How to Garden Orchid Cactus

Overview

Orchid cactus, or Epiphyllum, is a flowering tropical plant you can grow outdoors in the summer and continue to enjoy indoors in the winter. Although it's a cactus rather than an orchid, its flowers are just as lovely. Varieties come in a rainbow of colors, from white to red to orange and purple. Orchid cacti grow in trees in their native Central American rain forest environment, where they draw nutrients from their host plant. If you take a clue from nature, you'll see that these plants need lots of air circulation, little if any soil and minimal water.

Gardening the Orchid Cactus

Step 1

Add equal amounts of sand, perlite and shredded bark to your potting soil. For a 1-gallon pot, use 1 cup of each of these amendments.

Step 2

Empty about 1/3 of the potting soil combination from your pot and place your orchid cactus into the pot. Refill the pot to within ½ inch of the top with the potting soil mixture you removed and pat it down gently before you water it thoroughly. After planting, water your orchid cactus once a week and allow the potting mixture to dry slightly before you water it.

Step 3

Place your potted orchid cactus on top of a plant saucer filled with small pebbles. Keep the humidity higher by adding water to the saucer when the water in it has evaporated.

Step 4

Keep your plant in an area that receives filtered sunlight, such as under a tree or arbor. Orchid cacti prefer temperatures between 50 and 86 degrees F. They require temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees F in winter to encourage blooming the following summer.

Step 5

Fertilize with a liquid plant food with an nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) ratio of 5-1-4 throughout the summer every time you give your plant water. Avoid fertilizing orchid cactus during the winter.

Tips and Warnings

  • If insect pests such as aphids, spider mites, mealy bugs or scale occur, spray them with insecticidal soap when you first notice them. Snails and slugs can attack outdoor plants: if this happens, use a slug and snail bait such as iron phosphate granules or set beer traps near your plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Potting soil
  • Sand, perlite and shredded bark
  • Pot with drainage hole
  • Plant saucer
  • Pebbles
  • Humidity meter
  • 5-1-4 liquid fertilizer
  • Insecticidal soap (optional)

References

  • What is an Epiphyllum Anyway?
  • Planting and Growing Instructions

Who Can Help

  • Epiphyllums Pictures
  • Plant source
Keywords: epiphyllum, orchid cactus, tropical plant

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides.com and eHow.com. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.