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Rat Tail Cactus - Plant of the Month

Whilst rodents may not be your thing, we are fairly sure the Disocactus Flagelliformis (rat tail cactus, to give it it's easier common name) will be. It's strong yet simple form and easy to manage needs make it an ideal house plant for the masses. Originating from Mexico, the rat tail cactus can be found naturally growing from crags and rocks in the dry Mexican heat, or hanging from trees in the very dry forests.

    

The Rat Tail Cactus tends to prefer bright, direct light where possible (although will also be happy in bright but indirect light) and dry, warm air. Too much humidity can cause the stems to rot, especially during winter. Contrary to what you might imagine, these cacti also enjoy fairly regular watering in the late spring and summer months, making sure the compost is always slightly moist but not soggy. In winter and over the cooler months reduce watering to be only once the soil has dried - water just enough to make sure the stems don't dry out completely.

Rat Tails benefit from being re potted every couple of years. This doesn't necessarily have to be into a much larger pot though, as the main purpose of re potting this house plant is to feed it with fresh cactus soil as it is quite hungry for nutrients! It's also worth poking into the soil every so often as it enjoys oxygen rich soil. If you do not wish to re pot yearly, it's advisable to scrape off the top few layers of soil and replace with fresh cactus potting mix. 

    

If the simple care above is followed, the rat tail cactus is likely to produce it's beautiful bright pink flowers in the spring and summer months! Removing discoloured, dead or old stems in the late winter will also encourage new growth and flowering. 

To Propagate:

Though it can be propagated by seed, the rat tail cactus propagates best by stem cuttings.

Select a pot with sufficient drainage and fill with a mix of rich compost and cactus soil.

Cut any part of a healthy stem and allow the end to dry for a few days before re potting it into your soil mix. Once potted, keep the top of the soil a little damp with a mister and keep the plant in a bright spot.

It should start to root within a few weeks but a gentle tug on the stem (best done with gloved hands to avoid the hairy spines!) should help you to tell - if you feel resistance then the plant has a sufficient root base. 

   

 


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