Rhipsalidopsis rosea

This is an old name for this species – but it’s a new one, too! The plant was transferred from the genus Rhipsalidopsis to the genus Hatiora in 1987, but more recent molecular analyses have suggested that in fact it is not particularly closely related to the (cylindrical stemmed) Hatiora species. So it has now been put back into Rhipsalidopsis, along with its close relative R. gaertneri.

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Fig. 1 Rhipsalidopsis rosea

Whatever you want to call it, this is a very pretty cactus. It has small flat stem sections, typically 3 to 5cm long, and produces a compact, branching plant. It produces lots of pink flowers at the tips of the stems, around May (in the northern hemisphere). The flowers are funnel-shaped, and 3–4cm across. There are several clones in cultivation, all slightly different. In some clones, the flowers are fragrant – an added bonus!

R. rosea is native to Brazil, where it grows epiphytically on moss on tree trunks in cloud forests. In cultivation it can be grown in moss, or in an open organic mixture of eg chopped coir and finely chopped bark. It prefers some shade, and in common with many other epiphytes, it does not like being overwatered.

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Fig. 2   Rhipsalidopsis rosea – flower

Many people find that their plants will grow well for them when young, but then suddenly fall apart after they have grown larger. To minimise the chances of this happening, it is best to avoid overheating (particularly from direct sun) and ensuring sufficient humidity in the air around the plants. Spraying them regularly can help.

If it does happen, though – at least you will have a lot of cuttings! Small bits of one or two stem sections root easily, and these can be grown back into healthy new plants in a short time.

Rhipsalidopsis rosea has been crossed with its orange/red flowered relative R. gaertneri, producing hybrids with a range of colours from pale pink through orange to magenta and dark red. Breeding from these has produced the plants commonly called Easter Cacti, which are sold in their thousands during the spring.

Mark Preston

Copyright 2016 Mark Preston

No part of this article or the accompanying pictures may be reproduced without permission

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