The Orchid Cactus, Disocactus ackermannii, is one of the most popular cacti in cultivation. It is beautiful and easy to care for, making it an excellent addition to any garden. The Orchid Cactus is native to Mexico and can be found growing in the wild in the states of Veracruz and Oaxaca. Natively, it grows as an epiphytic cactus. Meaning it makes it home between the branches of trees and wraps its roots around their trunks. It grows in the shade and is never exposed to the harshness of direct sunlight.
Disocactus ackermannii only reaches about 1 foot in height, but it can spread up to 3 feet in the right conditions. The Orchid Cactus is named for its beautiful flowers that resemble those of an orchid. They are typically bright red blooming in the summer and are the highlight features of these cacti. As this cactus grows as an epiphyte, it doesn’t have the traditional structure of a cactus (globose/cylindrical with spines). Rather the stems are basally branched, flattened with serrated edges, and heavily resemble leaves. The fleshiness of these stems is what gives them away as part of a cactus.
- Disocactus Ackermannii Main Characteristics
- Orchid Cactus Care
- Propagating Disocactus ackermannii
- Potting and Repotting Orchid Cactus
- Common Pests
- Common Problems
- What Every Orchid Cactus Owner Needs To Know About Their Plant (Video)
- Orchid Cactus In Bloom
Disocactus Ackermannii Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Orchid Cactus, Pond Lily Cactus|
|Botanical Name||Disocactus ackermannii|
|Synonyms||Cereus ackermannii,Epiphyllum ackermannii, Heliocereus ackermannii, Nopalxochia ackermannii, Phyllocactus ackermannii|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||10 to 11|
|Mature Size||Height: up to 30 cm, Spread: up to 60 cm|
|Propagation methods||by cuttings, by grafting, by seeds|
Orchid Cactus Care
These are gorgeous cacti that can last as long as you take care of them. They are easy to grow and relatively low-maintenance, which is great for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time on their hands. Unlike other cacti, these plants prefer high humidity and dappled sunlight. Treat them as you would an orchid, and you’ll be fine.
The Orchid Cactus is a shade-loving plant and will do best in indirect light. It can deal with small doses of direct sunlight, but too much will scorch the stems and cause the plant to become lanky and etiolated. Instead, consider placing the cactus under the dappled shade of a tree or giving it some protection with a sheer curtain.
These plants have a trailing habit that looks great on a hanging basket. You can also try to replicate their natural habitat by hanging them on a support. Bathrooms are a great location, but make sure the natural growth won’t crowd out your space; these plants can get up to one(1) meter long.
Since Disocactus ackermannii is native to humid climates, it prefers to be constantly moist but not wet. Therefore, allow the topsoil to dry out slightly between watering and make sure the pot has drainage holes; you don’t want the plant sitting in the water. If you can, try misting your cactus with warm water a few times a week to up the humidity.
If you grow these plants indoors, provide them with warmer temperatures in the spring and summer. Around 80 degrees Fahrenheit would do. In the colder months, move the plant to a somewhat colder location. Keeping it consistently between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit helps induce blooms.
As we mentioned, these plants like high humidity. If the air is too dry, try grouping your cacti together with other orchids that like moisture in the air. Place them on a pebble tray and regularly spray with a light water mist to keep the moisture levels up. A humidifier is an easy solution if you have one.
The Orchid Cactus is a fast-growing plant that will benefit from being fertilized monthly during the growing season. Use a balanced fertilizer diluted to half-strength and apply it when you water. However, be careful not to overdo it, as too much fertilizer will burn the roots of your plan.
Propagating Disocactus ackermannii
These plants are relatively easy to propagate from stem cuttings. The best time to take the cuttings is in late spring or early summer, when the plant is actively growing. Cut a 3-5 inch piece from a healthy stem. Allow the cutting to callus over for a few days, and then pot it up in a well-draining potting mix. Keep the cuttings moist and in bright, indirect light, and they should start to root within a few weeks.
Disocactus ackermannii can also be propagated by seed, but it is a much slower process (over ten years until the plant is ready to flower). Seeds are also hard to come by, so most gardeners don’t bother. However, if you do plan to germinate some, here’s what you do:
Sow the seeds in a well-draining potting mix and keep them moist. Place the pots in a warm location with indirect light and wait for the seeds to germinate. This can take a few weeks.
Potting and Repotting Orchid Cactus
Use a porous potting mix to plant these cacti. Regular soil is too constricting, and these plants are naturally epiphytes and hate having their roots covered with dense potting medium.
Since these plants like to be pot-bound, you won’t need to repot them very often. Every 5-6 years should be enough. When you repot, make sure to use a well-draining potting mix and a pot that is slightly larger than the previous one.
Wait until after they’ve bloomed before repotting. If you repot during the flowering season, there is no chance any flowers will survive the transition, and you’ll have wasted an entire season worth of flowers. So be patient and wait. It’s okay if you’re a bit late; these plants like their roots snug anyway.
The Orchid Cactus is non-toxic to people and pets.
These plants are relatively pest-free, but the occasional critter can sometimes make an appearance. Watch out for mealybugs and aphids; these sapsuckers are the most common. Snails might also become a problem if you’re keeping the cactus outside. Move it indoors and take the appropriate measures to get rid of the problem as soon as possible.
Root rot can occur on occasion. To prevent it, make sure the plant doesn’t sit in water for too long, and the potting mix drains well. If you notice your plant wilting, yellowing, or developing black spots on the leaves, it might signify root rot. Try to catch it early, repot the plant in fresh, well-draining potting mix, and cut off the affected roots. If you allow the rot to really set in, it might not be recoverable.
What Every Orchid Cactus Owner Needs To Know About Their Plant (Video)
How Long Does It Take For An Orchid Cactus To Bloom?
It typically takes Disocactus ackermannii 2-3 years to bloom. However, if you provide the plant with the optimal growing conditions, it might bloom sooner.
Do Orchid Cactus Have Thorns?
No, Orchid Cactus does not have thorns. Unlike typical cacti, they resemble orchids a lot more. Having no thorns also makes them safe to handle without gloves.
Why Is My Orchid Cactus Not Blooming?
There are a few reasons why your Orchid Cactus might not be blooming.
1. The most common one is that the plant is too young and hasn’t reached maturity yet.
2. Another reason might be that the plant is not getting enough light. Orchid cacti need bright, indirect light to bloom.
3. The cactus needs a rest period in winter to bloom in the spring. It needs to be kept in deep shade and kept cold leading up to spring to have a chance to bloom.
4. Finally, the plant might also be stressed. Repotting, moving it to a new location, or a change in watering schedule can all lead to stress, preventing the plant from blooming.
Do Orchid Cactus Like To Be Root Bound?
Yes, Orchid Cactus prefer to be root bound. They like snug pots and don’t need to be repotted very often. Every 5-6 years should be enough.