Rutenkaktus - plant, maintain & multiply


The rod cactus has no thorns and impresses with long, hanging rungs. Even if it does not belong to the typical cacti, it is still just as easy to care for.

© Irina84 -

This cactus quickly makes friends because it does not require any thorns. The representative of the plant genus Rhipsalis also proves to be robust and easy to care for. Rhipsalis is the largest representative epiphytically, i.e. on tree trunks instead of cactus species growing on the ground. The variety of plants native to the Brazilian rainforest is hard to beat. In the following, you will learn how the cactus can be successfully cultivated.

Plant Description

The characteristic of the rod cacti are their long, hanging shoots, which often form dense branches. The shoots have short and angular, cylindrical or leaf-like shapes. Instead of the thorns, areoles appear in the form of woolly bristles or coarse hairs. Mostly rod cacti have drooping shoots, which makes them ideal traffic light plants. In early spring, the rush cacti show their pretty, small flowers, which usually spread a strong fragrance and follow bright, berry-like fruits.

Rhipsalis - the changeable genus of plants

If the hobby gardener strives for diversity on the windowsill, the rod cactus can match the one with an extraordinary diversity of species. No two plants are alike. You can choose from 40 species with very different appearances. The palette ranges from the magnificent traffic light plant with meter-long overhanging shoots to the short-branched cactus in the flowerpot. The exotic plants have one thing in common - they are all easy to care for and quite robust, provided that their requirements in terms of location and substrate are met.

When does the rod cactus bloom?

The rod cactus is in full bloom in spring. The first flower heads can open at the beginning of March. The white to yellowish flowers appear on the shoot tips. Unfortunately, the pleasure is short-lived. The star-shaped flowers have faded after a few days. They are replaced by whitish, berry-like fruits that can be admired for several weeks.

" Tip: It is not uncommon for rod cactuses to bloom again during the year.

How to plant the rod cactus properly

The rod cactus makes no special demands on the location or substrate. Those who already successfully cultivate leaf cacti will have no problems with the easy-care coral cacti.

❍ location

When choosing the location, the rod cactus does not differ from other leaf cacti. A bright, but not full sun location should be chosen. Protect the plants from the blazing midday sun. A partially shaded stand is well tolerated. If the flower window faces west or east, the rod cactus should find ideal location conditions. In the south window, rush cacti need protection from direct sunlight.

❍ summer quarters

Plants are allowed to move outdoors during the summer months. Choose a protected location in the shade or penumbra. Avoid blazing midday sun. Morning or evening sun are well tolerated and promote healthy growth. Make sure that the cactus is protected from rain and wind.

" Tip: Rod cacti love high humidity. You should therefore spray frequently outdoors on dry days.

❍ substrate

Rod cacti prefer a nutritious, humus-rich soil. The trade offers special cactus soil. The mixture of the substrate proves to be cheaper and just as effective. If you use a mix of 1/3 sharp-grain sand and 1/3 peat, Rhipsalis cacti are supplied with all the important nutrients that are needed for healthy growth.

❍ Repotting

Care should be taken when repotting the cactus. The plants have few, small roots that must not be damaged.

" Tip: Rod cacti do not form a widely branched root system, so the planter does not have to be replaced with a larger flower pot when repotting.

The right time for repotting is spring. The plant is removed from the planter and carefully removed from the old substrate. It is advantageous to shake the plant. Dead root parts are also removed. The cactus is then placed in fresh substrate and brought to its original location. If the roots are not damaged, repotting is usually well tolerated and the plant can continue to grow as usual.

This is how the rod cactus is cared for

❍ pour

During the growth phase in the summer months, the rod cactus needs even watering. The root ball must always be kept evenly moist and must not dry out completely. Ensure high humidity at the same time. This should be 60 to 70%. Watering is only carried out in winter when the soil has dried thoroughly. To increase the air humidity, it is advisable to place filled water bowls on the heater.

" Tip: Rod cacti do not tolerate calcareous water and should therefore be watered with rainwater or with softened water.

❍ Fertilize

Fertilization is only advisable while the buds are forming. During this time, regular cactus fertilizers are used to help every 14 days. If the first buds begin to open, fertilizer should no longer be administered.

❍ pruning

Pruning is not absolutely necessary, but it does not harm the plant either. The best time for cutting measures is early spring. If the shoots are too long, you can cut them back. However, the shoots should not be shortened more than 2/3 of their total length.

❍ Multiply

The propagation of the rod cactus has proven itself with cuttings. The best time to get cuttings is spring and summer. Select a lush green and healthy-looking shoot and cut it off about ten to twelve centimeters long. Before planting the cuttings, they should be kept in a cool and dry place for a few days.

" Tip: If you win several cuttings in this way, a dense and strong cactus grows quickly.

The cuttings are placed in cactus soil with a planting depth of about four centimeters. The location should be bright to partially shaded. Tough sunlight must also be avoided with the cuttings. Temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees offer ideal conditions for successful propagation. The cover with a plastic hood ensures the requirements for high humidity. To prevent mold from forming, the plastic hood has to be ventilated more often. If the first shoots appear, the hood is gradually removed.

For about a month, the earth is kept slightly moist. Afterwards, the cuttings should have grown and rooted sufficiently and can be treated like an adult cactus.

" Tip: Rod cacti can also be grown in a disused aquarium.

The breeding from cuttings in brief:

  • Cut cuttings in spring or summer
  • store cool for a few days
  • put in potting soil
  • cover with a plastic hood
  • Install in a light to partially shaded location
  • keep moist
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • first shoots appear, remove planting hood
  • independent plants developed after about a month

❍ hibernate

The rod cactus does not need an explicit hibernation and does not have to clear its location at the flower window. The plants tolerate room temperature all year round. The pouring behavior can be somewhat restricted in winter. Waterlogging should be avoided in any case. In the cold season, it is particularly important to meet the demand for high humidity. Therefore spray frequently and help with water vessels on the heater.

❍ pests and diseases

If maintenance errors are avoided, the rod cactus is robust and almost resistant to diseases and pests. If too much water is poured, the roots can rot, which usually means the death of the plant. The rod cactus is also vulnerable to diseases if you water it too little.

" Attention: Neither the potting soil nor the irrigation water should contain lime.

The scale insect

The infestation with scale insects can often be observed on the rod cactus. If you check the plant regularly, you will notice an infestation promptly and you can react accordingly. Scale insects occur in different types. Mealybugs leave a woolly web on the leaves. All scale insects have in common that they suck on the leaves and shoots and extract the plant sap from the cactus. A yellow discoloration of the leaves shows that the infestation has already progressed and the pests have released their poison to the plant. If the infestation is not recognized in time, the rod cactus can die.

There are various ways to combat the infestation:

The pests are collected without any chemicals, but not without effort. The method is particularly effective if you have noticed the infestation in good time and the number of pests appears manageable. You can use a sharp knife to scrape the scale off the shoots and leaves. The honeydew left behind is then removed with soapy water. This is important in order not to make the plant vulnerable to fungal attack.

You should also separate the infected plants from the rest of the crop so that the scale insects do not attack other cacti.

»Effectively without chemistry
A solution of soft soap, water and alcohol is suitable for controlling pests without chemicals. This solution is dabbed directly onto the pests several times a day. Olive oil serves the same purpose. However, the treatment requires patience and should be carried out daily for at least two weeks.

»Natural predators
If the infected plant is placed in a separate location outdoors, you can hope for the natural predators. Ladybirds, hoverflies, parasitic wasps and various predatory beetles all find food in scale insects.

Caution! Complete populations are rarely destroyed by natural predators. Check the plants before you can go back to the flower window.

How can pest infestation be prevented?

Care errors are often the cause of fungal or pest infestation. If the needs of the plant are not met, it is gradually weakened and scale insects etc. are easy to play.

The following measures contribute to keeping the rod cactus healthy:

  • high humidity
  • nutrient-rich soil
  • bright location
  • adequate water supply

Insight into the plant diversity of the rod cacti

There are about 40 different types of Rhipsalis. Three representatives will now be introduced here.

1. Rhipsalis campus-portoana

This rod cactus forms slender, hanging shoots that branch out like a fork. The whitish flowers, which are only a few millimeters long and appear only slightly open, form on the shoot tips of the popular traffic light plant. Rhipsalis campus-portoana bears round, orange fruits.

2. Rhipsalis crispata

The shoots of these varieties can be more than half a meter long. The shoots appear widened like a leaf. The shoots grow less hanging than with many other representatives of this plant family. The white flowers form on almost invisible areoles.

3. Rhipsalis cereuscula

The light green, cylindrical shoots of this type of cactus appear widely branched and are occasionally covered with short bristles. The greenish-white flowers appear at the tips of the short side shoots.

More special types in the short portrait

Rods Cactus Artparticularities
Rhipsalis teresstrong ramifications
yellowish shoots
very suitable as a traffic light plant
Rhipsalis russelliiparticularly colorful
reddish edges on the shoots
cream-white flowers
orange fruits
Rhipsalis hoelleriespecially rare
shiny red flowers
round, red fruits
endangered species