The Monkey Tail Cactus the common name for Cleistocactus winteri subsp. Colademononis [Kly-stoh-KAK-tus, WIN-ter-eye subspecies koh-luh-dee-mon-OH-nis] is an interesting member of the Cactaceae family hailing from Bolivia.
This unusual cactus is commonly referred to as:
- Golden Rat Tail Cactus
- Monkey’s Tail Cactus
- Tarantula Cactus
- Rat Tail Cactus
Monkey Tail Cactus Care
Size & Growth
This enthusiastic cactus grows easily in rocky soil.
In nature, its tail-like stems ramble over rocky slopes to a length of up to 3′ or 4′ feet.
They start upright, but once they attain a length of about 2′ feet, they fall over and dangle.
Flowering & Fragrance
Bright red flowers may be as long as 3″ inches.
The flowers transition into reddish, spherical seeds that germinate easily.
Blooms appear mostly in spring and summer, but the plant may bloom in autumn or even winter depending upon the climate.
Light & Temperature
Indoors, Rat’s Tail cactus likes very bright, indirect sunlight.
Outdoors, it can do well in full sun, unless the sunlight is especially harsh and punishing.
In very hot climates, morning sun and afternoon shade are preferred.
Tarantula cactus thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9a – 11b; however, anecdotal evidence indicates it can tolerate temperatures as low as -2° degrees Fahrenheit (-19° C).
Watering & Feeding
During spring and summer, water deeply when the top couple of inches of soil dry out.
In wintertime, keep the cactus dry because cool temperatures and moisture will promote root rot.
Early in the springtime, apply a slow-release, low nitrogen, high potassium fertilizer.
Soil & Transplanting
In the wild, this cactus grows on rocky slopes.
It appreciates a gravelly, sandy cactus mix with sharp drainage.
Repot only every couple of years to refresh the soil.
You will not necessarily need to move up to a larger size pot because the root system is quite shallow.
Grooming & Maintenance
Tendrils may die off naturally, occasionally. Remove these as needed.
Remove offsets or small branches as you wish to enhance the appearance and to use for propagation.
Please note, whenever you trim any part of the cactus, it will be stimulated to produce new growth.
Because the tendrils are prone to breakage, you should avoid moving the plant around.
Protect Rat’s Tail Cactus growing in hanging baskets from exposure to high wind.
How To Propagate Cleistocactus Winteri
Monkey’s Tail Cactus grows from seed or by cutting off a small branch and rooting it in gravelly soil.
The plant may also produce offsets from time to time. These may also be rooted.
Remember to allow cuttings and offsets to dry in the open air for a couple of days before placing them in a substrate.
Drying helps prevent fungal infection.
Cleistocactus Winteri Main Pest or Disease Problems
Indoors, like most cactus, Monkey’s Tail Cactus may be bothered by succulent mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects.
Proper watering, ventilation, temperature, and lighting will help prevent these problems.
Overwatering will lead to root rot.
Is This Plant Toxic Or Poisonous?
Unlike many types of cactus, Monkey’s Tail Cactus is not edible. Its flesh is toxic.
Luckily, the chances of ingesting it are quite low because it’s soft, furry looking hairs are protective spines which will poke you painfully if you apply too much pressure.
All-in-all, it’s wise to remember this is a cactus simply, so you should keep it well out of the reach of kids and pets and out of the way of passers-by.
Is This Plant Invasive?
Although Cleistocactus winteri subsp. colademononis is not listed as an invasive species, and if you do happen to live in an area with weather conditions conducive to its spread, you should take care to keep it contained.
The plant propagates easily through breakage, offsets, and germination, so it is not inconceivable it could adapt and become invasive if not kept in check.
Suggested Monkey Tail Cactus Uses
Monkey’s Tail Cactus is easy to grow, so it is a good choice for beginning gardeners.
As a houseplant, it does well in a hanging basket.
In zones 9a – 11b, it makes a nice addition to a rock garden, and it can add a lot of visual interest to an informal rock wall in a sunny setting.