A rare exotic treat, the ric rac cactus is a stunning trailing cactus that look incredible hanging in your home. There is no wonder that they are so coveted in houseplant circles. If you are anything like us, you have spent plenty of time staring at plant store listings for this beautiful succulent.
Although they are not very common, ric rac cacti are actually really easy to take care of if you get to know their needs.
In this guide, we will be going through everything you need to know to care for your ric rac cactus from watering, light, soil, and even propagation. We have all you need to know to help your ric rac cactus thrive.
With their trailing, serrated stems and huge flowers, the ric rac cactus is one succulent you absolutely need in your collection, and we are here to help you do that to the best of your abilities.
What is a Ric Rac Cactus?
So, as always, let’s start with the nerdy plant facts.
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The ric rac cactus is a gorgeous ornamental plant that is native to the lowland rainforests of southern Mexico. They are epiphytic, which means that, in the wild, they grow on tree branches like orchids. However, they can also be grown very easily in pots in your house.
These cacti start my growing straight upwards with vertical stems that appear to be notched on either edge. The longer they get, the more they will flop over and start to reach for the floor rather than the ceiling. The stems grow out in bunches new shoots appear at regular intervals along the original stem.
Ric rac cacti are very popular as houseplants because of their unusually serrated stems and large, nocturnal blooming flowers that give off a strong fragrance at night. We love placing ric racs in hanging planters so their trailing stems can hang freely.
This amazing succulent has delicate aerial roots which grow by creeping along and rooting at various points. This makes them very easy to propagate, which is how this rare plant was spread across the world in the first place.
Although they bear some resemblance to other varieties of trailing cacti, the ric rac cactus is actually an isolated species with no known close relatives, which only adds to its rarity.
Now that we’ve had a basic rundown of the ric rac cactus, let’s get into the details of this wonderful plant’s care so you can grow it with ease.
How to Care for Your Ric Rac Cactus
Like most of its characteristics, the ric rac cactus doesn’t require anything special in its soil. Well-drained potting soil mixed with a little perlite to aerate the soil is all it needs. A light soil mix like this will stop it from hanging onto any extra moisture that can cause issues like pest infestations or root rot.
We suggest increasing moisture and fertilizer in the summer months to promote growth and ample flowering. However, we must stress that the soil should not be overly moist and be allowed time to dry out.
To help your ric rac cactus grow strong with plenty of flowers, you’re going to need to use fertilizer. We suggest using ¼ tsp liquid succulent fertilizer per gallon of water. Applying fertilizer once a week is plenty to do the job.
Light and Temperature
So, as you know, ric rac cacti make great houseplants, and they don’t require full sun to thrive.
Ideally, the ric rac cactus likes to be placed in an area with partial sun that doesn’t drop beneath 35 F. We suggest placing it near an eastern or western-facing window to get the right balance of sun and shade throughout the day.
Ric rac cacti can be sensitive to temperature change, so we recommend choosing a place in your home that has a consistent temperature between 35 and 65 F. If you have them growing outside, we suggest bringing them indoors in the winter because they will not tolerate the cold temperature. They are also prone to freezing when conditions get particularly frigid.
Wherever you choose to place it, make sure that there is plenty of space for growth, as these cacti can grow like crazy!
The ric rac cactus is not very fussy when it comes to watering. We like to leave some time between watering to let the soil dry out sufficiently. This species prefers dry conditions to humid ones, so overwatering can spell disaster. Be sure to test the soil by inserting your finger an inch into the soil to make sure the soil is dry enough before watering.
The first step is to make sure that your ric rac cactus is planted in a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom; this is key to good drainage and preventing the soil from trapping excess moisture.
When you water, remove the cactus from its hanging basket and move outside where the excess water can run off. Thoroughly soak the soil until water runs out the bottom of the pot. Allow the water to run out before replacing it in its usual spot.
To encourage flowering in mature plants, we suggest restricting watering from November until buds start to develop on the stems. Once this happens, you can start watering again as usual.
Pests and Disease
Like many cacti, the ric rac cactus is susceptible to mealy bugs. These waxy little bugs will be attracted to your ric rac cactus if you are keeping it a little too moist. Luckily they are easy to handle. Simply dilute some rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, and spray the affected area. Once they have left, you can keep them at bay by ensuring that the ric rac doesn’t get overly moist.
Excess moisture is also the cause of another common issue in ric racs. If the cactus sits in too much moisture, it is susceptible to fungal leaf spots as well as root and stem diseases. To handle this, we suggest repotting your ric rac and disposing of the infected soil. Cut away any infected pieces and replant them in a pot of fresh soil.
At the end of the day, the best way to avoid pests and diseases is to avoid overwatering your ric rac cactus. This is the number one sauce for the issues that plague these succulents.
Since it is a trailing cactus, the stems of your ric rac are going to get very long, so you will need to prune them when they get out of control.
The best time to prune a ric rac is just after they have flowered so this process is not interrupted.
Do not throw your pruned pieces away! You can use them to propagate and grow new cacti, which we will get into next.
Propagating Your Ric Rac Cactus
So, now that you have a healthy, thriving ric rac cactus, why not propagate it?
We love propagating to increase our plant collections and to give them away to loved ones as gifts without having to spend any extra money.
Luckily, ric racs are really easy to propagate, and there are two n=methods to choose from: soil or water propagation.
To propagate your ric rac cactus in a pot:
- Cut off a small section of stem and let it wilt and dry slightly to avoid rot occurring.
- In a pot, mix together succulent potting soil with a little perlite to aerate the soil.
- Dig a small, shallow hole and place the piece of stem upright in the pot. Pat down the soi to secure it in place.
- If you have cuttings that include roots, you can simply lay them flat on top of the soil and allow them to naturally root.
- Water and place in a partially sunny spot to grow.
To propagate your ric rac cactus in water:
- Cut a piece of stem 2-4 inches long.
- Place in a shallow cup of water, and make sure only the bottom piece is in the water while the rest is above the surface.
- Replace the water when the level drops and leave it to do its thing.
- The cutting will slowly grow roots in the water.
- When the roots are 1 inch in length, remove the plant from the water.
- Plant in a fresh pot of soil with a little perlite.
- Water and place in a partially sunny spot for the roots to settle.
It’s really as simple as that! The ric rac cactus is a great one to propagate because they can be so rare to find in a plant store. This way, you can save money and gain more of these gorgeous plants.
Repoting Your Ric Rac Cactus?
As with most plants, you will eventually need to repot your ric rac cactus.
The best time to repot is in spring after the new growth has started. However, if you are in a particularly hot climate, we suggest repotting in fall to give the cactus a break during the summer months.
Only repot every few years depending on its growth rate and transfer to a pot that is only an inch or two larger, ric rac cacti like to grow in slightly tight quarters.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does a ric rac cactus have thorns?
They may be hard to spot, but ric rac cacti do have small thorns. They are placed at irregular intervals and small in size, which makes them easy to miss and prick yourself by accident. We suggest handling the stems with care to avoid this.
How often does a ric rac cactus bloom?
Unlike many houseplants, the ric rac cactus blooms readily indoors with large flowers that are rich in fragrance. The flowers are large with purple and white petals and prominent stamens.
Some succulents require a little winter chill to start flowering, but ric rac cacti aren’t one of them. They generally flower between spring and early fall.
Strangeky enough, ric rac cacti tend to bloom more readily when they are slightly root bound so we suggest holding off on repotting until totally necessary to optimize your flowers.
Are ric rac cacti toxic to pets?
Luckily, no! Ric racs are not toxic to pets, which is a huge relief especially in hanging plants that can be so tempting to play with. Since they are so tempting, we suggest making sure they are placed high up away from your furry friends to prevent them from damaging your cactus.
Ric rac cacti are so beautiful and easy to care for that their inclusion in your house plant selection is a must!
The ideal spot for a ric rac cactus is in a hanging planter in a partially sunny spot with infrequent waterings. Our number one tip to take away from this is to avoid overwatering your ric rac and letting it sit in moisture. If you get these few commendations right, this gorgeous cactus is going to reward you with its beauty year after year.
We hope that this has helped you fall in love with the ric rac cactus, just like us, and encouraged you to pick one of these exotic beauties for yourself.