Jungle cacti sounds like an oxymoron but in this episode of Plant One on Me, Summer Rayne Oaks talks in-depth about this strange branch of the family. When you hear “cacti,” most people generally conjure images of the desert Southwest and prickly plants. Even so, 10 percent of cacti are epiphytic and live in jungles. That means that the cacti live on other plants and use them for support, but not for food. They get moisture and nutrients from the air. Despite growing in a jungle, they don’t get much water or much light.
There are 38 species of Rhipsalis native to tropical and subtropical America. Sadly, many of these species are threatened or endangered in their native range. Some may have even gone extinct before they were discovered. Plant parents can play a role in conservation by growing these plants and buying them from reputable sources.
For people that are not familiar with Rhipsalis, they look very similar to the Christmas cactus. They like bright, indirect light. The soil should be well-drained but not allowed to dry out completely. Summer creates her own soil blend for repotting made from equal parts of Espoma’s organic Potting Soil Mix, Orchid Mix, and Perlite. Espoma’s Cactus Mix would also work well. They are not heavy feeders, a quarterly dose of Cactus! is all they require.
Rhipsalis are surprisingly easy to propagate. They do flower and produce small berries. The seeds of which may be planted and will germinate at temperatures between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. They will often produce a root at the natural junction between the modified leaves. Simply lay that down on top of the soil and it will root in. Another method is to cut off a ‘leaf’ and let the wound callus over for a day or two and then tuck it into the soil about halfway. Try not to get too much water on these new plants or they could rot. If that does happen, just try again. Gardening is really about experimenting.
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