Rat Tail Cactus Care (Disocactus Flagelliformis)

The rat tail cactus is a very flashy-looking cactus, native to Mexico and certain areas of Central America. It can give a special touch to any living room, backyard or outdoor space. Although it is straightforward to take care of a rat tail cactus, there are some basic guidelines we need to remember.

The basic caring guidelines to care for rat tail cactus include the following:

  • It needs frequent exposure to sunlight. If it’s kept indoors, LED lights may work as a good alternative.
  • Water your cactus when you notice its soil is dry during the growing season. Reduce the watering frequency during fall and winter.
  • This plant can live within a wide range of temperatures, from 40 to 90 Fahrenheit (4 to 32 Celsius).
  • Well-drainage soil is recommended to prevent root rot. 
  • Repotting is suggested to keep replenishing nutrients.

While the recommendations described above should do the work to keep your rat tail cactus healthy, you may wonder how you can make it bloom or how you can propagate it. We have compiled some extra tips that will make your cactus outstand and thrive. 

Let’s learn more about rat tail cactus care.

Rat Tail Cactus: Basic Care

Give them plenty of light.

Like most cacti, the rat tail cactus requires a lot of sunlight. Direct sunlight is perfect for this cactus. Cacti that live are outdoors in a proper climate are used to this.

If the cactus lives indoors, there are some ways to provide it with more sunlight. For one, consider taking it outside when the weather is good and sunny. A proper pot will make this process quite simple.

Another possibility is to provide the cactus with indoor LED lights. These can help supplement a poorly lit indoors rat tail cactus.

Watering your Rat Tail Cactus

Watering will depend on the season:

  • Throughout the growing season (spring and summer), water your rat tail cactus regularly. 
  • During fall and winter, watering should be scaled back. 
  • During winter, watering should stop entirely in winter.

The only real exception to this is if we notice that the soil is drying excessively. Even when this occurs, make sure to water only lightly (during winter in particular). Check our cactus watering guide for more details.

rat tail cactus

Temperature and Climate

This is a particularly durable cactus. Like most cacti, it thrives in very hot temperatures and can easily withstand up to 90 Fahrenheit. Interestingly, it can also stand temperatures as low as 40 Fahrenheit.

The rat tail cactus can do just fine at regular room temperature. This is great to know if we are going to keep it inside the house, and not as an outdoor plant. 

Nevertheless, just make sure that it gets a lot of sunlight throughout the day. Also, make a point of keeping this cactus out of frosty conditions.

Soil & Fertilizer

If you are growing this cactus indoors, we need to use the right organic soil mix. This will supply it with the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

There are some things to remember when dealing with soil. First, we have to remember that it must be well-draining. A good mixture could contain something like four parts loam, one part vermiculture and one part drainage. 

Fertilizing the cactus is also an essential aspect of rat tail cactus care. The best idea is to use fertilizer which is slightly diluted to about half a strength. A serving once every couple of weeks should suffice during the growing season.

Because this cactus is sometimes hard to reach in some spots, it may be a good idea to use liquid fertilizer.

Advanced Rat Tail Cactus Care

rat tail cacti in pots

Rat Tail Cactus Propagation

Propagating the rat tail cactus is quite simple. In fact, some experts posit that propagation is more comfortable than using seeds.

Simply cut a stem and allow it to dry off. Then just repot it into suitable soil and let it grow with appropriate sunlight and some watering. The stem should take hold within a few weeks.

Don’t put these stems too deeply into the soil, though. A mere eighth of an inch should suffice. Sometimes we will need to prop these stems up a little bit in the beginning. A stick will do nicely to achieve this added early support. 


Repotting a rat tail cactus can be done after the growing season. Most experts agree that this cactus should be repotted every year.

Because this cactus grows so fast, it’s essential to check if a larger pot will be necessary for the repotting. In any case, make sure to put in new soil to give the plant the necessary nutrients.

Pests & Diseases

The rat tail cactus is very resistant to pests and diseases. There are, however, some insects that can attack it, and the appropriate steps must be taken to protect it.

Spider mites are very small and difficult to spot with the naked eye. This pesky little insect can attack the leaves and suck the sap out. 

When this insect attacks a rat tail cactus, it’s necessary to quarantine the plant. If the infestation is severe, it’s a good idea to use neem-oil-based insecticide. If the infestation is not too bad, washing it with water should be enough.

Scale insects are a larger pest than spider mites. They usually attach themselves to the cactus. To take care of them, we have to wipe them off with a soft cloth and alcohol.

Finally, the rat tail cactus can be crippled by root rot. Overwatering will usually cause this. Lack of proper drainage in the pot may also be a cause. Water prudently and always remember that cacti must not be left sitting in water.  

The Origin of the Rat Tail Cactus and why it’s famous

As stated earlier, this cactus is native to Mexico. It’s very famous because of its appearance. As the name indicates, the stems look very much like rat tails.

rat tail cactus flower

This cactus has pretty long stems, which can grow up to a whopping four feet. The rat tail cactus also has flowers. These flowers are generally violet-red. Occasionally, this cactus may grow very striking flowers in pink or orange. The flowers themselves are also quite unusually shaped, tubular and quite large.

This cactus can be either lithophytic or epiphytic. This means that it can exist on the ground or appear in trees and similar places/structures. If kept as a household plant, the rat tail cactus can be kept in hanging pots. This is quite convenient because of the long stems, that need quite a bit of room.

When we encounter the rat tail cactus in the wild, we’ll notice that it’s seldom growing in the soil. More often, we’ll find it growing on trees, crevasses and similar places.

Similar Cacti

Some cacti are similar to the rat tail cactus. The disocactus is a genus with several interesting plants. One of these is the disocactus x mallisonii, usually called ‘rat’s tail cactus’. The appearance of this cactus is quite similar to the one we’ve been discussing.

This cactus also needs watering during the growing season and no watering during winter. The rat tail’s cactus can reproduce via seeds and propagation.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature, much like in the rat tail cactus, is the flower that it produces. These flowers are red-pink and can grow to quite a large size.

Growing Tips – How fast do rat tail cactus grow?

The rat tail cactus grows quite quickly. It’s also a cactus which reproduces very easily. Propagation, in particular, is very simple, because the stems are so long.

Cactus Aesthetics

There are several ways to keep the rat tail cactus inside the home. A very popular way is to grow them in hanging baskets. This way, the long stems of the cactus can be appreciated.  

Some people line their baskets with sphagnum moss or any other organic material. These can help the rat tail cactus thrive and be healthier.

Related Questions

How do I get my rat tail cactus to bloom?

The rat tail cactus should be able to produce flowers in spring. Interestingly, flowers in this cactus will grow and bloom for only a few days before they shade off. 

There are things we can do to help it produce flowers. Annual repotting can provide a lot of necessary nutrients for this cactus. Watering also plays an important part in achieving flowers. Rat tail cacti do need watering; to have flowers blooming, it’s necessary to try certain things. During the growing season, this cactus should be watered very well. In winter, however, it’s best to let them dry out.

What are the biggest threats to my cactus?

Pests and diseases can affect the rat tail cactus. The most prevalent are spider mites and scale insects. Root rot may also be a problem and over watering should be avoided. 

What is the best way to display a Rat Tail Cactus?

The rat tail cactus is quite flashy-looking. To make it really stand out, we can put it in hanging baskets.

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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