Gardening Magazine

Serious Cereus

By Thecitrusguy @SCCitrusguy
Everybody needs a helping hand at times, right? What if you do all of your important stuff at night and there are very few people around?  That is kind of the boat that today's topic finds itself in. Epiphyllum oxypetalum also known as Dutchman's Pipe Cactus, Orchid Cactus and Night Blooming Cereus is an epiphyte. This is a plant that grows on another plant which it depends on for mechanical support but not for nutrients. A helping hand type of thing. And of course it's other common name,night blooming cereus, kind of gives it away as to what time of the day it flowers.This plants native range runs from Mexico to Brazil. It can be a very large grower, getting up to 20 feet tall, or long depending on how you look at it. It prefers to grow in the upper story of tropical jungles by clinging to trees by means of aerial roots. It produces dark green branches and fragrant white flowers, no wonder it is also known as Queen of the Night.Just look at this flower:
Serious Cereus
Unfortunately, the flower, which can be 6" or more across, only lasts for 1-3 days (nights). It opens in the evening around dusk and closes at the first sign of sunrise in the morning. If you are lucky, this will repeat for a couple of more nights. Flowering times range from late Spring through most of the Summer.As you can imagine being from that far South, it can only grow in USDA zones 10b to 12. They will tolerate temperatures less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours, but will be damaged if exposed to freezing temperatures for any length of time. Most of the time it is grown as a house plant. Don't let the length possibility scare you though, this plant can be cut back to whatever size you want it to be and it will be happy. If you are blessed with ample room, yours could look like this picture I found online:Serious CereusThe Queen needs partial shade, remember, she is used to growing in the tree tops of the jungle.  She also needs a well draining potting soil with compost and plenty of humus along with sufficient moisture, especially in the Summer. A cactus potting mix works well. As your soil mix breaks down, the roots of the plant can suffer from too much water and lack of air around the root mass. It is a very good idea to repot every 2 years or so to keep the plants healthy.
After a long Winter indoors, be very careful when bringing it back outside, it can get sunburned very easy. The leaves are broad and do not resemble the usual fleshy leaves of other succulents.Serious CereusThis is your official geek alert!  
The leaf-like structures are actually flattened stems, generally called cladophylls.
You will want to fertilize the plants on a monthly basis with a balanced fertilizer diluted to 1/2 the strength recommended on the label. Do not use a fertilizer too high in nitrogen, the first number should not be over 10. It can cause the growth to be mushy. Do not fertilize during the Winter.
The Epiphyllum oxypetalum is an easy and fast growing epiphyte. They can be propagated from cuttings. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone before planting in moist, but not soggy, soil mix.
This would be a good candidate for a cutting:
Serious Cereus
The smaller leaf off to the right is the one I am talking about. They can also be propagated by dividing large plants. It generally takes 2–3 years to raise a blooming size plant from a rooted cutting.
 As for pests, there are a few. Scale and mealybugs start the list, they can be controlled with insecticidal soap. Snails and slugs love epiphyllums! They can skeletonize the leaves in a short time and will do lots of damage. That is why these plants should never be allowed to grow on the ground. Snail bait should be put out on a regular basis. Please read the label regarding these products.
This plant can definitely bring a huge WOW factor to any house or yard. It is one of the easiest to grow. There is one more nice bonus to this plant, SHOULD you be lucky enough to have it happen. Once the Queen flowers and IF she happens to get pollinated, usually by moths and sometimes bats, it will produce fruit and it IS edible!
Kinda looks like this:
Serious CereusHappy Growing!
Darren

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