Fishbone Cactus Plant Care

With the name Fishbone, you would think we will give you care tips on a fish (chuckle.) But, no, this cactus has the name Fishbone cactus for a good reason.

Indeed, this is not your average cactus as plant lovers grow it for unusual angular-toothed stems resembling a fish bone.

Learn more about how the Fishbone cactus thrives and how you can care for it.

More About The Fishbone Cactus

flowering fishbone cactus

With the Fishbone cactus in your home, it will generate loads of questions from curious visitors. The plant looks funky, and it has a significant growth habit. So, you can proudly display it on the plant shelf.

It is a fascinating succulent that goes by two names: Epiphyllum anguliger or Selenicereus anthonyanus. It is a tropical plant found in Mexico. You read right, whoever heard of a cactus that flourishes in the tropical rainforests.

The truth is there are many more of these types of plants. Many growers also refer to it as the orchid cactus, ric rac cactus, and zig-zag cactus. The reason for the peculiar names is all because of the leaves.

The foliage is flattened stems, and the orchid cactus name is all because of the flowers in bloom time. The flowers span over six inches wide, and you can see a color display of white, pink-purple, or multi-petaled.

The fascinating thing is that the flowers only stay open for one night and fade in the morning light. So, you will grow the ric rac cactus more for its foliage than the flowers. The leaves have a margin with lobes that make them look like fish bones.

Still, in the zig-zag cactus native habitat, they are climbing plants as the stems climb up trees. Each leaf can grow 12 feet long when provided with the right growing conditions. The Fishbone cactus also grows aerial roots found on the underside helping the plant cling to objects.

So, the best way to grow Fishbone cactus is in a hanging basket or a pot you can elevate on a shelf. Doing this allows the epiphytic cactus stems to trail down. But you can train your Epiphyllum anguliger to twine on a moss pole or trellis.

Fishbone Cactus Care

fishbone cactus care

With such an exciting name, you would think it is challenging to grow them as indoor plants. Regardless, the truth is that this baby is easy to care for compared to desert cacti. So, let us look at what you need to know when growing Fishbone cactus.

The Type of Soil That Orchid Cactus Needs

orchid bark

If we want to get Botanical, this species is an epiphytic cactus that grows on trees. Hence, it anchors itself to a branch and not soil. But in your home, you will grow them in containers or on a tree if you have one in the house, joking.

You can grow your Fishbone cactus in orchid bark or a standard potting mix. Or you can provide your plant with a blend of cactus potting mix with compost. We recommend a heavy pumice soil amended with compost at one-half of each.

The important thing is to provide your zig-zag pattern plant with moist soil. Your Fishbone prefers moist soil to desert cacti that prefer well-draining soil.

Light Requirement for Fishbone Cactus Plants

fishbone cactus lighting condition

Fishbone cactus grows in its natural environment underneath tree canopies in tropical rainforests. So, it does not receive direct sunlight that can bleach out the color. Hence, it helps to find a spot with bright indirect light. The Fishbone cacti need bright but indirect light for a couple of hours in the morning and late afternoon.

How To Water Fishbone Cactus Plants to Prevent Root Rot

When it comes to watering these epiphytic plants, it is not too difficult. The important thing is to ensure the container has enough drainage holes. You do not want the roots sitting in water, leading to root rot.

Using your finger, we recommend the old-fashioned trick of checking to see if the soil is dry. Then take your plant to the sink and use tepid water to run through it for a few minutes. Leave the excess moisture to drain; you will feel it has enough water as the pot is heavier when you lift it.

We recommend leaving the plant in the sink for a few hours to drain the water. How often you water depends on the climate but use the stick your finger method.

Fertilizer Needs

plant fertilizer

Your Fishbone cacti need feeding similar to other indoor plants as a houseplant. You can feed your cactus every eight weeks, from early spring to summer. As with other plants, stop feeding in winter as you do not want to encourage new growth at this time.

You can use a water-soluble fertilizer mixed with water, or you can use a granular fertilizer. In addition, you can give a higher potassium feed if you want to boost blooming. Some of the best fertilizers are African Violet and orchid fertilizers.

But we do not recommend using it the whole time as they guarantee you will see buds unless you stay up all night is rare. You can feed your plant with the above once a year.

Temperature and Humidity Levels

Fishbone cactus care and a temperature; it thrives in warm climates but cannot tolerate frost. So, if you live in tropical climates, you can comfortably grow your jungle plant outdoors. Yet, if the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, move your plant indoors in late summer.

Also, if you decide to plant your cactus outdoors, the Fishbone cactus likes to be in a shady position without direct sunlight. But if you want to see the display of flowers to encourage blooming, then a bright indirect light spot is ideal.

When it comes to humidity, your plant can survive in a humid environment in the home. You need not rush out to buy that humidifier as this might be an exciting plant but is not a Diva. The crucial thing is to prevent the soil from drying out.

You will love that this is a low-maintenance plant and very forgiving when it comes to under or overwatering. If you do not have a window with enough light in the bathroom, you can place a pebble tray underneath your plant.

Repotting and Pruning

You can prepare yourself to transplant your jungle cacti every four years. Also, invest in a bigger pot as the plant has a big root structure.

The best time to repot your epiphytic plants is early spring and summer. Yet, when it comes to pruning, the Fishbone cacti do with some occasional trimming to make it look gorgeous.

The best part of this is that you can take the stem cutting to propagate.

Propagating Fishbone Cacti

Remember those stem cuttings we spoke about? Using them is a great way to expand your existing plant. But a note of warning it is best to do this in spring or summer and not in winter. You can do this easily by following these tips in the growing season:

  1. Take a pair of pruning shears or sharp scissors to cut cuttings in lengths of five inches.

  2. Leave the cutting in a cool yet dry spot for 24 hours to callous over.

  3. In the meantime, you can prepare a moist potting mix, and once calloused over, plant it in the soil.

  4. Place the container in bright sunlight and water to moisten the soil.

  5. When you notice new growth, your plants are established, and you can treat your cactus as usual.

  6. You can also transplant your Fishbone cactus plant at this present time.

Another method to propagate your plant is by pinning one of the leaves’ undersides into your potting mix with the leaf attached to the parent plant. You can select a spot where you notice aerial roots growing.

Then take a bent wire to pin the leaf flat against the soil. Water it every couple of days, and you can remove the leaf by cutting it away from the mother plant. Now, plant it in a pot and leave it to grow.

Selenicereus Varieties

As popular as the Fishbone cactus is, you can find some other exotic beauties to add to your collection in the genus.

Selenicereus costaricensis

Selenicereus costaricensis

The plant is the Costa Rican Pitahaya which produces fruits called pitaya. Even the flowers are beautiful. It is a vining plant and makes for a fabulous display in the home.

Selenicereus grandiflorus

Selenicereus grandiflorus

The night-blooming cereus has an intoxicating yet spooky display. The plant is poisonous; back in the day, people used it to make poison for their arrows.

Selenicereus pteranthus

Selenicereus pteranthus

The princess of the night is a widespread species that bloom at night, the same as the zig-zag cactus. The plant has up to six angled stems that do have spines but no leaves.

Common Pests and Problems With Fishbone Cactus

One thing we here at Plantly do not believe in is a problem-free plant. So you can find mealybugs striking out of the blue when your plant stands outside in summer.

You notice them as fuzzy whitish insects on the foliage. Removing them is easy by using a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. Or you can use a cotton swab with soapy water.

Another concern with your jungle cacti is leggy growth. When you look at healthy leaves, they should be flat with a wide zig-zag pattern. If the foliage looks thin yet round, your plant needs more light.

Another concern is when your cactus gets too much sunlight as the leaves get a reddish tinge. All you need to do is move your cacti to some indirect light. At the same time, brown spots on leaves indicate too much humidity.

The spots are raised and found on Fishbone cactuses growing outside and indoors. All you need to do is remove the affected parts to prevent the fungal leaf spot from spreading.

If the foliage looks wrinkled, it is time to do the finger test to see if the soil is dry as it might need water.

Where to Buy Fishbone Cactus?

The fantastic news is that you can find the Fishbone cactus sold at your local garden center. Still, you need not leave your home and can do your online shopping for this jungle cacti right here with us at Plantly.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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