The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know

Perhaps you’ve come across a hairy looking cactus plant with long stems that look like rat tails. Or perhaps not…

The popularity of rat tail (Aporocactus flagelliformis) cactus plant has grown more profoundly in homes than in the wild over recent years. They are actually almost termed as a threatened cactus variety in their native land of Mexico.

With the growing popularity, there is obviously a need to learn how to grow and care for them.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the rat tail cactus plant— from its origin to how to care for it. If you have one passed down from a friend who also got it from a friend, here is an opportunity to learn.

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
Rat Tail Cactus growing in the street @cactinaut

Disocactus Flagelliformis—the Rat Tail Cactus

The Rat tail cactus plant is scientifically known as Disocactus flagelliformis (L.) Barthlott. It belongs to the Disocactus genus of the Cactaeae family.

As far as where it’s from, the Rat tail cactus is a native of Mexico, just like many cacti. It is largely found in the southwestern and central parts of America. Learn more about the cacti community in Mexico by going here.

Rat tail cacti have a very distinctive look. The plant itself is green in color when young but turns to beige as it ages. It has long trailing stems that go as long as six feet at maturity and half an inch in diameter. Moreover, this is why they are often planted on hanging baskets or pots, kind of like this one we have in our office.

The stems have tiny reddish yellowhairy’ spines that can be trained into different forms and shapes.

Its flowers, which bloom in spring and early summer, are bright pink to red and sometimes pale pink or orange. They can grow up to two meters wide and 3 inches long. The flowers only grow and bloom for a few days and shade off. In some cases, they rarely even grow.

The stem’s grow is at a rate of about a foot every year.

In the wild, Aporocactus flagelliformis do not grow on soil. They either grow on other tree structures, rocky crevasses, and tree crotches or on top of the soil.

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
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The Right Conditions for Growing Your Rat Tail Cactus

The rat tail cactus, just like other cacti plants, does not require much attention or special growing conditions. With the right soil type and climatic conditions, your rat tail cactus should thrive.

Below are conditions that rat tail cactus will thrive best in:

Light Requirements

Given that this plant is adaptable to desert conditions it thrives best under direct sunlight. Therefore place your plant where it can access full and bright sunlight. You can take it outside when the weather is sunny and warm. If your house has not enough sunlight, you can use indoor LED plant lights to supplement the small amounts of natural light it can get.

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
hanging out @plantsyall

Temperature & Climate

The best temperatures for rat tail cactus are between 45° to 50° degrees Fahrenheit but it can tolerate temperatures of up to 90° degrees Fahrenheit.  During the summer, early autumn, and spring the Rat Tail cacti do great at normal room temperatures. However, during the winter time, the rat tail cactus enters its dormancy stage and therefore you will need to relocate your plant to a place with cooler settings for it to rest.

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
spread the cacti @ropeandroot

Best Soil to Grow the Rat Tail Cactus

The Rat tail requires rich potting soil to thrive best. Well-draining soil meant for cactus or succulents is most recommended for rat tail cactus. A perfect mixture of soil for this cactus would be four parts of loam, one part vermiculture and one part sand for drainage. Lining the pot or basket with organic materials, such as sphagnum moss, will help the cactus thrive even better.

We highly recommend this soil mix by Bonsai Jack. It is one of the best soil mixes on the market. It doesn’t need to be mixed with any other soil, it helps fight root rot, perfectly pH Balanced & is pathogen-free (ie: won’t kill your plants). This soil is the go-to for our office plants. Go ahead and get the 7 Gallon Bag if you are plant nerd like us :). Pick up some of our favorite soil by clicking here: Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil.

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How Much Water Does the Rat Tail Need?

Water your succulents regularly during their active growing season. You can then cut back on the watering as it matures. Reduce watering during Fall and don’t water at all during Winter unless you notice excessive drying of the soil. And even then, just water it very slightly-— just enough to dampen the soil.

Fertilizer Needs

Apply fertilizer onto the stems of the rat tail cactus every couple of weeks. Use a liquid fertilizer for ease of use. The liquid fertilizer should be diluted to a mild strength. Do not use any fertilizer on your cactus during the winter season!

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
family gathering @appetiteshop

How to Successfully Propagate the Rat Tail Cactus

Propagating is the easiest way to quickly grow your rat tail cactus. They can grow from any of the six-inch stems.

You can either cut an entire stem into sections of an inch each or cut off the tip of a stem if you only need to plant a single cactus. For cutting, try these shears and see how they perform. Place the cuttings out in the air to dry for at least three days before potting.

To plant, poke the bottom end of the cuttings into the soil. Do not poke the cuttings too deeply into the soil, just about an eighth of an inch (2 cm) deep. You can use a stick to hold it firmly so that it doesn’t fall over. You should notice some root forming within two to three weeks of planting.

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
indoor decorations @plants_everywhere

Repotting Your Rat Tail Cactus the Right Way

Since rat tail cactus grow pretty quickly, you are better off repotting them once every year but only after their active growing season and flowering.

Repotting greatly helps to replenish nutrients for a flagelliformis as it quickly uses up the nutrients. When repotting, the best basket size to use for a rat tail is a 9” – inch basket and the best pot size is a 6” – inch pot.

When the cactus overgrows the pot or the basket size, it is time to discard the overgrown plant. Before discarding though, propagate and start a new plant. You can reuse the pots you already have but you will need to thoroughly clean it first.

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
repotting @shed_bkk

Common Pests and Diseases for Rat Tail Cactus

Rat tails have a high resistance to pests and diseases, however, they easily get attacked by red spider mites and a host of scale insects, so keep a pesticide nearby!

Spider mites are tiny almost invisible to the naked eye insects that cause damage to rat tail’s tissue. They do this by sucking up the sap from the leaves. You can easily spot them by their webbed nests. The best way to deal with spider mites is to immediately quarantine the affected plant as you treat it. Use a neem- oil- based insecticide If the infestation is heavy, otherwise just washing it under running water should suffice.

Scale insects are larger than spider mites so they can easily be spotted, as they are dome-shaped. Nevertheless, scale insects invade rat tail cactus by attaching themselves to their surface. Thus, to remove them you have to forcefully scrape them off or wipe off with a cotton swab dubbed in alcohol.

Another common concern for rat tail cactus is root rot. This is caused by overwatering or by poor drainage, so be sure you have this in check!

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The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
cactus selfie @smartplantapp

There you have it, everything you need to know about the Rat Tail Cactus plant.

Before we conclude (or forget), we wanted to share this awesome opportunity from Amazon, in honor of our recent partnership with the online- giant. For a limited time, Amazon is offering a FREE 30-day trial of their famous Amazon Prime Membership! Get full access to all the perks, including FREE 2-day shipping on all eligible products, which is perfect for all the new care items you’ll be stocking up on for your Rat Tail Cactus. Click this link to learn more and sign up today!

Want to continue expanding your succulent plant knowledge? Head over to our articles How to Successfully Grow Indoor Succulents and How Long Do Succulents Live.

If you’d like this read you’re going to love our full in-depth ebooks! With so many of our succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it with you here! With our very detailed ebooks, you’ll get more information than these short articles, some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read.

Thanks for reading, happy planting! ?

What is Root Rot and How Do You Fix it?

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?

Root rot is a condition where plants rot, or decay, causing the plants to die if they are not treated.

What causes root rot in succulents, you might ask? Well, the most common cause of root rot is overwatering. Giving your succulents more water than they need, end up decaying— as it is often forgotten that succulents have immense water- storing capacity.

Root rot could also be because of poor soil drainage— either water is not being drained in the soil as fast as it should be, or there is a blocked drainage often caused by compacted roots.

Root rot can also be caused by the presence of harmful bacteria or fungus in the soil.

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
8 Varieties of succulents and cacti! @bodrum_kaktus

Signs That You Are Overwatering Your Succulent

There are three main signs, that we have conducted, to help you figure out if your succulent is being overwatered:

  • The leaves will be translucent or rather light in color.
  • The leaves will feel soft, mushy and squishy.
  • The leaves will start falling off because of the added weight.
What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Succulent Focus

How to Identify Root Rot in Your Succulents

1) Checking the Roots

Succulents are tolerant to multiple uprootings so you shouldn’t be worried. Be sure to be gentle when doing so though.

Remove your succulent from the pot, shake off the soil and check the color of the roots. Healthy roots should either be white or yellow. If the roots are either dark brown or black and they feel slimy and wet when you touch, then that is definitely root rot. It will also likely break off as you pull it from the soil.

Remember to be keen on the smell. A rotting smell can vary from mild to foul. If the smell is foul, it most likely means the rotting has spread too far, and it may be too late to save your little succulent baby.

But that’s what we’re here for— to help you avoid that!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Succulents in the garden.

2) Checking the Stems and Leaves

If unfortunately, you’re noticing root rot when it’s at the stem and leaves, the rot is at its advanced stages.

During this stage, the leaves start turning yellow and pale and if not attended to quickly, they become mushy and eventually die out. There is nothing that can be done to fix the damage once the leaves become mushy, as it can no longer support itself.

It is difficult to fix root rot when it starts showing on the leaves and stem that’s why you need to always be keen on your succulent. The idea that it’s easy to take care of your succulents is true, but that doesn’t mean you should entirely neglect their signs. Remember root rot happens gradually.

Here’s an important note – it’s overwatering/root rot if it’s only the lower leaves that are turning yellow. If it’s the whole plant turning yellow, then it may be a nutrition deficiency.

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Top view of a beautiful succulent garden.

How to Prevent Root Rot in Succulents

Water your succulents less frequently, and when you do, use large volumes of water.

Use pots that have drainage holes. Terrariums and teacups may look fancy and all, but rest assured, you will constantly be dealing with root rot. Stick to your traditional planters with drainage holes for the best growth!

Use soil that does not retain water and drains fast. You can either buy succulent soil, or you can make your own from your backyard- we have an article all about how! Creating your own succulent soil can be a fun project for the family if you need help deciding whether you want to create your own or not.

Don’t line the base of your pot with rocks, gravel or ceramic pieces. This will retain water, rather than help to drain. However, you can mix the three all throughout your soil to improve drainage flows in your pot.

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What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
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Letting Your Soil Dry Out Naturally

If you know that you overwatered your succulent and you suspect any rotting, unpot your succulent and leave it to dry for a day or two. Keep the root ball and the soil both intact. Once the plant and the soil in the pot have dried up, re-plant you’re succulent. Water it sparingly, just enough to make the soil damp and after that do not water for the next 2 weeks. This will allow for complete healing. When you’re ready to repot your succulent, check out our article on How to Repot Your Succulent— the Right Way!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Succulent plants out in the sun.

Trimming the Infected Part

You can also fix the root rot by trimming the rotten part to avoid the spread of the rot. Dig up your plant, cut out the infected area- whether stem or root. Let the plant dry out naturally, but keep the plant out of direct light.

Pour out the soil mixture and clean your pot with an anti-bacterial soap and water to ensure that there are no remnants of any fungus left. Add new soil to the pot and do not cover up the cut area, this will allow it to breathe as it self-heals. You can add more soil to cover the base once a new tissue develops.

If you have planted many succulents in one pot, you will have to repot the non-infected plants separately to avoid the spread of rot. You may even have to trim them up if they have been growing together for a while. Read exactly how you can trim your succulents the correct way here for some pointers.

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What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Tiny succulent plant in white square planter!

Propagating the Healthy Part

If the rot is advanced and you still want to save your succulent, the only other option would be to propagate the healthy part so that it can grow new roots. You can either propagate from the stem or leaves.

How Do You Do This You Ask?

Take a new pot and put in the new soil mixture. Cut off the healthy part and place it on top of the soil. Try these shears out from Vivosun. Push a little bit of the stem into the soil. Do not water until after one week. After the one week, you can water, but sparingly to avoid overwatering. When a root is developing it does absorb so much water.

However, there is a slimmer chance of you saving your succulent if the stem is too mushy that the plant cannot support itself.

As well, if the plant has caved in and is smelly the rot is too far gone and nothing much can be done.

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What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Dying succulents.

Root Rot Free

Yes, it is possible to save a succulent with a rotting root, but only if you can address it immediately. Depending on the extent of the rot, you can either let it dry naturally, trim the infected parts, or propagate the healthy parts. Otherwise, avoid overwatering— succulents can survive with very little water!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
9 Succulents in a square planter with great drainage.

Did you learn anything new today about root rot? We’ve all struggled with it at some point in our succulent- lives— especially early on in our journey. But hopefully, with this guide, you’ll be able to help yourself and other fellow succulent newbies!

Do you have a root rot or succulent story? Share your experiences on our Instagram, or in our exclusive Facebook group today! We are also about to kickstart our Succulent City Youtube channel. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on the new videos.

By the way, we wanted to mention that this post is sponsored by Amazon Audible! They are offering all of our Succulent City community an exclusive offer of 2 FREE Ebooks when signing up for a free trial! You can sign up for a free trial here! What could be more relaxing than listening to your favorite book while tending to your succulents?

Did you enjoy learning about root rot and how to fix it? If so, you’ll really enjoy our ebook about Essential Tools for Planting the Best Succulents. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulents grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

Thanks for reading, happy planting! ?

 

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