The Epiphyllum (orchid cactus) is not only beautiful and colorful, but it makes for a great conversation piece. It is a fascinating plant because its flowers are so unique. In most cases, orchid cacti bloom more than once during the year, which will make your home more welcoming to guests.
Epiphyllum is a plant that grows on other plants, like an orchid. It’s also known as a “leaf cactus,” because the leaves are the main part of the plant, not the stem.
Epiphyllum is in the cactus family, but it’s not really a cactus. More specifically, Epiphyllum is related to Schlumbergera and Hatiora, two other plants in the Rhipsalideae subfamily. Like those two plants and all cacti, Epiphyllum has succulent stems. But unlike most other cacti—and unlike its cousins—Epiphyllum flowers grow from their leaves, not from their stem.
The easiest way to recognize an epiphyllum is by its rounded shape, which is more pronounced than many other cactus plants. They usually have two to eight ribs, each of which has a small leaf on them (although these leaves drop off once the plant reaches maturity).
Epiphyllum plants sometimes produce fruit called “jelly” or “sweet” fruit that can be eaten by humans. The fruit can be cooked and used in many ways; it’s often used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes because it’s high in protein.
The term “epiphyllum” comes from Greek words meaning “upon a leaf.”
Epiphyllums can be grown indoors and outdoors and will produce flowers in the spring and summer.
- Plant your epiphyllum outside in the spring after the last frost has passed. Find a spot in your garden that gets full sun with some shade during the hottest part of the day
- Dig out an area at least 2 feet wide by 2 feet deep to grow your epiphyllum in.
- Mix compost into the hole to fertilize the soil before planting your epiphyllum plant.
- Set the plant into place in the hole and fill it with soil, making sure to keep it level with the surrounding ground so that water won’t run off of it easily when you water it later on.
- Water your epiphyllum after planting it with about 1 inch of water to help it settle into its new home and get used to its new environment.
- Fertilize your epiphyllum once every two weeks during its growth period.
The Epiphyllum is one of the most popular houseplants in the world. With its showy blooms and ease of care, it’s a favorite among plant parents everywhere. Here are some takeaways to make your gardening experience easier:
- Make sure your plant receives enough light. Epiphyllum plants do best when grown in bright, indirect sunlight. If you don’t have a windowsill that is bright enough for your plant, consider using grow lights to provide additional artificial light.
- Water the soil thoroughly when it feels dry to the touch. Allow excess water to drain out through the holes in the bottom of the pot before returning the plant to its saucer or tray. Do not allow your plant to sit in standing water, as this can cause root rot or fungal infections.
- Feed your plant once every 2-3 weeks during the growing season with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength.
- Repot your plant every one or two years, when it becomes root bound in its container and its growth starts becoming stunted. Use fresh potting soil and give them good drainage.
Epiphyllum plants are easily grown from cuttings that are taken from a mature plant. The best time to take a cutting is during the summer months when the plant is actively growing.
1. Make sure you cut the cutting approximately 5 inches in length with a sharp, clean knife. Make sure to leave at least 3 nodes on the cutting as this will be used for budding new roots.
2. Cut off any leaves that are located on the bottom half of the cutting. This will help in preventing diseases and rotting of the cutting while it is rooting.
3. Prepare a mixture that is one-half perlite and one-half peat moss by placing equal portions of both in a bucket and mixing them together thoroughly until blended.
4. Place your cutting into the potting mixture you made at an angle so that only half of the nodes are buried within the soil mix.
5. Place your potted cutting within a plastic bag and tie or seal it closed so that moisture can remain trapped within the bag, which helps in speeding uprooting time for your epiphyllum cuttings. You can use an old bread bag or even a large plastic sandwich bag for this purpose if you do not have any other type of container.
Steps to Propagate Epiphyllum Plant by Seeds:
Step 1. Collect seeds from an existing epiphyllum plant by carefully removing one of its ripe seed pods. Open the pod and remove the black seeds, which should be shiny and moist.
Step 2. Pour 4 inches of crushed gravel into a seed flat and then pour 1 inch of water over it. Wait until all the water drains out before planting your epiphyllum seeds in it.
Step 3. Put two epiphyllum seeds on top of each mound of gravel, spaced at least 1/2 inches apart to give them room to grow. Cover each seed with a thin layer of gravel.
Step 4. Place the seed flat in a sunny window or under grow lights and keep it there until you see green shoots coming out of the gravel (usually about four weeks). Keep the gravel moist but not soggy during this time by watering it every day with 1 inch of water.
Pest and Disease Control
Epiphyllum plants are prone to several different diseases, including black spots, powdery mildew, and southern blight. A black spot is a fungal disease that manifests as black spots on the leaves and dark streaks on the stems. Powdery mildew appears as a grayish-white powdery substance on the leaves, buds, and stems of the plant. Southern blight is a soil-borne fungal disease that may be a major killer of ornamental plants in tropical areas.
Pest control for Epiphyllum plants is relatively straightforward. You should trim away any dead or dying leaves or stems from your plant to avoid encouraging pests and disease. You should also avoid watering your plant in ways that will encourage moisture to collect on its leaves—unless you see it’s wilting significantly and needs a little extra help.