by Jessica Hill

The Fishbone cactus belongs in a fairy tale. It’s rare in the wild, growing deep in the rainforests of southern Mexico. Its long arms spread out like the tentacles of something waiting to grab you. Its blooms are nocturnal, only flowering under the cover of darkness. 

But don’t let this description give you the wrong idea. It’s not the villain. It’s the unexpected hero. 

The Fishbone cactus, or the Ric Rac/Zig Zag cactus, is the perfect plant for everyone. And yes, even if you’ve branded yourself a ‘black thumb’. Like a mythical creature, it’s almost impossible to kill. 

I received my Fishbone cactus as a cutting from a friend. I was enchanted by the alternating pattern of leaves along its central stem. But I was moving house the same week and it ended up lost in the bottom of a bag. 

It was probably a month before I came across it again. It was like finding buried treasure. I thought it might be dead, but in a last ditch effort, I stuck it in a glass of water. One year later, it’s grown into a monster. Three new fishbone shaped stems stretch more than a metre down my wall. 

It’s better to plant your Fishbone in orchid or cactus soil, although mine is thriving in water alone. Because the Fishbone is from the rainforest it deals a lot better with humidity and water than the average cactus – meaning it flourishes indoors. It grows best in indirect light, but can tolerate some full sun. If you decide to grow yours outdoors, make sure you bring it inside when it starts to get cold. 

Fishbone cactus bloom in spring and early summer but you’d have to be pretty lucky to see it. They rarely flower, and when they do, the pink blossom will only emerge at night and will disappear after a day. 

Add a Fishbone cactus to your collection. Get a cutting from a friend, or visit your local plant store and bring some magic into your home. #itsplantporn.




Jessica Hill is a freelance journalist who is interested in the relationship between plants and people. Follow her on Instagram @plantsunknown.