Monkey tail is one of the most popular cacti species grown in homes worldwide. The monkey tail is a beautiful cactus with long white, soft, and hair-like spines. Its stems are cylindrical and can grow up to three inches in diameter and 8.5 feet long. These plants are relatively easy to grow and require minimal care to thrive, but you have to ensure the growing conditions are right to get the best out of them.
So, how do you care for monkey tail cactus? This cactus generally prefers growing in well-draining and slightly acidic succulent soil. It requires very little water during spring and summer. You don’t need to water it during winter. Overwatering can literally kill your monkey tail. The plant can survive temperatures lower than the freezing point without any issues. In summer, ensure you provide it with at least 10 hours of bright direct sunlight and maintain the relative humidity between 40-50%. Only fertilize your monkey tail cactus once in spring, autumn, and summer using half-strength fertilizer.
Do you want to learn more about how to care for a monkey tail cactus? You came to the right place. Read on to know more about monkey tail cactus care and how you can get the best out of the succulent.
Monkey Tail Cactus – A Brief Overview
The name “monkey tail cactus” is derived from the plant’s long stems covered in relatively soft spines that resemble strands of hair. The cactus grows naturally in crevices of stones and cliffs.
It has a relatively shallow root system that quickly absorbs water whenever it rains. Its stems are greenish-yellow and are covered with down-facing soft spines resembling white hairs.
A typical monkey tail cactus develops three to five stems that branch at the bottom of the plant. It may grow upright for several feet before the stems start drooping.
When the growing conditions are ideal, the cactus produces magnificent bright, red flowers. They usually bloom after a few days then the flowers develop into fruits.
The origin of this cactus can be traced back to Santa Cruz. Besides its natural habitat, the cactus can also be grown as a houseplant. It is best grown as a hanging plant due to its outstanding drooping stems.
How to Care for Monkey Tail Cactus
Now that you have some background information about this cactus, let us figure out some things you need to do to get the best out of it.
Generally, there are many things you need to keep in mind while caring for a monkey tail cactus. They include feeding, watering, temperature, pests, light, and so on. Here is an in-depth analysis of each.
Since the monkey tail cactus absorbs much of its moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere, it doesn’t develop a robust root system. Therefore, it doesn’t require much from the soil other than anchorage that is strong enough to support the weight of its hanging stems.
The cactus will generally thrive in well-draining and slightly acidic soil. It grows best in soil with a pH level ranging from 5.0 to 6.5. When watering your plant, you need to ensure that the pH level of the water in use is good enough to support the long-term needs of the plant.
Avoid using highly alkaline water since it will slowly alter the soil pH making it an unsustainable growing medium for your plant over time.
It is also vital that the soil drains well between watering sessions. Cacti plants, in general, don’t love being waterlogged. A generic cactus soil with good drainage should be ideal for your monkey tail.
The relatively shallow root system of the plant allows it to quickly absorb any water that falls on the potting mix.
But since the roots are exposed to surface temperatures, you must take appropriate measures to protect them from extreme heat or cold by adding a layer of mulch over the potting soil to serve as an insulator.
Temperature and Humidity Requirements
The monkey tail cactus likes relatively warm temperatures, but it can withstand temperatures as low as -6oC. If you live in an area that experiences such cold temperatures, it is advisable to let your plant spend the winter inside the house.
When the plant is exposed to extremely low temperatures, don’t water it. Remember that all cacti plants survive by storing water in their stems. If the stored water freezes, it can damage the plant cells.
Don’t try to make abrupt changes to the growing environment of the monkey tail because the effects can be catastrophic. For instance, moving it from low temperatures to high temperatures or from low light to bright light abruptly can cause systemic shock from which your plant may not recover.
In an indoor setup, ensure you control the humidity levels the plant is exposed to. Generally, the humidity level must be in line with temperature, lighting, and watering levels.
During summer, the succulent will mostly utilize the moisture in the atmosphere to boost its overall growth and development.
You need to be extra careful with humidity during winter because too much humidity combined with too much water can lead to root rot issues.
Most succulents don’t need as much water as you think they do, and monkey tail cactus is no different. Sometimes, what you may think is enough ends up being too much, resulting in overwatering.
Generally, you should only water your monkey tail when the potting mix is completely dry. You also need to adapt your watering regimen to fit seasonal changes.
Feel free to water deeply in spring and summer, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
In fall and winter, be sure to reduce the frequency of watering. It is even unlikely that you will need to water your monkey tail cactus during winter. If you must water, do it sparingly and allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
You should start to increase the watering frequency in spring to help kick start your plant’s metabolism for the new growing season that is about to start.
All cacti are sun-loving plants and will do best under direct light conditions. So, if you are growing your monkey tail indoors, make sure you place it on the windowsill of a south-facing window.
Find the sunniest spot in your home, and your monkey tail will appreciate it. Whenever possible, move the plant outdoors during spring and summer so it can enjoy as many hours of direct sunlight as possible.
Generally, the cactus requires between 10 and 14 hours of direct sunlight to survive and thrive. So, finding a sunny spot will do you good.
Since the plant’s growth cycle is primarily determined by light levels, monkey tail cactus tends to slide into a period of dormancy during fall and winter. During this time, no growth happens, and your plant will be okay if it is kept indoors with minimal disturbance.
Just like watering, your monkey tail is not a huge feeder. Feel free to feed it once during spring and once during summer. This is the active growing season, and the fertilizer will provide your plant with the nutrients it requires to grow.
You can use low nitrogen or foliar feed with sufficient phosphorous to stimulate flowering and fruit development.
However, if you want your plant’s stems to be strong, use a potassium-based fertilizer. You can use liquid plant fertilizer with a ratio of 5:10:5. Ensure the fertilizer you choose is slow-release to avoid shocking your succulent.
Potting and Repotting
The monkey tail cactus doesn’t require much depth since it has a relatively shallow root system. Typically, the width of the pot to use will be determined by the number of plants you choose to have in it.
It is recommended that you report your monkey tail cactus every three years to replenish the potting mix. Don’t increase the pot size during repotting unless you intend to increase the number of plants in it.
Ensure the soil is completely dry before repotting. The new pot should also have plenty of drainage holes to avoid saturating the potting mix, leading to root rot issues.
Monkey tail cactus is mainly propagated through cuttings and seeds. For cuttings, take a piece off the end of one of the stems, allow it to callous over then plant it in a growing container. You can also use branches or pups instead of taking cuttings.
Mist the soil after potting to stimulate root formation. New roots should start forming after approximately one month.
Seed propagation requires patience because it takes more time and skill. In fact, you need to know how to pollinate the flowers to produce seeds.
In summary, the monkey tail cactus is one of the most attractive succulents that are easy to grow at home. The plant doesn’t require a lot of attention and maintenance to thrive.
As long as you provide it with the ideal growing conditions, you will always have a happy and healthy plant.
We hope you now understand how to care for the monkey tail cactus, and you are ready to start showing it some love.