Habitat: Central-southern America, Africa, Asia.
Cultivation: Rhipsalis are often used as indoor plants because of the kind of attention they require: they don’t want direct light, as well as low temperatures. Watering should be scarce, but sufficient to leave the soil always slightly moist.
Curiosity: The name of these cacti comes from the Greek word “rhips”, which means reed or the work that is done with woven reed (for example, weaving a basket). It refers to the thin branches that tend to twist as the plant grows. It is the only cacti native to the Old World as well (Asia and Africa).
Rhipsalis is a genus of succulent plants belonging to the family of Cactaceae. It includes aroung 40 species native to rainforests of Central and South America and of Indian islands, with an endemism of Madagascar and Sri Lanka: Rhipsalis baccifera. This species is the only cactus native of Asia in the whole world!
Rhipsalis are very different from the cacti we are used to. First of all, its area of distribution is far more wide than the one of many other cacti genera, including, as we mentioned above, Madagascar and Sri lanka, but also Central Africa, unlike other cacti which are mainly native to Central and South America.
Also, It has long, very thin branches that tend to twist together: a very different shape from that of more typical cacti. Rhipsalis are in fact mostly prostrate plants, with beautiful falling stems which make them perfect for a hanging pot! There are, however, also a few erect species and some vines.
In addiction, Rhipsalis are all spineless, however some species have some kind of short, thin bristles, similar to horsehair.
Another feature that distinguish Rhipsalis from any other cacti genus is their epiphytic habit. These plants, in fact, don’t grow on the soil, but on the trunks of the big trees in the rainforest, where they survive thanks to the moisture and a bit of soil deposited between the trunks (they are absolutely no parasites and only use the tree for support). Epiphytic plants are able to exploit the air humidity because they have aerial roots: a special kind of roots that absorb oxygen and carbon dioxide from the air.
Also, their flowers, with their diameter of 1 centimeter, are among the smallest ones in the Cactaceae family! They are funnel-shaped, usually white or with occasionally tinges of yellow or red.
Their fruits, instead, are fleshy, spherical berries of different colors depending on the species: whitish, red, pink or yellow.
Very often Rhipsalis are used as hanging decorations. They shy away from direct light and are tough: for this reason they are particularly suitable as house plants.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Here below are some species of Rhipsalis:
- R. baccifera
- R. capilliformis
- R. cassutha
- R. cereuscola
- R. crispata
- R. cruciformis
- R. fasciculata
- R. gibberula
- R. lindbergiana
- R. linearis
- R. macrocantha
- R. pilocarpa
- R. rahuiorum
- R. teres
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Rhipsalis are often used as indoor plants because of the kind of attention they require: they don’t want direct light or low temperatures and tend to be hardy.
Here are our tips for cultivation:
- As mentioned above, we recommend placing them in a position of bright shade, away from direct sunlight, at least 50 centimeters from south and west-facing windows: the ideal solution is the morning light.
- The minimum tolerated temperature is 10°C, with some differences according to the species.
- Unlike in many other cacti, it is necessary to maintain the soil slightly humid. We suggest frequent but very light watering, in order to avoid rottenness.
- Use a standard soil for cacti. It must be a rather poor and very well draining substrate.
- Fertilize in spring, at the beginning of the growing season, with a minimum dose of a product rich in phosphorus and potassium but poor in nitrogen.
- Repot every 1-2 years, choosing wide and shallow pots, as the root system of these cacti does not develop in depth.
Rhipsalis reproduce easily by branch cuttings.