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Trailing succulents ideal for gardeners

Every summer, from the end of May to the middle to end of September, my house plants go outside. My house is a winter shelter for the summer fun.

My Rhipsalis is my pride and joy. Hanging in the back, after I have acclimated it to the harsh summer sun, it is the beauty of cascading stems. We turn it periodically, spray it every other day and then, when fall approaches, we bring it in to the east window of my bedroom. It responds with little white flowers. All is right with the world.

This plant is called Rhispalis braccifera. It is considered the “perfect plant for ease of care,” and I can attest to this. R. braccifea is one of 60 or more species of mistletoe cacti. They are not only a cactus, but an epiphyte, hanging from trees or rocks, and taking nourishment from the rains. They grow in Sri Lanka, the Carribbean, Central America, Madagascar, Florida, Brazil and Peru.

The branches cascade smoothly, with the 1/2 inch blooms on the ends of the branches. The branches hold water, as other cacti, and the areoles make the needles and flowers. These needles are so fine as to be inconsequential.

The only way to harm a Rhipsalis is to overwater it. So, to grow them the best you can, you should keep them on the dry side.

Taking care of your plant is simple and should include these steps:

Light — Dappled, to sunny; inside morning sun;

Water: Water when almost totally dry. Use your finger to check soil moisture;

Soil — Needs to be very porous, have the ability to dry out quickly and is well drained;

Temperature and humidity — It should be warm and humid with a minimum of 60 degrees at night, with higher temps during the day. You can periodically mist them as they draw water through the stems;

Pot type, size — They tend to be pot bound, so use a small pot with no worries. Clay, terracotta, pots are best as they draw out moisture and dry fast. Plastic does not breathe, so it is not recommended;

Watch for pests — They are generally pest free but do weekly health checks on all houseplants;

Propagation — Snip 3-inch cuttings (or if some drop), let air dry to “scar.” Know the top from the bottom as only the bottom will root. Insert into a pot, water, then let thoroughly dry. Only begin regular watering after you see new growth.

There are many relatives of this family: hatiora (dead men’s bones), R. Clavata; the orchid, Thanksgiving and Christmas cactuses (yes, that is correct, not cacti any longer) are also epiphytes related to Rhipsalis. Buy and enjoy.

As you can see with mine — they can be a quite the showpiece in your houseplant collection. Mine trails about 6 feet down from it’s container.

To learn more about this plant and see more photos, go to http://go.osu.edu/trailingcactus.

Sources: Illinois University, Plant Biology; Backyard Gardener, cals. Arizona.edu; Missouri Botanical Gardens, 06/2018.

Hughes is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

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