Guide to the Ric Rac Cactus (Fishbone Cactus)


The Ric Rac cactus, also called fishbone cactus, is a very interesting member of the Cactaceae family. Native from Mexico, the majority of Ric Rac cacti in their natural habitat actually grow on trees. They will take root in small nooks of organic material amongst trees. So how can you grow this cactus successfully?

Keep in mind the following suggestions when caring for a Ric Rac cactus:

  • This species of cactus enjoys moisture. Try to keep the soil moist with a water tray underneath.
  • They need constant exposure to indirect bright light.
  • Ric Rac cacti thrive on humidity. Some people use humidifiers to keep the environment just right.
  • Use a soil mix that retains moisture.

If you are interested in learning about more advanced topics like propagation or repotting, you are in the right place. Let’s take a more careful look at the ric rac cactus and the main caring guidelines to remember.

Ric Rac Cactus Caring Guidelines

Watering – How often do you water a fishbone cactus?

Correct watering of the ric rac cactus is essential. This cactus is actually quite an oddity when it comes to watering. The ric rac cactus benefits from moist soil, particularly during the summer.

Other cacti, as we know, prefer the ‘soak and dry’ method of watering. Such method spells out that the cactus should only be watered when the soil is absolutely dry. Thereafter its soil must be drenched completely. The next watering will only happen when the soil is demonstrably completely dry.

In the case of the ric rac cactus, things are a little different. It’s actually a good idea to allow for humidity and moistness in the soil.

Therefore, to keep its soil moist, it’s useful to place the pot on a tray with a few inches of gravel. Afterward, try pouring water into the tray. The soil will take up this water and assure moisture. Note that this method is quite good until blooming; after that, it’s not required.

Humidity

The ric rac cactus likes humidity so much. In this sense, they are very unusual within the cacti family. Some owners suggest using a humidifier around it, to provide a suitable environment. If you are going to be using this method, just make sure that you provide a stable environment for the cactus. 

What this means is that it’s not a good idea to use a humidifier and also to expose the cactus to very direct and substantial sunlight. Not only will sunlight cancel the humidity. It’s also possible that perpetually wet leaves will be harmed by extreme sunlight.

Soil

When it comes to soil, the ric rac cactus likes, as we pointed out, moist soil. What this means is that we want a soil mix that provides and retains the most moistness possible. To this end, a blend made of 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite, can increase water retention in any soil mix.

Repotting

Repotting, as we know, can provide a lot of benefits to cacti. In the case of the ric rac cactus, a mature plant requires repotting every one or two years. Such repotting should be done during spring or summer.

Light

As with most cacti, the ric rac cactus needs sunlight. Evidently, sunlight is readily available to outdoors cacti in particular.

Note, however, that this cactus thrives with some moderation in lighting. Perhaps the best way to understand this is to consider this cactus in its natural environment. The ric rac cactus grows in trees and thus is somewhat shielded from very extreme, direct sunlight.

It may be a more significant challenge to get enough sunlight for indoor cacti. It’s crucial that we move the ric rac cactus around, to find the best place inside the house where it may receive the best provision of sunlight.  

Temperature

The ric rac cactus, like so many other cacti, thrives in warm temperatures. Interestingly, this cactus also likes partial shade. As pointed out earlier, this cactus thrives with moderate sunlight and high humidity.

For the most part, the best temperature range is somewhere between 61 and 77 degrees (F) (around 16 to 25 C). That’s the sweet spot that best serves the ric rac cactus.

During winter, however, it’s vital to protect the cactus from freezing. Some owners suggest moving the cactus to a greenhouse to protect it from the extreme cold. Indoors cacti should be fine during winter months if you keep the right humidity levels.

Ric Rac Cactus Advanced Caring Guidelines

Blooming

Indoors ric rac cacti don’t usually bloom. Outdoors ric rac cacti have a better chance of doing so. It’s important to remember that, regardless, this cactus produces a short-lasting flower. 

There are ways to help an indoor ric rac cactus bloom. We can begin by giving the plant a little more light, even if it’s indirect, from summer to autumn.

Fertilization

Fertilizing the ric rac cactus is quite useful. During summer and fall, try adding a small quantity of fertilizer to the water being used during the watering session. During winter though, fertilize only occasionally or not at all. 

Propagation: How to propagate the ric rac cactus

Propagating the ric rac cactus is relatively simple. Cuttings can be taken from the mature leaves. Then, it’s ideal to let them heal for about two weeks and then to plant them into the soil mix. It’s important to refrain from watering the cutting until it has rooted well.

Pest Prevention

This cactus is quite easy to grow and quite low maintenance. Having said that, it’s important to be aware of the pests that may attack the cactus.

Mealybugs and scale are typically a problem. It’s important to watch out for these pests and to remove them rapidly. As usual, a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol should do the trick.

Related Questions

Is Fishbone Cactus toxic to cats?

The ric rac (or fishbone) cactus is not toxic to cats or dogs. This cactus is quite safe for a home environment.

How long does it take for Epiphyllum cuttings to root?

Epiphyllum is a genus of 19 species of epiphytic plants in the Cactaceae family. The ric rac cactus is an epiphytic plant too.

Knowing how long to wait before planting a cutting is important. First of all, any cutting must have time to heal. Most people wait around two weeks before planting these cuttings.

Now then, once the cutting is in the soil, we need to wait for the cactus to root before watering it. We know when the cactus has taken root because it exhibits signs of growth. When these signs of growth are apparent, then we can water it. Before this moment, watering the cactus is dangerous; it has no roots yet and will rot if it sits on the water.

Ric rac cactus: which way is up?

Since the ric rac cactus usually grows on trees in the wild, there is some confusion about how it should be planted.

The best way to plant this cactus is in a hanging pot. This is because the leaves can grow a lot, and it’s more aesthetic to have them slide downwards. It’s also ideal to plant the cactus this way since it imitates its natural growth in trees.

How big is the ric rac cactus?

The ric rac cactus has foliage which can reach about 30cm (12 inches) in length. These leaves drop downwards and make the cactus look quite striking.

Should I mist my ric rac cactus?

This is a great question. As we know, most other cacti benefit from the ‘soak and dry’ method. This means that we want to wait for the soil to be dry and to drench it thoroughly.

In the case of the ric rac cactus, though, things are a little different. This cactus actually benefits from humidity. Some people like to mist this cactus, in hopes of creating such suitable environment.

We suggest not to mist this cactus. There is always the danger that misting and a potentially very strong sunlight may hurt its leaves.

Instead, we try to create a moist environment by ensuring that the soil remains moist. A good way to achieve this is by using a watered pebble tray underneath the cactus.

If the cactus is not outdoors, but indoors, and we can monitor its provision of light, then misting is not as risky.

Does the ric rac cactus grow aerial roots?

Yes it does. This is another unusual feature of this particular cactus. The ric rac cactus is an epiphytic plant. These plants frequently have aerial roots.

Aerial roots absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. That’s why epiphytic plants don’t really need soil; they’re able to get what they need from the environment around them through their aerial roots. These roots also serve to anchor the plant.

Therefore, aerial roots are the reason why some people like to mist these plants or keep a humidifier close to them. Interestingly, aerial roots can start to appear in a cactus that is needing more humidity or nutrients. It’s important to be aware of these signs and provide the cactus with what it needs. 

Conclusion

This cactus requires good sunlight, though not very harsh or direct. Also, and unusually for a cactus, it needs high humidity to thrive. Propagating is relatively simple. It’s important to let the cutting take root before watering, so it doesn’t rot. 

A good rule of thumb with this cactus is to try to imitate its natural conditions: humidity, indirect light and high locations. Nature is the best teacher.

Sebastian Moncada

I’m also a plant enthusiast and researcher. I’ve been privileged to have lived my whole life around the wilderness of Colombia and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way. “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience” – Emerson.

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