Rat Tail Cactus Complete Guide To Grow And Care

Native to portions of Central America and southwest Mexico, the rat tail cactus is a striking plant. The plant gets its moniker from its long, trailing stems, which mature to a height of around 4 feet. These stems make the plant unique. The violet-red blooms of the rat tail cactus are typically produced in the spring and early summer, although the plant can also occasionally produce flowers in unusual hues like pink and orange. It has tubular, quite big flowers that are about 2 inches across.

Each flower only lasts a few days at most, even though the plant produces a large number of them during its late spring bloom. Rat tail cacti should be planted in the spring, when it will have the whole growth season to establish itself.

A. flagelliformis is either lithophytic or epiphytic in the wild, meaning it grows on bigger structures like trees or on the ground. Due to its trailing stems, which can reach a length of one foot annually, it is typically cultivated in hanging pots or baskets.

Rat Tail Cactus Plant Overview

Common Name Rat tail cactus
Botanical Name Aporocactus flagelliformis
Family Cactaceae
Plant Type Cactus
Mature Size 3-6 ft. long
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color Red, pink, orange
Hardiness Zones 10-11 (USDA)
Native Area Central America

Rat Tail Cactus Care

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Rat tail cactus is a year-round houseplant that you can put outside to your patio or deck for the warm summer months, with the exception of USDA zones 10 and 11. Make sure your house is in a place where you won’t unintentionally run across its venomous spines.

This plant can endure extended periods of time without much maintenance and is fairly drought-tolerant.

Light Requirements

This particular cactus prefers year-round, bright, direct sunlight, which is ideal for desert settings. To ensure it receives direct sunlight, place it in a window facing south or west.

Soil and Potting

It is important to have excellent drainage, so use a lightweight potting mixture. Rat tail cactus thrives in a slightly acidic pH range of 5.0 to 6.0, which is what most cactus potting mixes provide, similar to other cacti.


During the growing season, water the soil frequently to maintain a slight moisture content. Water less in the fall and lessen it gradually as winter approaches. It usually doesn’t need water during its winter hibernation time, but if the soil is completely dry, you can give it a little irrigation.

Temperature and Environment

In general, this cactus is quite resilient, withstanding temperatures as low as 45 degrees and as high as 90 degrees. Normal room temperature is fine, and 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature at night. Make sure the cactus is never exposed to freezing temperatures as it is not resistant to frost.

Rat tail cacti prefer comfortable humidity levels, which are found in most homes. Extreme dryness might result in spider mite issues, while high humidity can cause the plant’s stems to decay.


During the spring and summer growing seasons, feed your rat tail cactus liquid fertilizer once every two weeks, diluted to roughly half strength.

Cactus Types

One of the most often grown cacti is the rat tail cactus, which is comparable to the following other types of attractive cacti:

  • Golden rat tail cactus (Cleistocactus winteri), a branching cactus whose stems are covered with short golden spines
  • German empress (Disocactus phyllantioideswith long, green or reddish stems
  • Dog tail cactus (Strophocactus testudo) with long, skinny, tail-like, trailing stems


Image Credit / Pinterest

The only pruning this cactus needs is the gentle removal of dead flowers from the plant, aside from the removal of damaged or dead plant components. Wear protective clothing with long cuffs and exercise extreme caution when handling the plant.

Propagating Rat Tail Cactus

The cactus can be easily propagated from cuttings because of its many stems and rapid growth; fresh examples can be produced every season. When propagating it, use caution as with pruning, especially with your hands and forearms.

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut a 6-inch section from any healthy stem. To help the cut end produce a callus, let it air-dry for three days.


  2. Using a pencil or stick, make a hole in the middle of a container filled with cactus potting mix. Bury the cut end completely in the ground by inserting it there. You can use a wooden skewer to secure it and keep it from moving.


  3. Put the pot somewhere bright with lots of light, but maintain the soil evenly moist and avoid letting it dry up. It should take a few weeks for the cactus to root.

How to Grow Rat Tail Cactus from Seed?

Rat tail cactus seeds are not often accessible, and since cuttings can be propagated so easily, starting from seed is not advised.

Potting and Repotting

Growing rat tail cacti in a hanging basket enhances their visual appeal. Put some sphagnum moss or another organic material inside the container before adding cactus potting mix to it.

The rat tail cactus grows rather quickly, and once the growing season is over and the plant has completed flowering, it should be repotted annually. Depending on whether the plant is completely grown, it might require a larger pot or basket, but fresh potting soil is a must. Repotting this cactus will aid in its nutritional replenishment as it takes up nutrients quickly.


The temperature of the rat tail cactus needs to be maintained between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit throughout its rest time, regardless of whether it is grown outside all year round or brought inside for the winter. Nonetheless, during dormancy, the cactus’s light needs remain constant; it requires intense light all year round. Choose a cool spot in your house that is distant from traffic so that people and pets won’t unintentionally rub against its spines.

Common Pests

The pests that prey on rat tail cacti most frequently seen are scale insects and spider mites, which drain the plant’s fluids. As a result of the punctures, the cactus may appear lifeless or have tiny white dots on it. Neem oil or insecticidal soap work well against these pests.

How to Get Rat Tail Cactus to Bloom?

The most frequent cause of rat tail cactus not flowering is inadequate sunshine, assuming that you are fertilizing your cactus frequently and repotting it whenever necessary. The cactus needs full, bright direct sunshine in order to bloom.

Also Read: Easter Cactus Complete Guide To Grow And Care

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