Quick Look: Epiphytes
Many plants use larger plants as growing surfaces, pulling water from their bark and using trunks and stalks as support to access more light. We call these plants epiphytes. From tropical ferns and bromeliads to air plants and arid succulents, epiphytes are some of our favorite indoor plants.
Epiphytes at a glance:
- A lot of epiphytes, like birds nest ferns and bromeliads, have evolved leaf structures that capture falling water and plant debris. Breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from decaying plant matter makes up for a lack of access to soil.
- Many of our favorite hanging plants, like the Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and Monstera adansonii actually function better as climbers. Training them to climb a totem like they would a tree in the wild will result in fuller growth and larger leaves.
- Arid epiphytes like Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) and Ric Rac Cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger) are known as some of the most beautiful and reliable flowering plants. The fragrant flowers of Epiphyllum oxypetalum blossom for one night, then fall to the floor in the morning.
Tropical Epiphyte Care:
- Tropical epiphytes like the Pothos, Monstera, and many Philodendrons and Ferns prefer plenty of humidity. Mist regularly or place close to a humidifier or in the bathroom.
- Attempt to mimic the light conditions of their native tropical understory. Provide a very bright indirect light with up to two hours of direct and/or dappled sunlight.
- Water when the soil has lightly dried out down to two inches beneath the soil surface. If the plant is on a totem, water by pouring water down along the totem itself, allowing the aerial roots to soak up the trailing water.
- Bromeliads and air plants require special attention. To learn more about caring for these plants, check out our Plant Sessions.
Arid Epiphyte Care:
- No misting is required for arid epiphytes like Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum), Ric Rac Cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger), and many Hoyas.
- Attempt to mimic the light conditions of their native arid understory. Provide a very bright indirect light with up to three hours of direct and/or dappled sunlight. Arid epiphytes tend to be more tolerant of higher light conditions than tropicals.
- Water when the soil has completely dried out. Epiphytic succulents retain a lot of moisture in the leaves, allowing them to function well over short periods of drought.