Most cacti are pretty easy to grow. You choose a right soil, place the pot on some sunny spot, and you do not water the cactus too often. Not overthinking stuff and sticking to the basics, you won’t face any problems. Having said that, each rule has some exceptions, and this is exactly the truth for a Fishbone Cactus.
In contrast to vast majority of plants from the same plant family, Fishbone Cactus like humidity, and thrives in a relatively humid environment. That would be fine, if not other living organisms also didn’t thrive in humid environments--pests, bugs, fungi. They may feast on your cactus and cause it some problems. What’s more, like other succulents, Fishbone cactus is prone to over-watering and root rot, which is actually the no. 1 reason why your cactus may die.
In this post we will analyze three major problems growers face with Fishbone Cactus, that is the cactus turning yellow, white or brownish spots on the leaves, and wrinkled leaves. Understanding the core of the problem, and what you can do to address it (or at least to prevent it from happening next time, if you cannot save the cactus anymore), you will achieve better results with your cactus. Let’s move to the first problem.
Fishbone cactus turning yellow
When your plant is turning yellow, it is a clear sign of over-watering. This cactus likes humidity in the air, but the roots are still prone to rotting. If you water it excessively, or keep it in a pot without drainage hole and excess water cannot leave the pot and stays in the soil, sooner or later the roots will start to rot.
You may not notice anything at the start, since things happen “under the surface”, both literally and metaphorically. When roots rot to certain extent, however, they will lose their ability to transfer water and nutrients to the body of your Fishbone Cactus. It will start turning yellow, and eventually wilt and die.
While it is close to impossible saving a rotten plant–you should just throw it away–you can at least take this as a learning experience. Make sure to plant your new Fishbone cactus in a pot with a drainage hole, and in a soil mix for succulents. Water sparingly, and only when the top inch of the soil is dry. This is the best way to prevent root rot and your Fishbone cactus turning yellow and dying as a result.
Wrinkled leaves on a Fishbone Cactus
Fishbone cactus likes humidity. And though it is prone to over-watering (just like any other cactus), it likes to be soaked in water once in a while, as long as it drains away from the pot. When you forget to water it for a couple of weeks in summer, the leaves may start to wrinkle. It is a clear sign that vital liquid (hint: water) is missing in the leaves, and your plant is thirsty.
Luckily for you, reviving an under-watered cactus is hundred times easier than saving an over-watered (and rotting) one. Just soak it in water. If lack of water was the problem, the leaves should lose the wrinkles within 48 hours of watering. Do not get carried away though. The fact that the cactus was under-watered once does not mean you have to water it more often than before. Water only when the top of the soil is dry, but try to keep it consistent in summer.
White or brown spots on the leaves of your Fishbone Cactus
As I’ve said already, this cactus likes humidity, and so do various pests, such as mealybugs or aphids, and fungi, such as powdery mildew or other. Fishbone cactus is more prone to these pests than most cacti, and the infestation often manifests in a form of white or brown spots on the body of the cactus (the exact color depends on the exact pest or fungi you deal with).
It isn’t always easy to identify what happened, though you should be able to distinguish the most common invaders, such as aphids (check our article on aphids on succulents), or the infamous powdery mildew (check our article on powdery mildew on succulents). When you know what’s going on, you have several ways of addressing the problem.
First one is applying some solution on the body of the cactus. I do not suggest you to use pesticides or fungicides from the store, since you want to avoid such chemicals at your home at all costs. Opt for home-made remedies instead, such as apple-cider vinegar with water, or alcohol with water, or even just the dish-washing soap mixed with water. Such remedies do not work 100%, and you may have to apply them to the cactus several times to see the effect, but in my opinion it is still better than using chemicals.
Throwing away your Fishbone Cactus infected with pests or fungi is also an option
Fishbone Cactus isn’t a rare or expensive plant. I know it isn’t good throwing away anything, especially nowadays when so many people struggle with money and inflation approaches new heights. And of course it is better living ecologically. Having said that, getting rid of aphids or mealybugs or similar pests can be an uphill battle, and they can also jump to other plants you have at home.
Hence the wisest thing may be to throw the infested Fishbone Cactus away, including the soil (since larvae and eggs of the pests can hide there), disinfect the pot properly, and start afresh with a new, healthy Fishbone Cactus. At least that’s what I will suggest you to do, unless the plant in question has a special place in your heart :).
Fishbone Cactus (Disocactus anguliger) is more prone to various pests and fungi than most other members of the succulent plant family, because it likes the same environment most pests thrive in (humid areas). You can also over-water it just like any other cactus. But these things should not discourage you from growing the plants. As long as you pay attention to the needs of your cactus and check it regularly, you can prevent most problems, or at least address them early enough in order to save your plant from dying. I hope this helps, and wish you good luck with your plants!
May also interest you: Why is my Christmas Cactus wilting?