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How to Care for Monkey Tail Cactus?

Cacti and succulents are popular as houseplants because of their resilience and low care requirements. The Monkey Tail Cactus (Hildewintera Colademononis) is an attractive succulent native to South America.

The appearance of the cactus stem, which is densely covered by soft hairy spikes, resembles a monkey’s tail, hence the common name for the plant.

Because the stems of the Hildewintera Colademononis have a drooping growth pattern, they can be grown with success in hanging baskets.

Read my tips on how to care for this cactus for best results:

Size & Growth

The dropping stems of the Monkey Tail Cactus can grow as long as 8 feet over time, with stems reaching a diameter of 3 inches.

It’s considered a relatively fast-growing succulent, but as it’s a succulent, its growth speed is still slow compared to other houseplants.

It may take over 5 years to reach its maturity and reach its largest possible size for the plant. Because the stems of this cactus are so elongated, you can show it off best if you grow it in a hanging basket or if you put it on a pedestal of sorts.

Light Requirements

Cacti are sun-loving plants that will do best under direct light conditions. If you’re growing this plant indoors, place it on the windowsill of a south-facing window.

Find the sunniest spot in your home and the Monkey Tail Cactus will appreciate it. Whenever possible, however, move the plant outdoors for the spring-summer growth season, so it can get as many hours of direct sunlight as possible.

10-14 hours of direct sunlight is optimal, so strive to find a sunny spot, where the plant will receive plenty of sunshine.

Because the growth cycle of the plant is determined by light levels, with days shortening as fall is approaching, the plant will enter into dormancy.

It goes without saying that this is a warm climate loving plant and even though it can tolerate temperatures down to 20 F, it’s still best to move it indoors for the winter.

Watering

When it comes to cacti and succulents, I have a saying that goes like this: “Paying too much attention to your succulents will kill them.”

This is often what happens in succulent care. Most succulents don’t need as much water as we think they do, so we often overwater them.

Bearing this in mind, you also need to adapt the watering regimen to fit the seasonal changes. In spring-summer, water deeply, then allow the soil to completely dry out.

You can also water from below, which will determine better root growth. Shallow watering from above will not encourage deep root growth, so water deeply.

In fall and winter, significantly reduce the frequency of watering. It’s unlikely that you will need to water more often than every 6-8 weeks. But when you do water, water deeply, allow water to trickle out of the pot, and allow it to dry out completely.

In spring, you can start to gradually increase watering to help kickstart the plant’s metabolism for the new growing season.

Soil Type

It goes without saying that the Monkey tail cactus does best in a well-draining potting mix. The plant does not develop a robust root system, the roots don’t go too deeply into the soil, they merely anchor themselves as needed to support the weight of the stems.

This cactus enjoys acidic to neutral soil, so a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal. A layer of mulch or bark over the surface of the soil can act as an insulator, to protect the roots from extreme temperature conditions.

Temperature & Humidity

A sun-loving, warm climate cactus, the plant will survive in zone 9, in temperatures as low as 20 F, but it will do best in temperatures above 60 F.

Being accustomed to adverse conditions including draughts, the plant doesn’t require supplementation in the way of humidity.

Fertilizing

Although the plant will do fine even without fertilizing, I’d still recommend adding a bit of fertilizer at the beginning of each season.

To avoid shocking the plant, use a time release fertilizer or a highly diluted one. The plant doesn’t need nor does it benefit from frequent fertilizing.

Potting & Repotting

Repotting of the Monkey Tail Cactus should be done every year until it matures and then every 3 years. Schedule repotting after the flowering period so as not to interfere with the flowering stage by repotting it before the flowers have faded.

Repotting is a good time to freshen up the potting mix and introduce nutrients into it in the way of a time release fertilizer.

Choose a pot that’s one size bigger and sturdy enough to support the weight of the plant. Make sure the pot itself drains too, otherwise the potting mix will saturate with water and have trouble draining.

How to Propagate Monkey Tail Cactus?

There are two main methods to propagate the Monkey Tail Cactus — through cuttings or through seeds.

For cuttings, simply lop a piece off the end of a tail or twist off pups or branches, allow to callus over for a couple of days, then plant about 1 cm deep in soil.

Mist the soil when it completely dries off to stimulate root production. Within a month, new roots should be forming.

Seed propagation takes a bit more time and skill, so it’s best to go with the propagation through cuttings, especially that the plant would require pollination to produce seeds.

Wrapping Up

The Hildewintera Colademononis is a uniquely-looking cactus that’s resistant to cold down to zone 9. It still prefers the warm environment of indoor spaces during winter, so it’s best to overwinter it indoors.

Grow in acidic soil that’s well aerated and expose it to plenty of direct sunshine for optimal growth and coloration.

The colorful blooms of the plant only last for a couple of days, after which they form fruit, so enjoy them while they last.

Grow the Monkey Tail cactus in hanging baskets or place them on a pedestal to show off their unusual beauty and features.

Updated: May 21, 2021

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