Rhipsalis: features and care of indoor cacti

Rhipsalis: features and care of indoor cacti

Origin and Distribution

Rhipsalis cacti are widespread in tropical Central and South America as well as in the Caribbean. In addition, the genus has a very special species: Rhipsalis baccifera is the only cactus species that is naturally native to both of the American continents. The species is native to tropical Madagascar as well as Sri Lanka and some islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The different species grow mainly epiphytically, ie as epiphytes on the tall trees of the rainforests.

also read

  • Properly caring for Rhipsalis cassutha - tips on care
  • Rhipsalis come in many different types
  • Tips for caring for Rhipsalis baccifera


With us, Rhipsalis cacti can only be cultivated as indoor plants, since the plants from the tropics are not hardy and need a lot of warmth. However, you can cultivate them outside over the summer months, for example on the balcony or terrace, but you have to bring them back into the house in good time - as a rule, outdoor cultivation is over by early September at the latest.

Depending on the type and growth habit, Rhipsalis are wonderfully suitable for hanging baskets that you simply hang under the ceiling. Many varieties develop meter-long rods, often become very bushy and thus form an interesting sight. Alternatively, you can place the plant pot on a raised place, such as a bookshelf or the like, so that the plant can let its long shoots grow downwards. Other species, however, develop rather short, but very dense shoots and develop an almost shrub-like appearance. These are best grown in a normal flower pot on the windowsill.

Appearance and stature

Rod cactus, coral cactus, rush cactus or simply leaf cactus: the many different names of the Rhipsalis cacti indicate their characteristic growth form. Many species produce numerous rod-shaped, hanging sprouts that can grow up to a meter or even longer. There are also a number of rather short-sprouting species. Often at the tips of the long shoots there are short shoots, short branches, on which the aerial roots typical of epiphytes are usually formed. As a rule, rod cacti have no thorns - in this respect, too, they do not resemble the image that we have of a typical cactus at all - but sometimes have very short bristles on the areoles, such as the hemispherical and often hairy cushions on the rungs become.


The meter-long leaves of some Rhipsalis species can be very thin - for example in the so-called whip cactus - but also angular or even leaf-shaped, with one leaf following the other.

Flowering and flowering period

Rhipsalis cacti also differ greatly in terms of flowers. In most varieties, these are rather small and inconspicuous white to greenish-white. Other species, however, develop large, colorful flowers. They often grow bell-shaped and are arranged in clusters. The flowers of some species have a slight scent.


After flowering, many species of the genus develop small, berry-like fruits that can be white, red, pink, orange, and green. These contain shiny, brown-black seeds that can be used for propagation.


Rhipsalis cacti are not poisonous.

Which location is suitable?

All rod cacti need a bright location, but must never stand in the blazing sun. A shady to partially shaded place is ideal, for example on a window facing east or west, where the plant gets sun in the morning or evening. Outside, Rhipsalis cacti should be placed in light shade. They should also be protected from rain and wind.


Commercially available houseplant or standard soil is unsuitable for these cacti. You should therefore preferably plant them in special cactus soil, which you can also mix yourself from one part each of peat-based green plant soil and sharp sand. However, the plants are very sensitive to lime, which is why the substrate must be free of lime.

Plant and repot

The best time to plant and repot is in spring, although you can basically carry out such work until early autumn. Be careful not to damage the short and delicate roots. Rhipsalis cacti only need small pots as their roots don't take up much space. But the long shoots need enough space on all sides so that the plant grows evenly. In addition, rotate it regularly so that it receives light from all sides and does not grow strongly on one side.

Water rhipsalis

As a typical rainforest plant, the Rhipsalis cactus needs a high level of humidity and should therefore be sprayed frequently with lime-free water. During the winter months, it is best to set up bowls filled with water so that the plant does not suffer from the dry heating air.

Make sure that the rhipsalis root ball does not dry out, ideally the substrate is always slightly moist. On the other hand, it must not be wet, otherwise waterlogging occurs and there is a risk of root rot. Water the plant with soft water, preferably rain or well water or, if necessary, well stale tap water. Immediately remove excess water from the saucer or planter. Water Rhipsalis cacti all year round. Only if these hibernate in a cooler place, reduce the watering a little - otherwise not.

Fertilize Rhipsalis properly

Fertilize the rod cacti with a special cactus fertilizer that you give every 14 days together with the irrigation water. Basically, fertilization is carried out all year round, only during the flowering period you suspend the nutrients. Do not fertilize the plants between the appearance of the first flower buds and the end of flowering.

Cut rhipsalis properly

In principle, pruning is not necessary, as the plants also develop such attractive growth - provided, of course, you turn the plant pot nicely and evenly. However, if the plant grows too big over time, you can safely prune it back by up to a third. You use the cut leaves or shoots for the vegetative propagation of cuttings.

Propagate Rhipsalis

And this is how cuttings propagate, with which you can easily gain new plants:

  • Cut off shoot pieces ten to six inches long.
  • Let the interfaces dry.
  • Fill potting soil mixed with sand into small pots.
  • Plant the cuttings about four inches deep.
  • Keep the substrate evenly moist, but not wet.
  • Keep the air tense by putting a translucent plastic bag or something similar over it.
  • Place the container in a light and warm location.

As soon as the Rhipsalis cactus forms new shoots, place it in a conventional pot of cactus soil.

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During the winter months, Rhipsalis cacti do not require any special care and can be cared for all year round at room temperatures. You should just not place them directly next to a heater, as the plants cannot cope with dry air.

Diseases and pests

Rhipsalis cacti are uncomplicated and robust. The most problematic is watering, because all species have to be watered regularly, but cannot tolerate waterlogging. This inevitably leads to root rot. Avoid this with a loose, permeable substrate, good pot drainage and a watering behavior that is adapted to the needs of the plant.

Occasionally there is an infestation with spider mites and mealybugs or mealybugs. Spider mites, also known as red spiders, occur when they are kept too dry.


You can also propagate rhipsalis cacti by sowing, using seeds you collected yourself. These can be sown all year round.

Species and varieties

There are around 40 different Rhipsalis species, all of which can be cultivated wonderfully in the home. For example, the following are particularly popular:

  • Rhipsalis baccifera: roundish white flowers up to four meters long
  • Rhipsalis burchellii: purple-colored shoots up to 60 centimeters long, heavily branched, numerous bell-shaped, white flowers
  • Rhipsalis campos-portoane: short but strongly branched shoots, white, large flowers
  • Rhipsalis cassutha: coral cactus, fleshy leaves, pendulous growth, numerous white flowers
  • Rhipsalis cereoides: short, triangular or square shoots, upright growth, white flowers
  • Rhipsalis crispata: leaf-like limbs, shoots up to 60 centimeters long, white flowers
  • Rhipsalis cereuscula: cylindrical shoots with numerous side branches, greenish-white flowers
  • Rhipsalis clavata: well branched, pendent habit, bell-shaped, white flowers
  • Rhipsalis crispimarginata: leaf cactus with shoots up to two meters long
  • Rhipsalis elliptica: shrub-like, rather flat shoots, pendulous, white flowers
  • Rhipsalis grandiflora: long, delicate shoots with red colored tips, cream-colored flowers
  • Rhipsalis oblonga: shrub-like, semi-upright growth, short shoots
  • Rhipsalis ormindo: pendulous growth, pretty magenta flowers
  • Rhipsalis pentaptera: also rod or rush cactus, thin, long shoots, branched, white flowers
  • Rhipsalis russellii: dark green, flat shoots, white flowers

All of the species mentioned are very easy to care for and are also perfect for beginners. Placed in the right place - for example in a hanging basket attached to the ceiling (€ 14.99 at Amazon *) directly in front of a window - and with the right care, you will enjoy the lush and reliable and beautiful flowering indoor plants for many decades.