If your Zodiac sign is Aquarius (born between January 20 and February 18), we've found the perfect plant for you.
People who are Aquarius are typically independent, quirky, and enigmatic, and they devote themselves to making the world a better place. For these air sign visionaries, a made-in-the-stars houseplant is the fishbone orchid cactus (Disocactus anguliger), a gorgeous air plant unlike any epiphyte you have seen before. The crazy, zig-zag pattern of its succulent stems and unexpected beauty of its elusive blooms belie its easy-going nature. Sounds like an Aquarius to us!
About the Fishbone Cactus
Eccentric and a bit strange, the fishbone orchard cactus looks exotic, and this complexity will delight an Aquarius, a sign known for individuality and charm. But since Aquarius is also busy saving the world, they will also appreciate its time-saving, easy-care ways.
One look at the fishbone cactus and it's obvious how it gets its common name. The flattened stems are truly unusual and deeply toothed, first zigging in one direction then zagging in the other, creating a pattern very like the backbone of a fish. The succulent stems stand upright at first, then trail as they grow longer — up to six feet! — making for an impressive hanging houseplant.
Just like an Aquarius, the fishbone orchid cactus is full of surprises. It's a member of the night-blooming cactus family and, after a few years, will suddenly amaze you by producing gorgeous flowers, first in late fall, then in mid-winter — just in time for your birthday. The blossoms start as tubes up to eight inches long, then open into dazzling pure white flowers trimmed in pale orange outer petals. Short lived, the blooms exude the most delicious fragrance, but only at night.
How to Care for a Fishbone Cactus
An Aquarius is out to change the world, but never resorts to nagging others. Instead, they are independent and can even be a bit distant, working their magic on the planet by inspiring others with their energy and brilliance. The fishbone cactus also has a streak of self-sufficiency, befitting a plant that lives in the wild in the upper branches of evergreen oak forests in the mountains Mexico.
As air plants, these curious cactus don't need or like heavy soil or oodles of attention. They grow best in low soil media, like orchid substrate, or a cactus blend mixed with a bit of compost to provide nutrients. Give fishbone cactus a spot with indirect light, but place it outside in summer, if possible, hanging from a shady tree.
In one way, this weirdly wonderful plant is a typical cactus: You'll need to allow the soil to dry completely before adding new water. Rot is the main enemy of fishbones, usually triggered by soggy soil. But this means you don't have to worry if you leave to its own devices for a long weekend or even a week. Like you, Aquarius, the fishbone can take care of itself most of the time.
Shopping for Fishbone Orchid Cactus
When you are shopping for fishbone cactus, don't hesitate to buy cuttings. This is a plant that propagates readily from cuttings, so you shouldn't have any trouble getting a plant started.
Expect confusion when it comes to the name, however. It is sold as fishbone, fishbone orchid, zigzag, and ricrac cactus as well as jigsaw puzzle plants. Some stores still use the old botanical name of Epiphyllum anguliger, instead of the new one, Disocactus anguliger. You may not be able to find this plant in ordinary garden stores, so shop specialty succulent stores in your area.
Given its trending status on social media accounts, you should have no trouble locating it for sale online. Once again, Etsy takes the prize for best shopping options, including unrooted cuttings from Flying Chipmunk Farm (starting a $6) and The Little Plant House's 4-inch potted plant (starting at $16.99). Walmart carries similar size plants for less ($29.99).
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.