My grandmother always kept a giant ric-rac plant on her porch in the summer and in the guest bedroom for the winter. Everyone who wanted one got a cutting off of it. Mine has been moved in and out many winters and every time I re-situate it for the warm weather I’m reminded of Mimi.

The Cryptocereus anthonyanus is an orchid cactus relative has serrated leaves that resemble fish bones. The Ric-Rac cactus is one of the easiest plants to grow in hanging baskets. Like many shade loving cactus, the ric-rac prefers smaller baskets with a very porous soil. As the plant grows and gets root bound the plant can be repotted to a bigger basket.

Cryptocereus will grow better in bright shade and can even handle a little bit of direct sun as long as it is not too hot. In nature ric-racs grow as Epiphytes (like orchids) forming dense clusters cascading down from the branches of trees. Like many orchids they can handle quite a bit of water, as long as the drainage is very good. Grown in a basket, it is better to let the soil dry out a little bit between waterings. During the winter, the soil should be kept a little dryer and fertilizer should be kept to a minimum. Also, don’t forget to bring it in before a freeze.

In spring watering can be increased along with the fertilization. A liquid fertilizer like the ones used for orchids works very well. Trimming occasionally will be necessary because some leaves will get quite long. Use gloves when doing this because the ric-rac is still a cactus and its thorns despite being small and almost invisible, can stick in skin. Ric-racs are not a prolific bloomer, only a few flowers will appear on old and root bound plants and it may take a few years before that happens, but on the other hand the leaves are very beautiful and unusual.

Alice Adams, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Houseplants