The Ric Rac cactus (Disocactus anguliger, it used to be Epiphyllum anguliger) is also known as the fishbone cactus and zigzag cactus. This cactus is native to Central and South America. Cacti make great houseplants because they are so easy to grow. Find out how to make your ric rac cactus thrive.
Ric Rac Cacti have long, flat, serrated leaves. These leaves are green with a pronounced rib up the center. Because the leaves trail, ric rac cactus look good in hanging baskets. The leaves grow to be about two feet long and about two inches wide.
The original color of the plant is white. Most ric rac cactus sold now are hybrids. They have big, showy blooms in pink, red, white, yellow, orange, or purple and some are bicolored. Just pick the color you want when you buy them. The flowers only open at night. In the wild, the plants are pollinated by bats.
How To Care For The Ric Rac Cactus
Ric rac cacti are easy to care for. In fact, most people kill their cactus by caring for it a bit too much. Here is what you need to know to make your cactus grow and live a long time.
Ric rac cactus do not usually bloom until they are rootbound. Choose a pot that is the same or one size bigger than the one the cactus came in. If you are growing a cactus from a cutting, a four-inch pot is large enough. The pot can be made of anything, but it must have drainage holes.
Despite the cactus name, this plant actually grows in dappled light, not direct sunlight. It grows on the trees in the jungle, so ric rac cactus grows best in light that replicates that. Too much light will cause the plant to turn yellow and wilt.
If your plant is leggy, it is not getting enough light. Do not place this plant under a grow light unless you turn the light off at dark. You can get timer switches that can turn the light on and off for you. Leaving the lights on all the time will delay blooming.
Use a potting mix for cactus for this plant. Ric rac cactus needs well-draining soil, or it will get root rot. Ric rac cactus like the soil to be slightly acidic.
More plants are killed by overwatering than any other cause. Keep the soil moist but not soggy from spring to fall, then allow it to dry out between watering in the winter. When new growth starts, start keeping the soil moist again. Let the top one-third of the soil dry out between waterings. Never allow the soil to dry out completely. If your stems are shriveled and limp, the plant needs water. `
Ric rac cactus need humidity of 40-50 percent. This is higher than most homes. The cactus grows well in the bathroom since it usually has higher humidity than the rest of the house and filtered light. You can also use a saucer filled with pebbles to increase the humidity around the plant. Fill the saucer with pebbles, then fill it with water to just below the top of the pebbles. Set the pot and saucer containing the ric rac cactus on the pebbles. You will need to refill the water as it evaporates.
In the spring through the fall, the cactus is happy with normal household temperatures. In the winter, ric rac cactus needs temperatures of 60-65 degrees F during the day and 45-55 degrees F for eight to ten weeks or it will not bloom.
From early spring to fall, feed ric rac cactus with a water-soluble fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen every two weeks. Do not fertilize the plant in winter.
Dust the leaves with a soft cloth once a week. While you are doing that, inspect the plant for pests or diseases. This way, you can catch any problems earlier when it is easier to treat them.
Ric rac cactus plants do not usually need pruning. If the plant is too large, you can prune it right after it finishes blooming. Save these cuttings to grow more cactus. If a leaf is sick or damaged, prune it off at the base. Use sharp, clean scissors or shears.
You should repot your cactus every 2-3 years. Move up one size in pots and use fresh potting soil. Do not repot the plant while it is blooming, or it will drop its flowers.
Cut four to six-inch sections of the stems to propagate the plant. Allow the cuts to dry for two to three days so they callous over. Plant the cuttings in moist potting soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. For the first two weeks, mist the cutting daily. As the roots form, discontinue misting. The stem cuttings root in four to six weeks.
Diseases of Ric Rac Cactus
Ric rac cactus are vulnerable to branch dieback, rust spots, and stem rot. These are all caused by overwatering. If a stem is rotting at the base, remove it. Set the entire plant in a new pot with dry potting soil. Be careful not to overwater in the future.
Pests of Ric Rac Cactus
This kind of cactus is vulnerable to scale insects, aphids, fungus gnats, and mealybugs. If you find any, first isolate your plant so the pests don’t spread.
Aphids, scale insects, and mealybugs are vulnerable to insecticidal soap. Use an insecticidal soap labeled for indoor use. Be sure to cover all areas of the plant. You will have to repeat treatment weekly until the pests are gone.
Fungus gnats are usually a clue you are watering too much. Let the top third of the soil dry out before watering your ric rac plant. The fungus gnats will not lay their eggs on dry soil and the larvae cannot survive either.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are the questions we get asked most about ric rac cacti.
Ric rac cactus must go through a period of cool temperatures to bloom. Water more sparingly and do not fertilize the plant in the winter. Once the buds form, do not move the plant or the buds and flowers will fall off.
While you should not allow pets and children to eat your plants, the ric rac cactus is not toxic to either. The fruit of the ric rac cactus is edible.
You can buy this plant from big box stores, nurseries, and online.
It is very hard to find seeds from this plant. To seed, there must be a male and female plant close to one another. The female plant has to be hand-pollinated. The seeds are in an edible fruit. Because most ric rac cactus are hybrids, the sed will not produce plants that look like either parent.
This cactus is considered a fast-growing plant.
It is normal for ric rac cactus to grow aerial roots. That is how they attach to the trees in the jungle. They also use the aerial roots to absorb water and oxygen. Consider checking to see if the soil is too dry if you see aerial roots.
The cactus will bloom every year but only if it has gone dormant during the winter. The cactus will only bloom if the temperature drops for eight to ten weeks and the water is reduced.