The epiphyllums grown as houseplants are almost all hybrids; their wild-plant parents are found as epiphytes in the tropical rain forests. The true orchid cactus, now renamed Nopalxochia ackermannii but still generally known as Epiphyllum, produces cup-shaped crimson blooms, 4-6in/10-15cm wide, all year-round.
It is, however, rarely seen today, having been surpassed in flower color by the many hybrids that have been created. The species and the hybrids have leafless stems, up to 2ft/60cm long and 2in/5cm wide, which are notched at the edges and segmented. The newer hybrids bloom prolifically, mainly in spring.
The flowers may be white, cream, yellow, and orange, all shades of pink and red, or even bicolored, and can be large (up to 6in/15cm wide) or small. Those with smaller flowers look good in hanging baskets with their stems trailing.
ORIGIN Southern Mexico; hybrids.
HEIGHT To 2ft/60cm.
POTTING MIX Half peat moss, half soil-based, with added perlite or sand.
REPOTTING This plant flowers best if slightly pot-bound. In spring, move into a pot one size larger until a 6-in/15-cm pot is reached; thereafter top-dress instead.
PROPAGATION Detach 4-6-in/10-15-cm sections of stem in spring or early summer. Allow to dry for 2 days, then plant in soil as above.
KEEPING PLANTS Cut back old stems when they become too long. Put the plant outdoors in a sheltered spot from late spring to early fall.
PLANT CARE Epiphyllum Disocactus Ackermannii
- Bright, filtered light; no direct sunlight.
- Minimum winter temperature of 40°F/4°C; normal room temperature at other times.
- Water generously while plant is growing; moderately at other times.
- Stand the pot on a tray of damp pebbles to increase humidity; mist daily in warm room conditions.
- From early spring until flower buds are well developed, feed every 2 weeks with a high-potash liquid fertilizer.
- Stop feeding for 4 weeks, then resume until early fall.
- Never move plants once buds appear; they are delicate and fall off easily.
- If plants are shy to flower, feed with a high-potash fertilizer for a longer period, keep the plant cool during the resting period, and allow the stems to harden outdoors during summer.
- Scale insects and mealybugs may attack orchid cacti; check for signs of these pests.
- The base of the plant may rot if it is kept too wet in the winter rest period.