Golden Rat Tail Cactus Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Cleistocactus Winteri”

Guide to Cleistocactus Winteri - everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing and caring for “Golden Rat Tail” Cactus
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If you are looking for low maintenance, fast-growing cacti, with a striking appearance, the Golden Rat Tail Cacti are just what you need. Their unique and wild appearance may not appeal to any gardener. But if you are a succulent and cacti enthusiast, then you already know that any cactus can make an exciting addition to your garden.

Like most cacti, Cleistocactus Winteri is easy to care for, being suitable for novice gardeners. It is most commonly grown in hanging baskets, but in suitable environments, it can also be grown outdoors, being very well fitted for xeriscaping.

Read on to learn more about growing, watering, and propagating Cleistocactus winteri.

About the Golden Rat Tail Cactus

  • This branching cactus is native to Bolivia. It is also very common in Florida, California, or Alabama, but in its native environment, it has a restricted range over an area of about 250 km. Due to its low occurrence and constant collection, it is almost a threatened species. Outdoors it can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.
  • It prefers to grow on cliffs within forests at elevations of 1400 meters above sea level.
  • The name of this cactus comes from the Latin word “kleistos” which means closed. This refers to the blooms of Cleistocactus winteri.
  • This species has several subspecies. Colademono is one of the most popular subspecies. It is also known as Monkey’s tail. It features softer spines that resemble hairs. The stems are thinner and feature a greater number of hair spines, which indeed give the stems a tail-like appearance. The stems of the Monkey’s Tail Cleistocactus variety grow longer than those of the main species, being able to reach a top length of 2,5 meters. The stems are upright when they are young, descending under their weight as they mature. This cactus features bigger flowers up to 8 cm in length in a bright red shade.
  • Other common variations are the Cristatus variations which feature shorter and more tangled stems that give the cactus a brain-like appearance, and the Ring variation which, as the name suggests features a ring crest on the top of the stems.
  • Like most cacti, the Rat Tail Cactus can be affected by certain insects like spider mites or mealybugs.
  • The Cleistocactus Winteri is not edible and it can be toxic to pets. Its spines prevent most pets from playing with it. However the Monkey’s Tail Cleistocactus variation is equally toxic and it has softer spines, so you might want to place it in a location that is not accessible to pets or children.
Golden Rat Tail
Golden Rat Tail Cactus

Golden Rat Tail Cactus Features: An Overview

  • Unlike most cacti, the Cleistocactus Winteri is a rapidly growing species. It features columnar ribs that can grow up to 1 meter with a 6 cm diameter.
  • This cactus can grow as many as 16-17 ribs, each rib featuring over 50 spines.
  • The stems have a tangled look, and they are covered in short spines which eventually grow to 4 mm or even 1 cm long. Overall, the plant can grow tall enough to cover a 1,5 square meter area. Due to its tangled stems, it requires some distance from other plants, so we recommend at least 60 cm of space.
  • This branching cactus blooms late winter to early spring, producing orange or salmon-pink flowers. The flowers of Cleistocactus winteri are about 5 cm long with a 5 cm diameter.
  • Cleistocactus winteri produces barrel-shaped green or reddish fruit which is about 1 cm long.

Growing Golden Rat Tail Cactus

This hardy cactus prefers sunny or partially shady locations. It depends on whether you grow it indoors or outdoors. Indoors, where the temperature is constant, the plant prefers filtered bright sunlight.

Outdoors, Cleistocactus winteri can handle direct sunlight, provided that the temperature is not scorching. In hot areas, the plant will do just fine with either morning or afternoon sun. In winter, it is best to move it indoors in a dry environment. If you grow Cleistocactus in a hanging basket outdoors, make sure to shelter it from heavy winds.

Planting and Repotting Golden Rat Tail Cactus

It can grow in almost any soil with good drainage, thriving in all mediums, be it acidic, alkaline, or neutral. Since its natural environment is rocky, opt for a gravely cactus mix. As far as feeding goes, the Golden Rat Tail cactus likes a rich fertilizer at the beginning of its growing season. For the best results, opt for a slow-release fertilizer, preferably one high in potassium and low on nitrogen.

Repotting will be necessary every other year when the plant outgrows its pot. Even when the plant is fully matured, you will still have to repot it once every couple of years, when the medium is drained of nutrients. Repotting also gives you the chance to inspect the plant’s roots so that you can remove dead or damaged roots.

Cleistocctus winteri Golden Rat Tail Cactus, From Amazon

Since the Cleistocactus winteri has multiple stems, it is not uncommon for certain stems to dry and die naturally. Make sure to inspect your cactus regularly and remove dead stems to stimulate new growth. Keep in mind that the stems are quite delicate and prone to breakage. As such, avoid moving the plant around.

Watering the Golden Rat Tail Cactus

Like most cacti, the Golden Rat Tail likes to be watered moderately and regularly in the summertime, but it prefers a drier soil in wintertime. During the summer, you should allow the top 2,5 cm of the soil to dry out before watering the plant. Depending on the size of the plant and its container, this means you should water it every ten days or so. However, in the wintertime, the plant prefers dry soil, and it can go even five weeks without water.

Watering succulents and cacti also depends on the type of pot that you use. Keep in mind that ceramic and terracotta pots absorb moisture from the soil if they are not glazed. Plastic pots, on the other hand, do not drain as well. The age of the plant also matters. Young plants need to be watered more frequently while mature plants prefer to drain every drop of water from the soil and enjoy a little dryness. The plant’s location also matters. Ideally, you should experiment a little with the watering frequency until you understand your plant’s needs. Tap water will do just fine for cacti, but rainwater or distilled water will be more appreciated.

Propagating the Golden Rat Tail Cactus

This cactus propagates through seeds but also cuttings. Propagation by cutting is less time consuming more efficient. However, it might affect the appearance of the mother plant, leaving a noticeable hole from when the cut stem is removed.

If you decide to propagate Cleistocactus winteri by cutting, try to pick a stem from the base, so it is less noticeable. Allow the offset a week to dry before attempting to plant it. Once the offset is dried and the wound is completely healed and covered in a callous, plant it in a medium-sized pot. Drying the offset will also prevent fungal infections.

Keep in mind that Cleistocactus winteri grows faster than other cactus species, and it is not recommended to repot it while it is still young. Use a special cactus mix, and even a rooting hormone to increase your chances of success. After repotting it, allow about 10 days to recover from the transplant show before watering it. The first watering should be substantial, but once the soil is saturated, remove excess water from the drip tray and do not water it again until the top 2-3 cm of the soil dry. While this is a fast-growing plant, it can take 4-8 weeks for it to develop some steady roots.

Cleistocactus winteri
Cleistocactus winteri

Propagation from seeds is more time consuming, but it is quite easy, and it has high chances of success. If you already have a blooming Cleistocactus winteri plant, allow it to form fruit, let the fruit dry and then clean the seeds. Use a peat-free medium with good drainage and a small plastic pot.

Many people also use terracotta, but plastic yields better results for young cacti because it retains heat for longer periods. Scatter your seeds over the surface of the soil and then cover them with vermiculite or fine grit. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or a glass lid and remove it after a couple of weeks when you can expect to see seedlings. The new plants should be ready for transplant the following spring.

In Conclusion

The Golden Rat Tail cactus is truly a splendid plant that will add a touch of wildness to your garden. Like most cacti, it complements modern interior decors dominated by white and small accents of stone or light-colored wood. This type of interior decorum resembles the arid environments with which cacti are associated.

Due to its easy-going nature, Cleistocactus winteri is suitable for gardeners of all skill levels. It would take a special set of skills to damage this sturdy plant. While it blooms easily, it is not the flowers but the general shape of this cactus that steals the spotlight. As such, if you find this plant’s appearance interesting, you can enjoy it all year long, and you do not have to put too much effort into its maintenance. It prefers if you bother it as little as possible.

Ready to start growing Cleistocactus winteri? Share your questions with us in the comments!


Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact

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