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Rhipsalis Mistletoe Cactus Care: It’s Not Just for the Holidays

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Rhipsalis mistletoe cactus care is easy and rewarding! Although there are many different varieties of rhipsalis plants, they have largely the same requirements. Learn how to help these plants grow beautifully in your home.

How to Care for Rhipsalis Mistletoe Cactus: It’s Not Just for the Holidays!

I absolutely love this plant and have been meaning to write about it for a few weeks now. Mike got me a rhipsalis plant for mother’s day earlier this year, and I was ecstatic when I opened the package! It’s a rhipsalis campos-portoana.

What is a rhipsalis mistletoe cactus?

There are quite a few varieties of rhipsalis that you might find in your local nursery, so I’m going to talk generally about the rhipsalis genus. Its lineage looks like this: cactaceae family > cactoideae subfamily > rhipsalideae tribe > rhipsalis genus. And there are loads of different species in the rhipsalis genus—about 35.

Plants from the rhipsalis genus are often referred to as “mistletoe cactus,” though generally this refers to rhipsalis baccifera, which is the variety of rhipsalis you’re most likely to encounter. Mine isn’t a baccifera—it’s a campos-portoana—but they look very similar. 

rhipsalis plant care

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Rhipsalis mistletoe cactus care

Rhipsalis plants are epiphytes, which are a type of plant that grows on other plants. However, it doesn’t take nutrients from them or harm them in any way—they just use them as support while growing. 

As the plant grows, its leaves get a bit tangled-looking, which is quite beautiful. It trails as it grows instead of shooting stalks straight up like a “sticks on fire” pencil succulent. Like a lot of other cactuses, rhipsalis mistletoe cactus care is fairly straightforward. 

rhipsalis leaves hanging
large rhipsalis plant hanging

How much light does a rhipsalis plant need?

They are tropical plants from Central America, the Caribbean, and some areas of South America. That means that they are happiest growing in bright, indirect light. This is the best way to mimic the light they’d receive in nature while growing under a dense rainforest canopy of trees that blocks out direct light. 

Rhipsalis plants can also tolerate surprisingly low levels of light. While it isn’t ideal, they will be relatively happy in medium light levels, and they’ll survive in lower levels. (Though it’s still a cactus, so I’d probably recommend adding a small indoor grow light.)

rhipsalis plant

Like succulents and cactuses? Check out my post about the easiest succulents for beginners, my DIY succulent soil you can make at home, how to propagate succulents from leaves and cuttings, and how to grow succulents from seed!

Rhipsalis water and soil needs

All rhipsalis varieties enjoy a good dry-out between waterings. Even if the soil feels dry on the surface, make sure to check that it isn’t wet a few inches below the surface. This means that the plant isn’t ready to be watered yet. Generally I water my cactuses and succulents about once every 1.5–2 weeks during the spring, summer, and early fall. Less in the winter. 

But the amount of water your plant needs does depend heavily on its conditions: temperature, amount of ligh

t, quality of air, etc. That’s why checking the soil is always best instead of relying on what some random lady on the internet says she does with her plants 🙂 You’ll get into a schedule that fits your needs!

These plants do well in a basic well-draining cactus or succulent soil. This is essential to helping their soil dry out between waterings. If the soil is too heavy, it will retain too much water and rot the roots.

rhipsalis plant care guide
mistletoe cactus care

Humidity and temperature

Although this plant doesn’t love being over-watered, it does like a bit of humidity. You can mist it with plain water in a spray bottle to help keep it happy. However, as with most cactuses, it is patient with a variety of normal household humidity levels.

Rhipsalis varieties can generally be grown outdoors only in USDA zones 10 and 11. Indoors, you should generally keep them above 50 degrees Fahrenheit to be the happiest. That means they accept a wide variety of normal household temperatures.

closeup of rhipsalis leaves
rhipsalis plant hanging in front of a window

Propagating rhipsalis plants

Propagating rhipsalis is super easy. You can do it in water or directly in soil. To propagate a rhipsalis cutting in water, simply take a snip with clean scissors and put it in water. It will begin to root after about a week or so. Once the roots are a few inches long, you can plant it. 

closeup of rhipsalis leaves
rhipsalis cutting rooting in water
Here’s a cutting I gave my dad after about a week and a half

To propagate a rhipsalis cutting directly in soil, let the cut end of the cutting dry out for a day or so. Then plant it directly in a moist cactus soil mix. Water a bit when the soil dries out. After a few weeks, you should be able to tug at the cutting and feel resistance. That means roots are developing. At this point you can begin to treat the plant as normal with watering and light. 

Rhipsalis soil propagation
Rhipsalis soil propagation I’m working on

Rhipsalis campos-portoana care

For rhipsalis campos-portoana care specifically, these care tips all apply. However, I want to share exactly the conditions my plant is in. It’s hanging in a pot without drainage; therefore, I added a layer of perlite into the bottom of the hanging pot to serve as a water reservoir.

I take extra care not to overwater it for this reason. However, it’s in a very sunny window that gets bright light from early afternoon into the evening. That means the soil dries out relatively quickly. I mist it whenever I remember—roughly weekly when I miss my monstera deliciosa. 

It’s doing quite well in these conditions! It’s such a tangle of growth that it’s hard to tell if there’s been much new growth since planting it. But it continues to look happy, so I remain happy. 🙂

rhipsalis plant in a hanging planter

Pin my rhipsalis mistletoe cactus care tips!

rhipsalis mistletoe cactus care tips
rhipsalis mistletoe cactus care tips
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Doctor Spaceman

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

That would make a lovely Mother's Day gift

Brittany Goldwyn

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

I agree Doctor Spaceman. You must have a lovely wife!

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