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Fishbone Cactus: How to Propagate & Care for Ric Rac Cactus

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If you’re looking for an unusual houseplant, look no further than the Fishbone Cactus (also known as Ric Rac Cactus or Zig Zag Cactus)! It is a striking houseplant visually, and easy to care for as well!

In this post, I will go into details on how to propagate fishbone cactus, how to care for the plant, as well as discuss flowering and other intriguing details!

fishbone-cactus-care

Before I go into the propagation and care, I’d like to go over a bit about the natural habitat and also talk about a couple different species that are out there.

There is a lot of confusion on the topic. They’re both considered fishbone cactus and the care is the same, but they are in fact different species!

EPIPHYLLUM ANGULIGER VS. SELENICEREUS ANTHONYANUS

I know, those botanical names are a handful! Both of these species are considered Fishbone Cactus even though they are slightly different plants.

The main way to tell the difference is by looking at the flowers (if we are lucky enough for our plants to bloom!)

Take a look at the photos below. The flowers are gorgeous and only last a day, but the main way to tell the difference is in the color of the flowers.

Selenicereus anthonyanus (also classified at different points in time as Disocactus anthonyanus and Cryptocereus anthonyanus) have beautiful reddish/pink flowers.

Epiphyllum anguliger, on the other hand, has yellow and white flowers as shown below.

epiphyllum-anguliger
Epiphyllum anguliger. Image credit below
Zapyon / CC BY-SA

The flowers make it super easy to tell the difference. Just by looking at the foliage, it may be a little trickier.

I found a resource that visually shows photos of the foliage of both species. You can visually see a difference in the foliage, and the Selenicereus anthonyanus foliage has more distinct and thinner “fishbones.”

Based on that, I can’t quite tell which one my plant is, because I have leaves on the same plant that look a little different. Hopefully one day my plant will flower and I will finally be able to know!

fishbone-cactus-care

I have a hunch that it is Epiphyllum anguliger. Fortunately, the care is identical and that’s all that matters.

Both of these plants are native to Mexico and are epiphytic cacti.

FISHBONE CACTUS PROPAGATION AND CARE

HOW TO PROPAGATE

My own plant that I grow was started from cuttings that a friend sent me. I’ll briefly describe how I propagated my plant, and then talk about the care of Fishbone Cactus.

I water propagated my own plant, but you can easily place them in soil as well.

You can make several cuttings from a single leaf (it might technically be considered a modified stem) and root each one.

Just be careful though that you don’t turn the cuttings upside down as they will not root! The part of the cutting that was closest to the pot will be the end that roots.

Aim to make each cutting about 3-4 inches long or so. There is no need to make them longer. The more cuttings you have, the fuller your resulting plant will be!

Once you make your cuttings, like any succulent or cactus, you need to allow your cuttings to dry and callous over before propagating. This is to ensure that your cuttings don’t rot.

Simply let your cuttings air dry for a few days first.

After a few days, you can place them in a vase with water to root, or directly into a pot of soil. I placed mine in water as shown below.

fishbone-cactus-propagation

After a few weeks, or less, my cuttings rooted.

fishbone-cactus-propagation

Once your roots about about an inch long or so, go ahead and plant them up into your potting mix (I’ll describe that shortly).

fishbone-cactus-propagation

After callousing over, you could have inserted the cuttings directly into soil, instead of in water, and the cutting would root this way too. Keep the soil barely moist to encourage rooting.

Keep in mind that it is always better to propagate in Spring or Summer during the growing season. Try and avoid propagation during the winter time when plants typically aren’t doing much in the growing department.

LIGHT and TEMPERATURE

My own plant grows in front of an Eastern facing window. These plants grow very well indoors with a few hours of sun, but don’t overdo it. I’d recommend placing your fishbone cactus right in front of an Eastern window or Western window.

Avoid strong, mid-day sun.

These plants need warm temperatures to thrive, so keep your indoor temperatures comfortable. Never allow temperatures to fall below 50F (10C) so keep this in mind if you summer your houseplant outdoors.

Looking to purchase a Fishbone Cactus? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the Fishbone Cactus selection (link to Etsy) today!

WATERING

Always water thoroughly and allow all excess water to escape the drainage hole. Remember, these are epiphytes so they should never sit in water.

During the growing season, allow the top inch of the potting soil to dry out before watering again.

During the winter time when temperatures may be cooler indoors and there is less light, you can allow your soil to dry out a bit more (even completely) before watering again.

POTTING MIX

You can use a variety of potting mixes as long as your potting mix is extremely well drained.

For my own plant, I used a succulent mix to which I added some 1/4″ pumice to increase the drainage.

You can use whatever you have on hand though.

If you mix together 2 to 3 parts succulent mix with 1 part of either perlite or pumice, this will work beautifully. You can even use 1 part orchid bark instead of the perlite or pumice. Or a combination of all of these.

The goal is to have a very quickly draining potting mix and there isn’t one magic potting mix. Many types will work!

FERTILIZER

I use my favorite all-purpose fertilizer called Dyna-Gro Grow. It is an AMAZING, premium fertilizer that contains all the micro and macro nutrients needed for plant growth.

I simply add 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water and use this every time I water.

AERIAL ROOTS

You may be wondering why you’re seeing aerial roots on your plant.

Plants grow aerial roots for different reasons, and it is very normal for epiphytes to grow aerial roots.

Take a look at the aerial roots on my plant.

fishbone-catus-aerial-roots

Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants (such as on trees) for support. They use their aerial roots to attach onto their host tree, but also to gather nutrients and water from the surrounding area, and from organic debris that may be laying around.

So when you do see aerial roots on your fishbone cactus, it is perfectly normal. The worse case is that maybe it is signaling that your plant is dry and needs to be watered. Be sure to check the potting medium and give it a good water if the soil just happens to be bone dry.

And don’t forget that you should be fertilizing as a part of your care routine. I highly recommend Dyna-Gro Grow!

Looking to purchase a Fishbone Cactus? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the Fishbone Cactus selection (link to Etsy) today!

Do you have a fishbone cactus? Comment below. I’d love to hear!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

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Sue

Friday 19th of August 2022

I don’t have aerial roots. But I have a new shoot coming from my zig zag cactus. Can I cut it off and propagate it?

Raffaele

Friday 19th of August 2022

Hi Sue! I would wait until the leaf matures a bit. I wouldn't cut it off if it's brand new and really small.

Daisy Spencer

Tuesday 26th of July 2022

I love my beautiful fishbone cactus. However, the leaves turned yellow and got wrinkly when I left them on my patio on a 105F heat. I moved them inside by the window, removed the damaged leaves and now, its shiny leaves are coming back to life again.

Raffaele

Wednesday 27th of July 2022

Hi Daisy! It's good that you acted quickly and determined what happened. Glad your plant is coming back to life :-)

Derinda

Tuesday 28th of June 2022

I have a ric rac/fishbone plant that I have had for several years. This year the leaves are not as green as they use to be (yellowish in color). I definitely do not overwater; however, could I be under watering? Also, there are, what I am assuming, to be seed pods that have formed on some the limbs where it had flowered. Should I snip those off? Thank you for any advice regarding these two items.

Raffaele

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

Yellowish leaves can be caused by a lot of different things including potting mix that is too dry, and also too wet. If you're not watering thoroughly, or waiting too long in between watering, it could be an issue. I would go ahead and snip off the pods.

Mel

Sunday 10th of April 2022

I have a large Anguliger (I think) which I kept outdoors. It hadn’t grown a lick in 2 years so I moved it indoors in a west facing window with lots of sunlight and fed and watered it religiously. Well, it started growing and growing…so I guess it’s finally happy. Anxiously awaiting a bloom…someday!

Raffaele

Sunday 10th of April 2022

It will be well worth it! It sounds like you found a good spot for your plant :-)

Tanaya

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

I had to have one I like unusual plants, and philos. It was little I learned from trial and error. I recently knocked it over and broke a big leaf (stem). That's how I found this article. It's a great one. And now I am growing roots to plant back in my pot. This is my favorite. Hasn't flowered yet but I'm hoping and growing it as best I can.

Raffaele

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

Glad you enjoyed the article Tanaya! And good luck with your plant :-)