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Rain-Forest Branch

Add a touch of rain forest to your home with this fun, movable mounted rhipsalis.

This is a great sculptural project fashioned from rhipsalis and a large piece of a branch. The branch does not need to be hung on a wall or suspended from a ceiling, but you are welcome to experiment with those options. Or you can simply lean it against a wall or shelf.

Rhipsalis is an epiphytic cactus native to the Brazilian rainforest canopy. It grows nestled in tree branches and drapes gracefully to the ground, and is one of a few special cacti that thrive in a tropical rain forest. This cactus has a much different appearance than its rigid desert-dwelling relatives.

The rhipsalis is wrapped and bound in the same style as the kokedama project, but the plant is then mounted on a branch to create a striking installation. Rhipsalis is the best plant for this project—it cascades down the branch and does well mounted, like most epiphytes—but you could also use a hoya or aeschynanthus (lipstick plant). Use clear monofilament fishing line to secure the rhipsalis in the moss and a wire to hold the moss-wrapped plant to the branch. This makes it easy to remove the plant for watering. If you use driftwood, be sure to cure it before installing the plant (see page 12). It is easier to work with sheet moss that has been soaked overnight—it will be more pliable and will achieve a tighter fit.

rain-forest-branch-step-by-step-a

MATERIALS

  • Presoaked sheet moss (soak it overnight before you begin the project) (A)
  • Two varieties of 4-inch rhipsalis (B)
  • Clear monofilament fishing line (C)
  • Large piece of wood with a curved L-shape, about 4 feet long (D)
  • 22-gauge florist or bonsai wire (E)

TOOLS

  • Scissors (F)
  • Wire cutters (G)

rain-forest-branch-step-by-step-b

Place the sheet moss on a work surface mossside down.

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Pull the rhipsalis out of the pots by gently squeezing all around the pot until the plants come out with ease. Knock any loose soil off the root ball.

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Center the two plants on the sheet moss. If it looks like you need a bit more soil, add a little bit back to the plants. You want to end up with a ball somewhere between the size of an orange and a grapefruit.

rain-forest-branch-step-by-step-e

Cut three 5-feet-long pieces of fishing line.

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Fold the moss around the root balls. If you have too much moss you can pinch some off.

rain-forest-branch-step-by-step-g

While holding the moss tightly around the root ball begin wrapping the fishing line around it. Crisscross the fishing line around the moss until the moss is securely wrapped around the root ball. Be sure to wrap it tightly. If you need to wrap the moss with more fishing line cut another piece.

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Tie off the fishing line and trim off the ends.

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Secure the ball to the branch with wire, wrapping it tightly around both the branch and the ball one or two times. Once they’re secure, adjust the ball and plants until they look like they are resting comfortably in the crook of the branch.

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WATER

Gently unwrap the wire holding the moss ball to the wood. Push the ball, plants and all, into a bowl of water. Hold it underwater until air bubbles stop coming out of the moss. Remove the moss ball and plants from the water and return them to the branch once they have stopped dripping. Water frequently in spring and summer, but reduce watering to a minimum in winter. If you stick your finger in the top of the moss ball you should be able to feel if the soil is moist or not. Allow the soil to dry between waterings.

rain-forest-branch-step-by-step-k

LIGHT

Rhipsalis prefers bright indirect light, due to its origins as a tropical-forest understory plant.

FERTILIZER

Fertilize a maximum of once a month with a half dilution of cactus food from April to September.

PROPAGATION

If you are interested in propagating rhipsalis, take cuttings and let the severed ends callus for a few days. Plant the callused ends in a cactus mix or sand that has been lightly moistened. Cuttings will root in two to six weeks.

PLANT CRAFT
30 PROJECTS THAT ADD
NATURAL STYLE TO YOUR HOME

CAITLIN ATKINSON