The Epiphyllum Plant


Epiphyllum is also known as the orchid cactus that produces beautiful and fragrant flowers. This genus of cacti is actually hybrids of the epiphytic cacti species. The epiphyllum roots in small areas with just a little amount of organic material. The roots stay shallow in the top 2 to 6 inches of soil.


Epiphytic cacti are natives of the jungles in Central and South America including Mexico. It grows in the branches of tall trees and in rock crevices. The small roots of the epiphyllum cling to the small pockets of moss in the forks of tree branches. These cacti benefit from its high habitat with good air circulation and filtered sunlight. Epiphyllum are adapted to pull the moisture from the air and rain. They produce blossoms in these favorable conditions.


Epiphyllum plants have no leaves, but thickened stems or branches. These flat leaf-like stems are commonly flat. Some species are triangular in shape. Epiphyllum cacti are not covered with needles like desert cacti. Some do have spiky, hairy bristles. Most epiphyllum varieties bloom from February to June. Flower size is 1 to 12 inches or more across depending on the variety. The blossoms are single-petal, multi-petal, pointed or rounded petal. The flowers are pure white, cream, green, pink, rose, red, orange, deep purple, violet, lavender, pale yellow and deep gold. The color that you will not find is true blue.


Different varieties have different colors. Nopalxochia ackermanii produces orange-red blooms. The epiphyllum Heliocereus cinnabarinus has scarlet flowers and Heliocereus speciosus blossoms are purplish-red.


The yellow blooming epiphyllum Reward was developed in the 1950s by crossing a white hybrid with another white hybrid tinted with gold. Reward produces nine inch flowers with chrome yellow back petals and pale yellow inner petals.


Plant epiphyllum is soil that is loose and fast draining. Mix 2 parts potting soil, 2 parts peat moss and 1 part sand together to create a good soil mix for these cacti. Soil that stays wet will suffocate the small root system. Repot the epiphyllum when it becomes root bound. This cactus enjoys filtered sunlight with some sun in the early morning or late afternoon. The soil should be kept moist, not soggy. Mist the epiphyllum to produce high humidity. Feed with 8-8-8 fertilizer at half strength monthly from June through October. Always protect your epiphyllum cacti from freezing temperatures which can cause damage.

Keywords: epiphyllum plant, orchid cactus, epiphytic cacti

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.