Zig-Zag Cactus


Epiphyllum anguliger (Fishbone Cactus)

Epiphyllum anguliger (Fishbone Cactus, Moon Cactus) is an epiphytic cactus with smooth green skin and extensively branched stems…

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.

Zig Zag Cactus Care

And that’s about it. That’s all the work you have to do to grow a lovely fishbone cactus. It doesn’t get any easier than that. As for caring for the cactus, this hardy plant can handle itself well and doesn’t ask for much of your time or effort.


As a tropical plant, the fishbone cactus enjoys hot temperatures. Ideally, you should keep the temperature anywhere between 50 to 75 degrees for growing or fully grown plants. If the weather gets cold, you might want to take it indoors. In the summer avoid keeping it in sunny places since it’s not fond of the full sun. Partial shade will help it grow and will not impact its delicate flowers. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t leave it for more than one hour in the direct sun.

Light for the ric rac cactus

While the fishbone cactus isn’t fond of the sun, that doesn’t mean it’s a shade plant. It still needs plenty of light. One thing about these cacti, they don’t tend to flower indoors. This is one reason you’d want to take it outside when the weather is warm enough. This applies to this species as well as the cultivars. Starting from the late summer and early fall, you should place the cactus in the sun for one hour every day before moving it to the shade. Soon, flowers will grow and open up.

Watering the ric rac cactus

If you have grown any species of cactus before, you probably have heard that they don’t require much water. Well, that’s not the case in our fishbone cactus. During the dog days of summer, the cactus needs plenty of water just like any other flowering plant. Avoid overwatering though, since its roots cannot handle waterlogging and tend to rot. Hold off the water after the flowering for a couple of weeks. Make sure the topsoil is dry before you irrigate the pot again.


The fishbone cactus can survive in just about any soil you grow it in. It won’t need plant food supplements, although a well-balanced, all-purpose fertilizer will come in handy just before the flowering season in the summer. After the flowering is over, don’t add fertilizer. As for the dose, you don’t need more than half a tablespoon of fertilizer for a gallon of water. This should be enough for a whole bunch of fishbone cactus pots.

Aerial Roots

A healthy fishbone cactus plant will develop roots right out of the zig zag leaves. Each leaf will have as many as seven aerial roots coming out of the top side. These roots which look like tendrils help the plant latch on to other trees and plants in its vicinity for support. The roots also suck moisture and nutrients just like underground roots. If you see more aerial roots on the plant than usual that could mean the cactus is dehydrated.


While the fishbone cactus is not known for its fast growth rates or taking up more space than it should, every now and then you might need to prune it. It’s mostly for ornamental and decorative purposes. Remove any yellowing leaves. Check that no leaves are damaged or broken. This encourages the plant to replace the broken leaves and maintain its appealing looks.


As with many plants that last more than a year, your fishbone cactus needs to be repotted. It will usually outgrow its pot once every three years. It’s the root system which needs more space, more than the leaves or stems themselves. Find a larger pot, fill it with potting mix and compost, then take the fishbone cactus out of its current pot. Check the root system and make sure the roots are healthy. Remove any rotten or entangled roots, then lower the root ball into the new pot. Cover with soil and water immediately.

Disease and Pests

To say that this hardy fishbone cactus attracts a bunch of pests and diseases is an understatement. From the tender aerial roots to the sweet-smelling flowers and succulent leaves, this is a plant that has a lot to offer to bugs. Some of these pests are aphids, scale, spider mites, mealybugs, and vine weevils.

Since you will be having this houseplant more indoors than outdoors, it’s important to be on the lookout for the first symptoms of an infestation. Don’t wait until the bugs multiply and cover the whole plant. By then it might be too late to save your fishbone cactus. Pick the bugs by hand and dispose of them safely. You can either drown them in a bucket of water or use neem oil.

As for disease, there are plenty of them. The most common disease your fishbone cactus will have is root rot. The root rot is often caused by waterlogging. The symptoms include yellowing leaves that look soft and squishy. Stop watering the plant and wait for it to get healthy again. If that doesn’t happen, then repotting it will help.

Other diseases include leaf rot, botrytis petal blight, leaf-spot disease, and powdery mildew. Most of these are caused by fungal infections, bacteria, and sometimes viruses. While you can still salvage the plant and help it grow again by repotting and removing the infected leaves. In some cases as with the botrytis petal blight and leaf-spot disease, you won’t be able to do much but get rid of the whole pot. Make sure you don’t infect the rest of the plants near the plant since it uses its aerial roots to reach out to other plants which would spread the disease.

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!


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.

Epiphyllum anguliger. Image credit 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.

Frequently Asked questions

The best place for your Ric Rac Cactus to flourish is indoors. Ric Rac Cactus does best with bright indirect to bright direct light. An Eastern exposure is ideal, a western window with a curtain works as long as the plant does not receive too much direct light. Too much direct sunlight can burn its leaves, so keep the Cactus in an appropriate area to avoid this. Protect them from cold drafts and extreme temperatures, 65-75 degrees F is recommended.

Be sure the pot you choose for the Ric Rac Cactus has drainage holes. Place the pot with drainage holes in the sink so it will be able to drain. After watering let it sit for five minutes to drain. Depending on how hot and dry the environment is you may need to water more often. Optimum humidity is 50-60%.

Ric Rac Cactus does best in a soil that provides optimum aeration & drainage, with improved moisture retention such as Espoma Cactus Potting Mix or Espoma Organic African Violet Soil. Any mix that contains sand is best because it is optimal for drainage. Drainage is key because it helps prevent rotting which is a common concern with cactus plants that are watered too much.

Watch the video: Seagroatt Riccardis Ric Rac House Plant July 2019

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