Living Mistletoe Cactus for the Holidays

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of the epiphytic cactus known as mistletoe cactus, but I have a new use for those durable Rhipsalis species: Living mistletoe. The real mistletoe species are parasitic plants that live fused to oak trees, but mistletoe cactus is an incredibly easy houseplant that can be grown in nothing more than a small bundle of sphagnum moss.

Mistletoe cactus will bloom and produce white berries

You can hang mistletoe cactus over doorways, at weddings or on the wall for a never-ending supply of kisses all year. Rhipsalis is, in my opinion, the easiest houseplant available.

To give you an idea of its durability, a year and a half ago I used a cutting in a flower arrangement for my wedding. For almost a year it sat in a vase at my mother's house, blooming and fruiting despite being nearly neglected. Six months ago I moved the vase to a bookshelf in a dim corner of my living room, and still it thrived. Actually, I ended up using it in this arrangement! The small cuttings that I gave out as wedding favors are now growing at our guest's homes... as far away as Canada.

Grow mistletoe cactus in potting soil or sphagnum moss, and water as little or often as you like. Too much water will eventually kill Rhipsalis, but it's a lot more tolerant than other houseplants.

To show you guys just how versatile mistletoe cactus can be in holiday decor, I've created a hanging arrangement using driftwood, sphagnum moss and twine. An air plant (Tillandsia) provides the finishing touch, though you could always substitute with a bright red ribbon.

Want a simpler version of this arrangement? Just wrap a single cutting of mistletoe cactus in sphagnum moss and hang it on the Christmas tree, over your headboard or even around your neck as living jewelry.


Driftwood (cleaned and free of salts)
Sphagnum Moss (long grain works best)
Tillandsia (Air Plant)
Mistletoe Cactus (Look for Rhipsalis with the Exotic Angel houseplants)


Using sharp and clean scissors or pruning shears, clip off some stems of the Rhipsalis plant.

For the very best results, let the mistletoe cactus cuttings heal for a few days before dipping the cut end in rooting hormone. While this isn't necessary, it will help the plants establish faster.

Hold the cut end of the mistletoe cactus to the driftwood, and wrap sphagnum moss around the stem and driftwood using twine. It doesn't have to be perfect!

Continue adding mistletoe cactus cuttings. When you're done, ensure that everything is tight enough to stay in place, yet loose enough for the cuttings to form roots.

Gently tie the airplant to a bare portion of the driftwood. If it is tied to the sphagnum moss, it will rot.

You're done! Hang your living art on the wall or over a doorway, and then get ready for the kisses.


Caring for your living mistletoe is easy. Just remove the whole display and hold it under lightly running water until the moss is saturated. Hang it back up until it has dried out again. You can feed your mistletoe cactus and Tillandsia every few months by either briefly soaking them in compost tea (I swear by Authentic Haven Brand) or a diluted orchid fertilizer. When the mistletoe cactus cuttings grow too large, you can either add more sphagnum moss or prune the stems.

Want more mistletoe cactus ideas?

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  1. Mrs. Rainforest GardenNovember 20, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    What a beautiful and romantic idea for the holidays that does not have to get packed up when the holidays are over. I think I will tuck small cuttings into ribbon or twine when wrapping gifts.

  2. I'm amazed at the ideas you come up.
    Truly this is so exotic and inexpensive yet exclusive beautiful.
    Enjoy your practical & easy to do ideas.

  3. Beautiful, Steve! I've nominated you for a Beautiful Blogger award and linked to your blog in my latest post. You've probably been nominated previously, but if so, I think you're well worth another nomination!

  4. That really does look spectacular and the fact that you say it's easy to look after is even better! :)

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