Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii Var. Friedrichii ‘Hibotan’ (Moon Cactus): How To Grow And Plant Care

There are many cacti out there that look like someone has pulled them straight from a cartoon or human design, rather than being created by nature.

The moon cactus, also known as ‘Hibotan’ or the neon cactus, is technically one species that cannot survive on its own, so the plant is formed of two grafted together. It forms an upright stem, with a pom-pom like global growth at the top, in shades of pink, orange, yellow, and red.

Not sure if the moon cactus is for you? Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

What You Should Know About A Moon Cactus

The moon cactus is a striking plant which only reaches between 5cm and 10cm tall. It’s spherical, and often produces small offsets which look like moons orbiting a bigger planet.

Unfortunately, because of the plant’s beautiful colors, it cannot survive on its own, as it doesn’t have the chlorophyll to support its growth. 

This is why you will only see it grafted on the stem of another plant, usually Hylocereus undatus (the dragon fruit cactus), which provides the moon cactus with the nutrients it needs.

So a moon cactus is the combination of two different cacti. This can make it unstable, forever, and you need to know how to care for it in order for it to thrive.

How To Grow A Moon Cactus

The moon cactus is not as complicated to care for as it might first seem, and mostly, if you treat it like you should care for a dragon fruit plant, this will mean it will thrive. 

But there are other things to consider, too.

Sunlight And Position

Unlike most cacti, if you place the moon cactus in direct sunlight, it will suffer. Full sunlight for too long can cause the moon cactus to scorch, so a windowsill that gets morning sunlight is best.

Morning sunlight is less fierce than afternoon sunlight, and it means that the plant will still get plenty of the rays it needs to survive. 

Keep this plant out of drafts and away from sources of heat.

Soil Requirements

You can use commercially mixed cacti and succulent soil for the moon cactus, as it provides the plant with plenty of drainage. 

When To Water A Moon Cactus

Like with most cactus plants, the moon cactus prefers to be drier rather than too wet. It cannot tolerate sitting in water for long periods, as the dragon fruit cactus is an epiphyte.

This means that it grows on other plants and extracts the moisture it needs from the air and the plants it grows on, so too much water will cause rot.

Allow the soil to dry out in between watering if you are unsure, but this plant does like slightly damp soil most of the time.

Grafting A Moon Cactus

It’s worth noting that the moon cactus is capable of outgrowing its rootstock, as the two species don’t have the same rate of growth. 

This can take a long time, depending on how long the moon cactus has been on the rootstock already, and the growing conditions you provide it with.

The best kind of plant to graft a moon cactus to is the dragon fruit cactus, as the rootstock is strong, and the stem is big enough to accommodate the moon cactus without problems.

Repotting A Moon Cactus

You will have to be careful when repotting a moon cactus, as grafted plants can be sensitive to new conditions. Make sure you use the right kind of soil, and try not to disturb the roots too much.

Use a terracotta pot to allow the water to drain away from the roots, so the plant isn’t sitting in water for too long.

Other Things To Consider When Growing A Moon Cactus

Lifespan

Unlike some cacti, which can live for decades upon decades, the moon cactus is relatively short-lived, as it is grafted. If given the right care and conditions, a moon cactus may live between 3 and 4 years on average.

The good news is that the moon cactus produces lots of offsets during its lifetime, which means that you’ll never be without a moon cactus if you keep propagating it.

Propagating Moon Cactus Pups

When you see moon cactus pups growing on the colorful scion atop your cactus, you can remove them from the parent plant, and pot them up into fresh cactus potting soil atop fresh rootstock.

Make sure you wear gloves when you do this, and simply twist the pup to separate it from the parent plant. Make sure that the pup is big enough!

Final Thoughts

The moon cactus is a cheery plant that looks great indoors or outdoors, and isn’t difficult to care for once you understand what it needs.

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