So far, most of the succulent plants we have featured here are easy to grow and propagate. Then given the proper care, they can last for a long time.  However, some types are a bit complicated to cultivate. One such example is the moon cactus.

Characteristics

The moon cactus is known for its scientific name Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, and its other name is Hibotan cactus. It usually comes in different hues of yellow and orange, but there are also the rare red and pink varieties. The plant appears as a cactus sprouting on top of another cactus. That’s because in reality, it is considered a mutant plant, and it is composed of two cacti.

Propagation

Being a mutant plant, the moon cactus lacks the ability to produce chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a natural compound that gives plants their green pigmentation and generates oxygen as a byproduct. It aids the plants in absorbing sunlight, which they use in synthesizing carbon dioxide and water.

Its lack of chlorophyll means it must be grafted onto a rootstock, which will serve as its host. The base plant can be any of the common cacti found in the market.

The easiest way to acquire the succulent plant is thru the online marketplace. Its setup involves chopping the top of the rootstock cactus while the same is done in the base of the moon cactus. After that, the cuttings are fused until they heal together.

Sadly, the moon cactus has a relatively short life even with good care compared to other succulents. Its life can be extended though by re-grafting it on a fresh rootstock when signs of waning already start appearing.

The succulent can be grown from seeds too, but this can be a tedious process as they may take at least a year to show up. Just sprinkle them beneath a fine grit in groups until they are large enough to be repotted.

The easier and more recommended method is propagation using offsets, which are the smaller versions of the mother plant. These can be found at the base of the rootstock. When the new plants are big enough, each can be placed on new potting soil, or grafted onto a rootstock for best results.

Maintenance

Hibotan plants have more than 80 species native to the desert regions of South America. That means they prefer warm climates. They are not cold hardy but some growers say they can survive with temperatures down to 48 degrees, but to be safe, avoid taking it to that limit. Putting them under a grow light is recommended to compensate for the lower temperature during cold seasons.

Water only the moon cactus when its soil is already dry to the touch because it may wilt from too much moisture. Furthermore, make sure that the soil it stands on is well-draining and the pot where it is situated has holes that can easily drain excess water.

Ideal Gift

The moon cactus is a nice gift for succulent collectors. Its unique character makes it an ideal addition to an indoor garden because it prefers a crowded planting area. With optimum maintenance, it may grow half an inch in diameter, but some cultivars claimed to have brought it up to 8 inches. Lastly, its owner may be rewarded with small red or pink flowers that bloom during late spring to early summer with proper care.

About the author
Giancarlo Perlas
A freelance writer who loves cars, sports, carpentry, and gardening. Check him out on Twitter at @giancarloperlas and Pinterest at Succulent Shaman.

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