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Fishbone cactus: How to grow and care for this unique houseplant

Fishbone Cactus

 Do you want a cool houseplant that’s not just another boring cactus? Then check out the fishbone cactus! It looks awesome, with these long, flat, green things that stick out like fish bones. The fishbone cactus is also known as the zig zag cactus, the ricrac cactus, or the orchid cactus, and it belongs to the genus Dislocates or Epiphyllum, depending on the source.

The fishbone cactus is native to Mexico, where it grows as an aerophyte, attaching itself to the branches of trees in the jungle. It prefers conditions that are warm, humid, and bright, but not direct. Fish bone cacti have long deep lobed floppy green stems it’s also called zig zag cactus, Ric Rac cactus, or orchid cactus. And fishbone cactus is a low Maintenance plant that can tolerate some neglect as long as it is not overwatered or exposed to extreme temperature It also produces fragrant, white flowers in the late summer or fall, which can last for several days.

In this article, we will guide you through the steps of growing and caring for the fishbone cactus, from choosing the right pot and soil, to watering, fertilizing, pruning, propagating, and blooming. We will also cover some common problems and frequently asked questions about this unique houseplant.

Choosing the right pot and soil for the fishbone cactus

The fishbone cactus likes to keep it simple. It doesn’t have big roots, so it doesn’t need a big pot. Just get a small or medium one with some holes at the bottom, so the water can drain out and not make the roots go bad.You can also use a hanging basket or a planter with a trellis, as the fishbone cactus has a trailing habit and can grow up to 3 feet long.

The fishbone cactus needs a well-drained, airy, and rich potting mix that mimics its natural habitat. You can make your own mix by combining one part commercial cactus/succulent soil, one part perlite, one part peat moss, and one part orchid bark mixAlternatively, you can use a commercial epiphyte mix that is suitable for orchids or bromeliads.

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Watering the fishbone cactus

The fishbone cactus is not too picky about water. Just give it a drink when the top part of the dirt feels dry. Sometimes you’ll need to water it once a week, sometimes every two weeks. It depends on how sweaty or dry the weather is. Avoid watering too much or too little, as both can cause the stems to shrivel or rot.

The fishbone cactus is sensitive to the temperature and the quality of the water. It is recommended to use water that is at room temperature or slightly warmer, as cold water can shock the roots and cause damage. It is also advisable to use distilled water or rainwater, as tap water may contain chemicals or minerals that can harm the plant. If you have to use tap water, let it sit out for 24 hours before watering to allow the chlorine to evaporate.

Fertilizing the fishbone cactus

The fishbone cactus does not need a lot of fertilizer, as it can get most of the nutrients it needs from the organic matter in the soil. However, you can give it a boost of growth and flowering by applying a liquid cactus/succulent fertilizer once in the early spring, when the new growth starts. Dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength and water the plant thoroughly after feeding. Do not fertilize the fishbone cactus in the winter, when it is dormant.

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Pruning the fishbone cactus

The fishbone cactus does not require much pruning, as it has a natural and attractive shape. However, you may want to trim some of the stems if they become too long, tangled, or damaged. Pruning can also encourage branching and flowering, as the plant will produce more buds on the new growth. The best time to prune the fishbone cactus is in the late winter or early spring, before the new growth starts. Use a sharp and sterile knife or scissors to cut the stems at an angle, leaving at least one node on each stem. You can also use the cuttings to propagate new plants.

Propagating the fishbone cactus

The fishbone cactus is easy to propagate from stem cuttings. You can use the cuttings that you obtained from pruning, or cut some healthy stems that are at least 4 inches long. Make sure to cut the stems at an angle, leaving at least one node on each cutting. Let the cuttings dry for a few days until a callus forms over the cut end. This will prevent the cuttings from rotting when planted.

To plant the cuttings, prepare a small pot with the same potting mix that you use for the mother plant. Insert the cut end of the cutting into the soil, about 1 inch deep. Water the cutting lightly and place it in a bright, warm, and humid spot, away from direct sunlight. You can also cover the pot with a plastic bag or a dome to create a mini greenhouse and increase the humidity.

The cuttings should root in 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the temperature and the humidity. You can check the rooting progress by gently tugging on the cutting. If you feel some resistance, it means that the roots have formed. Once the cuttings have rooted, you can remove the cover and water them as normal. You can also transplant them to a larger pot if needed.

Blooming the fishbone cactus

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The fishbone cactus produces beautiful and fragrant flowers that can last for several days. The flowers are white or yellow, with a diameter of up to 4 inches. They usually open at night and close in the morning, attracting nocturnal pollinators like moths and bats .the fishbone cactus blooms in the late summer or fall, but it may not bloom every year, depending on the age and the conditions of the plant.

To encourage the fishbone cactus to bloom, you need to provide it with the right amount of light, temperature, and water. The plant needs bright, indirect light during the day, and complete darkness at night. Avoid exposing the plant to artificial light after sunset, as this can disrupt its flowering cycle.

The plant enjoys and stay dry in the winter, when it gets colder, like 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15 degrees Celsius). You only need to water it once a month then. This makes the plant think it’s sleeping, and it starts to make flowers. In the spring, when it wakes up and grows more, you can give it more water and food, and put it somewhere warmer and wetter.


. In the spring, when the new growth starts, you can resume the normal watering and fertilizing, and move the plant to a warmer and more humid spot. The flower buds should appear in the summer and open in the late summer or fall.

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Common problems and solutions for the fishbone cactus

The fishbone cactus is pretty tough, but it can get sick if you don’t treat it right. Here’s what you need to watch out for and what to do about it:

  • Stem rot: This is caused by overwatering, poor drainage, or fungal infection. The stems become soft, mushy, and brown, and may fall off the plant. To prevent this, water the plant only when the soil is dry, use a well-drained potting mix and a pot with drainage holes, and avoid splashing water on the stems. To treat this, cut off the affected stems and dispose of them, and repot the plant in fresh soil. You can also apply a fungicide to the remaining stems to prevent further infection.

  • Stem shriveling: This is caused by underwatering, low humidity, or cold damage. The stems become wrinkled, limp, and pale, and may drop their leaves. To prevent this, water the plant regularly, mist the plant occasionally, and keep the plant away from cold drafts or heaters. To treat this, water the plant thoroughly and place it in a humid and warm spot. The stems should recover in a few days or weeks, depending on the severity of the damage.

  • Pests: The fishbone cactus can be attacked by some common pests, such as mealybugs, scale insects, or spider mites. These pests suck the sap from the plant and cause the stems to become yellow, stunted, or deformed. They may also leave behind sticky honeydew or webbing on the plant. To prevent this, inspect the plant regularly and keep it clean and healthy. To treat this, wipe off the pests with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, or spray the plant with a solution of water and insecticidal soap or neem oil. Repeat the treatment until the pests are gone.

Frequently asked questions about the fishbone cactus

Here are some of the frequently asked questions that you may have about the fishbone cactus and their answers:

Q. How often should I repot the fishbone cactus?

A. The fishbone cactus does not need to repot the fishbone cactus very often, as it likes to be root-bound and does not grow very fast. You can repot the plant every 2 to 3 years, or when you notice that the roots are coming out of the drainage holes, or the soil is depleted. Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the previous one and use fresh potting mix. Repot the plant in the spring, when the new growth starts, and water it well after repotting.

Q. How do I know if the fishbone cactus is getting enough light? 

A. The fishbone cactus needs bright, indirect light to grow and flower well. If the plant is getting too much light, the stems may become yellow, brown, or sunburned. If the plant is getting too little light, the stems may become leggy, weak, or pale. The ideal spot for the fishbone cactus is near a window that receives morning or afternoon sun, but not midday sun. You can also use a sheer curtain or a shade cloth to filter the light if it is too intense .

Q. Is the fishbone cactus toxic to pets or humans?

A. The fishbone cactus is not toxic to pets or humans, according to the ASPCA and the Poison Control Center. However, it is still advisable to keep the plant out of reach of children and pets, as they may cause irritation or allergic reactions if ingested or touched. If you or your pet comes in contact with the plant, wash the affected area with soap and water and seek medical attention if symptoms persist .

The fishbone cactus is a unique and low-maintenance houseplant that can add some interest and charm to your home. It has flat, green stems that have notched edges, resembling the bones of a fish. It prefers conditions that are warm, humid, and bright, but not direct. It is easy to care for, as long as you water it properly, fertilize it occasionally, prune it sparingly, and propagate it easily. It also produces fragrant, white flowers in the late summer or fall, which can last for several days. If you follow the steps and tips in this article, you will be able to grow and enjoy this beautiful and unusual plant.

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