Epiphyllum, also known as orchid cacti or climbing cacti, is a tropical succulent genus that comes in different shapes and sizes with over a dozen species and associated hybrids. These succulents have long, flat, non-spiny, and trailing stems that can bloom bright, large, fragrant, and night-blooming flowers during spring or summer. These plants grow mostly epiphytically on branches and tree trunks, rather than on the ground, absorbing the moisture and nutrients they need from their moist environment. Proper care is necessary to keep these plants healthy and flourishing.
Orchid cacti’s trailing vines make for a stunning addition to any garden landscape, especially when planted in hanging baskets. Contrary to their name, they don’t do well in direct sunlight and dry air. Epiphyllum, the scientific name for orchid cacti, thrives in warm, damp, and shady areas that resemble its natural tropical forest surroundings. That’s why it’s a great choice for a low-maintenance, leisurely-growing plant that can add a touch of greenery to your bathroom.
Taking care of your orchid cactus requires specific conditions to thrive. Unless you can provide gentle temperatures, shaded sunlight, and the right amount of humidity with a breathable potting mix, it’s best to keep them indoor. Epiphyllums enjoy the same environment as orchids and bromeliads. If you plan to grow them outdoors, make sure they are shielded from strong winds while having proper air circulation.
LightOrchid cacti flourish when they are exposed to filtered sunlight, replicating the lighting conditions that they experience in their natural tropical forest environment. While a few hours of full morning sun are acceptable, it is best to steer clear of full midday sun to prevent burns or white crusting. It is recommended to grow them in a hanging basket outdoors under the shelter of a tree.
It’s best not to keep your Epiphyllum in a room with lights that stay on for an extended period after sunset, as this could impact its ability to bloom the next year. If your plant is exposed to too much light, it might lead to drooping growth and yellow leaves. On the other hand, not enough light may cause spindly and fragile growth.
It is not advisable to let your epiphyllum plant grow directly on the ground as normal soil is too dense for it and could lead to its demise. To avoid this, use a potting mix that is loose and drains quickly, and has lightweight and porous materials to help with drainage. An azalea mix that includes perlite, bark, cocoa chips or pumice can be a good choice.
Achieving the perfect amount of water is crucial for orchid cacti to thrive. Unlike typical cacti, these plants need consistent watering during the growing season. It’s important to keep the soil moist but not overly saturated. To ensure optimal growth, allow the top third of the soil to dry out before watering again. During the winter months, reduce watering and relocate the plant to a cooler spot. This will encourage healthy blooms for the following season. For best results, opt for distilled or filtered water instead of tap water as it’s better suited for these delicate plants.
In the event that your soil is excessively wet, particularly during cold temperatures, you may encounter issues with branch dieback or rust spots. If this happens, simply eliminate the affected branches, transfer the plant to a quick-draining and dry soil mixture, and water it less frequently.
To keep your Epiphyllum healthy, it’s recommended to grow them in pots or hanging baskets outdoors. This way, you can easily bring them inside when the weather starts to get too cold for them. Keep in mind that these delicate plants can’t handle frost or temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s crucial to provide them with a warm environment.
If you happen to have an orchid cactus in your indoor collection, it’s important to bear in mind that you may need to change its position during winter compared to its location during other seasons. During the growing period from spring to fall, temperatures of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit are perfect for your cactus. Once winter sets in, it’s best to find a cooler spot with filtered light for your plant, avoiding cold drafts and radiators. Ideally, temperatures of 50 to 58 degrees Fahrenheit work best. When beautiful flowers start budding, it’s time to move your plant back to a warmer place.
To ensure the optimal growth of your Epiphyllum, it is recommended to provide it with higher levels of humidity. You can achieve this by placing it on a tray filled with wet gravel, but take care not to let the plant’s roots absorb any water. Another option is to mist the stems or use a humidifier. Additionally, it is beneficial to fertilize your Epiphyllum conservatively a few times a year to encourage strong growth and bud stimulation. Keep in mind that these plants occur naturally in environments where they receive minimal nutrients, so it’s important not to over-fertilize.