The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know

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

The popularity of rat tail (Aporocactus flagelliformis) cactus 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— 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 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. 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
a great gift @houseplantslove

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.

The Rat Tail Cactus: Everything You Need To Know
rat tail cactus @worldofsucculents

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. Scale insects invade rat tail cactus by attaching themselves to their surface. 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!

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.

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Want to continue expanding your succulent 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! 💚

5 Tips for Propagating Succulents

Propagation was our number one requested blog post article idea! (The polls on instagram don’t lie) You asked us and we listened, continue reading below for our 5 tips to having a successful propagation process for your succulents.

Disclaimer: These are not all of the tips and tricks out there! These are just the tips that we wish we knew before our first propagation endeavor. (It was a nightmare at first). Feel free to let us know your techniques!

1. Some succulents are Easier to Propagate than Others

There are so many species of succulents out there and they all differ in difficulty when it comes to propagating. Three of the easiest succulents to have success with are: Kalanchoe daigremontiana (Mother of Thousands), Sedum morganianum (Burro’s Tail), and Sedum rubrotinctum. (See our other recommendations for beginner succulents).

Burros Tail Succulent Tips
Burro’s Tail Succulent Image: @done.by_hand_concrete

If you’re a beginner, we definitely recommend starting your propagation journey with these species! A lot of the time, the leaves of these succulents will fall down on their own and you can do the propagation process with them without accidentally cutting off too much of the leaf.

2. Patience

Patience you must have my young “propagator.”

Yoda from Star Wars

Sorry for the Star Wars quote We’ve been watching the movies lately and they’ve been stuck in my head. (If you have any interests at all with Star Wars, here’s some awesome planters inspired by the hit blockbuster).

Time to test your patience! Succulent propagation can sometimes take up to four to six weeks before the new leaf cuttings will begin to root. Remember, great things don’t happen in a day and this process is going to be worth it at the end.

When it is time for the ends of your clippings to dry out and harden, this alone can sometimes take up to a week, so make sure you don’t rush the process!

3. Watering Succulents

After the ends of the leaves have hardened over, it’s time to water them! Every leaf hardens over at different times. This is important to know because if you water them when they haven’t fully hardened, too soon after cutting from the mother plant, they’ll sometimes turn mushy and yellowish.

When I propagate, I usually spritz my leaves once a day. I use a cheap spray bottle like this or you can get real fancy with one like this (overkill maybe?) I do a quick spray overtop of all the leaves, not too close to the them. Some leaves are going to look different than others, which is totally normal.

If you want to learn more about when you should water your succulents check out our in depth article here.

4. Don’t Place the Clippings in Direct Sunlight

Succulents are desert plants and usually they all need to be in direct sunlight for the majority of the day. This is true, but not with the succulent leaves during the propagation process.

I always put my leaves by a window that’s protected with some shade. Once the new plant has grown from the leaves, then they can be placed in direct sunlight.

Succulent Buds Sprouting
Succulent Buds Image: @peculiarshadelemontree

5. Don’t get Discouraged

Remember that this can sometimes be a frustrating process. Not every single leaf will create a new plant. (Remember what Yoda said).

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a 100% success rate. Most of the time I usually only have about 50-70% success rate for all of the leaves I propagate.

Keep up with the process and try again! Practice makes perfect, even the “experts” don’t succeed with the propagation process each time.

Until next time! Oh and don’t forget to share the love down below.

Enjoyed learning about Propagating Succulents? If so, you’ll really enjoy our ebook titled The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully! With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll you have greater success with propagating! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

Enjoyed learning about 5 Tips for Propagating Succulents? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent 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.

View our entire eBook collection here: SucculentCity eBooks

How to Propagate Your Succulents Successfully

Welcome to the addiction.

After a person gets their first little Burro’s Tail or Jade Plant, they invariably develop an insatiable urge to acquire more at any cost. There are two ways to satisfy the craving for more succulents:

  1. Buy more succulents.
  2. Grow more succulents.

And since money, unfortunately, does not grow on succulents, it’s a lot more cost-effective to grow your own. Fortunately, succulents naturally come equipped with an amazing ability regrow from leaves or branches… and that means free plants!

There are three primary methods of succulent propagation, each of them easier than the last!

Leaf Propagation

If you’ve ever been on our Pinterest or Instagram, you’ve no doubt seen leaf propagation in action. People love taking pictures of their leaf props – and for good reason! Nothing is more fascinating than seeing a whole new plant grow from a mere leaf.

It may seem that you need a green thumb to pull off this amazing feat, but nothing could be further from the truth. Propagating succulents from leaves is dead easy. All you have to do is pull the leaf off.

… And you’re done! No, seriously, that’s all there is to it. If you remove the leaf, nature will take care of the rest. For the sake of thoroughness, however, I’ll add some details.

  1. It’s vital that you get a clean break when separating the leaf from the plant. That means there should be no extra plant matter on left on the leaf or stem. This isn’t difficult to achieve since succulent leaves don’t really need to be persuaded to fall off (looking at you, Ghost Plant).
  2. To ensure you get that clean break, grab the leaf close to the base and wiggle it gently side to side. There shouldn’t be much “pulling” involved.
  3. Now that they’re separated, both the mother plant and the leaf have an open wound. You have to let it “callus” over (that’s the plant version of scabbing). Just set the leaf in a dry place and wait a week, a dish on the windowsill works great. (we highly recommend these propagation trays by Yield Lab). Don’t expose it to water during this period – that will slow or impair the callus formation and could allow bacteria or fungi to infect the plant.
  4. Once the mother plant is callused, resume watering and treat it like normal. The leaf doesn’t need any special attention at the moment. Don’t water the leaf propagation until roots appear. It’s pointless since they can’t drink water without roots anyway. (Read our in depth article about When You Should Water Your Succulents if you need more information on watering succulents).
  5. You can put the leaf on dirt at any point, but don’t try burying it (or its roots). The plant will take care of it.
  6. Once the roots show up, endeavor to keep them moist. Use a spray bottle to mist the leaf every couple of days. (Enter the quintessential, super affordable succulent tool kit). Keep the propagation in bright light so that the new growth doesn’t become etiolated (stretched out).

That’s pretty much it! It really is as simple as pulling the leaves and chucking them on some dirt. All of the nutrients, and most of the water, that they need is inside the leaf itself. After a few months, that leaf will shrivel up and fall off. Now you’ve got a whole new plant for the cost of one leaf!

Be aware that this only works on succulents that have distinct stems and distinct leaves. Succulents like Echeveria, Sedum, Senecio, and Graptopetalum all make great candidates. If you try this with an Aloe or a Haworthia, for example, you’ll end up with a dead leaf and disappointment. Only do it if the leaf comes off easily!

Image by:@misucculents
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Cutting Propagation

Anyone with a modicum of gardening experience will have used this technique before. It’s a trick as old as plants themselves. You cut off a part of a plant and stick it back into the dirt and it just starts growing again.

Crazy, right?

Succulents have an even easier time of this than other plants. With herbs and veggies, you sometimes have to coax out new roots by putting the cutting in water for a while first, but that is not so with succulents.

Here’s how you propagate succulents via cuttings:

(Before you start we highly recommend having a succulent tool kit like this tool kit by LepoHome, it will make this & everything you do with your plants much easier!)

  1. Choose where to make the cut. It needs to be near the end of the branch or stem, usually 3 to 6 inches away is appropriate. You’ll also want to make sure that the plant is growing and healthy here – propagating a weak or dying plant is a recipe for failure.
  2. Clear the stem above the intended cut. Remove leaves one to two inches above the place you want to cut for two reasons: you’re going to put that part underground and also it makes it easier to get a good cut. Bonus tip – depending on the plant, you might be able to propagate those leaves!
  3. Make a clean cut perpendicular to the stem (the stem should be flat on top, not diagonal at all). Be sure to use really sharp, really sterile scissors. That part is important because dull scissors will crush the plant while cutting it, which makes it less likely to recover. Dirty scissors transfer germs directly into the wound – that’s no good. I highly recommend using gardening scissors or shears for this process. These gardening pruning shears by Vivoson are really really good! Click Here to check them out.
  4. Allow the mother plant and the cutting to callus just as we did for leaves in the above technique. It should take between 3-10 days. Don’t let them get wet but keep them in direct light.
  5. Stick the bottom of the cutting into the dirt up to the place where the leaves start. Depending on the species of succulent, roots should start growing within a month and you can begin to water. There will be enough water in the plant already to sustain it until then.

We also recommend making sure you are using a quality succulent blended soil. It will make everything you do in regarding your plants more successful. We highlighted a few of our favorites soil on our watering succulents article, but if you missed it – we recommend this organic soil from Hoffman.

In summary, snip off a bit of the succulent and stick it in the ground. It couldn’t be easier. This method only works with plants that have a pronounced stem, however. Sorry Aloe and Haworthia, that means you’re not eligible. Many of the plants we suggested for leaf propagation are also great choices here: Echeveria, Sedum, Graptosedum, Graptopetalum, etc.

This method is particularly useful because it addresses two problems:

  • It “fixes” etiolated plants. When plants have insufficient light and grow leggy, that can’t be undone. You can, however, snip out the leggy part and plant the top part again to have two plants – the base of the original (which will resume growth) and a cutting. Just make sure they get enough light this time!
  • It’s the fastest way to get new plants. Growing new succulents from leaves is easy and efficient, but slow. It could take up to a year to get a decent sized plant. Cuttings root and grow more quickly than leaf propagations (plus they start out bigger).

Budding Propagation

It’s finally time for Aloe to shine!

Ever notice how some plants just grow more of themselves? Sempervivum are famous for it – that’s why they’re commonly called Hens and Chicks. Haworthia do it too, as do Sansevieria. It’s a very common kind of propagation and not at all unique to succulents. It’s how grass gets around, too.

The baby plants are called “buds” or “pups” or “offshoots”. They usually grow out of the base of the mother plant and share a connected root system.

Propagating plants that reproduce through budding is a double-edged sword – on one hand, you literally don’t have to do anything at all, but on the other hand you have to wait for the plant to propagate on its own.

Being at the whim of your plants isn’t so bad, though. Keep them happy and healthy and buds should grow constantly throughout their growing season. Removing and replanting them is very similar to the process of take a cutting:

  1. First you have to wait until they’re big enough to remove. It varies from species to species, but once they’re at least an inch or two in diameter (or several inches tall for the vertical variety of succulents).
  2. Find where the pup connects to the parent. It is probably either at the base of the primary stem or connected through a thick root called a “runner”. It’s okay to unpot the plant while you’re propagating it.
  3. Using the same technique we used for cutting propagations, make a clean cut where the bud meets the mother plant. If they share roots, give a generous portion to the baby when separating them. The mother plant can make more easily.
  4. Move the bud directly into a new pot, no need to wait for callusing this time. Still, you shouldn’t water it for a few days while it heals over.

Budding is also the way most cacti propagate, so you can use this method on them too!

Inevitably, you’ll have way too many plants – especially if you are rehoming every bud that comes along. These cute little succulents make great gifts and have the added bonus of subtly converting friends to hobby. (Check out our 12 Stunning Minimalist Succulent Planters if you’re thinking about giving your succulents as a gift).

We hope you got some pointers on how to keep your plant family healthy! If you did, please take a moment to SHARE on Facebook or PIN US on Pinterest with the social buttons below!

Enjoyed learning about Propagating Succulents? If so, you’ll really enjoy our ebook titled The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully! With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll you have greater success with propagating! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

View our entire eBook collection here: SucculentCity eBooks

Do you have any propagation tips or tricks? Share them with us in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed reading our blog about succulent propagation check out our other articles! Enhance your succulent knowledge with 6 Best Indoor Succulents, 6 Edible Succulents to Excite Your Taste Buds, or Household Items You Can use as Succulent Planters.

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully or even Replanting Practices to Keep Your Succulents Safe today!

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