You cannot mistake moon cacti thanks to their bright neon colors that come in round-looking balls of yellow, bright pink or orange. They would usually be sitting atop another green colored cactus since it does not produce chlorophyll on its own. A moon cactus is usually a product of human design through grafting to make it two plants in one. This makes it two plants in one with the bottom part being the rootstock while the top part or scion being the actual moon cactus.
So, how do you grow a moon cactus? Moon cacti can be grown from seed, but this takes at least one year to germinate. As such, the best way to grow moon cacti is by grafting it onto a green rootstock with the ability to produce chlorophyll. Choose a cactus soil mix that is rich in organic matter, low pH and fast draining. They do not tolerate direct sunlight or too much water and should be grown in a moderately bright spot using well-draining pots.
Propagating moon cactus
Generally, moon cacti are not ideal for propagation. However, you can easily learn how to graft them at home. Graft a moon cactus by cutting off the scion (the upper part of the moon cactus) from the old rootstock with a sterilized knife. You will notice a circular, vascular tissue on both the host cactus and the scion. Bring them together by aligning their vascular tissues.
Once aligned, use some rubber bands to wrap the scion cactus as well as the bottom of the host container. Once the tissues heal up, you can remove the rubber bands. In some rare cases where you get a moon cactus that produces offsets, you may propagate it on maturity.
Offsets are much easier to separate from the mother plant. Remove one offset and let it dry for a day or two before planting it in a cacti-friendly potting soil. With time, however, you will need to graft it onto a host cactus to increase its chances of survival for longer.
There are cases where moon cacti require re-grafting. This may become necessary in case the rootstock becomes mushy due to overwatering or other causes. In such a case, you will follow the above grafting procedure to re-graft the scion onto another healthy rootstock.
This said, most moon cactus purchased online or at most gardening stores come complete with instructions on how to graft if not already grafted. If this is not the case, you need not worry as most of its care and cultivation needs do not vary much with the rest of the succulents.
Watering moon cactus
Just like most of the cacti plants, moon cactus doesn’t need much attention when it comes to watering. Usually, the bottom half or host cactus would be adapted for drought and will be tolerant even when neglected for some time.
In cases where the temperatures are a little high, however, moon cactus will require regular watering. In such a case, you will need to pay much attention to the type of soil in question. Moon cactus will not tolerate swampy sol, even for a day. As such, always ensure the soil is completely dry before you embark on your next watering regime.
To avoid too much exposure to moisture, you are better off using containers with drainage holes to help drain excess water from the cactus. Exposing the cactus to too much water can lead to root rot that can eventually kill the whole plant. Watering moon cacti also depends on the size of pot used. For instance, if you grow moon cactus on a small pot, watering once a week will be enough.
Frequency of watering moon cacti also depends on the season and location. During the summer months, for instance, you may see the need to increase the frequency of watering. This is especially so if your cacti grow outdoors. At this time, heat may come in excess, thus causing increased evaporation. During the winter, you can reduce the frequency or stop completely, but just ensure that you always keep them misty.
Just like most of the succulents, moon cactus will thrive in places with low humidity. Use a dehumidifier to help you maintain an ideal amount of moisture for your moon cactus. You do not want to keep it too low or too high as these extremes can be detrimental to your moon cactus.
Potting and repotting moon cactus
Being an indoor plant, the moon cactus will need repotting at some point. This is especially so if you grow the plant indoors. While this can be a seamless process, there are various factors that one must keep in mind to make this process successful and increase the chances of the plant’s survival. We detail eh me below.
While moon cactus can be re-planted at any time, experienced gardeners recommend the springtime as the most ideal for repotting your moon cactus. This is because at this time, moon cactus will be actively growing, and root development will be developing backup roots. As such, the cactus will be most willing to be moved and will most likely thrive more in its new environment.
Moon cacti have a cramped root system. As such, it would be most ideal to repot them once every 3 to 4 years.
Type of Pot
Following its cramped root system, moon cacti do not need a large pot. A small pot with sufficient drainage holes to drain excess water will work best for the moon cactus. For better results, use unglazed shallow pots with drainage holes beneath to avoid water collecting at the root zone.
One of the main purposes of repotting a cactus is to change the old soil that would, by now, be drained of the necessary nutrients. For moon cactus, you may consider using store-bought soil mix already prepared for planting. Otherwise, you may manually mix coarse sand and peat soil when refilling the new pot. Moisten this mix slightly before repotting the moon cactus into it. Remember the type of soil you choose for planting moon cactus will determine the growth and overall health of the moon cactus.
Preparation for Repotting
Repotting moon cactus needs preparation several days before the actual process. This will involve watering the cactus in its original pot or location to ensure the roots remain moistened. Once ready to move, carefully lift the plant from its original pot, shake off excess soils, and gently place it into the new pot. Fill the empty spaces with the previously prepared new soil. You will need to wait for at least once a week before you start watering your moon cactus in the new pot. This helps give it enough time to use up the previous water, fertilizer and other nutrients.
With successful repotting, your moon cactus should be good for at least 3 to 4 years. During this time, you will be performing the basic care practices like watering, fertilizing and pruning as desired.
Sunlight and temperature
Being a desert plant, moon cactus would thrive in temperatures that you would expect in their natural habitat. They prefer a bright environment but should not be exposed to direct sunlight as this can greatly affect the overall growth of the cactus. As such, it would be best to cover the plant or place it in a shade in cases where it is grown outdoors.
While moon cacti may survive the winter breeze, it is advisable to take it indoors during such conditions. If this is not possible, you may consider covering them with a piece of cloth or light blanket to help shield them from the harsh winter conditions.
Common problems with moon cactus
Moon cactus may be a resistant plant, but this does not make it immune to problems, diseases and other shortcomings. We take a look at some of them.
Unlike other types of indoor cacti, moon cactus is not destined to live long. This has nothing to do with diseases or harsh conditions but everything to do with its parasitic nature. Since the scion acts as a parasite to the lower rootstock, the food produced by the rootstock is not enough to sustain both plants indefinitely. Over time, it fails to produce enough food, weakens from malnourishment, and eventually dies.
However, there are other notable problems and diseases faced by the moon cactus. This is usually caused by four main factors: water humidity, moisture and light. Too little or too much of these can lead to moon cactus developing growth problems. Some of these problems include the following:
Root rot is a common problem with moon cactus. This is mostly brought about by overwatering. Being a desert plant, moon cactus does not need too much watering, and when this happens, root rot follows. The following are some telltale signs that your moon cactus is overwatered:
- The rootstock becomes mushy or turns brown
- The soil remains soggy even after skipping watering for long
- The roots may turn black, brown or mushy
Remedies of root rot
Salvaging moon cactus suffering from root rot depends on the condition and extent of the rot. If the rootstock is affected and is already mushy, there is nothing much to do other than re-grafting the scion to a new rootstock. However, if the scion is still healthy and only the roots are affected, you can cut off the mushy or black roots, leaving out the white, healthy ones. You can then repot the plant in well-draining soil, and wait for a couple of weeks before watering.
Sudden color change
Moon cactus is known for its bright colors. However, a sudden change in its natural color pigmentation may be a sign of danger. Usually, the plant may turn yellow with white or black spots. This is usually a result of too much light or exposure to direct sunshine.
Salvaging this situation depends on the extent of the damage, while some will simply require change of environment other may call for complete re-grafting for better results.
Fertilizing moon cactus
Moon cactus may be adapted for the desert with little nutrients, but this does not mean it won’t need fertilizer. Fertilizing moon cactus helps it adapt much better to home environments. It also thrives more, and its colors bloom more brightly with the right fertilizer.
For better results, mix one gallon of water with ¼ teaspoon of 15-15-15 water-soluble fertilizer for moon cactus. This should be done weekly during summer and spring seasons. Apply fertilizer by replacing one of your watering schedules. Do this by applying just the same amount of solution as you would when watering the plant. During winter, moon cactus won’t need much fertilizer and so once a month will do.
For the monthly fertilizing or feeding, you may consider flushing the soil completely to refresh the plant nutrients therein. Do this by watering your cactus thoroughly. Ideally you will need to use four times the water volume capacity of the pot. After all the water drains completely, you can then add your cactus fertilizer. Apart from improving nutrient uptake, soil flushing helps prevent the build-up of mineral salts that derail growth. Be careful not to use too much fertilizer or risk weakening the cactus or killing it altogether.
As resistant as it is, moon cactus can sometimes be infested with mealybugs. If not attended to in time, these white, fury pests can slowly kill the plant. Luckily, you can easily get rid of these pests by brushing them off with a Q-tip. You can then spray it with a mixture of water and half rubbing alcohol. This should be done consistently for a while since they keep coming back. In cases where selected plants have been infected, you may consider separating them from healthy plants.
Considering its small size and slow growth, moon cactus does not need much attention in terms of pruning. However, in cases where it gets overgrown, you may consider trimming offer any excessive or broken foliage. This is usually done just after the cactus completes flowering. Take clean and sharp pruning shears and follow the leaves all the way to the main stem to cut from this point. Dispose the plant tissue appropriately and leave the cactus free to blossom once again.
Interesting facts to note about growing moon cactus
Apart from their unique color pigmentations, moon cactus exhibits some other interesting features. The colorful part, hereby referred to as the scion is usually the main plant while the lower part can be any species of cacti that acts as the rootstock. While many species of cacti can be used as the rootstock, the Hylocereus cactus is usually preferred because it roots easily and grows fast.
While many people mistake the colorful part of the moon cacti with their flowers, this is not the case. Moon cactus rarely flowers, but when they do, the flowers come in varying shades of pink. Flowers would usually shoot from the top colored scion and not from the green rootstock. This happens mostly in late spring or early summer. Seeds can also be achieved if the conditions are right and the cactus thrives as expected
Moon Cactus is widely known and highly valued of all cacti. Growing moon cactus is a popular skill among gardening enthusiasts for its beautiful appearance, ease of growth and productivity.
If you are wondering how to grow moon cactus, you have come to the right place. This succulent plant is very beautiful and unusual looking with its interesting color and shape. Its moon-like appearance makes it very popular among people for its beautiful appearance, ease of growth, and productivity.
Moon cactus can grow to various heights. This will be dependent on the rootstock, but generally, the cactus will stop growing at about 4 inches. Its maximum diameter is between 1 and 2 inches. Even with such size, its stands out with its interesting growth patterns. The plant features 8 to 14 ribs, usually slightly notched and with narrow edges. It grows several slightly curved, weak and flexible graying-yellow thorns.
The moon cactus can be grown together with several other cacti varieties but blends best with the Schlumbergera, otherwise known as the Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter cactus. Both cacti varieties require the same environmental conditions to thrive. It needs plenty of light but should not be direct. When grown indoors, you may consider positioning it in an east or west-facing window. Some notable signs of too much light is a bleached white pigment or scars developing on the ribs. In some cases, the whole plant may suddenly turn yellow.
Moon cacti cannot survive in temperatures below 9 degrees. However, it prefers relatively humid conditions. As such, they are easy-going in terms of their moisture needs. Always make sure the soil is completely dry before adding in more moisture. Additionally, you may consider misting the top of the cactus to keep their pink, orange, red and yellow colors even more vibrant. Misting helps offer the much-needed moisture without necessarily adding more water to the soil underneath.
Growing moon cacti doesn’t have to be too complicated. However, you will need to keep in mind that you are caring for two plants in one. In most cases, the rootstock may require different conditions and care needs from the main moon cactus at the top. As such, you need much diligence to ensure that you strike a balance for a better relationship between the two. With these in place, this colorful mutant cactus will give your home that ornamental look for much longer.