Complete 2024 Guide to Cultivation, Maintenance, and Disease Management of Fishbone Cactus

The greatest myth about Fishbone cactus is that it is grown on top of fish bones with potting soil. It isn’t true.

The reason behind its funny naming lies in its shape.

The scientific name of fishbone cactus is Epiphyllum anguliger. It is a cactus species that are native to the tropics of Central America especially Mexico.

Fishbone cactus belongs to the family Cactaceae and the order is Caryophyllales and is also popularly known as zig-zag or rick-rack cactus due to its shape. It is commonly grown as ornamental succulent due to its amazing fragrance and nocturnal flowers.

The aerial stem is one of the vigilant features of the epiphyllum anguliger and growing them in your house is not going to be a very difficult task. I am going to share the whole process of how to grow fishbone cactus as we continue.

If you are wondering about how to root fishbone cactus at your home then follow this article till the end. I am sure you will get all the solutions to your queries in this article.

How to identify?

zig zag cactus


Now I am going to highlight some of the identical features of the fishbone cactus so that you can easily find or spot them when you visit the florist store next time.

First of all, the species comes with a very unique zig-zag shape that can be easily spotted. An interesting fact is that the shape of the Fishbone cactus aerial stem resembles somewhat a fish skeleton. It is kind of a modified stem.

Epiphyllum anguliger is an epiphytic cactus with extensively branched stems and green smooth skin. When you will start growing this cactus, you will notice special characteristics of the plant. Not only do the aerial roots give this plant a unique look but also it fits into any surroundings.

One of the most attractive features of this cactus is its bright-colored flower. The Fishbone cactus flower usually opens up during the night and lasts for only one day. The end of the summer or the autumn season is the ideal time for its blooming.

The lasting of the flower depends upon the succulent’s breed. The flower can be pale yellow, pinkish, or green in color and it has a very sweet fragrant which will spread across your house on a summer evening. To be precise, it is a nocturnal flower.

These are some of the distinctive features that I have mentioned about this cactus. Now I guess you can easily spot this cactus in your nearby stores and I am sure you are planning to get one.

Are Fishbone cactus and Fishhook cactus same?

No, they are not the same cactus plant. Fishhook cactus is a cylindrical-shaped body covered with long hooked-shaped spines. Whereas Fishbone cactus leaves come with a very unique zig-zag shape.

How to care fishbone cactus?

Wondering about how to grow and care for the fishbone cactus at your home? Fishbone cactus care is not a very difficult task but it consists of many steps.

Let us now know some of the basic things that you require to successfully grow this cactus. So, here we go with the list below.

  1. Seeds (read more on growing cactus from seeds)
  2. Well moist soil (read more on soil and fertilizers)
  3. Water (read more on how to water cactus)
  4. Pots to grow them (read more on best pots)
  5. A place where the plant could get enough sunlight (read more on how much sunlight needed)

Caring for the cactus is a vital part of the growing process. Let us now know how to care for your floral buddy.

Light requirements

First of all, the fishbone cactus does not need direct sunlight, so you can place it anywhere it can get sufficient sunlight to grow. Even if you can place it inside your room or in your office make sure there is enough sunlight available.

In the summer season, you are advised to keep it outdoors but remember no direct sunlight. So, keep it in a shady place. It is better to keep it indoors as direct exposure to sunlight can damage the plant tissues.

Alternatively, you can use indoor artificial lights during winter months.


Epiphyllum anguliger grows best in medium warm conditions and the temperature should be between 61°F – 77°-F during the summer season.

In the winters, the ideal temperature to grow this cactus is 50°F. They do not survive in freezing conditions as bright sunlight & humidity are essentials for them to grow rapidly.

Humidity & Soil requirements

Humidity plays an important role in growing fishbone cactus. If you are planting the succulent inside your house then place them near the bathroom or kitchen, so it can get plenty of humidity from the ambiance.

Semi-moist soil is required for growing this cactus. You just have to add 1 part of peat moss with 1 part of perlite to increase the water retention capacity of the soil.

Fertilizer Requirements

Using fertilizers to grow fishbone cactus is optional. If you like you can use fertilizers to accelerate its growth. Use equal parts of nitrogen, potash, and phosphate (20-20-20) once a month.

Use it during mid-summer after the fishbone cactus stops blooming and also follow this process until the plant gets into its dormancy, usually in winter.

Other than that, you can also use a multi-purpose fertilizer like Dyna-Gro-Grow. It contains micro and macronutrients which are helpful for the plant’s growth.

Watering the cactus

Most of the cacti are from the desert but the Epiphyllum anguliger plant belongs to the moist tropical rainforest of Central America. Hence, watering the cactus is really important for its care & growth.

You have to be very careful during the summers and spring seasons and make sure the plant gets enough water. You can also mist it to provide humidity.

You have to keep the soil moist during its growing period. In the winters, water the cactus from time to time to keep away soil dryness as the plant does not enjoy dryness and less humidity for too long.

How do you get a fishbone cactus to bloom?

Most of the succulents are generally used as ornamental plants for their unusual shapes and bright-colored flowers. So, undoubtedly the fishbone cactus bloom is one of its most attractive features.

So, let’s see how to get the fishbone cactus to bloom. The increment of the flower production starts after the plant started blooming. For six weeks, water only the soil surface whenever it feels dry.

In the winters, place the plant in a place with temperatures above 40°F for at least 3 weeks to stimulate the bloom.

The fishbone cactus fruit is an oval-shaped fruit with a greenish and brownish exterior.

I have seen a question that is what orchid has leaves similar to a fishbone cactus? The Ric Rac and zigzag cactus have leaves similar to a fishbone cactus.


Now, I am going to tell you about how to propagate the plant in your house. Here, I will tell you about how to propagate the plant from a single leaf.

Basically, the leaves of the cacti are the modified stem. So, at first, get a leaf cutting from your existing plant and root it into the soil.

Some people ask – how to root fishbone cactus. Well, you need to place it in the exact manner it was before cut. Be careful not to put it upside-down or else it will not root.

The cutting should be 3-4 inches long. No need to make it so long. Now, let the cutting dry for few days. But keep an eye on it. The cutting should not be rotten over time.

After few days, place it in a vase or a pot into the soil or you can also place it in the water. Then after a few weeks, you will notice it will start rooting. Once the plant gets root about an inch long, place it into the pot where you will grow the plant.

Fishbone cactus propagates better in the summers or during spring. So, my advice would be to try to avoid the winter season for propagation. Read more on cactus propagation here.

Potting and Re-potting

We have already discussed some of the major things about the growing and caring process of Epiphyllum anguliger. Now, I am going to tell you about the most strenuous job in a simple way i.e., the potting and repotting process.

You can get a huge variety of fancy mixing pots in the market but before buying those check them carefully, are well-draining or not.

Generally, people use a succulent mix and add 1/4 of pumice or pumice to increase drainage. You can also use 2 or 3 parts of succulent mix and 1 part of pumice or perlite and even you can use 1 part of orchid bark instead of pumice or perlite.

After some weeks, you should repot the plant because a full-grown plant needs more space. And sometimes the roots of the plant are tangled up inside the pot or even growing out of the holes.

If you have not changed the soil for more than 2 years, you should repot it because the soil loses all its nutrients over time.

For this, you first need to remove the plant from the existing pot and also remove the soil from the roots carefully. Once done, place the biggest stem in the center of the new pot where you could keep it. Fill the pot with the new potting mix and you are done. Quite simple, isn’t it?

Although a simple process, if the plant is big it might be a tricky task. In that case, ask for help from any friend or family member.

Disease and Pest Control

If you are planning to grow fishbone cactus, you should aware of the disease that the plant might encounter.

Gardeners often complain about sunburn & Etiolation although it is often due to the plant being exposed to harsh sun rays and is completely an owner’s mistake. You might also notice Desiccation due to under-watering.

If you live in a cold place and do not take proper precautions, your plant might face frost damage. Put a frost cloth around your plant during chilly days.

Another common thing is the root bound condition, but it can be escaped by re-potting at correct intervals. You might also witness your fishbone cactus wrinkled. Well, the cause is simply dryness & heat.

Proper caring of your succulent will help you avoid all these above conditions.

Aphids, Caterpillars, Nematodes, Spider Mites, snails are some of the common pests that attack such a cactus. To keep away the bugs, you can use a solution of vinegar and water mixed in a 3:1 ratio and rub it on the place where you find these pests.

You can also purchase Copper Fungicide to keep your plant bugs free.

Toxicity to Pets & Children

The Fishbone cactus is a non-toxic succulent and it does not affect the health of your cats and dogs. But try to keep your pets away from the plants as prevention is better than cure.

Though these cacti do not have any toxicity still I would recommend you to keep your children away as they might swallow some of their leaves while playing causing some digestive disorder.

Read more on 10 toxic cactus and succulents for pets and children.

Where you can buy fishbone cactus?

Fishbone cactus plants are not very rare succulents and therefore you can easily find them in any local store which deals with succulents.

In case you do not find it in an offline store, check out some online stores or websites as this could be the best alternative. Some of the recommended websites are given below:

  • Amazon
  • Nurserylive
  • Plantslive
  • Plantsguru
  • Etsy

On these websites, you can find a vast range of cacti plants that are unique and would add charm to your indoor garden. The amazing fishbone cactus is also available here. So, why wait? Go and grab one for your garden now.


We have already discussed the positive and negative aspects of the fishbone cactus. Now it is just a matter of time and you can soon have it in your garden.

If you are still thinking and want to know my decision, I will strongly recommend you to buy fishbone cactus.

It is easily available online as well as offline, easy to grow and care for, non-toxic in nature last but not the least its unique appearance will change the vibe of your house. The beautiful color of the flowers and fishbone cactus aerial roots make the plant very attractive.

The fragrance of the flower is an obvious bliss for gardeners. It can also be a good option if you want to gift a plant.

Remember nature is the best teacher. Indirect sunlight, humidity, and medium temperature are the ideal conditions for growing the Epiphyllum anguliger. Hope you found this article helpful.