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Is your fishbone cactus growing wild and large? It is probably time to do some pruning and propagating. And it could very well be time to repot your plant.
With its wonderful distinctive fishbone shape, the Epiphyllum anguliger, or Ric Rac cactus, is like a piece of natural zig-zag art.
Let’s go through the process of pruning, propagating, and repotting your plant.
If you got here looking for general information on caring for your fishbone cactus, hop over to my post with all the fishbone cactus care tips and common problems.
When you have a mature indoor fishbone cactus it can grow quite large and expand in all directions. Pruning in spring or summer encourages new growth and freshens up the look of your plant. It’s like a fresh haircut.
Long, overgrown stems can safely be cut to shorten. Your plant will grow back fuller since new stems will grow from where you made the cut.
Use sharp scissors or pruning shears and remove an entire stem segment for a neat look.
But. You can cut the leaf right across at any point really. Either way will result in your stem cutting to grow roots, and your plant to grow new stems from the cut part.
While you’re up close and personal with your plant, remove any dead leafs.
Caution! Most parts of the fishbone cactus are smooth, but it is still a cactus and does have small spines which can really irritate your skin. Wear gloves if you want to play it safe. I’m a risk taker ?.
Propagation by Cuttings
It is best to take cuttings in spring to late summer. Look for healthy growth for the best chance of success. But even thin and wrinkly cuttings can be successfully water propagated. So if you have some cuttings leftover from a pruning session, try to propagate them.
Cut a piece from the mother plant. You can propagate one whole leaf stem, or cut one long stem into shorter sections and propagate those. Make sure to remember which side is up on each section, so you won’t plant them upside down.
Allow cut surface to callous over for at least a few days before proceeding.
If you want to propagate your fishbone cuttings in water and see the roots grow, place them in a small vessel filled with water and follow the tips on how to water propagate your plant.
Tip: Combine multiple rooted cuttings into one pot together to make an instant full looking plant!
You could also skip the step of water rooting and plant the cutting, callused end down, straight into soil. Sprinkle some rooting hormone on the cut end before planting. Use a fast-draining cactus soil mixed with perlite or peat moss to make it extra airy.
Keep your cuttings in plenty of bright indirect light, out of direct sun.
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.
If you cut one leaf in multiple sections, make sure to keep the cuttings right side up. Just as when propagating a Sansevieria, you don’t want to flip them around. They won’t root that way.
Propagation by Dividing the Rootball
Another way to propagate a larger fishbone plant is to divide it and repot in smaller pots. Turn one plant into two! Or three!
Spring is the best time to separate houseplants. However, it can be done at any time of year if needed.
There are two ways to divide your plant.
- The first way is by using a sharp knife and make a clean cut straight through the middle of the foliage, soil, and roots.
- The other way is to divide your fishbone plant with your hands and gently separate the roots and foliage. Be gentle as to hurt as few roots as possible.
Separate your plant into two or three parts at most. Each division needs stem shoots with plenty of roots attached.
Cut off any possible dead or dried stems. Carefully remove as much of the old soil as possible without damaging the roots.
Pot each new plant in its own planter. Keep them in bright indirect light until they are settled in their new homes and you start to see new growth appearing.
There are a few reasons why you would repot your fishbone cactus.
First of all, your plant might have grown so big that it needs more space. Roots are tangled up inside the pot and maybe even growing out of the drainage holes on the bottom.
Another reason could be that you haven’t repotted it in a year or two, or more. The soil will have lost all its nutrients and needs to be replenished. Your plant could stay in the same size pot with fresh soil.
Repotting a plant is not hard to do. But repotting a fishbone cactus can cause its own challenges.
- Start by removing your plant from its pot.
- Carefully remove the soil from the roots.
- Arrange the fishbone stems in a way that looks good to you and that they will have enough room to grow. Start with the biggest stem in the center and work from there.
- Fill up the planter with a layer of your soil mix (fast-draining cactus/succulent soil with added perlite and/or peat moss).
- Here is where it can get a bit tricky. To plant the stems, position the pieces from the middle out. Hold them in position with one hand, while using your other hand to add pieces all around until you have it how you like and all pieces are added.
- Working quickly, backfill the planter with soil all around.
If you are working with a large plant, you might want to ask a friend for a helping hand with filling the pot with soil while you hold the stems in position.
Keep out of direct sun while your plant is adjusting to its new situation.