Mistletoe cactus, Rhipsalis baccifera (RIP-sa-lis bak-IF-er-uh) belongs to the Cactaceae family and the Rhipsalis genus.
The Rhipsalis plant is a succulent epiphytic cactus (like fishbone, Orchid cactus Epiphyllum and Hatiora) meaning it grows on other plants, drawing nutrients from the environment.
Mistletoe cactus hails from the rainforests of Central and South America. It earned the common name mistletoe cactus because of the spineless appearance giving a drooped over effect. It makes a wonderful hanging plant.
The botanical name Rhipsalis comes from the Greek word ‘rhips’ which references to the plant’s pliable branches. ‘Baccifera’ means berry-bearing nodding to the plant’s white berries after the flowering season in early spring.
Other common names include:
- Coral Cactus – Euphorbia Lactea Cristata also goes by the name
- Spaghetti Cactus
Mistletoe cacti are not easy to come across in the United States and may be difficult to get your hands on.
However, once purchased, Rhipsalis mistletoe cactus will live for many years under proper conditions.
These jungle cacti require a little skill and will help any gardening-enthusiasts sharpen their growing skills.
Rhipsalis Mistletoe Cactus Care Needs
Size and Growth
It is a slow-growing plant with naturally pale green stems, and a drooping and trailing growth. It can grow up to be 30′ feet long with narrow stems up to 0.2” in diameter.
This epiphytic cacti grows attached to other plants when in the wild.
It anchors itself to rotting leaves and moss when it grows up in trees in its natural habitat of the rainforest. At home, grow in soil that mimics those conditions.
Flowering and Fragrance
Rhipsalis cactus blooms in the first months of the year. The cream or white flowers don’t have any fragrance and are generally small at 0.25” wide.
Following this, the cactus bears clear white berries about 1/4” wide. These berries are sometimes referred to as “glass beads” because of their translucent appearance.
Light and Temperature
The mistletoe cactus plant is sensitive to too much sun. Avoid direct sunlight and full sun for best growth. A shady outdoor spot with indirect light or a semi-shaded place indoors works fine.
This plant needs a fair amount of humidity; somewhere around 50% which would mimic the conditions of its natural habitat.
Epiphytic cactus grow best in USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b and thrives best in temperatures between 25 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Watering and Feeding
The watering needs of Rhipsalis cactus vary throughout the year. It should be watered more regularly throughout the growing months between February to July.
Allow the potting soil to dry out between waterings.
During the rest months in the fall, water it only sparingly when the surface of the soil starts to dry don’t let it dry out completely.
You can mist it regularly with cool water instead of watering thoroughly.
Begin watering again regularly from November to February when new buds appear.
Overwatering mistletoe cactus causes root rot. Once that happens, saving the plant is difficult. Be careful and pay attention to your plant’s needs.
The plant needs feeding with a weak phosphate fertilizer once between February and July.
Soil and Transplanting
Getting the soil right is crucial to get this plant to grow well. It requires an airy potting mix rich in humus. This type of soil is different than the traditional cactus mix. The best mixture is an airy sphagnum mixture with leaf mold or partial rotted compost.
Avoid standing water at the base of the pot. Make sure there is adequate drainage and a well draining soil. Don’t let the soil dry.
This plant should not be transplanted as it could ruin the tender roots.
Instead, top off the pot or basket with new soil.
Carefully, remove the old soil, making sure not to damage the roots and fill it again with moist sphagnum or coarse peat moss.
Grooming and Maintenance
This plant does not require a lot of grooming. However, if the stems begin to grow too long, trim back to give them a neater appearance.
How To Propagate Mistletoe Cactus Plants
Rhipsalis propagation is easy using mistletoe cactus cuttings.
Quick Tips On Mistletoe Cactus Propagation
Take a mature Rhipsalis stem cutting
- Let it dry out for a few days until the cut surface has become callused
- Take a mixture of moist sphagnum and sand and plant the shoot a couple of inches down.
- The shoot will need adequate humidity to take root
- Cover it with plastic until you can see it has taken root.
- Rooting usually takes around 2 to 6 weeks depending on growing conditions and growing season.
Mistletoe Cacti Pests and Diseases
This plant can experience a few pests. Mealybugs and scale insects are easy enough to get rid of and prevent.
They appear as white blobs or raised brown scales on the plant. You should remove them with tweezers and swab the area with alcohol to prevent future infestation.
Other pests such as spider mites or red spider mites are difficult to identify as they will become evident after making their first attack.
Get rid of them, spray your plant with Neem insecticide or a mix of systemic pesticide.
Uses For Mistletoe Cactus Rhipsalis Baccifera
This plant is beautiful when grown as an ornamental, hanging accent plant. It is best grown near large west or west-facing windows, or on a shaded porch.
Because of its neutral colors, it goes beautifully with a number of different flowers.
If growing outdoors, add it to a shady spot like a porch as it will have ample space to grow and will not risk getting too much sun.
The plant is also edible. It has medicinal properties which make it popular for certain remedies such as herbal paths or as a salve to help treat wounds.
The small, orb-like fruit the plant bears in spring is also edible and tastes juicy in a way similar to small grapes when eaten.