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How to Care for Epiphyllum

Tip

Although warm temperatures are tolerated, epiphyllum needs a winter temperature of between 40 and 50 degrees F at all times to encourage blooming the following season.

Epiphyllum, also known as orchid cactus, is a jungle-leaf cacti or leaf-flowering cacti native to Central America. Epiphyllum should always be kept in a container to induce flowering. Blooms typically only occur in two to three-year-old potted plants, but they are a sight to behold. Large, fragrant blooms appear at night in a rainbow of colors, from white to red depending on variety. The flowers of some species last only a single night and fade with the rising sun. Others last several days, but their beauty always makes a lasting impression on the admirer.

Plant epiphyllum in a large clay pot with drainage holes in the bottom. Use a coarse indoor potting mix, or make your own by combining four parts leaf mold and one part each perlite, medium bark and horticultural charcoal.

Place the epiphyllum container outdoors or indoors, in an area which receives filtered, partial sun and which has a constant temperature of between 45 and 70 degrees F. Epiphyllum plants will tolerate warmer conditions if there is adequate shade, but will not survive temperatures below 35 degrees F.

Water epiphyllum plants when the top 1 ½ inches of the soil surface has dried completely, usually about once per week, but more frequent watering may be required in very dry or hot climates. Reduce watering in the winter, as less water is needed in cooler temperatures.

Mist epiphyllum using a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water at least once per day in the summer months. Mist more frequently when the air is particularly dry. Epiphyllum plants prefer 50 percent humidity, and a humidifier may be used indoors to keep the moisture in this range.

Feed epiphyllum using a balanced fertilizer with no more than 10 percent nitrogen once per month beginning in April and ending in September. In addition, apply once in February and once in November to encourage blooms. Do not fertilize in December or January.

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