Epiphyllums or orchid cacti are easy-to-grow succulents that produce stunningly fragrant flowers once a year. They have flat stems that are fleshy with serrated edges. Many people mistake these for leaves but they are stems and the flowers are produced at the end of these stems.
These lovely succulents are very easy to grow, even for beginner gardeners, and will grow happily indoors and out as long as the temperature is fairly moderate. (between 45 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Orchid cactus does extremely well in hanging pots that allow the stems to trail down over the edges of the pot. For Epiphyllum collectors, there is a small range of species but an enormous range of hybrids that are available.
Here’s a list of some of the more common species that people love to grow.
Epiphyllum anguliger (Fishbone Cactus)
This is a night-blooming Epiphyllum with wavy stems that cascade down. These very much resemble the fishbone fern except the stems are thick and fleshy. The flowers of this Epiphyllum are white and scented.
Once the flowers have finished their display, small green fruits are formed at the end of the stems. These are edible and taste a little like gooseberries.
Also known as Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus or Queen of the Night, Epiphyllum oxipetalum is also night-blooming and the flowers are scented but will wilt before the morning arrives. However, the flowers are worth waiting for as they can be up to 12 inches long and around 7 inches wide. Primarily, the flowers are white with pale yellow centers.
Epiphyllum hookeri (Climbing Cactus)
This is a climbing cactus with large white flowers that bloom at night. The flowers are fragrant and are up to 9 inches long and 8 inches in diameter. The stems of the plant are long and strappy. This gives the plant a sculptured look, making it ideal for creating interest in the landscape.
Also known as Crenate Orchid Cactus, the stems of this Epiphyllum are extremely interesting as they have irregular-shaped lobes that are not symmetrical at all. This alone makes it worth growing.
In addition, the flowers are large and showy and are mainly a delicate cream color with yellow stamens. The flowers bloom at night.
Epiphyllum monstrosa (Curly Locks Cactus)
Unlike other Epiphyllum, this plant has interesting curly stems that cascade down when grown in a hanging pot. The plant makes an interesting specimen to add to your collection.
This plant produces white tubular flowers that are 3 inches wide and 6 inches long. These flowers also open at night. If the blooms are pollinated, the plant will produce bright pink fruits that are full of seeds. These fruits are edible.
Epiphyllum lauii (Orchid Cactus)
Epiphyllum lauii blooms in spring with tubular flowers that are white on the inside and yellow on the outside. The stems are green, fleshy, and segmented. The stems are also shiny, making this an attractive plant even when not in flower.
This is another great Epiphyllum to grow in hanging pots as the stems will cascade down over the edge of the pot.
Epiphyllum chrysocardium (Fern Leaf Cactus)
This variety of Epiphyllum has now been renamed Selenicereus chrysocardium. It features long, trailing stems with leaf-like structures that are called cladodes. The plant produces large white flowers with bright yellow stamens. The stems of the plant can grow up to 6 feet long, so it can make quite a striking addition to your collection.
This Epiphyllum has showy fragrant blooms that are white in color with pale pink tinges on the unopened petals. The stamens are also white with pale yellow tips. The blooms can reach a size of 4 to 5 inches in diameter. After blooming the plant produces small red fruit with a white pulp.
Epiphyllum caudatum makes an excellent houseplant and likes a little humidity. However, it can tolerate cold temperatures from 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The stems are quite long and only slightly lobed.
This species of Epiphyllum is closely related to E. oxypetalum except that it has smaller flowers. The flowers are creamy-white with light pink tinges on the unopened petals. The flowers bloom in summer and are highly scented.
This variety likes to grow in semi-shade and prefers ideal temperatures of around 53 degrees Fahrenheit in winter.
Epiphyllum phyllanthus (Climbing Cactus)
This Epiphyllum has long slender stems with lobed sections. The flowers are white and the plant produces bright pink fruit. It makes a great trailing plant for hanging pots. It prefers to grow in partial or dappled shade and can tolerate temperatures in the range of 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
This plant features large showy flowers that are snow-white with bright yellow stamens. The stems are long with lobed sections. This makes it ideal for hanging pots. The plant prefers to grow in partial to dappled shade and can tolerate cold temperatures in the range of 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Apart from this small selection of species of Epiphyllum, there are literally thousands of hybrids available today. These have been bred to feature flowers of many different colors including red, orange, yellow, and pink.
Here’s just a small selection of the showier ones.
Epiphyllum “Acapulco Sunset”
Features large hibiscus-type blooms that are dark yellow with a bright pink to orange centers. The flowers are 6 to 8 inches long.
Features extra-large baby pink blooms that are 6 to 8 inches long. The blooms have a rose center and the outer petals have a lavender sheen.
Epiphyllum “Beautiful Morning”
Features large purple striped blooms. The center of the petals is very dark purple and this fades to pale mauve on the outer.
Epiphyllum “California Wheel”
Features smaller blooms that have white inner petals on the first day that change to pink the following day. The outer petals are golden tan and finer than the inner ones. Flowers are around 1 ½ inches in diameter.
Epiphyllum “Desert Evening”
Features extra-large blooms that can reach up to 8 inches long. The double blooms are dark red with an orange-red stripe in the middle. This plant will bloom profusely once it has fully matured.
Features large blooms that are 6 to 8 inches long. The blooms are colored orange-red and have a ruffled edge. The inner petals have a lavender sheen.
Features large orange blooms that resemble a water lily. The petals are narrow and pointed. The blooms can reach 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
Epiphyllum “Gold Light”
Features lovely yellow blooms that are 6 to 8 inches in diameter. The petals are pale yellow with frilled edges. They have a darker yellow stripe in the center.
Epiphyllum “Princess De Monaco”
Features delicate pink blooms that are around 8 inches in diameter. The inner petals are pale pink and the edges fade to a slightly paler pink. The petals also have a very faint pale apricot stripe down the center.
See our list of cactus names you can grow.
~ image source: depositphotos/ullision