Epiphyllum oxypetalum, commonly called orchid cactus, Dutchman's pipe cactus or night blooming cereus, is a perennial cactus that is mostly grown for its intensely fragrant, plate-sized white blooms, which open in the evening and close early in the morning. Despite its exotic appearance, night blooming cereus is a low-maintenance houseplant that can grow outdoors only in the warmest climates.
Indoors, night blooming cereus is best in bright, indirect sunlight in a room with a temperature that is consistently 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Average room humidity is acceptable and supplementary misting is unnecessary, advises International Farm Society Organization. Outdoors, night blooming cereus is a tropical plant that grows only in the frost-free climates of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b through 12. Outdoor plants prefer partial sun or light shade.
Night blooming cereus requires a well-draining soil mixture with a pH between 6.1 and 7.8. Use a commercial cactus potting mixture or make your own by mixing 2 parts sand with 1 part loam, 1 part peat moss and 1 part pea gravel. Container plants prefer porous pots. A hole in the bottom is essential to allow for drainage. Night blooming cereus has a high salt tolerance and can grow in frost-free coastal gardens.
Night blooming cereus has fairly low water requirements and will quickly succumb to root rot if over-watered. Water deeply every three or four weeks but do not let the soil completely dry out between waterings. The soil should never become "bone dry." To encourage healthy growth, fertilize once or twice during the growing season with a mild, water-soluble 8-8-8 fertilizer diluted with water at half the rate recommended on the package, usually at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon per 1 gallon of water. Pests are not usually a problem.
Night blooming cereus can be propagated from a 6- to 12-inch cutting. Leave the cutting to dry out for one or two weeks to reduce the chance of rot. To help root development, dip the cutting in a rooting hormone powder. Plant the cutting in a well-draining soil mixture that is damp, but not soggy or waterlogged, and loosely tie it to a stake to keep it upright. The San Diego Epiphyllum Society recommends withholding water for the first few weeks and then watering occasionally to keep the soil moist.
- Desert Tropicals: Epiphyllum Oxypetalum
- Flowers of India: Orchid Cactus
- Stokes Tropicals: Epiphyllum Oxypetalum 'Night Blooming Cereus'
- International Farm Society Organization: Epiphyllum Oxypetalum Characteristics and Cultivation
- San Diego Epiphyllum Society: How Do I Take Care of This Interesting Plant?
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