Botanical Name — Epiphyllum oxypetalum
Common Name — Night Blooming Cereus, Dutchman's pipe cactus or Queen/Princess of The Night
Plant Family — Cactaceae
Epiphyllum oxypetalum is native to Mexico and Guatemala, but can be found in widespread cultivation around the world. Regal and cascading, this tree-dwelling epiphyte is a favorite among plant lovers for its huge, elegant, night blooming flowers. These blossoms often begin in late spring then produce several crops throughout the growing season. Though the plant is a prolific producer of the blossoms, they don’t last long. Watch them emerge and fully bloom by midnight, then wilt by dawn.
- Epiphyllum oxypetalum love a lot of direct sunlight. Provide southern exposure as much as possible. However, when it’s hot, these plants prefer partial shade at peak hours. The diffused light of a screen door or sheer curtain will imitate the dappled sunlight of a forest canopy.
- A little extra sunlight in early spring may inspire extra budding come summer.
- Epiphyllum oxypetalum are tropical plants, meaning they thrive in temperatures between 65 to 80 ºF. They should always be kept above 55 ºF.
- Though they like humidity, they can tolerate and thrive in a normal home environment (most of our homes are low in humidity, especially in the winter). That being said, it can benefit from misting with tepid water or a humidifier.
- Native to the rainforest, the night bloomer plant likes a little more water than other members of the cactus family. During the summer growing season, water regularly to promote healthy growth and blooms. Epiphyllum oxypetalum’s succulent leaves retain plenty of moisture, so it will be fine if not watered for a bit.
- In the winter, when these plants are not actively growing, ease up on watering. Reduce the frequency of watering to about half of what you would provide in the summer. In the winter, let the soil dry between waterings.
- Give Epiphyllum oxypetalum a light, well-draining tropical soil. A typical potting soil amended with 50% coco coir or sphagnum moss will work. Many of this plant’s roots actually pull moisture from the air, so it’s important that the soil is as light as possible.
- Dramatic flowers up to 8 inches in length may bloom in late spring into fall over several crops. They have a sweet scent, and only bloom for one night each.
- Fertilization during spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer up until flowers stop blooming in the fall.
- Apply monthly. Do not fertilize in late fall or winter.
- These plants can be easily propagated by stem or leaf cuttings.
- Fungal leaf rot may occur during spring rains, creating brown spotting and scarring on the stems. Remove infected limbs with clippers.
- Scale, mealybugs, and aphids are not common but may occur. Remove pests with a cotton ball or q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol, or treat the plant with diluted neem oil. Prune away unhealthy leaves or stems.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- This plant grows and blooms best when somewhat rootbound. Repot every two or three years, moving it to a pot just 2 inches wider.
- These plants are not toxic if ingested by animals and humans.
- This plant is well known for many uses in traditional medicine. It’s been used to treat heavy or painful menstrual periods. The flowers mixed into soup are said to clear phlegm and strengthen the lungs. Plant juices have been used for bladder infections, shortness of breath and water retention. Applied externally, it has been used for rheumatism. It is also assumed to be an aphrodisiac.
- The flowers are edible. Pluck wilted buds in the morning, then rehydrate before use in vegetable soups. They will have a gelatinous effect on the broth, and have a slightly sour flavor. The flowers can often be found for sale in Chinese grocery stores.