Cacti are known for their prickly and rigid appearance making them excellent statement plants in the house. But there are some types that look less like a cactus which makes them even more exceptional. A good example is the Coral cactus.
What Is A Coral Cactus?
The Coral Cactus is scientifically known as Rhipsalis cereuscula in reference to the interlacing candle-like waxy stems of the plant. The common name is derived from its green coral-like shrubby growth. Other synonyms are Erythrorhipsalis cereuscula, mistletoe cactus, and rice cactus.
This cactus is epiphytic in nature and is originally found in the jungles of Brazil (1). Unlike desert cacti, it has cylindrical branching stems with tiny bristles running along the margins. At the tip of these stems appear small creamy white flowers that look like snowflakes (2).
Since it is often planted in pots or in hanging baskets, the cactus definitely catches one’s attention, especially as it looks like a white bouquet abloom.
Growing and Caring for Your Coral Cactus
How Much Light and Water Does it Need?
The Coral cactus’ ability to survive under the canopy of trees in the wild allows it to adapt easily in the indoor setting. Moderate exposure to dappled light is preferred over prolonged exposure to the sun.
The plant has a shallow root system which will benefit from frequent watering and misting in the summer. However, avoid standing water as this will only cause the roots to rot and the stems to rupture. This may also affect the plant’s production of flowers.
Overwatering becomes evident when the tips of the stems turn yellow, and it might be too late to save the plant by then.
How to Encourage Flowering
The flowering of an indoor Rhipsalis greatly depends on temperature and water. Although they flourish in warm temperatures, they need to be in a darker location with temperatures below 65 °F (18 °C) for 1 to 2 months as the buds start to appear, and after they have bloomed (3).
After flowering, the cactus should have a rest period wherein fertilizer application is put on hold and watering is minimal. Before the buds set, continue with regular feeding and watering routine.
How to Propagate and Maintain
As with most branching and flowering cacti, the Coral cactus can be propagated by stem cuttings and seeds. As long as the cuttings have formed callus, the success of propagating in a well-draining soil is high.
Do not overwater these new plants as waterlogged conditions will prevent the new roots from establishing properly.
Repotting once a year is also found to be beneficial in flower production. This practice refreshes the soil and improves aeration. Be extra careful when repotting as the plant’s fleshy branches tend to be delicate.
Is the Plant Toxic to Pets?
The Coral cactus is considered generally safe around pets and humans, but it is not considered an edible plant. Because of the hair-like structures, there may be an irritation when ingested, or when it comes in contact with the skin.
For more types of cacti to grow, check our list: https://florgeous.com/types-of-cactus/
(1) Rhipsalis cereuscula Haworth, Philos. Atlas of Florida Plants, Institute of Systematic Botany. 1830. (online) https://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/plant.aspx?id=4335#citation.
(2) Bailey, F. & Allaway, Z. Practical Cactus and Succulent Book. Penguin. 2019. P. 224.
(3) Mistletoe cactus and coral cactus (Rhipsalis). New York Botanical Garden. 2021 (online) https://libguides.nybg.org/mistletoecactus.
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