While on a recent trip to Mexico to visit Tillandsia in habitat I noticed so many other epiphytic species growing together. A light bulb went off, while I absolutely love Tillandsia my passion for plants extends much further. I left wanting to explore using other eiphytes in my work and a year or two later the Airplantman Kokedama was born.
Airplantman is all about air plants. While 'air plant' is a common name typically used to refer to Tillandsia of the Bromeliadaceae family it can be used to refer to any epiphytic plant. When I realized technically I don't just have to work with Tillandsia to keep the Airplantman name I became quite excited!
Epiphytes are plants that grow upon other plants (or anything else that can support them). They are non-parasitic, leaving the terrestrial world behind to inhabit niches other plants can't survive in. In these limited or no soil conditions these unique plants have adapted to grow and thrive.
Rhipsalis is are a genus of jungle cacti from from the Carribean, Central and South America. Interestingly they are also the only cactus to have spread outside the New World with isolated populations in Tropical Africa and Sri Lanka.
Unlike most cactus species Rhipsalis thrive in low light conditions where they cascade down from tree branches and other perches. Commonly called the mistletoe cactus this species has no relationship to 'mistletoe' but bears a superficial resemblance. The name Rhipsalis comes from an ancient greek word for 'wickerwork' referencing the plant's appearance.
Rhipsalis is very variable in its growth habit, the plants can grow mostly pendent, while some more or less upright or sprawling. Its stems are succulent but to varying degrees. Best yet in the majority of species spines are missing and this isn't a cactus that will hurt you. Most Rhipsalis have beautiful tiny flowers including white, yellow, pink, and even rarely red. After blooming Rhipsalis produce fruits in whitish or coloured pink, red, or yellow berries.
Rhipsalis prefer filtered light and should be place at least 20" from a window. Too much sun can damage their leaves but not enough will lead to wilting and a lack of flowering. Morning sun is best and protection from afternoon direct sun a must. In nature Rhipsalis would grow in a jungle environment with light filtering through dense overhead leaves.
Regular water is needed for a healthy plant, but over-watering can lead to weak stems and rot. Once a week is typically sufficient but test soil mix prior to watering and wait if it feels damp. Humidity levels in the home, size of your container, and a variety of other factors can effect exact frequency but they are generally quite hardy.
Fertilize in spring and summer lightly using half strength cactus fertilizer.