Colorado Gardening for Everyone **Advice and Observations from your CSU Extension Horticulture Agents and Specialists**
Monday, November 11, 2019
Ric Rac Orchid Cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger) by Irene Shonle
My fishbone or Ric Rac orchid cactus this year finally is large enough to have had a wonderful blooming period, and I am smitten! The fall-blooming flowers are large and white with yellow-orange sepals, and are delightfully, waftingly, fragrant at night and early morning. To me, they smell like Easter Lilies mixed with a little citrus blossom - quite lovely. The sad part is that each flower only lasts a day - two at the most, so you have make sure you are home to enjoy them. Cancel all out of town travel when you see the buds enlarging! I’m not sure you have to stage a viewing party like people do with their Night Blooming Cereus, but on the other hand, it doesn’t seem over the top, either. My cactus had two flushes of blooms this year, a couple of weeks apart. We’ll see if that is an ongoing phenomenon.
Ric Rac Cactus flower (Epiphyllum anguliger)
Even out of bloom, it is a worthwhile specimen - the long stems have a unique foliage, giving the plant its common names.The flat, deeply lobed stems vaguely resemble a fishbone. It’s also so called ricrac orchid cactus because ric rac ribbon has that same shape. The stems are long and arch before trailing downward, giving it a wild and slightly octopus-like appearance. It makes a terrific hanging basket plant!
Epiphyllum anguliger is a cactus species endemic to Mexico, occurring as an epiphyte in evergreen forests in Guerrero, Jalisco, Nayarit and Oaxaca. Epiphytic plants actually grow on trees or other plants, and find soil and nutrients trapped in small pockets where the branches
emerge from the tree trunk.
Epiphyllum anguliger is easy to care for and very low maintenance. I have found they are less finicky than my spring-blooming Epiphyllum
which I wrote about in a previous blog (http://csuhort.blogspot.com/2017/05/epiphyllum.html)
The fragrant flowers open at night may last into the day on cool cloudy days.
The plants prefer partial to dappled shade or bright indirect light, making it easy for most households to find a location for them. They would NOT appreciate a south or west window.
Because they are epiphytes, they prefer a well-drained soil. They prefer to be somewhat root bound, so don’t pot them in a very large pot. They should not be kept overly moist in order to prevent root rot. Allow the soil to become semi dry between waterings. They would appreciate a little extra water
during the growing season (spring to late summer as a general rule) and should be kept slightly dryer when not in active growth (late fall and winter). Give plants a brief rest at the end of each flowering period by watering only enough during the next two or three weeks to prevent the potting mixture from drying out. It can be fertilized with a weak cactus or orchid feed over the growing season every two weeks or so. Do NOT over-fertilize.
If your friends fall in love with your cactus after your viewing party, not to worry. The plant is easily propagated. Break off a stem and allow it to callous over a few days before planting. Put in a light soil mix and water lightly. Do not disturb until you see new growth. This may take over a month.
The occasional unruly long stem can safely be cut back to shorten. New stems will usually grow right from the cut area, and this can help to increase the fullness of your plant. It will also give you a supply of branches for propagation.
You’ll need patience and a bit of room to let this plant come into its full glory, but you won’t be sorry you brought it into your house.