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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!
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.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!
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.
After a few weeks, or less, my cuttings rooted.
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).
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.
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.
You can use a variety of potting mixes as long as your potting mix is extremely well drained.
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!
I simply add 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water and use this every time I water.
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.
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.
Do you have a fishbone cactus? Comment below. I’d love to hear!
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