How To Grow & Care For the Zig Zag Cactus

The Zig Zag Cactus, with its eye-catching zig-zagging stems, presents a stunning addition to a plant enthusiast’s collection. It’s a cactus that not only offers a unique visual appeal but also provides an interesting conversation piece. Known by other names like Fishbone Cactus, Ric Rac Orchid Cactus, or Selenicereus, it’s one of those houseplants that’s certain to catch attention.

Originating from the rainforests of Mexico, the Zig Zag Cactus is different from the stereotypical desert cactus. It prefers a more tropical setting, appreciating higher humidity and indirect light. Its nocturnal blooming habit, with beautiful fragrant flowers that open at night, adds to its mystery and allure.

Growing the Zig Zag Cactus indoors is not particularly challenging, provided that the right conditions are met. It requires an understanding of its unique needs and a willingness to provide them. Below, we will explore the essential aspects of caring for this intriguing plant.

Common NamesZig Zag Cactus, Ric Rac Orchid Cactus, Fishbone Cactus
Botanical NameSelenicereus anthonyanus
Plant TypeEpiphytic Cactus
Mature Size1 to 2 feet in height
Sun ExposureBright, indirect light
Soil TypeFast-draining, organic-rich soil
Hardiness Zones10-11
Native AreaMexico

Zig Zag Cactus Care

Caring for a Zig Zag Cactus is similar to caring for other tropical cacti. It thrives in indirect sunlight and appreciates regular, but not excessive, watering. A balanced approach to its care, considering its need for moisture, sunlight, and proper soil, ensures a healthy and happy plant.

In contrast to many desert cacti, the Zig Zag Cactus prefers more humidity and does not tolerate drought well. Its epiphytic nature means that it’s used to growing on other plants in the wild, taking nutrients from the air and rain.

Light Requirement for Zig Zag Cactus

The Zig Zag Cactus prefers bright, indirect light. It can tolerate some direct sunlight, but too much can cause the stems to become pale and may inhibit growth. A location near an east or north-facing window is often perfect.

Soil Requirements for Zig Zag Cactus

This cactus likes a fast-draining but organic-rich soil. A mix of standard potting soil with added perlite, sand, or bark works well. Ensure that the pot has good drainage to prevent root rot.

Water Requirements for Zig Zag Cactus

Unlike many desert cacti, the Zig Zag Cactus doesn’t like to dry out completely. Watering should be regular, allowing only the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering during winter months.

Temperature and Humidity

The Zig Zag Cactus prefers temperatures between 60-75°F and appreciates higher humidity. It can be misted regularly or placed on a tray with pebbles and water to increase humidity around the plant.


Feed the Zig Zag Cactus with a diluted balanced liquid fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to weak stems.

Pruning Zig Zag Cactus

Pruning is typically not necessary unless you want to control the shape or size. Any pruning should be done with clean, sharp tools to prevent infection.

Propagating Zig Zag Cactus

Propagation is most successful through stem cuttings. Simply cut a healthy section of the stem, allow it to callus for a few days, and then plant it in well-draining soil.

How To Grow Zig Zag Cactus From Seed

Growing Zig Zag Cactus from seed is a slow and more challenging process. Plant the seeds in a well-draining soil mix and keep them moist and warm, ideally between 70-75°F.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases


White, cotton-like pests that can be treated with insecticidal soap.

Root Rot

Often caused by overwatering and can be prevented by using well-draining soil.

Common Problems With Zig Zag Cactus

Yellowing Stems

May be caused by overwatering or too much direct sunlight.

Drooping Stems

Usually, a sign of underwatering or lack of humidity.

Failure to Flower

Often related to improper lighting or lack of nutrients.

Pro Tips

  1. Maintain high humidity by misting or using a humidifier.
  2. Avoid direct, harsh sunlight to prevent scorching.
  3. Use a well-draining soil mix to prevent root rot.
  4. Adjust watering according to the season; less in winter, more in summer.
  5. Provide support if the plant becomes too large or heavy.