Step-by-Step Fishbone Cactus Propagation Guide

how to propagate fishbone cactus

Are you looking for a unique and beautiful addition to your plant collection? Consider propagating a fishbone cactus! This unique cactus gets its name from its long, flat, and segmented stems that resemble fish bones. With proper care, this cactus can grow up to several feet in length and produce stunning pink or white flowers.

Propagating a fishbone cactus (disocactus anguliger) is a simple and rewarding process that can be done by anyone, regardless of their gardening experience. 

The easiest and most common method is stem-cutting propagation, where you cut a stem from the parent plant and allow it to develop roots before planting it in its own pot. With a little patience and attention to detail, you can quickly grow your own fishbone cactus and enjoy its unique beauty in your indoor garden for years to come.

What is Fishbone Cactus?

Fishbone Cactus, also known as the zig zag cactus, ric rac cactus, or scientific name Epiphyllum anguliger, is a species of epiphytic cactus that is native to Central and South America.

One of the most distinctive features of the fishbone cactus is its foliage. The stem of the cactus is made up of flat, leaf-like segments that are arranged in a zig-zag pattern, hence the name. These segments are usually green in color but can also have a bluish or purplish tint.

In addition to its unique appearance, the fishbone cactus is also a succulent, which means that it stores water in its leaves and stems. This makes it a relatively low-maintenance plant that can tolerate periods of drought.

As an epiphytic cactus, the fishbone cactus is also known for its aerial roots. These roots allow the plant to attach itself to trees or other structures in its natural environment, where it can grow and thrive as an epiphyte.

Overall, fishbone cacti are fascinating and beautiful plants that are sure to be a conversation starter in any collection. 

Propagating Fishbone Cactus

Why propagate fishbone cactus?

Propagating fishbone cactus is a great way to expand your collection of these unique and beautiful plants. It is also an opportunity to share your love of fishbone cactus with friends and family by giving them a cutting to start their own new plants. 

Additionally, propagating your fishbone cactus can help you maintain the health and vitality of your existing plant by removing any diseased or damaged sections.

When to propagate fishbone cactus?

The best time to propagate fishbone cactus is in late summer when the plant is actively growing. This is when the stems are most pliable and likely to root successfully.

How to propagate fishbone cactus?

To propagate fishbone cactus, you will need to take stem cuttings from the parent plant. Use sharp scissors to make a clean cut just below a node. Allow the cutting to callous over for a few days before dipping the cut end in rooting hormone powder. This will help the cutting develop roots more quickly.

Next, plant the cutting in a well-draining soil mix and water it sparingly until roots have formed. Be patient, as it can take several weeks for the cutting to root and begin to grow. You can also propagate fishbone cactus by division or by seed, but stem cuttings are the most common and easiest method.

Instructions for propagating fishbone cactus:

  1. Take a stem cutting from the parent plant using sharp scissors just below a node.
  2. Allow the cutting to callous over for a few days.
  3. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder.
  4. Plant the cutting in a well-draining soil mix.
  5. Water the cutting sparingly until roots have formed.
  6. Be patient, as it can take several weeks for the cutting to root and begin to grow.

Let’s walk through the propagation process in more detail. 

Preparing to Propagate Fishbone Cactus

If you’re interested in propagating your fishbone cactus, it’s important to prepare properly to ensure the best chances of success. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Selecting the Right Cutting

To propagate your fishbone cactus, you’ll need to select a healthy stem cutting. Look for a stem that is at least 4-6 inches long and has several leaves attached. Make sure the stem is healthy and mature, with no signs of disease or damage. It’s a good idea to be thorough with this step since selecting the right cutting will make or break your success. 

2. Preparing Your Fishbone Cactus Cuttings

Once you’ve selected your cutting, use sharp scissors to make a clean cut just below a node. Nodes are the small bumps on the stem where leaves and roots emerge. After you’ve made the cut, allow the cutting to callous over for a few days. This will help prevent damage and promote healthy rooting.

If you’re going to propagate your fishbone cactus in soil you will then dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone powder. This will help stimulate root growth and increase the chances of successful propagation.

Propagating Fishbone Cactus in Water

If you want to propagate your fishbone cactus, one of the easiest methods is by using water. Here are the steps you can follow:

  1. Cut a healthy stem of your fishbone cactus. Make sure it is at least 4-6 inches long and has a few leaves attached to it.
  2. Allow the cut end to dry for a day or two. This will prevent the stem from rotting when you put it in water.
  3. Fill a glass jar or vase with water. Make sure it is deep enough to submerge the bottom inch of the stem.
  4. Place the stem in the water and make sure the bottom inch is completely submerged. You can use a toothpick or a piece of wire to hold the stem in place.
  5. Place the jar or vase in a bright, indirect light location. Avoid direct sunlight as it can cause the water to heat up and damage the stem.
  6. Change the water every few days to prevent bacteria growth and ensure the stem stays healthy.
  7. After a few weeks, you should see roots starting to grow from the bottom of the stem. Once the roots are at least an inch long, you can transplant the stem into soil.

Remember, not all stems will successfully root in water, so be patient and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work on the first try. With a little bit of care and attention, you can successfully propagate your fishbone cactus in water.

Propagating Fishbone Cactus in Soil

If you want to propagate your fishbone cactus in soil, you will need to follow a few simple steps (we think this is the best way). First, you will need to select a healthy stem to cut from your existing cactus plant. Then, you will need to pot the cutting in a suitable container with the right type of soil. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Choose a healthy stem that is at least 4 inches long and has at least two sets of leaves.
  2. Using a clean, sharp knife or scissors, cut the stem at a 45-degree angle to prevent water from pooling on the cut surface.
  3. Allow the cutting to dry out in a shaded area for at least 24 hours before planting.
  4. Fill a small container with well-draining soil, leaving enough space at the top for the cutting.
  5. Make a small hole in the soil with your finger or a pencil.
  6. Place the cutting in the hole and gently tamp the soil around it.
  7. Water the soil lightly, being careful not to overwater.

Pot and Container Selection

When selecting a pot and container for your fishbone cactus cutting, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose a container that is slightly larger than the cutting.
  • Make sure the container has drainage holes to prevent water from pooling in the soil.
  • Use a well-draining potting mix that is specifically formulated for cacti and succulents.
  • Avoid using pots made of materials that retain moisture, such as ceramic or glass.

Choosing the Right Soil

Choosing the right soil for your fishbone cactus is essential to ensure it grows and thrives properly. Here are some tips on how to choose the right soil for your fishbone cactus:

  1. Well-draining soil: Fishbone cactus prefers well-draining soil that allows excess water to drain away quickly. You can use a cactus or succulent soil, or make your own mix by combining equal parts of sand, perlite, and potting soil.
  2. pH level: The ideal pH level for fishbone cactus is between 6.0 and 7.0. You can test the pH level of your soil using a soil pH tester.
  3. Nutrient-rich soil: Fishbone cactus requires nutrient-rich soil to grow properly. You can add compost or slow-release fertilizer to the soil to provide the necessary nutrients.
  4. Avoid heavy soil: Heavy soil can retain too much moisture, leading to root rot. Avoid using heavy soil like clay or garden soil.
  5. Sterilized soil: Using sterilized soil can help prevent pests (such as fungus gnats and spider mites) and diseases from infecting your fishbone cactus.

Caring for Your Propagated Fishbone Cactus Plants

Congratulations on successfully propagating your fishbone cactus! Now that you have a new plant to care for, it’s important to know how to provide it with the best possible growing conditions. Here are a few tips to help you care for your propagated fishbone cactus.

Watering the Cutting

When it comes to watering your propagated fishbone cactus, it’s important to strike a balance between not overwatering and not underwatering. You want to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Here are a few tips:

  • Water the cutting when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Use a watering can with a narrow spout to avoid getting water on the leaves.
  • Water slowly and carefully to avoid disturbing the root system.

Excess water will lead to root rot. 

Light and Temperature

Fishbone cactus prefers bright, indirect light. Here are a few tips to help you provide the right amount of light:

  • Place your fishbone cactus in a bright spot with indirect sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight.
  • If you’re growing your fishbone cactus indoors, consider placing it near a south-facing window.
  • Keep the temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.


Fishbone cactus prefers high humidity, so it’s important to provide humid conditions for your plant. Here are a few tips:

  • Place a tray of water near your fishbone cactus to increase humidity.
  • Mist your fishbone cactus regularly with a spray bottle.
  • Consider using a humidifier to keep the air moist.


Fishbone cactus doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer, but a little bit can help it grow strong and healthy. Here are a few tips:

  • Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer is a great choice. 
  • Fertilize your fishbone cactus once a month during the growing season (starting in early spring).
  • Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package carefully.

By following these tips, you can help your propagated fishbone cactus thrive and grow into a beautiful, healthy plant.

FAQ’s About Propagating Fishbone Cactus

Can I cut the aerial roots of my fishbone cactus?

Yes, you can cut the aerial roots of your fishbone cactus. However, it is not recommended to cut them unless they are causing problems or hindering the growth of the plant. Aerial roots are important for the plant’s survival and cutting them may cause stress to the plant.

Is fishbone cactus fast growing?

Fishbone cactus is not a fast-growing plant. It grows slowly and requires patience and care. However, with the right conditions and care, it can grow up to 3-4 feet in length.

Is it better to propagate cactus in water or soil?

It is better to propagate fishbone cactus in soil as it provides better support and stability for the plant. Water propagation can be done but it may cause the plant to become weak and prone to damage.

Do fishbone cactus like to be root bound?

Fishbone cactus prefers to be slightly root bound. However, if it becomes severely root bound, it may cause the plant to become stressed and stunt its growth. It is recommended to repot the plant every 2-3 years.

Why is my fishbone cactus growing stems?

Fishbone cactus grows stems as a part of its natural growth process. Stems are where the plant produces new growth and flowers. If your plant is growing too many stems, it may be a sign of overwatering or too much fertilizer.

What is the natural habitat of fishbone cactus?

Fishbone cactus, also known as Epiphyllum anguliger, is native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, particularly in Mexico. They typically grow as epiphytes, meaning they attach themselves to trees or other plants and absorb nutrients and moisture from the air and rain.

What are signs of root rot in Fishbone Cactus?

Root rot is a common problem in fishbone cactus, especially if the soil is kept too wet or if the plant is grown in poorly-draining soil. Some signs of root rot in fishbone cactus may include:

  1. Yellowing or wilting of leaves: The leaves of the plant may turn yellow or wilt, even if the soil is moist.
  2. Soft or mushy roots: When you gently tug on the plant, the roots may feel soft or mushy, indicating that they are rotting.
  3. Foul smell: If you notice a foul smell coming from the soil or the plant, it may be a sign of root rot.
  4. Brown or black roots: Healthy roots should be white or light-colored. If the roots are brown or black, it may be a sign of rot.

If you suspect that your fishbone cactus has root rot, it is important to take action quickly to prevent the problem from spreading.