Easter cactus, Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri, is a flowering plant in the cactus family that grows wild in Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and other islands of eastern Polynesia. Easter cactuses are native to areas with dry climates.
Easter cactus can grow as high as three feet tall, although they are more commonly seen at heights of one to two feet. Easter cactuses are rich in spines, which grow up from the joints between tubercles that form on the stem (the Easter cactus is a columnar plant). Easter cactus can reproduce from seed, cuttings, and they are very easy to propagate.
Also called Easter lily or Easter orchid, the Easter cactus is one of the most common flowering houseplants. This plant blooms year-round with yellow flowers that resemble Easter eggs in shape. The Easter cactus suffers from few diseases; however, it has a number of pests that can be controlled with pesticides.
Origin and distribution
The Easter cactus, Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri (formerly Echinocactus erythrosphaeris), grows in dense forests from Mexico to Costa Rica. This perennial succulent is not frost tolerant and must be grown indoors or as a container plant during the winter months when temperatures are below freezing.
The Easter cactus is an epiphytic plant that grows wild in the eastern Andean mountains of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It thrives in limestone rock crevices where it gets a little moisture from morning condensation or rain dripping off its leaves. They can sometimes be found in a few other places around the world, but these are not common. Easter cacti grow in clumps and it is recommended to keep them near each other so that they will continue to thrive as long as there is enough light for all of them.
The Easter cactus isn’t actually related to Easter. They are epiphytes, which means that they live on other plants (trees) and cannot be planted in the ground like a regular plant, but instead hold onto trees with their roots and get nutrients from the tree sap.
Easter Lilies are epiphytic plants that grow wild in limestone rock crevices where they get morning condensation or rain dripping off their leaves. Easter cactuses can sometimes be found in a few other places around the world, but these are not common. Easter cacti grow in clumps and it is recommended to keep them near each other so that they will continue to thrive as long as there’s enough light for all of them.
Easter cactus propagation
Easter cactus is a slow-growing cacti that can be propagated by seed or cuttings. The seeds are very tiny and should not be eaten, as they have an unpleasant taste. Easter cactus plants will grow from the end of their cutting if it has been left long enough to take root in the soil, and they should be watered when the soil is dry and fertilized monthly with a cacti fertilizer.
Easter cactus propagation may take up to three years before it becomes mature enough for its first flowering, but once it starts blooming, it will do so again each year thereafter. The easter cactus does not require any special care after flowering other than pruning to shape the plant and removing any dead parts. The plant should be kept out of drafts in order to prevent premature leaf drop or frost damage during the winter months.
To help assure new growth, propagate by cutting off leaves with roots attached and potting them in soil or perlite until they root. The cuttings should be planted at an angle to ensure contact with the rooting medium. Keep these plants near a window but out of the direct sun.
A new shoot will grow on the stem. When it is about six inches long, cut off all but one of them to encourage branching and increase blooming potential. Cut off any leaves that are yellowing or look diseased as they could be a source of disease to your other plants. Care for this plant with warm temperatures and plenty of water.
5 tips to growing a successful Easter cactus
Step One: Make sure the Easter cactus is healthy!
The plant should be hearty and full of life. If it’s wilted or has any yellowing leaves, then you need to put it into a more sunny spot or give it more water for optimal growth before attempting propagation. They can also benefit from a diluted fertilizer every two weeks.
Step Two: Allow Easter cactus to propagate for a few months before transplanting it
The Easter cactus needs time to grow and develop roots before you can move it into more permanent conditions. It may take up to six months, but this will help the young plant establish itself in its new environment.
Step Three: Take Easter cactus out of its pot
The Easter cactus should be quite a root bound in its container. If you can, gently loosen the roots up by shaking and pulling to get them loose from the pot. Then set it aside while we prep our new space for transplanting. We’ll need a plant-friendly container.
Step Four: Prep new pot for Easter cactus
Prepare a well-drained soil that is rich in organic material, such as compost or vermiculite. Make sure it’s deep enough so there are no roots sticking out of the top and use your fingers to make some small holes for good drainage.
Step Five: Transplant your plant
We’re all set to put the Easter cactus in its new pot, so carefully place it inside of your container and make sure it’s securely grounded before covering it with soil or vermiculite. Gently pat down around the plant until there are no large air pockets.
Easter cactus care
Easter cactus is easy to grow indoors and requires very little light. The plant does best when they receive bright indirect sunlight or artificial light of 2500-3000 lux. As long as the Easter cactus is receiving enough lighting, you can place it in a corner where there may be less natural light streaming into your living space. They enjoy a more humid environment.
Easter cacti are happy in most potting soils. The plants do best when they’re grown in soil that is well-draining but moist at all times; this will prevent root rot and promote the Easter cactus’ growth.
The Easter cactus can be planted directly into an acidic potting mix or it can be grown in a pot of regular soil. They do well with either type of potting mix and will thrive outdoors on most soils that are not infertile or too dry.
You may fertilize your plants with a water-soluble fertilizer at the beginning of spring, summer, or every two weeks. When you feed your plant well enough, it will grow faster and be strong all year long.
The best time to water the cactus is in the morning. If you let it get too dry, then your plant will be thirsty and will show signs of stress by wilting or dropping leaves. Gently pour a slow stream of tepid water over the soil until it begins to drain from within an inch of the drainage hole.
If possible, also mist the upper surface of the soil with room temperature water once or twice a week to keep it moist but not wet because overwatering will cause root rot and other problems that make cacti difficult to grow indoors. You can use an empty plastic bottle for this task; just cut off about two inches of the neck and poke a few small holes in it.
As a desert plant, the Easter cactus can tolerate low temperatures. However, it should not be allowed to drop below 55 degrees F (13 degrees Celsius).
Easter cactus needs high humidity, which means that the pot must be left in a place where there is continuous moisture. This can include water on the windowsill or other places around your house with higher relative humidity than normal.
The ideal humidity is about 90% or higher.
To increase the humidity, you can mist your cactus a few times each day with room temperature water and place it in an area of high humidity.
If possible, also keep a saucer filled with gravel near the plant to absorb excess moisture from evaporation so that condensation will form on its leaves instead
For optimal results, you should purchase an electric humidifier to provide continual moisture; these models are typically available at any large discount store.
Easter cactus should be repotted during the spring or summer.
The best time to do this is when new shoots are about an inch high and there’s a slight pink blush on them. Ideally, you’ll want to divide your plant into two so that it will grow faster and end up being healthier in general.
You can also repot during the winter if you want to, but it’s a good idea to wait until plants are actively growing.
To repot your cactus, first, remove any dead roots and cut off about an inch of its old potting soil with scissors or shears; then gently loosen the plant from around the edges using a knife tip or another tool.
Carefully lift the plant from its pot and gently shake off any loose soil particles, be careful not to damage roots or leaves in the process. It’s also a good idea to rinse it with tepid water before proceeding further. If repotting during winter, you may want to place it near a window for several hours so that it can start to get accustomed to its new conditions before transferring it back inside.
Place the plant in a slightly larger pot and fill with fresh soil, covering about half an inch of roots at the top; then water thoroughly. If you’re repotting multiple plants, make sure that they are all situated around each other so that there is enough space for them to grow.
If you’re repotting a cactus that is planted in the ground, dig up about three inches of soil around its root ball and loosen it with your fingers; then trim any dead roots before replanting the plant into a slightly deeper hole than usual (about two-thirds of its original size). Fill in the hole with soil and water thoroughly; then wait for a few days before watering again.
The plant should be pruned once a year during the winter or early spring to remove any dead, browning, and damaged parts.
The easiest way to do this is by removing these pieces with your fingers instead of trying to cut them off; then trimming away any other overgrown stems that are near the pot’s edge – this prevents the plant from becoming pot-bound.
Once you’re done pruning, water your cactus thoroughly to help revive its root system and give it a fresh start for the New Year.
The Easter cactus is a slow grower and takes time to establish new root systems. What’s more? The plant flowers only once in its lifetime, after which all growth stops; so it’s important to propagate by cutting off pieces with leaves on them before they flower. This one-time flowering also means that any plants you buy from a nursery are not the true Easter cactus.
The Easter cactus is hardy to USDA zones: Zone A (20-30), B (-40 to -35 ), and D (18-24)
It can be sensitive in colder areas, so it’s best suited for warmer homes.
If you live in a colder area, use a grow light or heating pad to provide warmth.
Toxicity and Poisoning
Easter cactus is not poisonous but can cause irritation if ingested.
Pests and diseases
This plant is pest and disease resistant, but it can be attacked by eelworms.