxa might be toxic. However, we recommend that you refrain from ingesting this plant. Also, keep an eye on your children and pets, to keep them safe.
– Rhipsalis Varieties
The term Rhipsalis was coined from the Greek language and its literal meaning describes the physical appearance of the plant. Joseph Gaertner was the first person to describe the Rhipsalis plants, although he did not recognize that the plants are cacti back then in 1788.
Rhipsalis cactus plants are epiphytic. The term epiphyte emanates from Greek where epi- means “upon” while -python means “plant.” Therefore, epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants and get their nutrients from the rain, air, or wind. There are about 60 known varieties of Rhipsalis and they are collectively referred to as the Mistletoe Cacti.
Most Rhipsalis plants grow as pendulous plants, although there are some which are terrestrial or epilithic growers. Rhipsalis plants have succulent stems, although the extent to which they can hold water varies with species. These stems also have varying shapes, but usually they are angular, terete, or flat. Please take note that these stems are primarily cylindrical or round-shaped when viewed cross-sectionally.
– Growth Patterns
Rhipsalis paradoxa is a perennial epiphyte that grows well under tropical conditions. The chained leaves of Rhipsalis paradoxa are evergreen and can grow up to between 1 and 6 feet if the plant is provided with conducive growing conditions and adequate space. The branches are usually 1 inch in width.
The Rhipsalis cactus produces small white flowers along the length of its branches during the period between late winter and early spring. These flowers have a diameter of approximately 0.5 inches and are unscented. The petals of the flowers are sometimes yellowish, with small brush strokes of black.
The trailing Rhipsalis produces red fruits that are relatively small in size. Be sure not to eat these attractive fruits, as they cannot be digested. The red fruits of Rhipsalis paradoxa contain seeds that can be used for propagating the plant.
Rhipsalis Paradoxa Care
– Light Requirements
Rhipsalis paradoxa survives well in spaces where it receives bright, indirect sunlight. Spots with partial shade are, therefore, perfect for this plant. Avoid exposing your chain plant to direct light, which scorches its leaves.
When you are growing your plant indoors, rooms that have windows that face the east, west, or south are ideal. These rooms thrive in a well-lit environment that receives filtered light.
If the rooms that you have available for your chain plant allow bright sunlight to hit the plant, you can use shade cloth or sheer curtains to protect it from the harsh sunlight rays. Be sure to rotate your plant so that all sides receive equal amounts of light, grow evenly, and attain an even color tone.
If you decide to keep your plant in an environment with shade, you should bring the plant out to an environment with light regularly. We recommend that you do this during the mornings and the late afternoons, when the sunlight is not harsh. Do this for a few hours and put your trailing Rhipsalis back into the shade right after.
– Water Requirements
Being a succulent plant, the trailing Rhipsalis stores water in its stems. Always make sure that the topsoil of your plant is completely dry before you give it another drink. This is a great strategy to avoid overwatering it. Your plant will not suffer during the period between waterings because it has water reservoirs in its stems.
Your watering frequency should vary, depending on the season. During the warmer seasons, watering weekly is ideal. Reduce the watering frequency to once every two weeks during winter. Any type of water — except hard water — is suitable for watering Rhipsalis paradoxa, be it normal tap water, rain, or filtered. The Rhipsalis cactus is sensitive to lime, which is the reason why you should avoid using hard water for watering the plant.
When you water your Rhipsalis paradoxa, drench it in water completely until it begins to drain out through the pot’s drainage holes. However, be mindful that, if the pot doesn’t drain, your Rhipsalis cactus may suffer from root rot.
The Rhipsalis succulent stems might lure you into assuming that the plant is drought-resistant, which is far from the truth. The chain plant requires constant moisture so it may stop growing or even die out if the plant stays in dry conditions for extended periods of time.
– Temperature Requirements
Rhipsalis paradoxa is happier in warmer temperatures, preferably between 64 F to 75 F. This narrow temperature range needs to be maintained if your plant should exhibit lively growth.
Keep the temperatures around Rhipsalis paradoxa as consistent as possible. Abrupt changes in temperatures may shock your plant and ultimately kill it. If you don’t maintain the narrow ranges of temperatures that Rhipsalis paradoxa can grow within, this might compromise and disrupt the gorgeous shape of the plant.
For this reason, do not place your plant close to heat or wind sources such as heaters and fans, respectively.
– Humidity Requirements
Another interesting aspect about Rhipsalis paradoxa is that it is a cactus whose humidity requirements are different from other plants in the same family. The natural habitat of the chain plant is the tropical forest, so it thrives well in humidity levels that are above average. Ideally, provide your trailing Rhipsalis under humidity conditions between 60 and 70 percent. The plant will develop healthy foliage under these humid conditions.
Inside the house, the kitchen and bathroom are the best places for this plant to be. Another way to increase humidity levels around your plant is through misting constantly, especially in extra warm or windy conditions. You can as well use an indoor humidifier to avoid dry air in the vicinity of your chain plant, thereby keeping it happy.
The pebble tray strategy is also a great way for maintaining high humidity. Simply get a shallow tray, add some pebbles, fill it with water, and place the pot of your plant on top of the tray. As the water in the tray evaporates, an artificially humid environment is created around the plant. Just make sure that the plant pot sits on the pebbles in the tray, not on the water.
– Soil Requirements
You should grow your plant in a soil that is well-draining, nutrient-rich, and with medium-sized particles. A loosely packed soil allows water to drain well and avoids waterlogging conditions that can lead to root rot.
The pH of the soil for Rhipsalis paradoxa should range between 6.1 and 7.8 — that is, slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. Values of pH that are out of this range can slowly kill your plant. To be sure that you have the right soil for your plant, you can consider using the commercial potting mix for cacti.
If you choose to create your own potting mix, be sure to add compost and perlite. Compost contributes to the nutrient content of the soil, as well as its moisture-retaining attributes. Perlite improves the draining capacity of the soil mix.
– Fertilizer Requirements
Normally, Rhipsalis paradoxa does not require much fertilizing, especially when the soil medium is rich. However, you can add fertilizer during the plant’s growing season, just before it produces buds. At this time, fertilizing should be done once every two weeks and stopped once the budding period is complete and the buds begin to open.
If you decide to add fertilizer to your Rhipsalis paradoxa at any other time apart from the budding period to enhance the growth of your plant, do it once every two weeks.
Be careful with your choice of fertilizers when you are dealing with the Rhipsalis cactus. We recommend that you use mineral fertilizers, particularly those that are liquid and diluted. Avoid using fertilizers that are excessively rich in nitrogen. This is because too much nitrogen burns the roots of succulents — but moderate amounts are safe.
Check the fertilizer package for instructions on how much to apply and diluting methods and ratios.
The pot that you use for your Rhipsalis paradoxa should have enough drainage holes to ensure that the plant does not stand in water after giving it a drink. Any accumulation of water after watering can cause root rot on your cacti.
There is no need to use a bigger pot when growing the trailing Rhipsalis. This is because the plant’s roots are small, so they do not need much space. Repotting the Rhipsalis paradoxa is, therefore, a rare occurrence and should only happen when the plant is rootbound.
However, when you need to repot your plant, doing so in the middle of spring is a great idea. When your plants are still small, repotting them after every 12 to 18 months is ideal.
Gently remove the plant from its original pot, shake off any excess soil, and remove any unhealthy parts of the plant. Place the plant in a pot that is about 2 inches larger than the previous pot. If you use a pot that is too large, water will accumulate in the spaces between the roots, thereby suffocating your chain plant.
You can occasionally remove dead leaves from your Rhipsalis paradoxa using pruning shears or a knife. You can also prune the leaves if you want to regulate the growth of the plant.
Scheduling a pruning session once a year, during the spring, is great to avoid overdoing it and disturbing the plant’s growth. However, this is not a strict rule: You can prune your chain Rhipsalis when you deem necessary.
We also recommend that you don’t trim more than two-thirds of the whole plant during each pruning session. Be sure to wear gloves before you start any grooming procedure on your chain plant. Also, disinfect your tools, like the pruning shears, using 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.
Doing this helps to protect your plant from infection by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses that might cause diseases in your plant.
While buying an already-grown plant is also good, growing your own plant from scratch is more fascinating. You can do this using seeds or woody-stem cuttings, preferably during the spring or summer.
Collect your seeds from a healthy, unblemished fruit of the trailing Rhipsalis. Ensure that the fruit is fully ripe before you collect the seeds. Wash and dry the seeds so that you can store them for future use in propagating new plants.
To start the propagating process using seeds, place them in a pot that is full of dry, sandy soil. Place the pot with the seed in a room that is warm, well-lit, and simply allow the seeds to grow.
– Stem Cuttings
Using well-disinfected pruning shears or a knife, cut approximately about 6 inches of the stems of your Rhipsalis paradoxa. Leave the cuttings alone for about 24 hours so that the callus can develop over the cut region.
Prepare a pot for your plant and fill it with humus-rich soil or cactus potting mix. Water the soil and then plant your stem cutting while the soil is still moist. Place the pot in a warm, bright space inside your house. Monitor your cutting for about three to four weeks, after which roots will begin to develop.
Alternatively, you can place the cutting in water with the cut side going first. Leave the cutting until it develops roots, after which you can repot it to a pot that has soil.
Rhipsalis paradoxa is not particularly vulnerable to pests and disease. However, this plant is not completely immune to this issue either. The best way to reduce the chances of having your plant attacked by pests and diseases is by applying proper care as described in this article. Let’s look at the various pests and diseases that you should be on the lookout for when you have a chain plant in your home.
– Brown and Crispy Leaves
If your Rhipsalis paradoxa appears brown and crispy, this shows that it needs water. The solution for this issue is to quench your plant’s thirst by watering it quickly. If no irreversible damage has been caused, your chain plant will quickly revert back after you water it. Review your watering patterns and alter them as needed to ensure that your plant does not go for long periods without water.
– Root Rot
One of the issues that you are most likely to encounter with Rhipsalis paradoxa is root rot. Overwatering is usually the cause of root rot. There are various ways through which overwatering happens and you should avoid all of them. Overwatering can result when you water your trailing Rhipsalis before its soil dries up. Doing this is supportive of waterlogged conditions.
If your potting mix is not well-draining, it will hold the water after you give your plant a drink. This will cause your plant to sit in water. To address this, add elements that loosen the soil for your chain plant. Perlite is a good example of a substance that you can add to your potting mix so that it maintains a loose structure.
The most common pests that attack Rhipsalis paradoxa are scales, mealybugs, and root mealybugs. Sometimes, although less likely, your plant can be attacked by fungus gnats and spider mites.
All these pests that are more likely to attack your Rhipsalis paradoxa are tiny, and that makes them more difficult to control. Therefore, the best way to deal with these pests is through adopting prevention strategies, so that they don’t infest your beautiful plant in the first place.
Check your plant the moment you buy it from the nursery so that you are sure that it is healthy right from the start. Also, ensure that your potting mix is void of pests by treating it before you pot your plant. The pot should also be disinfected to reduce the chances of nurturing pests. These prevention measures are also necessary when you are repotting your chain plant.
If your plant is already affected by pests, you should treat it to save it and protect other plants that you have. Organic pesticides, like Neem oil, and homemade pest remedies, such as insecticidal soap, are effective and environmentally friendly. Your pets and children are also safer when you use these strategies. You can also use cotton balls that are dipped in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol to dab the pests, especially when the infestation is still low.
Now you have all you need to know for taking care of Rhipsalis paradoxa and keeping your home lit with uniqueness. Here is the summary of what you learned from this article.
- Rhipsalis paradoxa is a tropical perennial epiphyte.
- This plant requires bright, indirect light for proper growth.
- You should water the chain plant only when its topsoil is bone dry.
- Temperatures between 64 F and 75 F are conducive for the growth of the trailing Rhipsalis.
- The chain plant requires humidity levels between 60 and 70 percent.
- Rhipsalis paradoxa grows well in loose, well-draining, and nutrient-rich soils.
- You can add fertilizer to the Rhipsalis cactus, especially just before the budding period.
- Repotting can be done between 12 to 18 months.
- The propagation of the chain plant can be done through seeds or stem cuttings.
- Protect your plant from attack by pests like mealybugs, scale, spider mites, and fungus gnats.
There you go! Get your Rhipsalis paradoxa, care for it like a pro, and give your home that vivid, jungle room touch that it deserves.