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Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Moon Cactus

My sister bought me a baby cactus when she was in Barcelona over the summer. Since then, my plant collection has grown quite a bit. I mostly have cactuses and other succulents because they are very easy to care for and look nice. Whenever I buy new plants, I make sure to get something different. When I started my cactus-craze, I bought a moon cactus. Things were going great until recently.

I was skeptical about buying a moon cactus because they’re grafted plants, so they do not naturally occur in nature. Plants are grafted by joining the tissue of two or more plants so that they can grow together. Moon cactuses are almost always made from putting a Gymnocalycium mihanovichii on top of a thin Hylocereus cactus. The former type of cactus is known for its bright colors, which often come in pink, red, yellow or orange. Unlike most brightly colored plants, these cactuses are not flowers and grow on their own. Due to a genetic mutation, mihanovichii lack chlorophyll, the chemical that makes plants green and is necessary for them to survive. Unless this cactus is grafted onto another cactus that actually has chlorophyll, it will die very young.

Okay, so creating moon cactuses saves a plant that would otherwise die…so what’s the problem? Well, this hybrid plant is doomed to fail. Should the plant remain healthy, the different growth rates of the two cactuses will cause the pair to become detached within a few years. It’s also a possibility that the host plant (the Hylocereus) will reject the graft and slowly die. Unfortunately, this is what is happening to mine. I’ve had it for nine or 10 months now, so it was a decent run but still disappointing. 

You can tell if a moon cactus is rejecting the graft if the plant appears to be dying top to bottom. If the unhealthy color in the base plant starts from the bottom, it’s likely that you’re dealing with root rot. Once the base cactus starts to die from rejecting the top, there is nothing you can do to fix the damage. These plants are fairly cheap, so it might not seem like a big deal to replace it. If you would prefer a cactus that will last for far longer with proper care, I would suggest getting a less flashy one.

Gillian was the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Ithaca from September 2018 to May 2019. She was a journalism major and anthropology minor at Ithaca College and graduated in May 2019. Gillian enjoys reading, writing, Harry Potter, the Sims and grilled cheese. 
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