Unlike other cacti, the moon cactus is not a single cactus. In fact, its flowery colored balls (the scion) lack chlorophyll which is needed for a plant to survive. So, to ensure the colorful tops survive its grafting onto a green cactus base full of chlorophyll referred to as a rootstock. The neon balls come in an array of colors like yellow, orange, red, pink, and purple.
Although, the grafting helps the cactus survive this type of cactus has a relatively short life expectancy of about 2 – 3 years. Oftentimes the balls will produce pups (offsets) which can become top heavy and damage the rootstock. Of course, if your rootstock is showing signs of damage like a mushy texture, or is turning brown you can re-graft the ball. Most often the triangular shaped hylocereus aka dragon is used for the rootstock.
Moon Cactus (aka chin cactus, ruby ball, red cap, red hibotan, hibotan cacti)
Botanical Name & Family: Gymnocalycium mihanovichii from the Cactaceae family
How to care for your moon plant
Light: Prefers indirect bright light that is East or West facing
Benefits: Improves air quality, removes toxins, improves mood and concentration
Soil: 50% Peat based potting with 50% course sand.
Watering: Water when soil is completely dry which is about once a week and once every two weeks during the winter season.
Fertilizer: It doesn’t really need fertilizer but it won’t hurt to use some once a month from April – September during the growing season.
Repotting: They do best in smaller 2 to 3 inch pots with drainage holes. It needs repotting every 2-3 years if it lives that long and mostly for the purpose of changing the soil. When handling cactus it’s best to wear leather gloves for protection from the spiney needles.
Toxicity: Not toxic to animals
How big will it grow: They grow anywhere between 2 – 4 inches high.
Propagating: Remove a pup from the parent plant ball and place in cactus potting soil
Temperature: Thrives best in temperatures ranging from 64°F – 77°F and should not be exposed to temperatures below 30°F.
Now that you know that the moon cactus is not a single cactus check out my blog post on growing a golden barrel cactus for more cacti inspiration.