Grow Your Own Monkey Tail Cactus: Essential Tips for Success

Name two Gardeners in a group of five who do not love this easy-to-grow monkey-tailed cactus, and I will pay. This plant is its “hip” and “beauty” to the plant lover crowd.

And if you are unaware of this beauty, I am obliged to introduce you to it!

What is Monkey Tail Cactus?

The Monkey Tail Cactus, scientifically known as Cleistocactus colademononis (formerly Hildewintera colademononis), is a statement-making, easy, and resilient plant loved for its distinctive monkey tail appearance and low maintenance requirement, suitable for house plant beginners.

Its elongated, trailing stems adorned with soft, white, hair-like spines make it an attractive addition to any space, whether hung from a basket or cascading from a shelf. Its fuzzy white spines look more like a teenager’s failed attempt at a beard. The most exciting aspect of this cactus is its vibrant red flowers that sprout throughout the growing season. 

monkey tail cactus care

Typically comprising 3-5 stems per plant, these stems can grow up to 3 inches thick and extend to lengths of up to 8 feet in their natural habitat, although indoors, they typically reach around 4 feet. 

Despite appearing white, the cactus possesses a yellow-green hue. However, this may vary depending on the variety and density of the spines covering its surface (don’t stress, I will give you a monkey plant care guide; just read along).

Name CommonMonkey tail cactus, monkey tail plant
Botanical NameCleistocactus Colademononis
Plant TypeCactus, Evergreen
Mature SizeTails can grow up to 8 ft. long.
Sun Exposure Full, Partial
Soil TypeWell-drained
Soil pHAcid, Neutral, Alkaline
Bloom TimeSpring
Flower ColorRed, Pink

Also Read: Succulent Plants: Growing and Caring for Succulent Plants for Beginners

How to Care for your Lipstick Plant ( Full Monkey tail plant care guide)

The monkey tail plant is one of the simplest to grow; all it requires is-

  • Indirect light and a position in bright light.
  • It is best to plant it in a well-draining, good-quality cactus mix.
  • Let the soil fully dry, and only water it in the growing season.
  • Use a weak, high-potassium, low-nitrogen formula fertiliser 
  • High-humidity environments should be avoided


As mentioned, the best position for your monkey tail cactus is one where it receives bright, indirect light.

Although this desert native appreciates full morning sun, too much intense direct afternoon sun can scorch the stems and too much shade results in the plant dropping its unique white spines. 


Even though, They are epiphytic and, therefore, do not need soil. They grow best in loose, well-draining cactus mix to thrive. Standard potting soil is too heavy and increases the risk of root rot. 

You can buy ready-made cactus soil at your local nursery or make your own blend. Mix three parts potting soil, three parts sand or gravel, and two parts perlite or pumice. 


monkey tail cactus Water

The biggest killer of the monkey tail cactus is root rot due to overwatering. This isn’t a plant to grow outdoors if you live in a region with high rainfall.

During the growing season, allow the cactus soil to fully dry out before watering conservatively again.

If the plant enters a dormancy phase during the winter months, keeping the soil dry and water sparingly is best to allow the cactus to use the water it has stored in its stems.

When grown outdoors, it’s best to stop watering altogether in winter to minimise the risk of frosting.

Also Read: How to Grow Desert Lavender?

Temperature and Humidity

You can grow your monkey tail cactus outdoors in warm regions year-round.

Monkey Tails can handle a good amount of humidity compared to other cacti. If your house is humid, you need to water your plant less, as the cactus will utilise the moisture in the air. During the winter, you want to avoid excess humidity, so avoid placing it in your bathroom.

The plant is frost-hardy to around 35°F, provided it is only exposed to this cold for short periods and the ground is dry.

Some cool temperatures in winter help to stimulate flowering. As you would expect of a desert native, this plant doesn’t do well in high humidity.



Your monkey tail cactus will appreciate feeding with a slow-release high-potassium and low-nitrogen liquid fertiliser at the start of the growing season.

Typically, one feeding should last the whole year, but some enthusiasts apply fertiliser every one or two months while the plant grows.


Low-maintenance monkey tail cacti don’t need regular pruning. It’s just a case of removing broken, dying, or dead stems. 

Also Read: How To Repot Snake Plant With Root Rot?

Monkey tail cactus propagation – how to grow monkey tail cactus 

Monkey tail cactus propagation

It is easy to propagate by stem cuttings during the spring or summer growing season.

I learned how to reproduce these through my accidental decapitation by falling off my shelf and once by closing a window on a stem. Follow these steps to make lots of baby cacti:

  • Cut off a 6-inch section of healthy stem using a sterile, sharp knife.
  • Let the cut-end callus over in an excellent, dry spot. This can take 48 to 72 hours.
  • Plant the cutting with the callused end inserted fully into the fresh cactus soil.
  • Position in a warm spot that receives bright, indirect light.
  • Keep the soil slightly moist while waiting for the cutting to take root. This should take around three weeks.
  • Once roots are established and there is firm resistance when you tug on the cutting, you can revert to usual care, letting the soil fully dry between waterings.

How to Grow Monkey Tail Plants From Seed

How to Grow Monkey Tail Plants From Seed

It is possible to grow monkey tail cacti from seed, although the success rate could be higher as the seedlings tend to be fragile and can be tricky to source if your plant doesn’t bloom.

If you want to give it a whirl, keep the following guidance in mind:

  • After the blooms turn to fruit-containing seeds, carefully gather them up.
  • Thoroughly dry the seeds and store them in the fridge to stratify until they crack open for spring sowing.
  • Surface sow the seeds by pressing them into the seed starter mix in a shallow tray.
  • Please keep them in a warm spot (around 70°F) that receives bright but indirect light. Ensure the soil remains evenly moist but not soggy by misting.
  • Seeds typically germinate within 14 to 28 days.

Also Read: Growing a Bromeliad: A Guide to Bromeliad Plant Care

Potting and Repotting Monkey Tail Plants 

While monkey tail cacti are fast-growing plants, they have a shallow root system that likes to be slightly rootbound, so they don’t need repotting as often as you might expect.

You usually only have to do this every two years. When the cactus becomes top-heavy, consider repotting in the spring.

Pick a pot that’s around two inches wider in diameter than the original one and spread the roots evenly around the pot width.

Wait a week before watering to allow the roots to settle in.

How Long Does the Monkey Tail Plant Bloom?

The blooms are short-lived, putting on a show for just a few days. However, when conditions are right, repeat blooming is standard throughout the growing season. 

What Does Monkey Tail Plant’s Flowers Look and Smell Like?

The red or pink flowers of the monkey tail cactus grow to be around 2 inches in diameter. They appear along the stems of the cactus on top of orange-red bracts.

Common Pests

Be vigilant for signs of pests that thrive in hot, dry environments, such as spider mites, scale, and mealybugs. 

If you see a few, you can wash them away with a steady stream of water.

For heavier infestations, using an insecticidal soap can be effective.

Also Read: Everything You Need to Know About Creeping Thyme

Common Problems With Monkey Tail Plants

Common Problems With Monkey Tail Plants

Watch for changes in your Monkey tail plant’s appearance or coloration, as these can be early indicators of problems.

If you act swiftly to identify the issue, you can save your plant before things go too far.

Yellow Stems

If the green stems of your monkey tail cactus start turning yellow, this can be sunburned from too much direct sun, freeze damage from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, or pest infestations.

Improper watering practices can also lead to yellow stems, especially overwatering, and once root rot sets in, it isn’t easy to save an overwatered cactus. 

Floppy Stems

Weak, floppy stems can indicate your monkey tail cactus isn’t receiving enough.

If the stems are also mushy, this could be because you are overwatering or the potting mix needs more drainage, and root rot is setting it.


This plant is toxic to pets and humans; however, since it is covered in spines, pets should be deterred from messing with it. Plus, if you have it hanging or trailing from a shelf, it will be safely out of a cat’s snooping reach.

Well, I’ve seen my fair share of plants, but this one differs. Like any gardener lover who thinks he is an expert, I am also a tinkerer and experimenter, constantly trying and growing new plants, minimising costs, and refining my gardening skills.

monkey tail cactus


In conclusion, the Monkey Tail Cactus, scientifically known as Cleistocactus colademononis, stands out as a captivating and resilient plant, loved for its unique appearance and minimal care requirements. With elongated stems resembling a monkey’s tail, adorned with soft, white spines, this cactus adds charm to any space, especially when in bloom with vibrant red flowers.

Caring for the Monkey Tail Cactus is relatively easy, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced plant enthusiasts. The key considerations include providing bright, indirect light, well-draining cactus mix, and avoiding overwatering to prevent root rot. The plant’s ability to thrive in various environments, coupled with its low-maintenance nature, makes it a favorite among gardeners.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a newcomer, the Monkey Tail Cactus offers a delightful addition to your plant collection. Its unique features, coupled with straightforward care guidelines, make it a must-have for those looking to enhance their indoor or outdoor greenery. So, if you haven’t already, consider welcoming the Monkey Tail Cactus into your gardening world, and enjoy the beauty it brings to your living space.

Also Read: Unlocking the Secrets of Elephant Ear Plants: Everything You Need to Know

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