The orchid cactus is stunning when it blooms and makes an undemanding houseplant. Unlike desert cacti, it lacks sharp thorns, although it does have tiny hair-like spines at the joints.
The orchid cactus gets its name from its spectacular blooms, which resemble the flowers of some orchids. Because orchid cacti belong the the epiphyllum species, some growers call them "epis" for short.
Orchid cacti are native to Central and South American rain forests, where they grow in the crowns of tall trees. They take nourishment from their environment, not other plants.
Though it is a true cactus, the orchid cactus looks quite different from arid climate cacti. It has flat, fleshy, deeply toothed stems that adopt a trailing growth habit. The flowers can be 6 inches long, and come in many colors.
Day-flowering orchid cacti generally bloom from April through June. Night-flowering types can be fragrant and bloom in late summer and early fall. Plants flower when they are about 2 years old.
Rain forest cacti require humidity and moisture, but should never be allowed to become waterlogged. They prefer bright but filtered light and will sunburn if they receive too much sun.
- Clemson University Extension--Cactus
- Joseph W. Dougherty; Epiphyllum; 2009
orchid cactus, epiphyllum, rain forest cacti
About this Author
Gwen Bruno has 28 years of experience as a teacher and librarian, and is now a full-time freelance writer. She holds a bachelor's degree from Augustana College and master's degrees from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin. She writes articles about gardening for DavesGarden.com.