The Gymnocalycium mihanovichi, commonly known as the moon cactus is a small mutant cactus and about 4 inches tall with a spread of about 1.5 inches. It has its origin in the desert regions of South America.
Moon cactus lacks chlorophyll pigment because of being a mutant. This cactus comes in shades of bright pink, yellow, neon yellow, and bright orange like colors.
The shrub requires physical conditions similar to other cactus. Therefore, it needs bright & indirect sunlight along with low humidity.
The Gymnocalycium mihanovichii if grown with proper care might welcome blooms of funnel-shaped whitish-pink flowers followed by the formation of juicy white pulpy fruit.
The Moon cactus is a fun and easy to grow mutant cactus with very low maintenance which makes it quite a recommended shrub for novice gardeners or those people with tight job schedules.
Identification of the Moon Cactus
The moon cactus is a mutant as I have already mentioned and has a round colorful part varying from reddish to yellowish colors. This round part is the Gymnocalycium mihanovichii and it forms the scion.
The lower part which is the host part can be any cactus but commonly it is the Hylocereus cactus.
The cactus is easily identified because of its small size and brightly colored round part sitting on top of the other green-colored cactus.
Based upon the different colors of the scion part, we have red moon cactus, purple moon cactus, yellow moon cactus, and pink moon cactus.
This mutant cactus blooms with whitish-yellow funnel-shaped flowers followed by the formation of juicy white-colored pulpy fruit.
There is no specific season for its blooming and fruiting.
What is the size of a mature Gymnocalycium mihanovichii?
Wondering, how big do moon cactus get?
The cactus can obtain various heights depending upon the rootstock.
But usually, they do not grow after attaining a height of about 4 inches and a spread of about 1.5 inches.
Care for the Moon Cactus
To successfully grow your succulent, you must know how to take care of a moon cactus?
Moon cactus care routine is quite similar to the care routine of other succulents which means it requires bright indirect sunlight & less watering.
Moon cactus life span is quite short and would not live long like other succulents but can be extended by the use of grafting techniques.
So, the next question arises – how long do moon cactus live? The life span of the moon cactus ranges from 1 to 3 years.
Let us now know about the various things that we need to follow to care for the cactus.
The Gymnocalycium mihanovichii requires bright indirect sunlight for its healthy growth and proper blooming.
If your place lacks the supply of an adequate amount of sunlight then you can even use artificial lightings.
Temperature and humidity requirements
The mutant cactus grows well in a temperature range of 55ºF – 60ºF.
Borderline temperatures can result in the death of the scion part while the rootstock is still alive.
Low humidity is ideal for the proper growth of the cactus. If the place lacks low humid conditions then great care needs to be taken with the watering schedule.
Soil requirement & fertilizer requirement
The most important part of growing the cactus is to maintain its ideal soil requirements.
The cactus requires monthly fertilization with cactus fertilizing formula during the warm growing seasons like spring and summer.
Moon cactus as compared to other cactus plants do not require much watering. During winters and autumns, watering should be done once a month.
During spring and summer, the watering needs to be done once in 1-2 weeks.
We need to also check for soil dryness before watering the succulent. Make sure the pot in which the cactus is being grown has a good water drainage system.
Tips to proper watering of the cactus
Being a cactus, it does not require much watering.
But, still, an ideal watering schedule is followed based upon the seasons.
Like during summers and springs, the watering of the mutant cactus should be done once in a week or two.
During winter and fall, the watering of the cactus should be done once a month.
Before blindly following the watering schedule we shall check whether the soil is completely dry or not.
Moreover, after watering we should check whether the excess water has been properly drained out of the pores or not. If some water remains on the saucer, then we shall throw it.
Therefore for proper watering, we shall check for soil dryness and follow the seasonal watering schedule.
Propagation of the succulent
Wondering how to propagate moon cactus?
Well, moon cactus propagation can be done with the help of offsets or by grafting.
The moon cactus does not produce offsets very often. So if we see offsets sprouting off of the top scion portion. Then we can use them for propagation by carefully plucking them off, letting them dry for at least 3 days, and then placing them in the new unglazed pot with a fresh soil mixture.
Now, if we want to extend the life span of your mutant cactus. Then moon cactus grafting will surely help us with that.
How to graft moon cactus? The following steps shall help in propagating moon cactus by grafting.
Steps for grafting the cactus
• Use a sterile cutting instrument. Cut off an inch of the scion part of the mutant cactus.
• Now cut the rootstock by deepening the cut a few inches into the soil.
• Dry both the cut out portions.
• Prepare a relatively larger unglazed pot as compared to the previous pot.
• Put the bought cactus soil mixture or the self-made cactus soil mixture into that pot.
• Place the rootstock into the soil with its upper portion being above the soil.
• Now put the cut-out scion part on top of the rootstock. Keep them joined by using a rubber band.
• Grafted cactus needs to be taken care of in a similar way as the un-grafted cactus. Make sure there is no pest attack at the joint portion.
• After 2 months remove the rubber band and the union of scion and the rootstock shall be sealed.
Blooming of the Moon cactus
There is no particular season for the blooming of the Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii. Therefore, to encourage blooming, we need to monthly fertilize the cactus with a fertilizing solution during the growing period. The growing period in the spring and summer combined.
During this time, we need to give proper adequate sunlight to the cactus.
Soon we shall welcome whitish-pink funneled-shaped flowers followed by the formation of white juicy fruits.
Moon cactus flower color may be completely white or pink with white tints
Potting and re-potting of the cactus
For planting the Gymnocalycium mihanovichii we require an unglazed clay pot with pores at the bottom to provide a good water drainage system embedded with the cactus soil mixture.
How and when to re-pot it?
For re-potting, we need a bigger sized unglazed pot with pores at the bottom embedded with the freshly prepared or freshly bought cactus soil mix.
After that, we place the cut-off offsets or the grafted portions in the soil.
We need to avoid watering for at least a week because the soil will contain moisture.
The pot should be placed in a bright sunlight area.
Problems related to Moon Cactus and Their Solutions
Is the moon cactus dying?
Then the following problems and their solutions shall help in restoring the cactus.
Overwatering, under watering, and inadequate sunlight, are some reasons behind the drooping of the moon cactus.
How to solve the problem?
For an overwatered mutant cactus, then the only way to save the drooping cactus is by providing it bright sunlight and avoids watering it till the soil becomes completely dry.
For an under-watered Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, we need to follow an ideal watering schedule and never miss a single watering day.
In the case of inadequate sunlight, all we need to do is place the cactus in a bright sunny area or provide an ideal lighting arrangement.
Moon cactus rot mainly happens because of overwatering.
Overwatering particularly leads to the rotting of the roots. If all the roots rot completely then saving the cactus from dying becomes quite difficult.
We can avoid it by placing the mutant cactus in a bright sunny area and water it when the soil is completely dry.
We can see an attack of spider mites and mealybugs on the mutant cactus. But these pest attacks are not a big threat.
We can avoid them by applying isopropyl alcohol diluted in water on the cactus with the help of cotton swabs.
You can also use organic pets friendly ingredients like Neem Oil.
Toxicity towards pets and children
The Gymnocalycium mihanovichii is not toxic towards pets and children. Even the flowers and fruits of this mutant are non-toxic.
But consumption of the cactus sap by any means should be avoided. The cactus should be handled safely to avoid any skin irritation caused by the prickly spines.
The moon cactus benefits novice gardeners and busy people because they are low maintenance plants.
Moreover, the cactus has a great aesthetic value because of its vibrant colored scions. Even the flowers and fruits enhance the beauty of the cactus.
Care must be taken while watering the plant since overwatering or under watering the plant might result in its loss of luster and the plant might even die.
Children and pets must be kept away from the cactus since the prickly spines might hurt them.
Overall, if your place has adequate sunlight and low humidity then purchasing this succulent will be a great choice.
And, if you can manage to provide artificial conditions similar to the ideal physical conditions then also you can make a purchase.
For purchasing moon cactus, you can do it from any online boutiques or you can visit any nearby nurseries as well. But, during this pandemic, it is advisable to purchase online.
This mutant cactus is another great succulent to be grown as a houseplant or an outdoor plant.
In this busy world, succulent purchases are increasing rapidly because of their low maintenance and great aesthetic value.
These succulents are also a great choice for purchasing for novice gardeners. They will learn about gardening in a fun and less hectic ways with the help of these colorful cacti.
This mutant cactus is available in various vibrant colors. Therefore, having a collection of each of these color types will enhance the beauty of the house or the garden.
As a houseplant the cactus will help in purifying the air, thereby leading to an increase in the intake of oxygen as a result of which concentration and efficiency to do work also increase.
Although, these cacti are of low maintenance we still need to follow a strict watering schedule along with providing adequate sun rays.
Exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided. Therefore, we might acclimate the plants.
We need to use large-sized unglazed clay pots with pores at the bottom for a good water drainage system.
Large-sized pots are preferred because they give space for root spreading.
Since these cacti are short-lived (which means the average life span of these mutant cacti ranges from 1-3 years), we can increase their life span a bit by grafting.
If the cacti are properly fertilized during the growing period, then we might welcome beautiful white or whitish-pink or pinkish-white flowers followed by the formation of juicy white fruits with tiny black seeds at the center.
Novice gardeners may have quite fun by growing this cactus since it is quite vibrant in appearance and grows quite fast. This will be a good way for them to enhance their gardening knowledge.
This cactus is a great purchase to be made even by the people who are always busy with their work.
Overall, Gymnocalycium mihanovichii also known as the moon cactus is a valuable purchase to be made. The vibrancy and beauty of this cactus will enhance the look of the place where it will be kept.
I hope the article was informative and fun to read. Happy planting now!
Read more on other mutant cactus here.