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Okay, when you hear monkey tail cactus, one must give a chuckle when you see it. Yes, it does look like a monkey’s tail. The only difference is it is covered in soft spines looking like white hair.
With one of these cactus plants in the home, your guests will still be talking about it for a long time. So today, we are going to help you care for your monkey tail (giggle.)
What is The Monkey’s Tail Cactus?
When you look at the long supple stems covered with soft spines and strands of white hair, you can keep smiling. The plant has a light green shade, and yes, it looks like a monkey’s tail without the hair. You find the plant growing in the Bolivian countryside in Santa Cruze.
Compared to other Cactaceae species, this one belongs to the perennial succulent plants with the stems growing in columns. It does bloom flowers but very seldom opens fully. The columns have a soft touch and seem droopy, and look great in a hanging basket.
The plant has gone through many scientific name changes and is now called the Cleistocactus winteri subsp. Colademononis. Yes, that is quite a mouthful and pronounced [Kly-stoh-KAK-tus, WIN-ter-eye subspecies koh-luh-dee-mon-OH-nis]. The foliage also belongs to the Cactaceae family.
Also, this plant must not be confused as the golden rat’s tail cactus belongs to the subspecies winterii. One last interesting fact is that the plant is a Lithophyte as it grows shallow roots among crevices of cliffs and stones surviving from the moisture in the atmosphere.
Monkey Tail Cactus Care Basics
Now that you know where the monkey’s tail cactus originates from. We have compiled a shortlist on the primary care for these cactus plants.
Scientific Name: Cleistocactus winteri subsp. Colademononis
Common Name: Monkey’s tail
Plant Type: Epilithic
Native to: Bolivia
Shape: Light green stems covered with soft spines with bright red flowers
Maximum Size: Up to 8.2 feet in length
Watering Requirements: Soil needs drying out in between watering
Light Requirements: Full sun
Preferred Humidity: High
Preferred Temperature: 20°F (-6.7oC) and higher
Soil or Potting Medium: Well-drained soil
Fertilizer: Low nitrogen fertilizer
Propagation Method: Pollination
Vulnerability: Overwatering, spider mites, and mealybugs
Toxicity: Toxic to pets and humans
Whether you plan to grow your monkey’s tail cactus as an indoor or outdoor plant, we have got you covered here. So keep reading to make sure your plant carries large bright red flowers.
The Best Soil For Monkey Tail Cactus
The monkey tail is epilithic that grows with shallow roots and gets its moisture from the air. So your plant does not need a lot of soil, only a little to anchor itself. The cacti prefer a near-neutral or acidic potting mix, and you can find a cactus mix sold at your nursery.
The crucial thing is that the ground drains well and leaves the soil to dry out between watering. Cactus plants do not enjoy wet roots for a long time, and using cactus soil is ideal. To help protect the roots from cold and heat, you can add a layer of mulch over the ground.
You can use bark or vermiculite that does not break down the pH level of the ground.
How to Water Your Monkey Tail Cactus?
Water your cactus well and let it run through the soil. It also helps to dry the ground out before watering your again. This is the soak and dry method.
When you water too shallow, the roots grow to the surface, leaving them with less hold. So, make sure to water deeply. You can provide the cactus with water every six to eight weeks in the cold and winter season. Yet, in the growing and flowering season, you can increase your water schedule.
Still, the temperature also plays an integral part in summer to determine how much water it needs.
Monkey Tail Cactus Lighting and Temperature Necessity
Your cacti can tolerate a strong light level as their annual growth cycle is determined by the light levels present. More light helps to activate the reproductive cycle. You will notice buds appearing in spring, and it blooms from spring to summer.
This is the best time to propagate your plant using pollination. If you notice your monkey’s tail has a lighter green shade, it will help to provide it with more light. You can place your yellowish-green monkey tail in direct sunlight for up to 14-hours.
During fall and winter, the plant slows down with growth as the light levels are lower. Your cactus will thrive outdoors placed in a sunny spot. Yet, if your area has high rainfalls during summer or unpredictable temperatures, it is best to keep them as an indoor plant.
This plant enjoys a warm climate, but it can survive in temperatures as low as 20° F (6°C). But if you live in colder climates like this, it is best to keep your plant indoors. Or you may end up with a monkey’s tail going into shock, never to recover.
One thing is that the monkey tail cactus lives high up in the cliffs of Bolivia. While it can tolerate a fair amount of moisture, the indoor humidity is different. When it is hot, the roots use the moisture in the air to spur growth. While in winter, too much water is not suitable for the roots and leads to overwatering. So if you place your plant in a closed environment with poor circulation, it creates an ideal place for mold to grow, leading to decay. So inspect your plant regularly.
Liquid Plant Food is The Best Fertilizer
As with watering your monkey tail is not a huge feeder. You can feed them once during spring, summer, and fall. You can use low nitrogen or a foliar feed with enough phosphorous during spring and summer to stimulate the flowers, seeds, and fruit development.
For the stems to grow healthy, also provide them with potassium. You can use a liquid plant food with a ratio of 5:10:5. We recommend using a slow-release fertilizer to prevent plant shock.
Monkey Tail Cactus Plant Propagation
The best method to propagate your monkey tail cactus is to cut a piece off the end of its tail. Then you leave it to dry and plant it in dry soil. It can take up to a month before its roots and grows a new plant. You will notice on the end of the tail it grows pups looking like fingers.
You can twist these pups off and plant them in the same way as the cutting. Another method is pollinating the flowers, but this takes loads of patience. Unfortunately, the blooming period is unpredictable and can flower in spring or even in mid-summer.
Further, the flowers only last up to four days and, once pollinated it carries fruit-containing seeds. You can collect the seed and sprout them. It takes up to three weeks at room temperature to notice new growth.
Monkey Tail Cactus Growth Zone
While planting the monkey tail cactus indoors is possible they grow better in hanging baskets outside. Your plant does not enjoy a very high heat and can wilt away. So if you live in USDA zones 8 to 11, the temperature and humidity should be okay. But always keep an eye on it that it does not get too hot or cold.
Repotting the Monkey Tail Cactus
One main attraction about the monkey tail cactus is the long tails. Still, it remains a tactile plant that grows long soft bristle hairs. So as it grows fast, many gardeners want to know if the monkey tail is invasive.
The answer is no, it is not invasive. But the stems do grow long, and you need to keep them intact to prevent them from spreading all over the garden if grown outside. When grown in a pot, you need not transplant it often, and you can do it every three years. It is a great time to replenish the soil as well. But most importantly, before repotting them, make sure the soil is dry.
Monkey Tail Cactus Varieties
As mentioned before, many people refer to the monkey tail cactus as the rat tail cactus. Still, while they might look the same, they do have huge differences.
The rat tail cactus scientific name is Aporocactus flagelliformis. It is also a show cactus but is native to Mexico. It has long trailing stems that can grow to four feet. During spring and early summer, it blooms violet-red flowers but can also display pink or orange ones. The flowers also live for a couple of days.
Another difference is that this plant can be epiphytic or lithophytic as it grows on the ground or in trees. You can find different varieties of this plant, with some having deeply ridged stems while others have shallow ridges. Another difference is that the spines growing on the rat tail can ruin your day, so be careful touching it.
Monkey Tail Cactus Diseases & Pests
The main problem you might have is overwatering or watering out of season. Another concern is the humidity as well. When you overwater your monkey tail, it causes discoloring of the stem resulting in decay. This can also lead to root rot. Having too much humidity also causes other concerns, such as mold.
Some insects that can bother your monkey’s tail cactus are mealybugs and spider mites. These insects can go undetected in the hairs. With the powdery substance of the mealybug, many gardeners think it is mildew but is the insect.
When noticing these critters, it helps to remove your plant and use a water pressure spray but not drown your cactus. Spider mites, on the other hand, colonize the underside of the stems causing brown patches. The best way to remove them is to prune the limbs and spray them with water.
Lastly, scale is also of concern. They produce sticky honeydew, attracting ants. You cannot use insecticides on them and will need to apply rubbing alcohol to their habitat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, all parts of the monkey tail cactus are poisonous and not edible.
It all comes down to the air and watering of the plant. The important thing is to keep the soil dry during fall to winter. During colder climates, your monkey tail cactus needs to rest as the dormant period plays a crucial part in its bloom.
The prices of this exotic plant can vary from one garden retailer to another, starting at $39 up to $3000.
Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!