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Monkey Tail Seedlings

Question:

I have grown some monkey tail cactus seedlings in a Ziploc bag covered container. I recently took the bag off and need to know what to do now. I’m terrified my baby plants will die. When do I transplant? How much water and what temperature?

Answer:

Your Question: is instructive because it highlights the problem with the all too common use of common rather than botanical names for plants. I know of at least five very different plants species that are commonly referred to as Monkey Tail. They all have very different requirements, so I cannot help you without knowing just what plant species you have. I might guess, but that could lead you down the wrong road entirely.

Do you have a botanical name, such as Cleistocacus for example, that would allow me to know what you have and give you proper advice? Was there a photo on the seed packet or in the catalog that you can share with me?

Follow-up Question:

I’m sorry! It is called Hildewintera colademononis. I hope you can help with this

Answer:

Thanks for properly identifying your seedlings. I assume that the seeds have germinated and have produced some tiny new plants. If so, you are well on your way!

They do not need high humidity so it is good that you have removed the plastic. Provide good air circulation and warm temperatures. Avoid excessive heat above 80 degrees F.

Proper watering is critical and depends a lot on the medium they are planted in. Presumably the medium is a gritty, sandy, Cactus-type of mix. If so, I suggest a light watering every 3-4 days or a light misting every day. The newly emerging roots are very fragile and they require a little bit of moisture and lots of air circulating around them. Excessive water or dryness will quickly cause the roots to die, so proper watering is the most critical and trickiest part.

Do NOT be in a hurry to transplant your seedlings. The longer they stay in their existing pot, the more developed the roots will be and better able to withstand the transplanting later on. Contrary to popular impressions, root crowding is never an issue with these plants. Depending on how many seedlings you have, you may not want to transplant them at all, keeping them together so you have a larger, fuller plant with many tails as the mature.

If you do decide to transplant later, then carefully use a fork to gently lift the seedling along with its delicate roots from the pot. The roost are very fragile so take appropriate care, but don’t worry if there is limited damage to the roots.

Move the transplants to very small, shallow terra cotta pots that are filled with a gritty Cactus mix that dries out quickly between waterings. I recommend growing several plants together in the same pot.