Types of Night-Blooming Cereus
The term "night-blooming cereus" is used to describe several species of cacti that flower exclusively at night. Despite sharing this common name, these species are all unique plants. Some of these cereus cactus types grow in arid climates, while at least one is native to tropical rainforests.
Night-Blooming Cereus Cactus Characteristics
While all of the species known as "night-blooming cereus" are distinct species that differ in form and grow in different environments, they all have something in common, which is that they are all cacti that bloom at night, with flowers lasting for just one night.
All of these species produce large, fragrant white flowers that appear at dusk and die when the sun comes up in the morning.
Multiple species of cacti are known as "night-blooming cereus." All of these species produce large, showy white flowers that open for a single night in the summer before dying.
Night-Blooming Cereus Cactus Types
Let's take a look at some of the different cactus species that go by the name "night-blooming cereus."
Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus
The Dutchman's pipe cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum, zones 10 to 12), also known as orchid cactus, is an epiphytic cactus native to rainforests in Mexico and Central and South America. Epiphytic means that the plant grows attached to another plant, usually a tree, rather than rooting in the soil. However, it is easy to grow in pots.
This species does not produce true leaves, but rather flattened stems that have a leaf-like appearance. It can be up to 10 feet tall. The Dutchman's pipe cactus flowers in spring and summer.
While most cacti grow in arid regions, epiphytic cacti like the Dutchman's pipe cactus are native to rainforests.
Arizona Queen of the Night
The Arizona queen of the night (Peniocereus greggii, zones 9 and 10), one of the species known as "night-blooming cereus," is native to the American southwest. Its range extends into northern Mexico.
This species has grayish-green, 1-inch-thick ribbed stems and dark spines that appear black. Established plants develop an underground fleshy root known as a tuber.
Queen of the Night
Queen of the night (Selenicereus grandiflorus, zones 10 to 11), another "night-blooming cereus" species, has a similar appearance to Peniocereus greggii, however it does not develop a tuberous root. It can be 30 to 40 feet tall.
Dragon Fruit Cactus
Also referred to as "night-blooming cereus" is the dragon fruit cactus (Selenicereus undatus, zones 9 to 11), which is native to Mexico and Honduras. This plant may have heights between 20 and 30 feet. Its stems have a triangle shape.
The dragon fruit cactus is cultivated commercially in parts of Central America. The fruit is pink and covered in scales or tentacles and has a soft, sweet white flesh.
Growing Night-Blooming Cereus Plants
Like most cacti, night-blooming cereus plants are low maintenance and do not need a lot of fertilizing. Most of these plants need to be grown in full sun for maximum flower production. As an epiphytic rainforest species, the Dutchman's pipe cactus benefits from partial shade.
Epiphytic cacti need more moisture than cacti native to desert regions.
Watering Night-Blooming Cereus
These plants can survive dry conditions, though as a rainforest native, the Dutchman's pipe cactus needs more moisture than cacti from arid regions. This species should be watered thoroughly whenever the top of the soil feels dry.
The dragon fruit plant needs more watering during spring and summer, up until the point where it is done flowering. Avoid overwatering this plant, which can lead to fruit drop.
- University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: Plant of the Week - Night-Blooming Cereus
- North Carolina State Extension: Selenicereus undatus
- The University of Arizona Campus Arboretum: Peniocereus greggii
- North Carolina State Extension: Epiphyllum oxypetalum
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Q: What can you tell me about night-blooming cactus?
- University of Arizona: Night Blooming Cereus
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.