Houseplant of the Week: Grafted Cactus

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Grafted Cactus in colorful potTiny and super colorful, the fascinating grafted or “moon” cactus is an eye-catcher that is a miracle of human intervention.

You know them when you see them. They have a solid green succulent stalk that looks like a traditional cactus, but are topped with bright, almost neon-like domes in shades of hot pink, flaming tangerine and sunshine yellow.

It almost feels like you’re looking at two totally different plants – and you are.

The bright little ball on top is a “mutant” pup from a regular cactus. In the wild, it would detach from the parent plant and ultimately die soon after because these pups don’t have the chlorophyll (essentially the green pigment) needed to photosynthesize.

So humans graft them onto a rootstock plant and that bottom part provides nutrients not only for itself but the colorful pup. It’s really quite amazing and accounts for one of the spookier nicknames this plant has – the Frankenstein plant!

Caring for Your “Grafted Cactus”

  • Light – These plants do best in bright, indirect sunlight. Prolonged periods of direct sunlight can be harmful to the plant. A sunny windowsill or a covered porch with some shade are good locations. They’ll survive a winter freeze but to be safe, bring them indoors.
  • Water – The water requirements for grafted cactus are minimal. In fact, they don’t like to be overwatered, which can lead to rot. You can generally tell if your plants need watering by feeling the soil. If the dirt is dry and dusty, your cactus would probably benefit by a mild watering. Suspend water during the winter.
  • Temperature – As you would expect with a plant that comes from the desert, a grafted cactus appreciates warm temps. No setting this one up near the air conditioning!

In short this is a fascinating plant, the product of human ingenuity that makes a great “beginner” plant because of its fun colors and minimal maintenance requirements.