Rat Tail Cactus

The rat tail cactus, or rattail cactus is a species of flowering plant in the cactus family Cactaceae, and is the most cultivated species in the genus Aporocactus. It is native to Mexico and South America. The botanical name of rat tail cactus is Disocactus flagelliformis or Aporocactus flagelliformis. Due to its ease of cultivation and attractive floral displays, it is often grown as an ornamental potted plant. They thrive in the dry forests of Hidalgo as lithophytic or epiphytic, which means they grow on the ground or on trees. In cultivation, it is usually grown in hanging pots or baskets because of its trailing stems.

The stems are covered in short, bristly spines coloured yellow-brown, aging to a grey shade. This plant is frequently grown as an attractive ornamental, doing best in bright, indirect sunlight and a well-draining soil mix. The stem’s growth is at a rate of about a foot every year. The 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 flowers have white-pink stamens in the centre and lead onto rounded fruits.

Table of Contents


3 - 6 inches

Width-Circumference (Avg)

3 - 6 feet

Approximate pH

5.0 - 6.0

Planting Rat Tail Cactus

Where to plant

Disocactus flagelliformis is easy to grow and is relatively fast-growing. With its drooping stems, the rat tail is ideal for a hanging basket. It needs well-drained soil, requires full sun to part sun, as it needs to be protected from drying out in summer.

Average temperatures of 15 to 24°C are ideal, but do not drop below 5°C and avoid freezing.

The substrate in the hanging basket will simply be a mixture used for cacti with a pH value between 5.0 and 6.0 rich and well drained, preferably mixed with coarse sand.

When to plant

Seeds are hard to come by, and you’ll find this cactus as a cutting in stores. The beginning of summer is the most favorable period.

How to plant

Ideally, keep the root ball from the sales pot intact when repotting in the hanging basket.

How to Get Rat Tail Cactus to Bloom

Provided that you are repotting your cactus with fresh potting mix (cactus potting mix) as needed and fertilize it regularly, not enough sunlight is the most common reason why rat tail cactus is not blooming. Full, bright direct sunlight is essential for the cactus to produce flowers.

Rat Tail Cactus Care

Rat tail cactus is a houseplant during most of the year that you can bring to your patio or deck during the warm summer months. Make sure you have a suitable location in your home where you don't accidentally brush against its vicious spines.

This plant is fairly drought-tolerant and can survive long periods with little care.


This is a cactus that thrives in desert conditions: bright, direct sunlight year-round. Place it in a south- or west-facing window to receive direct sun.


Excellent drainage is key so choose a lightweight potting mixture. Like all cacti, rat tail cactus does best in a slightly acidic pH between 5.0 and 6.0 which most cactus potting mixes offer.


Water regularly during the growing season to keep the soil slightly moist. Reduce watering in the fall, tapering it off as you move toward winter. During its winter dormancy period, it generally does not need water, but you can water it lightly if the soil is completely dry.

Temperature and Humidity

Overall, this is a fairly hardy cactus that can tolerate temperatures as low as 45 degrees and as high as 90 degrees. Regular room temperatures are just fine, and ideally the nighttime temperatures are between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The cactus is not frost-hardy, so make sure it does not ever get exposed to freezing temperatures. Comfortable humidity levels in most homes are just right for rat tail cactus. High humidity can cause the plant's stems to rot, while extreme dryness can lead to problems with spider mites.


Feed your rat tail cactus liquid fertilizer diluted to about half strength about once every two weeks during the growing season in spring and summer.

Pruning and Propagating


Other than removing dead or diseased plant parts, the only pruning of this cactus consists of gently pulling dead flowers off the plant. However, be very careful when handling the plant and make sure to wear protective cloves with long cuffs.


With its large number of stems and vigorous growth, the cactus is very easy to propagate from cuttings and new specimens can be propagated every season. Just like with pruning, protect your hands and forearms when propagating it.

  1. Cut a 6-inch part of any healthy stem with a sharp knife. Allow it to air-dry for three days so that the cut end forms a callus.

  2. Fill a pot with cactus potting mix and poke a hole in the center with a pencil or a stick. Insert the cut end in the soil so it is just entirely buried. To prevent it from dislodging, you can secure with with a wooden skewer.

  3. Place the pot in a location with plenty of light but don’t let the soil dry out and keep it evenly humid. After a few weeks, the cactus should root.

Potting and Repotting

Rat tail cactus displays best when grown in a hanging basket. Line the container with sphagnum moss or other organic material before filling it with cactus potting mix.

Rat tail cactus grows fairly quickly and should be repotted every year once the growing season is over and the plant has finished flowering. It may need a larger pot or basket, depending on whether the plant has fully matured, but it definitely needs new potting soil. This cactus quickly uses nutrients, and repotting it will help it replenish.


Regardless of whether you grow rat tail cactus outdoors year-round or bring it inside for the winter, the cactus needs a rest period during which it should be kept between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. However. the light requirements are the same during dormancy; the cactus needs bright light year-round. Find a cool location in your home, away from busy areas so that the humans and pets won't accidentally brush against its spines.

Pests and Diseases

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 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.

Common Problems With Rat Tail Cactus

Apart from being attacked by spider mites and scale insects, there are a few other problems cited by cactus enthusiasts. In its natural habitat, the Rat Tail cactus grows under desert-like conditions. In cultivation, the plants are susceptible to bad growing conditions.

  • Overwatering: This is the main reason for root rot. Signs of overwatering are brown spots on the stems or mushy stems. This must be stopped immediately by repotting the plant after removing diseased parts. Repotting must be done in a new potting mix and a different container.

  • Thinning plant: A thinning of the Rat Tail Cactus happens when it does not receive sufficient sunlight. A thinning and elongated plant can be rescued by repotting and fertilizing regularly till the plant displays thicker stems and more profuse growth.

  • Aerial roots: This is a sign of insufficient water. The plant is trying to absorb moisture from the surrounding air. This can be easily remedied with a watering schedule to keep the plant sufficiently hydrated.


The Rat Tail Cactus “Aporocactus flagelliformis” is used mainly as an ornamental plant. It has long trailing stems growing up to 6 feet, and beautiful red, pink, or orange flowers adorn the stems. These qualities of the Rat Tail Cactus make it useful as a hanging plant or sprawling garden addition. The visual appeal of your garden can be improved by placing a Rat Tail Cactus where it can grow cascading freely.

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