When people see these unusually colored cacti, quite often they are mistaken as flowers. But in actual fact they are two different species of cacti grafted together.
The brightly colored cactus that sits on top is actually a mutant variation of a standard cactus. In the wild, if a mutant pup is created, eventually it would detach from the parent plant and sadly die as it cannot photosynthesize. The reason it can’t photosynthesize is because it has no chlorophyll (green pigments), which is essential in the photosynthesis process. So in order for a mutant pup to survive, we have to find some other means to give it nutrients. This is where the grafting comes in.
Rootstock plants, which are able to photosynthesize normally, are what the mutant pups are grafted on to. They can provide enough nutrients for both itself and its grafted partner, allowing both to survive. Common rootstocks used in grafting cacti include species of Hylocereus (what we use here at Fickle Prickles), Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Trichocereus pasacana, Harrisia jusbertii, Cereus peruvianus and many more.
Most of the colorful mutants you will see around are derived from the species Gymnocalycium mihanovichii and Lobivia silvestrii variegate. However, the possibilities of grafting are endless, and not just limited to mutants.
Photo via cactuslimon.net
- Succulent and Cactus Plant Care
- 4 tips for how to look after a cactus
- 2. Potting
- 3. Position
- Stylish planters – in pictures
- 1/7 OKConcrete Geometric Dodecahedron Planter
- 2/7 Boskke Sky Planter
- 3/7 Hettie Holland Large Copper Planter
- 4/7 Artstone Ella Planters
- 5/7 Umbra Trigg Large Copper Wall Planter
- 6/7 Holly’s House Medium Blue Marbled Planter
- 7/7 Next Set Of 2 Tall Stone Effect Planters
- 4. Enjoy it!
- Grafted Cactus Yellow ‘Moon Cactus’
- Position and Care
- Your Plant
- Moon Cactus Info: Learn About The Care Of Moon Cactus
- Moon Cactus Info
- Propagation of Moon Cactus
- How to Grow a Moon Cactus
How to Care for Grafted Cacti
Light: Place these guys indoors or sheltered under verandas or patios as the rootstock is sensitive to the cold and frosts. They do need partial sun, so next to a window is the perfect location if they are indoors.
Water: Very little maintenance is required for these guys to thrive; in fact one of the main reasons grafted cacti suffer is through over watering. Water them sparingly, only when the soil is dry (this can take anywhere from a week to a month depending on location, time of year and environmental factors). The best thing to do is water them thoroughly and then let it drain. If you are using saucers, make sure to empty them out after each watering.
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Succulent and Cactus Plant Care
Succulents and cacti are low maintenance, water wise plants that store water in their leaves, stems or roots, creating a plump or succulent appearance. They are often found in hot, arid climates such as the desert and have adapted to tolerate long periods of drought. There are many varieties of succulents and cacti that come from all over the world. For best results each plant has individual needs, but there are general rules for succulent and cactus plant care.
Water – If your container has drainage holes, water thoroughly once a week during active growth period. If your container does not have drainage holes, water sparingly to moisten soil but be sure water does not pool up at the bottom of container which can cause rotting. Allow soil to dry between waterings.
Light – Place plant in a brightly lit south facing window indoors or an area with bright, indirect light outdoors. Some plants can tolerate full sun, but must be gradually acclimated to prevent sunburn. If the light source is inadequate, etiolation will occur and your plant will become leggy as it stretches out towards a light source.
Soil – Succulents and cacti like soil that is well aerated and fast draining. Perlite or pumice mixed with soil work well for this, or you can pick up cactus/succulent mix from your local nursery.
Lithop Care (living rock) – Take special care not to overwater lithops, or they will rot. Water during fall (when you see flower buds appear) and spring (after leaf shedding has occurred) thoroughly (until water runs through drainage holes) and let soil dry between waterings. Refrain from watering at all during winter and summer, save for very sparse sprinklings once a month. Keep your lithop in a bright, south facing window. For more information visit lithops.info
Nutrition – Fertilize during growing season with a 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength each watering.
Colors – In general greener succulents are more tolerant to low light environments. If your space does not have a good light source, stay away from succulents with blue, purple, pink and white tones.
Propagating – Succulents have many methods for reproduction and can propagate from cuttings, leaf cuttings and producing pups and seeds.
Artificial lighting – Succulents do best in natural light, but if this not available (during winter months or depending on your geographical location), you can supplement their light source with artificial grow lights. There are many options for energy efficient artificial lighting available.
4 tips for how to look after a cactus
When it comes to potting the plant, you are spoilt for choice in terms of planters, but you should take into consideration the size and weight of the cactus – you may need a heavier pot to prevent it from tipping over.
The compost should be open and free draining; most garden centres sell a specific compost for cactuses so it may be worth checking what they have. In spring, try to repot your cactus into a slightly bigger pot, this allows growth without causing damage to the roots.
Another thing to factor in is light. Cactuses like light and airy spaces but sudden extreme light can cause damage and scar for life. On the other hand, too little light can cause discolouring and may misshape the plant. It is important to transfer your plant slowly to brighter areas so it has time to adapt.
Stylish planters – in pictures
7 show all
1/7 OKConcrete Geometric Dodecahedron Planter
For a modern edge, try one of these geometric designs handmade from concrete. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, it’s crafted for small planted and will add some natural warmth to your décor. Each comes with a complimentary air plant or succulent. £21.95, Notonthehighstreet, Buy it now
2/7 Boskke Sky Planter
Transform the way you grow your plants with this upside down hanging planter. Not only do they save space in the home, but they also help to conserve water and purify the air. This pastel pink design will work nicely in a bedroom or kitchen. £15.80, Made in Design, Buy it now
3/7 Hettie Holland Large Copper Planter
A simple way to bring copper accents into your indoor space. This eye-catching planter is ideal for storing wild plants and can also be used as a decorative piece on shelves. £28, Trouva, Buy it now
4/7 Artstone Ella Planters
Lightweight yet totally sturdy, these outdoor planters have been crafted from stone powder and feature a discreet drainage system to prevent waterlogged plants. The greyish-black containers are both frostproof and UV stable and are ideal for the patio. From £19, John Lewis, Buy it now
5/7 Umbra Trigg Large Copper Wall Planter
Showcase your small plants on any wall in the home with this resin hanging planter. Oozing with style and sophistication, the diamond-shaped vessel is finished with a chic copper wire frame and can be arranged in several ways to achieve an artistic effect. £30, Amara, Buy it now
6/7 Holly’s House Medium Blue Marbled Planter
If pastels are your thing, then try this sleek planter from the Holly’s House boutique in Chelsea. It comes in a stunning marbling finish and comes in a medium size that’s perfect for holding small cacti or indoor shrubs. £42.50, Trouva, Buy it now
7/7 Next Set Of 2 Tall Stone Effect Planters
With a stone effect finish, these tall planters will help you achieve a crisp, clean look for your patio and include two different sizes. Ideal for small trees , they are crafted from lightweight fibre clay and are frost resistant. £100, Next, Buy it now
4. Enjoy it!
The most important tip is to make the most of your plant and to let it do its thing. To keep it looking its best, try taking a soft paint brush to remove dust that collects around the pricks.
Head to thejoyofplants.co.uk for more inspiration and fun DIYs
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Ruby ball cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovicii friedrichii ‘Rubra’)
You’ve surely seen one: a small upright green cactus with a bright red ball on the top. Many people assume that this red ball is a flower, but that’s not the case. Instead it’s an albino cactus, one without chlorophyll, more specifically Gymnocalycium mihanovicii friedrichii ‘Rubra’, also called Hibotan, grafted on a green cactus. Commercially it’s sold under names like moon cactus or ruby ball cactus.
Albino cacti grafted unto upright green cacti.
As the top plant has no green chlorophyll, that allows the underlying pigmentation, in this case a red one, to take the spotlight, giving an entirely red plant. But an albino plant can’t survive on its own, as it is chlorophyll that allows plants to carry on photosynthesis, the conversion of solar energy into sugars, and therefore to survive. Thus the red ball cactus can only live if it is grafted onto a green cactus that can carry out photosynthesis in its place. It depends entirely on its rootstock (the green part) for its survival.
In a sense, the grafted albino is a parasite: it uses the green part’s sugars, minerals, and water for its growth, yet gives nothing in return… except, to the human eye, beauty.
This is how a queen of the night cactus (Hylocereus undatus) would normally grow.
The rootstock used is inevitably a queen of the night cactus (Hylocereus undatus or H. trigonus) with triangular green spineless stems. This cactus is popular with growers because its grows fast and roots easily. But the Hylocereus is normally a very large climbing cactus with long stems. When you chop it into small pieces for use as a rootstock, keeping it from growing normally, it rarely lives more than 2 years. Of course, when the rootstock dies, the red ball cactus on top also dies… unless you graft it onto another cactus with chlorophyll. (More on that below.)
If the Hylocereus is so short-lived, why don’t growers use a longer-lived cactus as a rootstock? After all, it would easy enough to do and the resulting grafted cactus could last for decades. But what profit is there in selling a long-lived plant? You make much more by offering short-lived plants that people need to replace regularly. So they go with a short-lived combo that guarantees repeat business.
A selection of grafted gymnocalyciums: all are albinos except the 2 circled plants. They are variegated varieties. Since the latter have some chorophytic tissue, they could grow on their own roots.
When the red ball cactus was launched in Japan in 1948, it was totally unique. Albino cacti were simply unknown at the time! Since then, though, it has given, by mutation or through hybridization, many other colors: various shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, purple, and cream, plus several bicolors. All are albinos and can only survive when grafted. However, there are also gymnocalyciums that are variegated, that is, partially albino and partly chlorophyllic, and even If these are generally grown top-grafted, they can also “live on their own roots” if they are rooted in soil.
Yellow peanut cactus (Echinopsis chamaecereus lutea)
Other albino cacti have been developed as well, among which the yellow peanut cactus (Echinopsis chamaecereus lutea) is the most widely available. Any purely albino cactus can only be kept alive as a grafted plant, of course, and these are also sold grafted onto stems of Hylocereus stems.
But not all grafted cacti are albinos. Many chlorophyllic cacti are sold grafted too, either because they root poorly on their own (often the case with cristate or monstrous cacti) or simply because the grower judges they look best when elevated on a rootstock. In most garden centers you’ll find grafted cacti of all persuasions.
Caring for Grafted Cactus
When two different plants are grafted together, how do you cater to their needs? After all, if they were growing in the ground, one might prefer alkaline soil and full sun, the other more neutral soil and partial shade. Or any other combination of conditions.
When it comes to grafted cacti, the secret is to ignore the needs of the top graft and instead, give the rootstock the conditions it prefers. After all, it’s the one doing all the work.
In this case, the rootstock, Hylocereus, is not your typical desert cactus that likes full sun and baking heat and tolerates extreme drought. Treat your grafted cactus that way and you’ll soon kill it!
Grow the red ball cactus in very bright light, but not necessarily full summer sun.
Hylocereus does prefer very bright light, but not necessarily full summer sun, so a place in front of a fairly sunny window will be required. And here’s one concession you need to make to the albino part: don’t put any albino cactus outdoors during the summer unless you put it in the shade: they tend to burn in full sun.
Hylocereus likes to be kept fairly moist during the summer growing season. Water your plant copiously, almost as if it were a foliage plant, as soon as the soil is slightly dry to the touch, but do let it dry out more between waterings during the winter.
Indoor temperatures suit Hylocereus just fine during the summer, but it prefers cool night temperatures during the winter, between 40 and 60˚F (5 and 15˚C), if you can manage it.
Fertilize very little, since you’ll want to slow the plant’s growth down so it will live as long as possible. Fertilizer tends to stimulate growth, hastening the plant’s demise.
And you’ll never have to transplant a cactus grafted onto a Hylocereus into a larger pot, because it will put on essentially no growth.
Saving a Grafted Cactus
Grafting albino cacti.
You can “save” a dying red ball cactus by grafting it onto a new green rootstock (the rootstock must be a cactus, not a euphorbia!). Or you can graft one of the babies that the red ball produces quite abundantly. Essentially, to graft two cacti together, you have to cut the head off the green cactus and the base off the albino cactus, then fix them together with elastics until the graft takes. But to do so, you would have to sacrifice a green cactus.
For more details on how to do carry out a cactus graft, I suggest you check out the article 7 Steps to Grafting Cactus.
Yes, you can save a red ball cactus… but most people simply buy another one their local garden center!
Grafted Cactus Yellow ‘Moon Cactus’
- The top bit of the Yellow Moon Cactus is permanently yellow in colour.
- Often mistaken for a flower, the colourful top is actually a different plant to the green ‘stalk’.
- The two cacti are grafted, growing as one.
- The genetic mutation in Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii (the top cactus) exposes the bright colours, but the plant lacks chlorophyll which is essential in photosynthesis. Because of this, it cannot survive for long on its own. The problem can, however, be solved by grafting (cutting and attaching) Gymnocalycium on to another cactus that will provide the chlorophyll.
- The grafted cactus or moon cactus is very slow growing and is a happy houseplant, provided it is placed in a bright spot.
Position and Care
- Yellow Grafted Cactus grows best in a bright spot.
- Direct sunlight, especially in summer, can burn this plant.
- It will grow in a shaded part of the garden or in a cactus garden in a spot without sun.
- It is very drought hardy and only needs to be watered once every 3-4 weeks in the cooler months.
- In summer, water once every 2 weeks. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
- Plant in free-draining potting mix.
- A suitable plant for terrariums, as it’s a slow grower and is tolerant to shade. Please make sure not to overwater as the Moon Cactus will rot easily if sitting in water.
- Easy to look after indoor pot plant.
- Looks great combined with other cacti or shade tolerant succulents.
- Plants are sent bare rooted (without pot or soil).
- The root system will be sufficiently developed.
- The plant will have been growing in 10 cm pot or larger.
- The plant will be at least 8 cm in tall and looks very similar to the plant in the photos.
- Plants are sent on Mondays and Tuesdays, so they arrive before the weekend.
- Due to restrictions, we cannot post plants to WA, NT or TAS.
- All succulents are for sale in Australia only.
- Please choose your plant carefully as we do not provide refunds if you simply change your mind. Read our Refund Policy
- If you have any questions about the Yellow Moon Cactus or any of our other succulents online, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Moon Cactus Info: Learn About The Care Of Moon Cactus
The vast array of sizes, textures, colors and shapes of cacti and succulents provides nearly endless diversity for the succulent collector. Moon cactus plants are known as Gymnocalycium mihanovichii or Hibotan cactus. Strangely, the plant is something of a mutant and lacks the ability to produce chlorophyll, which means they must be grafted onto a rootstock with that ability. Instructions for how to grow a moon cactus are similar to most succulents, but they are short lived for the family even with good care.
Moon Cactus Info
Hibotan cacti are native to desert habitats in various parts of South America. There are over 80 species found in Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia. They are a colorful group of succulents that lack the necessary chlorophyll to produce plant sugars through photosynthesis. For this reason, the plants are grafted onto a species that produces plentiful chlorophyll upon which the moon cactus can sustain itself for several years.
Moon cactus plants come in vibrant bright colors of hot pink, brilliant orange and even an almost neon yellow. They are commonly sold as gift plants and make lovely window box or southern exposure houseplants. These are small plants, generally only ½ inch across, although there are cultivars that get up to 8 inches in diameter.
Propagation of Moon Cactus
The moon cactus is usually sold already grafted in a process that removes the bottom of the Hibotan and the top of the rootstock cactus. The two halves are set together at the cut ends and soon heal together. The life of the moon cactus can be extended by re-grafting it onto a fresh rootstock.
It can also be grown from seed, but this takes at least a year for a recognizable specimen. Sow the seeds over a dry succulent mixture and then cover with a sprinkle of fine grit. Moisten the flat and move it to a warm location for germination. Once the seedlings are large enough to remove, re-plant them in groups for best effect.
More commonly, moon cactus propagation is achieved by removing the offsets, which are smaller versions of the parent plant growing from the base of the rootstock. These divide away easily and root readily in a cactus potting soil.
How to Grow a Moon Cactus
Purchased plants will come with moon cactus info that relates to the plants care and cultivation needs. In the event that it doesn’t, care of moon cactus is similar to any succulent or cactus species.
Hibotan plants prefer temperatures on the warm side but need a minimum of 48 F. (9 C.) to survive. Wild plants grow in the shelter of taller specimens which shade them from the scorching sun, so indoor plants should be partially shielded from bright sunlight by slatted blinds during the brightest part of the day.
Use unglazed shallow pots with numerous drainage holes to prevent standing water at the root zone. Water deeply and then allow the soil to completely dry to the base of the pot before reapplying moisture. Suspend watering in the winter months and repot in spring to reintroduce nutrient dense soil.
The moon cactus prefers to have a crowded home, which means you can repot in the same pot for several years. In rare cases, and when care of moon cactus is optimum, you may be rewarded with small red to pink flowers in late spring to early summer.