Fishbone Cactus Care – How To Grow And Care For A Ric Rac Cactus Houseplant


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Fishbone cactus boasts many colorful names. Ric Rac, Zigzag and Fishbone orchid cactus are just a few of these descriptive monikers. The names refer to the alternate pattern of the leaves along a central spine that resembles a fish skeleton. This stunning plant is an epiphytic specimen that can grow in low soil situations where other organic media are present. Growing fishbone cactus is easy even for the so-called “black thumb” gardener. Bring in a fishbone cactus houseplant and enjoy the crazy zigzag pattern of its succulent foliage.

Fishbone Cactus Info

The scientific name for the plant is Cryptocereus anthonyanus (syn. Selenicereus anthonyanus), and is a member of the night blooming cactus family. Best known for its long, arching stems coated with serrated leaf nodes, fishbone cactus is found in its habitat in groups, which hang from trees. The plant originates in Mexico, where tropical rainforests create a moist, humid environment.

It is commonly found in garden centers as Ric Rac cactus or sometimes orchid cactus. Rarely the plant will bloom with soft pink flowers that open at night and last only one day. Fishbone cactus houseplant enjoys similar growing conditions as its cousin, the orchid.

Growing Fishbone Cactus Houseplants

The trailing stems offer an interesting feature for the home landscape. Choose a basket or unglazed pot for the cactus to enhance evaporation and prevent the plant from getting too wet. You can do a hanging basket, tabletop display or terrarium installation. Either way, the fishbone cactus will enhance and entertain. Use gloves when handling the plant, since it has tiny fine hairs, which will stick into skin and cause discomfort.

Fishbone Cactus Care

Novice gardeners could not ask for an easier plant than a fishbone cactus houseplant. The cactus grows in low soil media, such as orchid substrate. You can also plant it in cactus blend mixed with compost to enrich the medium.

Fishbone cactus thrives in indirect light but can tolerate periods of bright sun.

Like most cacti, fishbone cactus houseplant does best when allowed to dry out between watering. During winter, cut watering in half and then reinstate when spring growth begins.

Fertilize with a water-soluble cactus or orchid fertilizer in early spring.

You can place your plant outside in spring and summer but do not forget to bring it in when temperatures cool. Best of all, the cactus will stand some neglect, so do not worry about it when you go on vacation.

Propagating Fishbone Cactus

This is one of the easiest cactus plants to propagate and share with your family and friends. You just need a piece of stem to start an entirely new plant. Take a fresh cutting and let it callus on the counter for a few days.

Insert the callused end into a low soil medium, such as peat moss mixture. That is pretty much all there is to it. Provide light moisture and medium light when growing Fishbone cactus stems. Soon you will have new plants to spread to your gardening family.

This article was last updated on


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

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.

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.

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 Care

Size and Growth

  • Ric rac cactus is fast-growing and easy to cultivate.
  • It produces branched stems, reaching 8″ to 12″ inches long.
  • The plant has two sets of stems.
  • The primary stems are woody and shorter.
  • The secondary stems are flatter and succulent with deep lobes, resembling a fishbone or zig-zag pattern.
  • There are also several cultivars and hybrids with distinct growth.
  • For example, the Anguliger “Gertrudianum” cultivar flowers profusely and produces shorter stems.

Flowering and Fragrance

Epiphyllum anguliger blooms in late autumn or early winter.

The flowers are white or pale yellow and open at night, releasing a sweet aroma.

The flowers are often several inches long, with many petals and yellow stamens.

After the flowering season, the plant produces fruit.

The fruit is oval-shaped and a little over an inch thick with a greenish or brownish exterior.

The inside of the fruit resembles kiwi fruit and tastes like gooseberries.

Light and Temperature

Epiphyllum anguliger grows best in warm temperatures and partial shade.

Temperature should be between 61° and 77° degrees Fahrenheit (16° – 25° C) during the summer.

When the plant goes dormant in the winter, it remains hardy to about 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C).

It can’t survive freezing conditions.

In most areas, fishbone cactus grows best in a heated greenhouse or indoors.

Place containers or pots in a spot with bright sunlight and high humidity.

Watering and Feeding

  • Unlike many plants in the cactus family, ric rac cactus requires moist soil during the summer.
  • Water the plant regularly throughout the warmer months.
  • It also prefers high humidity.
  • To increase the humidity and keep the soil evenly moist, place the pot on a tray filled with several inches of gravel.
  • Pour water into the tray.
  • The soil will take up water as needed.
  • After the bloom, the plant requires less water.

Soil and Transplanting

As ric rac cactus needs semi-moist soil, add 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite to standard cactus soil to increase water retention.

Mature plants require repotting after one to two years to resupply nutrients.

If the pot is too small, the plant can become unstable.

Repot during the spring or summer.

During summer and fall, add liquid fertilizer to the water with each watering.

During the winter, only add fertilizer with every other watering.

Grooming

Trim long stems to manage growth.

New shoots should appear behind the cut.

After trimming the plant, avoid overwatering, as it should require less water.


Ric Rac Orchid Cactus: Growing Tips

Share the post "Ric Rac Orchid Cactus: Growing Tips"

Selenicereus anthonyanus (Ric Rac Orchid Cactus, Fish Bone Cactus, Zig-Zag Cactus, sometimes called Disocactus) is a branched evergreen cactus. It is an easily cultivated, fast growing epiphyte, which originates in the rainforests of Chiapas, Mexico and seems to be of rare occurrence in the wild. Fish Bone Cactus is grown as an ornamental because of its beautiful nocturnal flowers and unusual stems, that resemble a fish skeleton. This is an isolated species with no close allies.

Ric Rac Orchid Cactus needs a compost containing plenty of humus and sufficient moisture in summer.

Flowers only open for one night and are very fragrant, as to attract nocturnal pollinators.

Fish Bone Cactus looks great in a hanging basket or on a ledge if it is allowed to trail over the edge. If you want it upright you will need to stake it.

You can buy Fishbone Cactus (Selenicereus anthonyanus, Ric Rac Orchid Cactus, St. Anthony’s Rick-Rack, Fish Bone Cactus, Zig-Zag Cactus) here:

Common names: Ric Rac Orchid Cactus, Fishbone Cactus, St. Anthony’s Rick-Rack, Fish Bone Cactus, Zig-Zag Cactus

Family: Cactaceae

Genus: Selenicereus

Species: anthonyanus

Synonyms: Cryptocereus anthonyanus

Native: Southern Mexico

Plant type: Succulents, Cactus, Epiphytes

Hardiness: USDA zone 10a – 11

Light: Sun, Partial Shade

Soil: Mildly acidic, Neutral, Mildly alkaline. Well-Drained

Moisture: Need slightly more water than most other cacti, should usually be kept moist during the growing season. During winter, keep the soil a little dryer.

Flowering period: Spring, Early Summer

Flower Color: Pink, Red, White, Off White

Repeat Bloomer: No

Fragrant: Flowers

Height: 46 – 76 cm (18 – 30 in)

Spread: 13 – 46 cm (5 – 18 in)

Time to plant: Spring

Propagation:

• From stem cuttings. Allow cut surface to callous over before planting. You can break off a piece and sick it in the ground. Or, you can beak off a piece, put it in water for a week or so and it grows roots. Cuttings can take up to a month or more to root, and even longer after that to throw new growths.

Uses: Ornamental, Container, Hanging Basket, Houseplant, Tropical

Fertilizer: A liquid fertilizer like the ones used for orchids. Do not over fertilize.

Invasive: No

Self-Sowing: No

Has Thorns: Plant has spines or sharp edges (the ovarium below is quite spiny. The rest of the plant doesn´t have spines at all). Be careful when handling. Use gloves.

Toxity: Tell us if you know

• Better to keep the plant above 40°F (+4°C).
• Trimming occasionally will be necessary because some leaves will get quite long.
• Use gloves when handling this houseplant. Ric-rac is still a cactus and its thorns despite being small and almost invisible, can hurt the skin.
• It needs a solid, organic support, like bark bits or fiber, to stabilish itself.
• Prefers smaller baskets with a very porous soil.
• Extra light in the early spring will stimulate budding.
• They bloom heavily if they are exposed to no artificial daylight after dark. If kept indoors or too close to a porch light, they won’t flower.
• If the roots have become black or soft, the cactus could be experiencing root rot. Cut away the affected parts and replant.

Do you grow Selenicereus anthonyanus (Ric Rac Orchid Cactus) in your garden? What is your experience with this plant? Please share with other fellow gardeners in the comments below!

Do you sell Selenicereus anthonyanus (Ric Rac Orchid Cactus) seeds or have plants for sale? You can place your advertisement here. Contact us now!

Safety notes: This website is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice, and please check with your doctor before using plants if you are pregnant, using medications or have other health conditions.

Buy gardening gloves online to protect your hands:

Share the post "Ric Rac Orchid Cactus: Growing Tips"


Ric Rac Orchid Cactus, Fishbone Cactus (Cryptocereus anthonianus)

This epiphyte cacuts doesnґt even look like a real plant. I like it. Rio de Janeiro, mid summer.

This is a really unusual looking plant and does indeed look like ric rac. Thanks for sharing it.

I have one too, and it is very tough and leathery. Grows without care, nearly. My neighbour's plant has grown nearly 8 feet and I stole a couple of pieces which drooped to my premises.

What do the blooms look like?

(sorry for sending you to Google - I hate when people do this - but I couldnґt open the pictures individually, although I could last week)

I appreciate the link and don't mind being sent to Google at all. The blooms are really pretty. They bloom right on the tips. If I had a greenhouse, this would be a plant I attempt to grow, but I don't have one. We can have very hard freezes here. I have been carrying plants in and out as the temperatures fall near freezing and then warm up again. I am kinda becomimg a little frustrated with having to do this every few days . guess I am getting old. I have all sorts of creatures in the house that have come in with my plants. Lots of chameleon lizards have taken a ride inside. I am having to try to catch them and usher them back out otherwise they will die. Thanks for the information.

I just was given this plant, love the leaves and see that it blooms at night. Which is better, letting it grow up my Oak trees or hanging it on my porch? Seen it displayed both ways.


Fishbone Cactus Water And Soil Requirements

  • A native of Mexico, Fishbone Cactus stemmed or originated in a humid and moist rainforest and does not belong to the arid deserts like other cactus plants.
  • It needs a bit more water than an average cactus but not a lot. One needs to water the plant especially during the warmer months of spring and summer.
  • The best way for Fishbone Cactus (Zig Zag Houseplant) soil is to keep the topsoil layer moist and fertilized especially when the plant is growing. The best way is to let the top layer of soil dry before it is watered again.
  • Also, one needs to be careful to not overwater it, especially during the winters.

Fishbone Cactus

Overall Height APPROXIMATELY 30cm.

GENERAL INFORMATION

  • Fishbone cactus boasts many colorful names.
  • Ric Rac, Zigzag and Fishbone orchid cactus are just a few of these descriptive monikers.
  • The names refer to the alternate pattern of the leaves along a central spine that resembles a fish skeleton.
  • This stunning plant is an epiphytic specimen that can grow in low soil situations where other organic media are present.
  • Growing fishbone cactus is easy even for the so-called “black thumb” gardener.
  • Bring in a fishbone cactus houseplant and enjoy the crazy zigzag pattern of its succulent foliage.

SOIL REQUIREMENT

  • As fishbone cactus needs semi-moist soil, add 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite to standard cactus soil to increase water retention.
  • Mature plants require repotting after one to two years to resupply nutrients.
  • If the pot is too small, the plant can become unstable.
  • Repot during the spring or summer.

FEEDING/FERTILIZER REQUIREMENT

  • Supplement monthly using a houseplant fertiliser.
  • Potassium-based feeds may be used during the blooming process in late summer to promote longer lasting flowers.

LIGHT REQUIREMENT

  • Place your fishbone cactus in a bright spot with indirect light.
  • If it happens to get some direct sunlight, no worries it can handle it, but keep it limited.
  • They don’t usually flower indoors, but it can be done.
  • Start by giving your fishbone cactus a bit more full sun in late summer to early fall.
  • This can help the plant produce flowers.

WATER REQUIREMENT

  • Always allow the top half of the soil dry out in between irrigations, reducing this further in winter to replicate their dormancy period.
  • Although Fishbone Cacti grow on moist nooks of jungle trees, it's important not to promote too soggy conditions as root or basal rot are always a threat.
  • Under-watering symptoms include little to no new growth, a much-needed transplant, and drying leaves - remember, although they're in the cactus family, they originate in tropical locations meaning soil moisture and humidity should be generous.
  • Over-watering symptoms include yellowing leaves that soon drop off, no or little growth and root rot.
  • These are common with too much soil moisture, an improper soil medium or too low light.

SOIL REQUIREMENT

  • As fishbone cactus needs semi-moist soil, add 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite to standard cactus soil to increase water retention.
  • Mature plants require repotting after one to two years to resupply nutrients.
  • If the pot is too small, the plant can become unstable.
  • Repot during the spring or summer.

FEEDING/FERTILIZER u00a0REQUIREMENT

  • Supplement monthly using a houseplant fertiliser.
  • Potassium-based feeds may be used during the blooming process in late summer to promote longer lasting flowers.

LIGHT u00a0REQUIREMENT

  • Place your fishbone cactus in a bright spot with indirect light.
  • If it happens to get some direct sunlight, no worries it can handle it, but keep it limited.
  • They donu2019t usually flower indoors, but it can be done.
  • Start by giving your fishbone cactus a bit more full sun in late summer to early fall.
  • This can help the plant produce flowers.

WATER u00a0REQUIREMENT

  • Always allow the top half of the soil dry out in between irrigations, reducing this further in winter to replicate their dormancy period.
  • Although Fishbone Cacti grow on moist nooks of jungle trees, it's important not to promote too soggy conditions as root or basal rot are always a threat.
  • Under-watering symptoms include little to no new growth, a much-needed transplant, and drying leaves - remember, although they're in the cactus family, they originate in tropical locations meaning soil moisture and humidity should be generous.
  • Over-watering symptoms include yellowing leaves that soon drop off, no or little growth and root rot.
  • These are common with too much soil moisture, an improper soil medium or too low light.


Fishbone Cactus: Information About Growing Ric Rac Orchid Cactus - garden

rare plants - fragrant flowers - exotic fruit

Find a perfect plant for your needs

  • New Arrivals
  • Sales and Specials
  • Rare Plants
  • Blooming Trees
  • Fruit and Edibles
  • Fragrant Plants
  • Blooming Shrubs
  • Mango varieties
  • Gardenias
  • Blooming Vines
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Jasmines
  • Small perennials
  • Aquatic Plants
  • Ylang-ylang
  • Orchids and Epiphytes
  • Cacti and Succulents
  • Clerodendrums
  • Bonsai plants
  • Large size plants
  • Books and Prints
  • Seeds and Bulbs
  • Growing Supplies
  • Downloadable items

This catalog is for information only. If you don't see the price - the plant is not for sale.

Click on image to enlarge.
Pictogram Guide you may also see symbol definition in a pop-up window by mouse-pointing on pictogram

It is nightblooming and its flowers last only a single night in spring. It is common that specimens rare or never flower, but when they do so, they are usually rootbound in poor soil, then can produce many white, pink and maroon slender-petaled starburst blossom which begin to open right at dusk, releasing a pleasing fragrance intended to attract nocturnal pollinators. Because the flowers are so quickly spent, this epiphyte is mainly only grown for the strange leaves which lend it the common name Ric-Rac Cactus, or occasionally Zig-Zag or Fishbone Cactus. It can be grown either in orchid substrate, or in regular cactus potting soil with a bit of humus added. In the wild it attaches itself to trees, clinging by little aerial root filaments along the zigzagging succulent leaves, but is adaptable to terrestrial habits. It loves strong yet indirect lighting. It does not need a lot of water and should be permitted to dry out entirely between waterings.

5154 Cryptocereus (Selenicereus) anthonyanus - Zig-Zag Cactus

Anthony's Rick-Rack, Zig-Zag Cactus, Fishbone Orchid Cactus. It is nightblooming and its flowers last only a single night in spring. Because the flowers are so quickly spent, this epiphyte is mainly only grown for the strange leaves which lend it the common name Ric-Rac Cactus, or occasionally Zig-Zag or Fishbone Cactus. It can be grown either in orchid substrate, or in regular cactus potting soil with a bit of humus added. In the wild it attaches itself to trees, clinging by little aerial root filaments along the zigzagging succulent leaves, but is adaptable to terrestrial habits. It loves strong yet indirect lighting. It does not need a lot of water and should be permitted to dry out entirely between waterings.
RECOMMENDED FERTILIZERS:
SUNSHINE Robusta - Rapid Growth Booster
Tropical Allure - Smart-Release Booster
This item is certified for shipping to California.

Most of our plants are certified for shipping to California, however, certain plants are not certified. Please do not order not-certified plants to California addresses. These plants may be added to CA certification in the future please contact us for more information.



Previous Article

How To Regrow Garlic Chives: Growing Garlic Chives Without Soil

Next Article

Keeping Potted Pansy Plants: Caring For Container Grown Pansies