Fishbone Cactus - Epiphyllum Anguliger


Epiphyllum anguliger

Top Tips

  • Water once half of the soil dries out, reducing this further in the autumn and winter.
  • Provide a humid location. Introduce a humidity/pebble tray to keep the surrounding moisture high during the winter to avoid dry air. The use of artificial humidity is not needed in the summer.
  • Provide a bright location. Avoid more than two hours of direct sunlight, as well as away from excessively dark settings.
  • Supplement with houseplant feed or a general plant fertiliser, at monthly intervals.
  • Regularly check for pests, most notably Mealybugs.
  • Keep the ambient temperature above 10℃  (50℉)  throughout the year, especially if placed outdoors in the summer.
  • Repot every three years using a Cactus & Succulent potting mix.

•Water - πŸ”ΈπŸ”Έ

Always allow the top half of the soil dry out in between irrigations, reducing this further in winter to replicate their dormancy period. Although Fishbone Cacti grow on moist nooks of jungle trees, it's important not to promote too soggy conditions as root or basal rot are always a threat. Under-watering symptoms include little to no new growth, a much-needed transplant, and drying leaves - remember, although they're in the cactus family, they originate in tropical locations meaning soil moisture and humidity should be generous. Over-watering symptoms include yellowing leaves that soon drop off, no or little growth and root rot. These are common with too much soil moisture, an improper soil medium or too low light.


•Humidity - πŸ”ΈπŸ”ΈπŸ”Έ

High humidity is mandatory for all types of Epiphyllum. A weekly mist, or introducing a humidity/pebble tray will help replicate its natural habitat in the Brazilian forests. Botrytis petal blight and southern blight are caused when excess moisture (from misting or messy irrigations) is allowed to settle in the cubbyholes of the flowers or stem.


•Location & Light - πŸ”ΈπŸ”Έ

Bright, indirect light is favourable; however a darker location won’t do too much harm. A position that offers more than two hours of strong direct light must be kept off the cards, due to their susceptibility to sun-scorch. A location within three metres of a north, east or west-facing window, or below a skylight window are the ideal areas.


•Fertilisation - πŸ”ΈπŸ”Έ

Supplement monthly using a houseplant fertiliser. Potassium-based feeds may be used during the blooming process in late summer to promote longer lasting flowers.




Common Issues with Fishbone Cacti

Root rot is a big issue; typical symptoms include yellowing lower leaves, stunted or softened growth often accompanied by vine collapse. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect its root systems. Yellow roots symbolise good health, however, if it's brown and mushy with the soil being quite soggy, action must be taken immediately. More information about addressing root rot can be found on this link.

Yellowing leaves or a naked base are products of excess moisture being allowed to sit on the foliage, commonly sped up by too little light or poor air circulation. Although watering from the top is best, it's recommended to use the bottom-up method if you're a messy waterer. For specimens that have a bare head, improve growing contains by using this method and increasing light levels slightly. Promote a bushier appearance by taking vine cuttings and placing them halfway down into the soil. Immediately remove yellowed or rotten debris as this will harbour both bacterial and fungal diseases that can both spread across to other sections of the plant.

Failed leaf or stem cuttings are a common issue among amateur gardeners, with damaged wounds or too small vines being the usual culprits. Although propagating all tropical cacti is relatively easy, people still find it hard to ace. Not only will the size of the vine dictate its success, damaging the leaves or vine can also hurt the chances of it rooting. For more information about how to take vines, scroll to the 'Propagation' section of this article.

Too much sunlight will cause a red tinge to the foliage. Although Fishbone Cacti are best grown in locations offering bright light, prolonged periods of intense rays cannot be tolerated. Although the new growth will develop into its original green texture, sunburnt leaves will remain red or yellow for the rest of its functioning life.

A lack of flowers is caused by a insufficient dormancy period, served in the winter months. Locations that offer near-similar temperatures all year round won't allow the plant to go dormant, resulting in poor spring growth. To achieve, situate in a location that dips to around 12°C  (54°F) with fewer waters. Allow the majority of the compost to dry out, and provide a humidity tray while the radiators are operating.

Always use lukewarm water, and if you choose to use tap water, allow it to stand for at least 24hrs before application. Tropical cacti tend to be quite sensitive to temperature change, so pouring cold tap water immediately into the pot will not only ionise your roots but could even cause yellow edges, sudden flower loss and stunted growth.



Origins

Epiphyllum is an epiphytic genus consisting of nineteen species, endemic to the coastal and tropical regions of Central America. In the name comes from the Greek phrase for 'upon the leaf' which refers to its epiphytic nature. The genus was first described by Adrian Hardy Haworth (related to the genus, Haworthia) in the late 18th century during a visit through the Caribbean. The most popular species, the E. anguliger or Fishbone Cactus, can be dated back to the 1810s when many of the species within Schlumbergera genus were placed within Epiphyllum. Like the Streptocarpus and African violets, hybridisation can be easily achieved between this and related genera. As of 2010, over seven thousand different hybrids have been officially named within the this genus!


Temperature

10°C - 26°C   (50° - 78°F)
H1b - can be grown outdoors in summer in a sheltered location, but is fine to remain indoors. Placing a Fishbone Cactus outside is very beneficial to help with its overall health. If you decide to bring the plant outdoors, do not allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as this will burn the leaves. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, most notably aphids.


Spread

Up to 1.4m in height and 40cm in width, with maturity taking up to eight years. If you've got images of any tropical cacti that are over twenty years old, be sure to send an image of it to us via the 'Contact Me' section of this website!

Pruning

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Vine cuttings can be taken to halve the vine-length of the specimen, as well as doubling your stock.

Take cuttings at least five inches from the top. Never propagate with anything smaller due to the lowered chance of success.

Propagation

Via seed or leaf/stem cuttings. To learn about the essentials with sowing seeds, be sure to click on this link - Seed Propagation Tips.


Soil Propagation of Leaf Cuttings

  1. Choose which leaves to use. The ideal candidates are those that show no sign of damage, pests or diseases, and have small wires roots already-attached. Cuttings that don't have any roots will still root, but it may take a little longer for its propagation.
  2. Delicately prune the whole leaf off from the plant, and cut it into several sections sideways. If you're stuck on which way to propagate the leaves, follow the angle of the finger in the image above.
  3. Prepare the pot and soil. Choosing a free-draining potting mix, for example, Cactus & Succulent Compost, provides a nice balance of moisture-retention and well-drainingness. Of course, most soils are acceptable (Houseplant or Multi-purpose compost), but try to add some extra ingredients like grit, sand and perlite to help loosen it up. If you've got any shallow and wide pots, for example a Bonsai pot, this is the time to use it. Propagating tropical cactus cuttings won't require deep soil, so try and avoid pots that are too big. Terracotta and plastic pots are both acceptable in this instance.
  4. Place the cuttings ON TOP of the moist soil. Allowing both the plant and it's wound to callous over (dry up) will kick-start the rooting process, along with the prevention of rot. Keep the cuttings on top of moist soil for a week, misting the soil and foliage on opposite days.
  5. Provide a bright, indirect location with temperatures above 18°C  (64°F) throughout this period.
  6. Then, place the cuttings into soil, submerging the bottom third. Make sure you don't set it too deeply into the soil, as this may lead to 'Blackleg' (the rotting of its base).

    When a cutting produces a new leaf, it means that the rooting process has been successful. Roots will always develop before foliar growth.
  7. Do NOT pat down the surrounding soil to aid support. The ideal soil conditions need to be fluffy and oxygenated, so compacting the soil will result in the suffocation of roots that'll lead to root rot. If support is needed, use a small stick or cane, but be sure NOT to condense it.
  8. Aftercare - Maintain evenly moist soil, allowing the top third to dry out in between waters. The ideal location would be in a warm, humid room within a few metres of a window, but out of direct light. After another month or two of being in the soil, treat it like a normal houseplant.


Flowers

Fishbone Cacti will flower once matured in the summer with rosette-shaped blooms, sporting either red, yellow, pink or white appearances. Each flower will take several weeks to develop, lasting only several days once opened. Most cultivars or species will produce a sweet-smelling fragrance that'll be most prominent at night. Be sure to take photos of your specimen in bloom, as the flowers will only last a few days!


Repotting 

Every third summer (after the flowering process), transplant into a slightly bigger pot using Cactus & Succulent Compost. This is an excellent time to check the roots' condition, as well as propagation. As all tropical cacti are prone to root rot, have a look around the bottom half of the root ball for any brown or broken down roots. If this is the case, remove the affected areas with clean utensils and ease off with the irritations. Click on this link to learn about how to perform the perfect transplant.


Diseases & Pests

Typical diseases associated with Fishbone Cacti are root or leaf rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis petal blight & powdery mildew. Keep an eye out for scale, spider mite, mealybugs & vine weevils. For more information on how to address any of these issues, click on this link.  Identifying Common Houseplant Pests & Diseases


Toxicity

Fishbone Cacti are classified as non-poisonous. If large quantities of the plant are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur.


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