Hatiora (2011)

PhotoBy Eric Driskill (June 2011)

Cacti in the tribe Rhipsalideae are all epiphytic (grow in trees) or lithophytic (grow on rock). The tribe includes four genera: Hatiora, Lepismium, Rhipsalis and Schlumbergera. Using an anagram, Britton and Rose named Hatiora in 1923 to honor the 16th century botanist Thomas Hariot, mentor to Sir Walter Raleigh. These plants are from southeastern Brazil.

Hatiora is often subdivided into two subgenera. Plants in the subgenus Hatiora have cylindrical stem segments and are never ribbed. Subgenera Rhipsalidopsis has flattened stem segments.

Most authors include five or six species within the genus Hatiora. All species are freely branching, with determinate growth. Their stems have segments no longer than 2 inches that are either cylindrical or flattened, singly or in clusters from composite areoles at the tips of older segments. The plants have small areoles and soft bristle spines, if any at all. Their yellow, pink or red flowers open during the day.

Hybrids of H. gaertneri x H. rosea are some of the most popular cacti on the market. These hybrids are better known as the Easter cactus or spring cactus. Until your friends are either educated or exposed to your collection, this is what many think of when you mention the word “cactus.”

A less-common species is H. salicornioides, often seen sold in hanging baskets with a common name of Drunkard’s Dream, due to the whiskey bottle-shaped stem segments. There are two other species that I think have nice growth and very nice flowers: H. herminiae and H. rosea. Both of these look like they would be really neat plants to grow in hanging pots.

Hatiora need partial shade to bright, indirect light with a light, free-draining soil mix. During the growing season, plants can be watered freely, and some growers fertilize quite often. If allowed to dry out, your plants will quickly let you know by dropping stem segments.

In late fall, night temperatures that drop to 50 to 55 degrees aid in flower initiation. During this time, restrict watering somewhat but never allow plants to completely dry out. Resume normal watering and fertilization once flower buds have formed. Propagation is easily done by either cuttings/stem segments or seeds.

Don’t wait until you have completely filled up your bench to look above your head to see where a new addition to your collection will fit with a hanging basket. With the many options for succulents nicely grown and displayed in hanging pots, Hatiora is a nice genus to pursue.