Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii: Tips For Growing Oriental Moon Cactus

Gymnocalycium mihanovichii [jim-no-kal-LISS-ee-um me-han-oh-VIK-ee-eye] is one of the most unusual window garden cacti and has become a common sight anywhere that sells cacti & succulent plants.

You may hear it called its common names including:

  • Hibotan
  • Oriental Moon Cactus
  • Mutant cactus
  • Chin cactus

Moon cacti belong to the Gymnocalycium genus of globular cacti found in South America, Argentina in particular.

collection of red cap Gymnocalycium moon cactus

Other cactus species in the genus feature green globes with white, pink, yellow, or red flowers.

A lack of chlorophyll gives the moon cactus its unique color.

Instead of green, the globe typically has a pink, yellow or red cap.

The shape and color of the globe give the plant its common name.

This succulent plant cannot survive on its own roots. It always needs a host, it often comes grafted onto a cactus. Grafting is not too hard if you follow the right steps.

Here’s more on moon cactus care.

Moon Cactus Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii Care

Size and Growth

The Oriental moon cactus (chin cactus) grows as a globular mass, reaching about two inches in size.

It also tends to produce offsets that grow around the base of the globe.

The sides of the globular shape feature seams with prickly quills.

As mentioned, the Gymnocalycium mihanovichii plant can’t grow on its own. It typically comes grafted onto another cactus, such as Hylocereus undatus (dragon fruit cactus).

This cactus plant has a thick base that makes the perfect host for the mutant cactus.

Flowering and Fragrance

While these popular mutants are grown for the unique circular shape, the Oriental moon cactus can produce flowers.

The small pink flowers grow from the sides and don’t produce a scent.

Unfortunately, the plant rarely flowers.

Light and Temperature

The Gymnocalycium mihanovichii cactus grows well in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12.

In cooler climates, indoor growth ensures warmer temperatures.

Set it near a window to give it plenty of sun.

NOTE: If the plant doesn’t get enough bright light, the color starts to fade.

It grows well at normal room temperature throughout most of the year.

During the winter, temperatures may drop to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering and Feeding

Water the plant regularly throughout the spring and summer months as well as the fall. In the winter months, water infrequently.

Before watering, check the soil. It should dry out between watering.

The Gymnocalycium mihanovichii doesn’t need fertilizer.

Soil and Transplanting

Hibotan cactus grows best in the normal commercial cactus soil with good drainage.

Another option is to use a mixture of regular potting soil with 25% to 50% perlite or pumice.

Transplanting isn’t necessary unless it grows too big for its pot.

As the plant doesn’t get very big, transplanting may depend on the size of the host plant.

Typically, the spring is the best time to transplant just before the active growing season starts.

Maintenance and Grooming

Oriental moon cactus doesn’t require grooming but some people prefer to cut off the side shoots to maintain the globular shape.

How To Propagate Grafted Moon Cactus

When propagating cactus cuttings, use the side shoots or offsets growing from the plant.

Keep in mind that these side shoots need host plants.

Hylocereus undatus works best. It’s a hardy cactus that offers the perfect base.

Try to select host plants of the right height and thickness.

They should be about the same diameter as the side shoots and less than six inches tall.

Don’t collect the side shoots until after preparing the host plant. Cut the top off the hylocereus undatus, cutting at a slant.

Carefully cut the side shoots from the mother plant.

Don’t allow the cuts on the side shoots or the host plants to dry before finishing the grafting process.

Carefully press the two cut pieces together, setting the side shoot on the host plant.

Press firmly but not too tight.

To hold the pieces together, secure the side shoot with a rubber band.

Within several weeks, the side shoot should start growing off the host plant.

Remove the rubber band and follow the normal plant care tips for the Oriental moon cactus.

Moon Cactus Dying? Pests And Diseases

This plant may experience mealybug and scale insect attacks.

Deal with these infestations using tweezers or a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

If these methods don’t remove the pests, use an insecticide as a last resort.

Learn More on dealing with bugs on succulents.

While the plant is relatively hardy, it can suffer from a couple of different plant diseases.

One issue is black neck rot.

If the neck of the plant starts to tip over, try to collect the side shoots before tossing the plant.

If the plant starts to shrink or becomes soft, it needs more water.

If the plant becomes withered, it may have a mealybug infestation.

Suggested Uses For Moon Cactus Gymnocalycium mihanovichi

The fun appearance of this plant makes it a great choice to add to any cactus or succulents garden.

It’s also commonly found in window sills where it grows in a small pot.

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