Hildewintera aureispina cristata
Botanical Name — Hildewintera aureispina cristata
Common Name — Crested Golden Rat Tail
Plant Family — Cactaceae
Hildewintera aureispina cristata is the crested form of a Bolivia-native that looks more like a hanging rat tail than a cluster of brain coral. The crested form is actually a mutation that is bred into the plant, giving it a uniquely alien look that is prized by collectors. Its original form is epilithic, meaning it grows hanging from steep rock faces protruding above the surrounding jungle. It has very long white and soft, hairlike spines.
- Hildewintera aureispina grows best in bright partial shade. Direct sun in the morning is great, but avoid intense afternoon sun since that can sunburn the stems.
- This plant thrives in environments between 65 to 80 ºF. Night time temperatures can go down to 60 ºF.
- During the winter, they prefer cooler temperatures between 50 to 55 ºF. The cooler temperature will encourage flowers. They can tolerate light frost down to 28 ºF if very dry. If temperatures regularly drop below freezing, bring this plant inside for winter months.
- Hildewintera aureispina prefers to stay on the dry side. In the summer, water them only when the soil has dried out completely. Always err on the side of underwatering. They are built to withstand drought, and overwatering is one of the quickest ways to kill them.
- During the winter, water very infrequently, maybe once every month or month and a half.
- These plants prefer a sandy, sharply draining mix that imitates the rocky slopes they grow on in the wild. Cacti or succulent potting mix is great. You can amend a regular potting soil with sand or pumice up to 50% to improve grittiness and drainage.
- Spring or summer may bring large, bright red flowers. It is rare that the crested form flowers, but possible!
- These plants do not require fertilizer though it can be added to give container grown plants a boost or to supplement poor soil. Apply a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer monthly in the summer. Never fertilize in winter.
- Easy to propagate from seeds, cuttings and offsets.
- Take cuttings in spring and let callus for a couple of weeks. Then plant them in fresh cactus soil that is slightly moist, and keep it that way till they root.
- Offsets can be separated from the plant and be replanted.
- The most common insect pests are mealybugs and spider mites.
- Overwatering can cause root rot.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- Repot when the plant has outgrown its planter. Can be 1 to 2” larger than its current planter. They are fast growers so this may be done every other year.
- Hildewintera aureispina are toxic to humans and pets. These should not be digested.