The Rhipsalis. Beautiful hanging cactus .How to care it ?

The Rhipsalis. Beautiful hanging cactus


The rhipsalis , are cacti that hang , surely you have seen them, but they do not come from any desert area, they come from the tropical and subtropical forests of Central America and the Caribbean. They are epiphytes of long, thin stems that hang from the branches of trees. With their plumed appearance, the rhipsalis have earned a place among the preferred ones such as cacti or outdoor and indoor plants. Let’s discover them!

About the rhipsalis

In the cactus family, the species of the Rhipsalis  genus  are particularly unique. They cover some 35 species of a great variety of shapes and colors. Although they belong to the species of cactus, they are not from desert areas but rather come from the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America of the African continent and some islands of the Indian Ocean. Therefore the rhipsalis, prefer the humid environments, with a lot of lighting but without being direct and warm temperatures. They should not be exposed to direct sunlight because they suffer from burns. And on the other extreme, they are also sensitive to frost or very low winter temperatures.

As we mentioned before, these plants are cacti, however, they do not have thorns since, as they live in the branches of trees, they do not have to defend themselves from being consumed by herbivores. It is worth mentioning that some species of rhipsalis do have small spines or spikes, in their young stage. But, in addition, the rhipsalis are epiphytic cacti : originally they grow on the branches of the trees, from which they hang their long, thin and fleshy stems (it is a succulent plant, like all the cactus) plume. There is another variety or classification of rhipsalis, lithophytes, which have adapted to develop in stones.

Description of rhipsalis

They are abundant branching plants, some are long and thin cactus, often very tangled. In some types, the stems rise forming a thick tangle. They are of color of green tones very clear and alive, even yellowish. Its thin branches can be cylindrical, angular or flat.

How the rhipsalis flourish

They are not very flowering plants like other epiphytic cacti such as the genera  Schlumbergera  and  Rhipsalidopsis, which are characterized by their large, colorful flowers. The rhipsalis of flower usually emit small flowers and even tiny, white. However, there are some species that produce translucent spherical berries, white, yellow with soft pink tones.

Species or types of rhipsalis


There are approximately 35 different species of rhipsalis that are mainly differentiated by the shape of their stems and leaves. Here some representative species of these cactus that can be considered tropical cactus. See photos of the Rhipsalis.

Rhipsalis baccifera or Rhipsalis cassutha

Rhipsalis cassutha

The stems are especially thin and filiform. There are numerous subspecies, some with burgundy twigs. This hanging cactus is also called mistletoe cactus for its small white spherical berries, which follow its small white flowers. It is the only cactus that can be found in a natural state outside of America. A subspecies of these are the  rhipsalis baccifera shaferi

Rhipsalis crispata or Rhipsalis crispimarginata

Rhipsalis crispata
Rhipsalis crispata

This rhipsalis is distinguished by its long stems formed by flattened segments, they can even be wavy, light green, very luminous, sometimes with almost red pink margins. The flowers are translucent white that cast in the winter season what makes them consider Christmas cactus. A cactus of Brazilian origin.

Rhipsalis pilocarpa

The stems of this rhipsalis are cylindrical and are covered with species of white bristles, which distinguishes it clearly from the rest of the rhipsalis. Its beautiful flowers are white, translucent and with a reddish center; the fruits are red, they also look small plumes or white hairs. It is a succulent endemic to Brazil.

Rhipsalis penduliflora

Rhipsalis cereuscula penduliflora 
Rhipsalis cereuscula penduliflora 


Of shrubby but hanging aspect, their fine cylindrical stems can reach a meter long in their state and natural habitat as in Brazil where they are native. It gives whitish flowers with reddish tints. It grows slowly. An ideal cactus plant for interiors.

Rhipsalis sulcata

Rhipsalis sulcata
Rhipsalis sulcata

The stems of this rhipsalis are more woody and have three rounded profiles; in the «branch» it has segments that measure between 20 and 30 centimeters long and exhibit the characteristics areolas typical of the cactus with small and very fine thorns. Although its branches are not very long, the plant offers a hanging look. The flowers are amber or white, it also throws berries.

Rhipsalis capilliformis

Rhipsalis capilliformis
Rhipsalis capilliformis

This peculiar rhipsalis is pale green, its stems are characterized by its profuse ramification. It is one of those that offer a more pronounced hanging effect. The flowers are white as well as their fruits with yellow touches.

How to care for a rhipsalis


The rhipsalis like most cacti are not demanding plants in care. They can spend a couple of weeks without the care of their owners. But in very warm areas, it is necessary to have them better as indoor plants. The general care that these plants should have are the following:

• Environment:  They require a warm and luminous place, that is to say a light shadow or light filtered but a humid atmosphere. They must also be protected from air currents.

• Temperature:  The ideal temperature is between 18 and 20º. In winter, it should not fall below 10 ° since they come from a warm area.

• Substrate:  They need rich soil (different from most cacti), fresh, acidic but well drained. The ideal substrate can be made by mixing one third of sand, one third of garden soil and one third of heather soil. You can also use substrate for orchids, for tropical plants.

• Irrigation:  You should water regularly, preferably the rainwater is your favorite or decalcified. It is very important to let the earth dry between waterings. In the resting period, that is to say in winter, the water supply must be interrupted and the land practically dry. The puddling produces rotting so it must be watered in their roots. In summer they will appreciate spraying every two or three days with lime-free water.

• Fertilizer:  With irrigation water you must provide fertilizer for cactus (poor in nitrogen) once a month is perfect.

• Reproduction:  In spring and summer they reproduce easily by means of cuttings of segments of the stems. With stems half of its length, you can get new shoots.



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