Why Is It Called Moon Cactus? (Looks Like Moon)

Why Is It Called Moon Cactus?

The Gymnocalycium Cacti comprises around  80 types of cacti that originate from southern-central South America.The most well-known cultivars are those which are completely devoid of chlorophyll, which exposes the orange, red or yellow pigmentation.

These cacti look like the moon and these mutant strains are often grafted onto the Hylocereus cactus, and the combined plant is called a “Moon Cactus”.The term “moon” is often used as a generic name for the group however this term is only applicable to the orange and yellow varieties.

Neon Cacti is often called a common name and appears to be more inclusive. The cultivar name “Hibotan” was first used for the orange-red introduction, however, it’s now commonly called “Red Cap” or ruby Cactus.

The only ones in this group are moon or Hibotan Cacti which are neon-colored red, orange, yellow, and purple balls.

These grafted cacti are typically small and are rarely found in pots greater than 4 inches in size. The tops grafted are typically up to 4 inches in diameter, with the individual balls rarely being bigger than a golf ball.

They can branch out freely and possess multiple offsets. Since they do not have chlorophyll, they are only able to survive when they are grafted onto a green plant, such as the versatile tropical Hylocereus undatus.

Moon cacti are usually planted as house plants and are sometimes referred to by the names of Ruby Ball, Red Cap, and Red Hibotan or Hibotan Cacti.

What Is A Moon Cactus?

Moon cactus is a succulent plant that is native to desert environments. The Latin title is Gymnocalycium mihanovichii.

Moon cactus in itself is a mutant, lacking the chlorophyll required for plants to survive through photosynthesis, or to convert the energy of sunlight.

The Hibotan species are generally transplanted onto another Cactus to feed. The bright, vibrant hue of Hibotan’s leaves can make the plant very extremely popular as an ornamental.

The top plants tend to change color, turning an intense shade of orange, yellow, or red. This happens due to the absence of chlorophyll that provides plants with their typical green hue. It is quite common that people to get confused about moon cactus and cactus flowers.

If there isn’t enough chlorophyll to convert light into food, plants will die. This is true for moon cactus seedlings. They’re able to last just a few months in their individual lives. If, however, Gymnocalycium mihanovichii is transplanted onto a chlorophyll-dense succulent, it will last for a long time.

Like other cacti, the moon Cactus shouldn’t be watered for too long or it could die. It is important that you wait till the dirt on which it grows is dry. The plant then needs to be covered with water. The plant should not require water once the soil has become dry.

What Is The Origin of The Moon Cactus?

The origins of these fascinating horticultural wonders date back to Japan during the time of war II.

Eiji Watanabe, a commercial nurseryman, imported 300 seeds of Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var. friedrichii from a German source in 1937.  

The grafts he made kept on spreading by selecting varieties with more vibrant hues. 

The neon cacti were introduced into the European and eventually American market in the 1960s however they did not make a splash for cactus enthusiasts. They first began appearing in supermarkets in the early 1980s, and are still sold in these outlets.

Cultivars:  Plant Variety Cultivation by Selective Breeding. 

The species with colored bodies are a huge collection of popular mutants that are distinguished by their different colored bodies. They could be orange, red and purplish. They can also be yellow or even white.

The first mutants that were completely colorless were known as Cv. ‘Hibotan’. The first chlorophylls that are partially de-chlorophyll were referred to as Cv. Hibotan Nishiki can be cultivated on its own roots. 

Many other colors were obtained and some have special names such as ‘Akagurohibotan-Nishiki’ or ‘Pink-Kuro.

What Do You Name A Moon Cactus?

A species that is often called moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii).  It is a bright red mutant that needs to be grafted onto a normal cactus due to its lack of chlorophyll and is unable to synthesize the food it consumes.

What Does A Moon Cactus Symbolize?

According to the American belief system, it is believed that the moon-shaped cactus symbolizes the love of the mother or warmth. The reason is the fact that these cacti can thrive well in extreme conditions. Furthermore, their healing properties are also a perfect example to show maternal love.


Moon cactus represents long-lived because cactus can live for a long time.


According to feng shui beliefs, if you put these cacti on your terrace or on a window sill it means they will protect you from negative energy, and protect you from bad luck as well.


Moon cactus are durable plants. They are able to withstand harsh conditions. For instance, they could survive in deserted regions despite the fact that they rarely received rain.

So, many believe it is possible that the moon-cactus could be an image of endurance, determination, and strength, too.

Is The Moon Cactus Man-Made?

The Moon cactus is a man-made plant. It is a mix of mutant varieties of Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, as well as the Hylocereus plant.

The cute “mutant” Cactus is actually a mixture of two cacti, usually Gymnocalycium (the sicon) and a cactus that is rooted, like Hylocereus.

Are All Moon Cactus Grafted?

Moon cactus is often grafted with Hylocereus undatus (dragon fruit).  However, it is also able to be grafted with a cactus that is green of any species: Cereus peruvianus or Trichocereus spachianus are also popular.

Is a moon cactus A parasite?

The moon cactus is not able to live for long due to the scion acting as a parasite for the rootstock.

Is the Moon Cactus Lucky?

The most straightforward answer is yes. Cacti as well as other houseplants come with many health benefits for us to enjoy. In addition, they are fairly simple to grow and care for. Indoor cacti can improve your productivity, help your breathing better, and can make you feel more relaxed.

How Long Does the Moon Cactus Last?

On average, Moon Cactus could last between one and three years. However, there are few stories of succulent keepers who’ve kept specimens for more than five years. However, it’s not uncommon to find the Moon Cactus to live just several months, particularly when you don’t have experience in taking care of one.



Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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