Fishbone Cactus: How to Care and Grow them?

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fishbone cactus

Fishbone cactus or Disocactus anguliger is not just like your average cactus.

This tropical, epiphytic cactus is native to Mexico and is perfect for cactus lovers who do not have the right condition to keep the typical desert cacti.

Moreover, it tends to do well without direct sunlight and thrives in humid conditions.

It is important to note that you may want to grow it for its unique, angular-toothed stems.

The fishbone cactus are also commonly referred to as the zig-zag cactus and the orchid cactus.

You can display this cactus in a hanging pot for the planter to fully admire its stunning and beautiful foliage.

However, if you want to train it to grow upwards, you can also twine the long stems onto a trellis, moss pole, or some other vertical climbing structure.

Keep on reading.

Fast facts about Fishbone Cactus

Botanical Name  Disocactus anguliger
Common Name  Fishbone cactus, zig zag cactus, ricrac cactus, orchid cactus
Family  Cactaceae
Plant Type  Cactus
Mature Size  6 in. tall, 3 ft. long
Sun Exposure  Partial
Soil Type  Loamy, moist but well-drained
Soil pH  Acidic
Bloom Time  Late summer, fall
Flower Color  White, yellow
Hardiness Zones  10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 12a, 12b
Native Area North America

How Hardy is Fishbone Cacti?

This succulent plant is a tropical, warm-weather lover, however, it cannot tolerate front.

In case you live in a warm, tropical climate, you can grow it outdoor year-round.

However, in locations where temperatures tend to drop below 40°F, make sure to grow it as a house plant.

fishbone cactus 1

You can move your plant outdoors in summer if you want but promptly move it back indoors when in late summer, when autumn is on the horizon.

This ric rac cactus loves to thrive in moist, humid environments that do not receive too much sunlight.

Therefore, if you are growing them outdoors, make sure to choose a shady location, that may be in the understory.

A slightly brighter location, however, is best if you want them to bloom.

However, if you are growing it for the funky foliage, making sure to place them in dappled shade with indirect light is best for them.

Fishbone Cactus Care

The fishbone cactus is a low-maintenance plant that tends to grow well indoors as a houseplant.

Moreover, it loves to thrive in bright, indirect light and enjoys moist, humid conditions.

It is important to note that this plant is native to the jungles of Mexico where it tends to grow from tree branches.

Fishbone cactus is epiphytic, which means it can also grow in low soil conditions if necessary.

Light and Soil Requirments

In its native or natural environment, the fishbone cactus can grow as an understory plant and receive dappled indirect light.

However, when you grow them indoors, make sure to choose a location that revises the number of hours of bright, indirect light.

It is perfect for the fishbone cactus.

As an epiphany, the fishbone cactus appreciates a potting mix that is well-draining, airy, and rich in organic matter.

Moreover, you can combine one part commercial cactus/succulent soil, one part perlite, one part peat moss, and one part orchid bark mix to create an ideal mixture for the fishbone cactus.

Learn more about Succulent Soil Mix here.

Water, Temperature, Humidity, and other Requirments

In comparison to desert cacti, the fishbone cacti thrive with regular watering.

As a general rule, make sure that you water your cactus once the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil dry out.

Moreover, it is important to avoid watering your fishbone cactus with water that is too cold.

This is because it can shock the roots of your plants.

Fishbone cactus are also sensitive to chemicals that are present in municipal water.

Therefore, if your water is hard, make sure that you allow it to sit for 24 hours before watering the cactus.

Or you can use distilled water instead of tap water.

Native to jungle environments, this cactus thrives in warm, humid conditions.

Thus, make sure to keep the temperatures between 60 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 25 degrees Celsius).

While the humidity should be above 60% for their better growth.

Fertilizing Fishbone Cactus

When growing fishbone cactus as a houseplant, you should do it every 6 to 8 weeks from early spring through late summer.

However, make sure to avoid fertilizing it during winters when the plant is not actively growing and you do not want to encourage new growth.

For fertilizing fishbone cacti, you can use an organic water-soluble fertilizer mixed with irrigation water.

But, a granular houseplant will also work fine for them.

If you want to encourage blooming, you can give your cacti a boost with a fertilizer that is slightly high in potassium.

Potassium helps to support the bloom production.

Moreover, most orchid fertilizers and African violet Fertilizers would serve this purpose.

Make sure to not use bloom-boosting fertilizer all the time.

Only for three applications in a row, just once per year is enough.

Propagating Fishbone Cactus

Fishbone cacti can be readily propagated with the help of stem cutting.

Moreover, propagating them is a great way to create new plants and fill out your existing plants.

However, make sure to avoid propagating them during the fall or winter months.

This is because, during this time, they enter a dormant period.

fishbone cactus 2

Instead, you should propagate them in the spring and summer months.

To do you, follow the steps below to propagate fishbone cacti:

  • with the help of pair of sharp scissors or pruning shears, take cuttings from your plant, keeping the cutting at least 4 and 5 inches long
  • set the cutting in a cool, dry location for at least 24 hours to allow the cut edge to callous over
  • fill a small potting container with a well-draining, airy potting mixture, and moisten the soil lightly.
  • plant the calloused cutting in the pre-moistened potting mix
  • set the planted cuttings in a location that receives bright, indirect light
  • lightly water them every few days to make sure that the soil stays moist
  • once you see signs of new growth the cuttings are then considered established
  • normal fishbone cactus care can be resumed.

However, if you want to transplant the cuttings into a new container, you do so at this time as well.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

As fishbone cactus enjoys humid conditions, it is most susceptible to a number of common pests and diseases.

Common pests include:

While most common diseases are:

How to get your Fishbone Cactus to Bloom?

In order to promote blooming in the late summer and fall, you can expose the fishbone cactus to cold temperatures in the winter to early spring.

This should ideally be between ideally between 52-57 degrees Fahrenheit (or 11-14 degrees Celsius).

During the late spring, resume regular care.

how to make it bloom

However, some rowers have found that fertilizing the fishbone cactus with high-potassium tomato fertilizer in the summer can help to promote blooming later in the season.

However, in case these measures do not result in any blooms, you can try again next year.

Fishbone cacti are difficult to bloom from indoors.

You may need a couple of years of care before they are ready to flower.

Common Problems with Fishbone Cactus

For the most part, these cacti are low-maintenance and relatively problem free.

Moreover, the most common problem with the jungle cacti can occur due to improper watering or light conditions.

Leggy Growth

The stems of healthy fishbone cacti tend to be flat with wide zig-zagging edges.

However, if you notice that all of its stems are staying thin and round, this can be an indication that your plant is not receiving enough light.

You can try moving your plant close to the window for better-looking stems.

Leaves with Brown Spots

Excessive humidity or water left sitting on the leaves of your cacti can result in your plant being infected with fungal leaf spots.

brown spots

Moreover, these brown spots are normally slightly raised.

This is more common in plants that you grow outdoors, however, can occur in indoor plants as well.

While leaf scarring is unsightly, it will not kill your plant.

Simply cut off the affected area to prevent the fungus from spreading further.

Wrinkled Leaves

Wrinkled leaves show that your fishbone cactus needs more water.

You do not need to fear anything, as long as the stems of your plant are not completely dried out.

They will bounce back as soon as you water your plant.

Other Plant Care Tips

Some other care tips for your plant are:

Regular pruning is not important for your cacti.

However, if your plant grows too large, you can trim off an excessive growth with a pair of plant shears.

it does not matter where you cut off leaves, but you can do it way down to the base, rather than cutting the leaf in half.

Zig zag cactus is not a big fan of drafts. Therefore, keep them away from cold windows or doors that you need to frequently open in inter.

Do not place your plant above or near a forced air heat register.

The warm, dry air is not ideal for this humidity-loving plant.

Bottom Line

The funky appearance and unique growth habit of the fishbone cactus earn it a place of pride on many plant shelves. This succulent is native to the tropical forests of Mexico.

This plant can grow about 4 to 6 inches wide and flowers occasionally. Its flower looks like an orchid purple/pink to white, multi-petaled, and can stay open for a single night before fading on the arrival of morning. The plant prodcues aerial roots on the undersides of its stem which helps them to cling to the trees as it climbs.

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