Let A Rat Tail Cactus Hang Around Your Home

Aporocactus flagelliformis, also known as the rat tail cactus, is a stunning plant that will make a statement in any room.

While you’re probably used to seeing cacti with towering columns, this one is a little different, as when the plant gets older, the stems start to trail, reaching more than 2 meters long in the right conditions.

Interested in growing a low-maintenance trailing plant, and you’re not sure if the rat tail cactus would do the trick in your home? Here’s everything you need to know. 

The Rat Tail Cactus At A Glance

The Rat Tail Cactus is an interesting plant that produces long, pendant stems (up to 6 feet long) with tiny spines, so you may want to be careful where you put it.

As the plant ages, the stems turn from bright green to almost beige, and the plant is capable of producing rare pink or red flowers on mature stems, which can reach 8cm long.

This plant is an epiphyte, growing on other plants and in low soil cracks in Mexico.

As you might guess, you can grow this plant outdoors if you are lucky enough to live in a warmer zone, otherwise, you’ll need to treat this plant as a houseplant. 

Regardless, it’s a fascinating plant no matter where you can grow it, attracting plenty of attention.

It also helps that it is well-suited to indoor life.

Ideal Soil For Rat Tail Cactus

In terms of soil, a succulent or cactus compost mix will do fine for this plant, though if you want to add a little more drainage, add a handful or two of horticultural grit to the mix.

Do not use regular houseplant compost, as this simply does not have the kind of sharp drainage that this plant needs. 

Where To Grow The Rat Tail Cactus

For the Rat Tail Cactus, it is a good idea to grow it as close to a window as possible, preferably one that is Western-facing, where it can get a little direct sunlight, but it has less chance of scorching the plant.

This plant does need to be as close to the window as possible, as the light levels dramatically decrease even a foot or two away from the window.

Aim for a window with stable temperatures, somewhere between 60°F and 70°F (or 15°C to 21°C). 

It can weather temperatures as high as 90°F (or 32°C) in summer, but you will need to pay close attention to watering and make sure the stems aren’t getting burned in any direct sunlight.

Do not try to increase humidity for this plant, as it doesn’t need it. Higher humidity levels can be damaging to this plant, as too much moisture will cause the plant to rot.

When To Water A Rat Tail Cactus

It’s a good idea to water your Rat Tail Cactus deeply in its active growing season, allowing the soil to nearly or completely dry out in between watering.

If you prefer to let the soil go bone dry, make sure you don’t wait too long to water it once it gets this dry. 

Feeding A Rat Tail Cactus

It’s a good idea to feed your Rat Tail Cactus during the growing season with a cacti-based fertilizer, making sure that you follow the dosage instructions on the label, and that you don’t feed the plant when the soil is very dry.

Scale back the frequency as growth slows down, halting it entirely just before winter arrives. You can start up the feeding regime again in spring, once you see new growth on the plant. 

How To Propagate A Rat Tail Cactus

It’s important to think about when you should propagate your Rat Tail Cactus. 

Dormancy should end in April, so just after April is a good time to make more plants from your Rat Tail Cactus, as it is always better to propagate during the plant’s growing season.

Cut a stem from the plant, about 6 inches long, and set it aside to air dry for a few days.

Pot it up in damp soil, and place the pot somewhere bright and indirect.

Problems To Watch Out For

Root Rot

If you plant the Rat Tail Cactus in too big a container, or you water it blindly, more often than the plant needs, the roots will become damaged in the soggy soil.

If the soil has been wet for too long, try repotting your plant, cutting away any root damage from the root ball, and keeping the new soil on the drier side for a while.

Spider Mites

Spider mites tend to appear when humidity is too low. Try moving your plant to a slightly more humid room, away from sources of drafts or heat.

Other Things To Consider When Growing A Rat Tail Cactus

How To Encourage Flowers

To encourage blooms on your Rat Tail Cactus, scale back the watering in winter, allow the plant to fully dry, and keep it in a slightly cooler room.

Come spring provided that your plant is mature enough, it should flower. 

When To Repot

Unlike most cacti, which need to be repotted in spring or summer, Rat Tail Cactus is better off being repotted at the end of April, when it is just coming out of its dormancy.

Final Thoughts

Rat Tail Cactus is a striking plant worthy of any collection, but it’s worth keeping this plant out of reach, as the spines can do some damage!

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