The hardy indoor plant, the fishbone cactus, will make your head spin.
Because I couldn’t believe it. One day a very special package arrived on my doorstep. A bunch of seriously incredible plants from one of you~ my incredibly sweet readers.
Thank you Cheri L! You are so kind.
It was mind-blowing. Who would take the trouble to buy and ship me plants?
One of these plants was the Fishbone Cactus, a hardy indoor plant you can’t kill. Never had I’ve seen such a magnificent plant before!
My heart skips a little faster each time I pass it. It’s not something sold in any garden centers where I live.
But maybe you are acquainted with this plant by its many alter egos including the Zig Zag Cactus, Ric Rac Orchid or if you want to get all fancy with the scientific name……drum roll please….Epiphyllum anguliger.
Seriously, you can’t kill the Fishbone Cactus even if you think you have a black thumb. I’ve killed countless plants over the years and (fingers crossed) have learned from my mistakes.
Here’s the inside scoop!
Background info on the Fishbone Cactus
The fishbone cactus originated from Mexico where it thrives in the tropical rainforest environment. Yes to moisture and humidity.
A member of the night blooming cactus family, the fishbone cactus can display soft pink flowers that open at night and last for one blissful day.
And no wonder, it’s related to its cousin, the orchid and enjoys very similar growing conditions. For this reason, the fishbone cactus is also called the orchid cactus.
Although I would like nothing better than to see my fishbone cactus in bloom, for now I am content to gaze upon its stunning dark green foliage.
That spine, resembling a fish skeleton stops me in my tracks every time I walk past this plant in my house!
That spiky, trailing stem never ceases to impress.
How-to propagate the hardy indoor Fishbone Cactus
No doubt it’s the ease of propagation of the Fishbone Cactus that is the stand out quality of this unique and fabulous plant!
The plant Cheri sent was pretty huge! So when I went to re-pot it, I found a dense and thick root system craving to be separated.
Gentry with my fingers, I untangled a good chunk of root and a long stem of the top of the plant and re-potted it in it own pot. I shook off as much of the old soil as I could and replaced that soil with a cactus/succulent mix.
Don’t worry if you do hear a bit of tearing when you disentangle the roots~ that’s perfectly normal. Most plants can lose a lot of root mass and come out okay.
But it was that simple. That was over three months ago and the plant I re-potted and gave to my sister is still thriving!
No need to fret about rooting in water or it rotting in soil when you propagate with this method.
Now you can also cut a piece of stem to start a new plant. Take a fresh cutting and let it callus on the counter for a few days (just like you would with any succulent.)
Insert the callused end into a low soil medium such as a peat moss mixed with perlite. Because of its close relationship with its cousin, the orchid, I like to line the bottom of my pot with orchid bark to increase drainage.
Water & fertilizer requirements of hardy indoor Fishbone Cactus
Show me a plant that loves sitting in water said no one ever. Because the truth of the matter is this: no plant really likes sitting in standing water.
I water my Fishbone Cactus once every two weeks and don’t fuss. But I’m generous with the water making sure it gets a good, thorough drink.
After all, the fishbone cactus used to live in a moist and humid rainforest environment so unlike some other cactus, it has a greater need for moisture.
Then I let it dry out. Not bone dry mind you, but I do let the water clear. Fishbone cactus can survive the an occasional bout of dryness, but extended neglect will kill this hardy indoor plant.
If water does go into the drainage tray and stays more than a day, dump it out. Don’t let the roots rot in standing water.
Pick pots with drainage holes to avoid root rot and fungus gnats. Unglazed pots are awesome for any cactus to enhance evaporation and prevent the plant from getting too wet.
And of course, smaller pots generally need to be watered more often. If you acquire a bigger fishbone cactus in a larger pot, don’t be tempted to saturate every inch of soil. Use the amount of water equal to about one-third the volume of the pot.
Misting this plant is never a bad idea.
Fertilize regularly with a water soluble cactus or orchid fertilizer late summer or early Autumn when (fingers crossed) the fishbone cactus is most likely to bloom. High-quality fertilizer mind you that has a 10:10:10 ratio every two weeks. In February, make the switch to 2:10:10 ratio.
Do not fertilize once the flower blossoms!
Let there be light for the hardy indoor fishbone cactus
The hardy indoor plant, fishbone cactus thrives in indirect light but can tolerate periods of bright sun.
So it loves bright, but indirect light most of the day. Lots of morning sun but mostly shade in the afternoon is ideal.
Or perhaps tucked under some sheer curtains that will provide a little dappled sunlight in the afternoon if the plant is positioned in a super sunny location.
Exposing the fishbone cactus to direct sunlight will most likely scorch the plant and cause significant damage. For this reason alone, I consider the fishbone cactus an indoor plant that never ventures outside. It’s not worth killing my plant!
But allowing the fishbone cactus to get plenty of sun late summer into early autumn does increase its chances of blooming ~ and we all want that!
The fishbone cactus likes temps between 60 degrees to 77 degree Fahrenheit anyhow during summer. But don’t let it sit in temps under 50 degrees ever. This plant can’t survive freezing temps. Neither does it want to sit on a cold windowsill or be near an AC vent.
Plants prefer to get re-potted. Period. Especially after coming home from the garden center. Plants don’t like to stay in plastic nursery pots so be sure to re-pot any plant within two months of bringing it home.
As a general rule, plants in a two-gallon pot or smaller should be re-potted once a year. Plants in larger pots can go between two and three years before re-potting.
Re-potting allows the plant to absorb key nutrients from fresh soil, gives the roots room to breath and overall increases the longevity of the plant.
No matter how much fertilizer I add to my plants, or even the quality of the fertilizer, nothing can make up for fresh soil with fresh nutrients.
When you go to re-pot shake off as much of the old soil as you can. Try not to touch the roots much, most cacti don’t like that.
If your goal is to make the plant grow larger, give it more space. Going up by two inches in diameter is common, but if you want to give your plant lots of room to roam, give it four inches to encourage growth.
To keep the plant the same size, trim the roots prior to re-potting it in the same-size pot.
Divide and conquer ~ re-pot and propagate at the same time!
Now is the time to propagate new plants, too if you notice your plant is big enough to divide into two or three plants to share with friends!
Focus on getting at least a few of the big, thick roots when re-potting and dividing the plant. With one hand, fan out the roots in the bottom of the pot as you spread them out.
Pat the soil down gently and water immediately. Finally….if you hear a few tearing sounds when re-potting, that’s usually okay! Most plants can lose a lot of root mass and still be fine.
So I am all about pruning indoor plants these days. Not only do my plants look better, they are thriving with my efforts!
The fishbone cactus tends to get a little on the wild side if not pruned. Those long, spiky stems get out of control.
The leaves become too large and the shape downright unruly with stems jutting every which direction.
It’s clearly a plant that prefers to be pruned! Besides, pruning encourages fresh new shoots to grow behind its new trim cut.
Use pruning shears and not gardening scissors though, they are simply not sharp enough. This is the time to take control of your plant and cut off all the ugly brown stems or stems that got brown spots over time.
And because the fishbone cactus tends to get so unruly, I think it looks best in a hanging indoor pot where its long, trailing stems can flow to their hearts content.