Propagation by Cutting Ken Friedman, U.S. (1999)

Propagation by cutting is no doubt the most common method used for multiplying a collection of Rhipsalis. Cuttings root easily and start out a lot larger than seedlings.

Judging from the rooted cuttings received from growers, the rooting medium of choice varies slightly but is in general a loose well-draining mix of ingredients that may include fir bark, osmunda pieces, sphagnum, oak leaf mold, peat, perlite and pumice. The idea is a loose mix. Potting soil is not the medium of choice and peat moss doesn't appear to be popular.

Rainbow Gardens (RG), California, made the following recommendation (in its 1997-98 catalog) for Epiphyllums and says it will work for Rhipsalis:

1 part leaf mold, 1 part coarsely ground bark, 1 part 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch redwood or fir bark, 1 part perlite (or horticultural pumice if you can find it). You may add 1/2 part horticultural charcoal if you wish. Leaf mold may be difficult to obtain in many parts of the country. We have found that commercially packaged camelia-azalea mix is a satisfactory substitute for leaf mold. Just bear in mind that the mix should be three parts organic matter and 1 part perlite or pumice. We do not use peat moss or vermiculite. For each cubic foot of mix, add 1/2 cup bone meal. Don't be afraid to experiment, as there are any number of  combinations of similar ingredients that will prove to be equally satisfactory. You should also bear in mind that your climate has a direct bearing on the preparation of mix. If you live in extremely humid area such as Hawaii, coastal Florida, or near the Gulf of Mexico, you will want to lighten the consistency of the mix suggested above in order to provide more rapid drainage. This may be accomplished by decreasing the amount of leaf mold and redwood bark and increasing the amount of perlite or pumice.

For Rhipsalis, Rainbow Gardens says to add 1/3 volume washed builder's sand to either a commercially packaged indoor plant mix or basic epiphyllum mix.

RG also recommends not applying fertilizer for at least 3 months after applying new potting mix to your plants.

I looked for camelia or azalea potting mix in the Philadelphia, Pa., area and elsewhere and couldn't find it. Leaf mold and pumice are generally unavailable except by mail order but shipping costs can make them expensive. Since I can shred leaves in a wood chipper, I plan to shred my own oak leaves.

Bob Smoley's Gardenworld (Fla.) and Tropiflora (Fla.) both sell suitable Rhipsalis mixes by the bag. Tropiflora's cuttings come rooted in a spongy, "barky" mix (photo on left). Some of the cuttings are rooted by simply laying them on the surface so the cuttings can root in several places along the stem or leaf. Tropiflora says not to use peat moss. 

Smoley's mix is unique because it contains pumice in a fine mix of milled ingredients shown in the photo on the right. The quarter-inch-size white pumice is a rare ingredient that adds excellent drainage despite its tendency to float to the top of the mix. Sometimes I skim floaters and reuse them in another mix. When rooted cuttings are transferred to this mix, they quickly expand their root systems. If the mix needs to drain faster, add more pumice. Smoley sells pumice by the box but shipping is as costly as the pumice itself. The photo on the right shows this mix with Terra Green© added (see below).

 My favorite rooting medium used to be a clay product best thought of as being like Kitty Litter® or a much more common but somewhat dirty substitute product used to soak up oil spills. Ask for the oil soaker-upper--one brand name is SpeediDri®--at a supply store like Home Depot. I prefer the the Australian product Maidenwell, sold in the U.S. as Diatomite, because it is sterile and despite its superior drainage holds a little water because it is hard-fired clay. Its absorbency is exactly what makes it good for soaking up spilled oil but you can't afford to use imported stone to soak up oil. Not at a dollar a pound. Because the mix drains so well, you can water it often and most cuttings won't rot. Rhipsalis cuttings still seem to do best when allowed to dry between waterings. See comparison photos of various stone products.

I put about two to three inches of the clay particles in a small pot with a piece of screen over the hole to prevent the particles from washing out. Once the cutting roots, I transfer it with the clay particles clinging to the roots (not quite a small root ball) to a permanent mix. If the cuttings are healthy to begin with this method provides almost a 100 percent success rate.

I found one type of clay particle soil amendment manufactured by Profile, called Professional Soil Conditioner, but the particles are mostly fine and too small to be of use. A more appropriate product is Pro's Choice Products, which is sold for use in baseball infields to dry them out--P.O. Box 70, Barrington, Ill 60011, U.S.

In eastern Pennsylvania, my Rhipsalis are inclined to grow in spring, so many cuttings root even if left unpotted and exposed to air while sitting on a table or shelf. I simply lay them on a dry shaded shelf and wait. If they catch an occasional mist, great. Once roots show, I pot in a final or interim mix and water cautiously as the mix warrants.