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Information on Orchid Cactus Plants

By Elton Dunn ; Updated September 21, 2017

The orchid cactus (Epiphyllum) produces colorful blossoms during the spring and summer months. This plant grows well in containers, where its droopy leaves hang down. The plant's care is fairly similar to that of other cactus plants. The orchid cactus can be grown indoors or out.


The orchid cactus develops colored flowers on its long leaves or stalks. The bright green leaves resemble long snakes and are about 1-inch wide with scalloped edges. The leaves do not have spines or thorns but are covered in a fine hair. Orchid cactus blossoms take many colors, including yellow, white, red, lavender, orange and green. The flowers may bear multiple colors or striations.


Orchid cacti are a jungle cactus native to Central and South America. They are typically found in jungles or rain forests growing on trees. Jungle cacti prefer more humidity and water than their desert cousins.


Orchid cacti prefer dappled light rather than full light. The plants do not like evening or nighttime light; orchid cactus exposed to night light may not flower very well. Offer your orchid cactus morning light followed by partial shade for the rest of the day. If the leaves turn yellow or appear to wilt, your orchid cactus is receiving too much light. Spindly growth indicates too little light. Plants that are getting the right amount of light display bright green growth with red edges.


Oregon State University suggests letting the roots of your orchid cactus dry out altogether in between watering. To test the soil's moisture, stick your finger in the soil. When the top third of the soil feels dry and crumbly, water the orchid cactus until the soil becomes saturated with water and water flows out of the drainage holes in your container.


According to the San Diego Epiphyllum Society, the name "orchid cactus" is frowned upon in the professional community, since these plants bear little resemblance to an orchid. Cactus enthusiasts prefer to call these plants epiphyllum, epicactus, phyllocactus or epi.


About the Author


A successful website writer since 1998, Elton Dunn has demonstrated experience with technology, information retrieval, usability and user experience, social media, cloud computing, and small business needs. Dunn holds a degree from UCSF and formerly worked as professional chef. Dunn has ghostwritten thousands of blog posts, newsletter articles, website copy, press releases and product descriptions. He specializes in developing informational articles on topics including food, nutrition, fitness, health and pets.