Interesting Plant: Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus)

Interesting Plant: Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus)

Epiphyllum (pron.: /ˌɛpɨˈfɪləm/;[2] “upon the leaf” in Greek) is a genus of 19 species of epiphytic plants in the cactus family (Cactaceae), native to Central America. Common names for these species include orchid cacti and leaf cacti, though the latter also refers to the genus Pereskia.

The stems are broad and flat, 1–5 cm broad, 3–5 mm thick, usually with lobed edges. The flowers are large, 8–16 cm diameter, white to red, with numerous petals. The fruit is edible, very similar to the pitaya fruit from the closely related genus Hylocereus, though not so large, being only 3–4 cm long. The broad-leaved epiphyllum (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) is particularly well-known. It bears large, strongly fragrant flowers that bloom for a single night only.

Epiphyllum species are added to some versions of the hallucinogenic drink ayahuasca.

The plants known as epiphyllum hybrids, epiphyllums or just epis, which are widely grown for their flowers, are artificial hybrids of species within the tribe Hylocereeae, particularly species of Disocactus, Pseudorhipsalis and Selenicereus. In spite of the common name, Epiphyllum species are less often involved.[3] — Wikipedia

A few weeks ago I visited the Souther California Spring Garden Show with my wife and a close friend, Keri Dearborn of At the show we saw a wide variety of plants, but Keri sang the praises of the many Epiphyllum we saw at the show. Indeed, they seem easy to grow, easy to propagate and bloom in dozens of different colors.

Keri wrote about her feelings for Epiphyllum in this blog post…

Propagating Epiphyllums

The flower diversity at the Southern California Spring Garden Show prompted Douglas Welch of A Gardener’s Notebook and I to talk about plant propagation.

I’ve successfully grown two variety of epiphyllum for years. The Sunset Western Garden Book gives the common name of “orchid cactus” for epiphyllum. Epiphyllums are a type of cactus with long flat stems that are scalloped along the edges and give the appearance of leaves. The few spines are at the base of these scallops.”

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Keri was kind enough to give me some cuttings from her plants and I am hoping to get them potted up today for my weekly Container Garden Update video series. Watch for that video coming soon.

If you are looking for a rewarding plant that is easy to grow, Epiphyllum might me worth some further investigation. There are lots of resources available online and I have linked to a few below.

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More information on Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus)

Previously in the Interesting Plant series: