Fishbone Cactus: How to Grow and Care for an Epiphyllum anguliger Plant

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The Epiphyllum anguliger or Fishbone cactus is one of my favorite plants. It makes me happy just looking at it.

The fishbone cactus forms long flat and succulent stems resembling a fishbone. Hence the name. It’s also sometimes called a zig zag or ric rac orchid cactus.

Fishbone cacti are easy to care for and very low maintenance. So if you tend to always kill your plants, give this one a try. It might even show off some flowers if the conditions are right.

The stem leaves of the fishbone cactus start out by growing upright, but as they grow and get longer, they start to trail down. Making the fishbone cactus a great choice as a hanging plant, or displayed on a plant pedestal table.

hanging fishbone cactus epiphullum anguliger plant

Related reading: How to DIY a beaded macrame plant hanger.

How much Light does a Fishbone cactus need?

Place your fishbone cactus in a bright spot with indirect light. If it happens to get some direct sunlight, no worries it can handle it, but keep it limited.

They don’t usually flower indoors, but it can be done. Start by giving your fishbone cactus a bit more full sun in late summer to early fall. This can help the plant produce flowers. If you are so lucky, the flowers will open at night and only last one day. Don’t miss it!

Fishbone Cactus Watering

Fishbone cacti originate from the moist and humid rainforest. Not from the dry desert, like most cacti.

This means that your fishbone cactus likes a bit more water than the average cactus. Make sure it gets enough water, especially during spring and summer. Mist it occasionally for a little added humidity.

Keep the soil moist and fertilize during the growing period. In winter let the top of the soil dry out before watering. It can handle a little neglect, but jungle cacti don’t like it to be bone dry for too long.

Read More on when and how to water your plants.

new growth on a fishbone cactus plant closeup
New growth shooting up all over this fishbone cactus.

Aerial Roots on a Fishbone Cactus

You might wonder why your plant is growing roots above the ground. Those are called aerial roots and are quite normal. Especially in epiphytic plants, which the fishbone cactus is.

Most epiphytic plants produce aerial roots to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. But they also use them as anchors. Epiphytic plants don’t need soil because they grow on the branches of other plants and trees. Anchoring themselves to their host plant with their air roots.

So it might just be that your fishbone cactus is growing aerial roots looking for something to cling to.

But aerial roots can also appear if your plant needs more humidity, or is lacking nutrients. So definitely do a quick checkup when you see aerial roots on your fishbone cactus. Maybe you do need to give it some water. Or a humidity tray to sit on.

fishbone cactus propagation

How to Prune and Propagate a Fishbone Cactus

The fishbone cactus just naturally has a wild untamed look. This is not to say that you would never want to prune an overly unruly stem. Go for it. Prune your fishbone cactus if you think it needs a cut.

Super long stems can safely be cut back to shorten. New stems will usually grow right from where you cut it. Making your plant grow back fuller.

Another added bonus is that you can easily propagate the cut-off piece of the stem and turn it into a new plant!

It is best to take stem cuttings in spring to late summer. Look for young growth for the best chance of success.

Once your cutting is in the soil, hold off from watering until you see signs of growth. When it starts to grow it means your cutting has grown roots. If you water before it has roots, your cutting will most likely start to rot. Give it a little mist if you can’t help yourself.

How to propagate a Fishbone cactus

How to propagate a Fishbone cactus



  1. Cut a piece from the mother plant. You can propagate one leaf stem, or cut one long stem into shorter 3-5" sections and propagate all. Just make sure to remember which side is up on each section, so you won't plant them upside down.
  2. Leave your cutting(s) alone for a few days so they can callus over.
  3. Plant the cutting, callused end down, into cactus soil mixed with perlite or peat moss.
  4. Do not water until you see signs of growth and your plant has roots. Mist if you think its necessary.

RELATED: How to Repot a Cactus and not get hurt.

Where to buy your own Fishbone Cactus

I was lucky enough to find my fishbone cactus at the local plant nursery. So you can start there.

If you can’t find any locally, there are full-grown fishbone cacti and cuttings from a few different plant growers for sale on Etsy.

On Amazon, you can find mostly cuttings and seeds. I have never tried to grow a fishbone cactus from seed, if you do, please let me know how it goes for you. I would love to hear!

indoor fishbone cactus plant on windowsill

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  1. My fishbone orchid doing really well with new growths but it does not bloom since I got ie 3 years ago. What did I do wrong?

  2. Hi my epiphylum Anguiliger is outside at the moment, only had it 2 months and the leaves are turning white an soft and soggy.. its in well drained sandy soil and sun from midday
    Any ideas?

    1. Hi Clare, I don’t have experience keeping the Fishbone Cactus outdoors. But soft and soggy usually indicates too much water. The soil needs time to dry out between waterings.

      1. May be it could be to much and to long direct sunlight wath causes damage on the stemleaf from your Fishbone Cactus. The stem leaves could get sun burned wich might turn in weak white dying stemleafes. Also over watering or a combination of both to much sunlight and to much water. When the roots might rot, the stem might rot also, or the stem might dry out because of no roots to suply the plant with the water from the ground. The Epiphyllum is an epifyt catus wich from origine grows in sub-tropical rain forest in the shadow in trees on a non parasytic way. It has also a nickname as Orchid Cactus, because of the same kind of original grow in the rain forest. So for good results with those plants you can better choose a ground mixture specialized for Orchids, in stead of ground mixture for dessert Cactus. The Epiphyllum likes best a place at the north of a house or wall. Also you can create some shadow , so the plants won’t get sunburned when the sun stands high. Direct morningsunlight and eveningsunlight will so well to your plants.

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