Dancing Bones Information – How To Grow A Dancing Bones Cactus
By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Dancing bones cactus (Hatiora salicornioides) is a small, shrubby cactus plant with slender, segmented stems. Also known as drunkard’s dream, bottle cactus, or spice cactus, dancing bones produces deep yellow-orange blooms on the bottle-shaped stem tips in spring. Interested in growing dancing bones? Read on and we’ll tell you how.
Dancing Bones Information
A native of Brazil, dancing bones cactus isn’t a desert cactus but rather an epiphytic denizen of the rainforest. The stems are spineless, although older plants may develop a few spiny growths at the base. A mature dancing bones cactus plant reaches heights of 12 to 18 inches (30-45 cm.)
Growing dancing bones is possible outdoors only in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 to 12. Gardeners in cooler climates, however, can enjoy this tropical plant indoors.
How to Grow a Dancing Bones Cactus
Dancing bones cactus plants are easy to propagate by taking cuttings from a healthy, established plant. Cuttings from the segmented stems usually root immediately and is similar to that of rooting Christmas cactus.
Simply plant the cuttings in a pot filled with a potting mix for cacti and succulents, or a regular mix combined with a small amount of coarse sand. Be sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. Like all cacti, dancing bones cactus is prone to rot in soggy conditions.
Dancing Bones Cactus Care
Place dancing bones in indirect light where the plant is protected from direct afternoon sunlight. Water regularly during the growing season. Allow the pot to drain thoroughly after watering and never allow the potting mix to remain soggy.
Fertilize your dancing bones cactus plant every other week during the growing season using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength.
Dancing bones cactus goes dormant during winter months. During this time, water occasionally to keep the soil from becoming bone dry. Withhold fertilizer until spring and then resume care as usual.
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Adorably Spiky, Showy Blooms, Full Sun
Cactus (KAK-tus) (Cacti) will steal your heart with their charming, prickly forms and showy flowers. They require some caution when handling, but these super low maintenance plants can thrive indoors with bright sun, little water, and proper drainage. As the stunning products of harsh, arid climates, cacti are both the pinnacle of succulent perfection for enthusiasts and easy-to-grow starter plants for beginners.
- Form: Cacti can display a wide variety of sculptural forms, including flat paddles, round barrels, and branching columns. They maximize water efficiency by forgoing leaves in favor of water-storing stems. All cacti have areoles, or small bumps from which sprout flowers, branches, or spines.
- Spines: Varieties differ in the size and quantity of their spines (some are even spineless). Species of Opuntia have barbed glochid tufts that can easily pierce leather gloves and lodge painfully in skin. Use caution and tongs when handling.
- Flowers: Most cacti don't bloom frequently, but when they do it is with large, showy blooms that contrast stunningly with their normally spiny look. The flowers can be short-lived, but their evanescence makes them even more of a treat.
- Light: Cactus should get 6+ hours of full sun each day, but they grow happily indoors on a sunny window sill.
- Soil: Ideally, use a gritty, well-draining soil of 50%-80% mineral grit (coarse sand, pumice, or perlite). Most garden centers sell bags of cactus soil, but garden soil can also be amended with extra grit.
- Water: Deeply drench then wait for the soil to dry thoroughly before watering again. Frequency will depend on environmental conditions, so it is key to regularly observe your plants and the soil to gauge moisture content. To start, aim to water 1-2 times per month in the spring and summer, less in the fall and winter, and not at all if the temperature drops below freezing.
- Hardiness: Most of our cacti are not frost hardy, except the Opuntia, which can tolerate temperatures down to at least 10F.
NOTES FROM THE NURSERY
Cactaceae is the largest botanical family of succulents, with over 1,700 species, all native to the Americas. They have ancient origins in evolutionary history and are adapted to diverse, arid climates including deserts, alpine regions, grasslands, and tropical forests. In some ways, they are the ultimate succulent, tolerating the harshest climates with extensive droughts, torrential rainstorms, hot, sunny days, and frigid nights. We love that they are both a practical, architectural choice for waterwise landscaping and a charming window sill plant that will occasionally reward with a giant, showy flower.
Dig a planting hole for the cactus that is twice the width of the nursery container and about as deep. Choose a site with fast-draining, sandy soil that gets full sun. Totem pole cactus grows best outdoors in areas with mild, frost-free winters.
Take the totem pole cactus out of the nursery container and loosen the roots with your fingers if they are tightly twisted. Set the plant in the center of the hole. Backfill the hole with the excavated soil. Press down slightly with your hands to firm the soil around the cactus, and add more soil if needed. Do not water.
After two to six weeks, water the cactus thoroughly. If you plant in late spring or early summer while the weather is dry, water sooner. Wait longer if the cactus gets natural rainfall during its first few weeks. The plant can take severe drought and generally does well with normal rainfall amounts, but if the soil dries to several inches below ground level, give the cactus a supplemental watering.