Epiphyllum - epiphyllum - How to care for and grow your Epiphyllum

Epiphyllum - epiphyllum - How to care for and grow your Epiphyllum



Epiphyllum it is a very popular genus thanks to its very numerous cultivars specially selected to provide spectacular blooms with amazing colors.






: Angiosperms


: Eudicotyledons











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


The genre Epiphyllum belongs to the large family of Cactaceaewhere we find the most famous prickly pear. The peculiarity of all the species belonging to this genus is that they are plants completely devoid of branches and the flowers grow directly from a "pillow of hair" (areola) from the stem.

They are perennials, characterized by a flat stem, usually narrow, with jagged edges. They are leafless and what on the surface may seem like are the thickened, typically flat branches that often grow into a triangular shape.

Unlike cacti the Epiphyllum s are free of thorns.

Another peculiarity of the Epiphyllum is that they are all epiphytic plants, that is to say that innature they grow mainly on trees or rocks, feeding on the moss or decaying organic substance that they can find and hooking them to supports with their aerial roots. These positions are ideal for them as in this way they receive the air that circulates freely between the branches and sufficient light but not too intense for their normal physiological functions. Some species, while maintaining their characteristic of epiphytic plants, grow with the roots anchored to the ground, but always provided with aerial roots to recover from the air, water and nutrients because their root system is very little developed and the areas where they grow are usually very humid therefore, if they did not develop roots and roots, they would die of root asphyxiation.

They are plants that produce very showy, large flowers with colorful petals that develop along the edges of the branches. The colors are mostly soft, mainly white or pale yellow but there are species that also produce orange or red flowers. In reality, however, thanks to hybridization, cultivars are found on the market that produce flowers of the most different colors and of very considerable size, simple compounds, thanks to years and years of hybridization with related genera such as Selenicereus,Hylocereus, Heliocereus, Nopalxochia, Echinopsis and others, as well as between species and others. In short, we can say that the world of Epiphyllumthat we find on the market is a world of cultivars so much that many botanists ask whether it is right to continue to call these cultivars "Epiphyllum"in when in their genetic heritage of Epiphyllum, will now have an extremely small percentage.


There are about 12 different species not very widespread for commercial use but many cultivars are found, especially of the species Epiphyllum crenatum.


It is an upright and densely branched plant that can reach up to one meter in height. The stems have a cylindrical section in the basal part but become flat in the distal part.

The peculiarity is that it produces white-cream flowers in the shape of a trumpet that open only during the day, very large, so that they can even have a diameter of 15 cm and a length of 25 cm.

There are many cultivars on the market that derive from the crossing of this species with other genera and which are easier to cultivate and flower more easily (photo on the side).


L'Epiphyllum ackermannii it is a very widespread species with long and flat stems, typical of the genus. The flowers are orange and have a typical trumpet shape.


L' Epiphyllum it is a plant that loves filtered sun and humidity and grows better if placed on supports or on a tree with fronds in order to be protected from direct sunlight. If grown in pots, it is necessary to use particularly loose soils, rich in organic matter and coarse material.

They are plants whose thermal optimum is between 7 ° C and 21 ° C. However, it can tolerate much higher temperatures provided that the relative humidity is very high, around 50-80% and strictly in a shady position. Conversely, temperatures below 7 ° C can be tolerated for a very short period of time. It is therefore preferable, in areas where winter is particularly harsh, to raise the invaded plant to be then moved to a warmer place during the whole winter period, even if it is necessary to keep in mind that for flowering it is important, during the winter, to keep it among the 7-10 ° C and without artificial light after sunset.

They are plants that love air so it is essential to ensure good ventilation, paying attention in any case to both too hot and too cold winds.


L' Epiphyllum contrary to what happens with the others Cactaceae it is a plant that needs a lot of moisture. In fact, care must be taken that the substrate never dries out completely and should be watered only when about 1/3 of the substrate has dried. It is therefore advisable that you stick your fingers in the ground to feel the degree of humidity before proceeding with the subsequent watering.This attention must be paid especially during the period of active growth of the plant (spring - summer) while during the autumn - winter period, the frequency will certainly be reduced.

When watering, the soil must ensure that the water flows quickly through the drainage holes so as to moisten the substrate and not leave it soggy. Be careful not to leave water stagnation in the saucer.

If during the flowering period the plant appears less turgid than usual and you think it is about to go into water stress, do not be alarmed because such behavior is normal. The plant will recover on its own without any change in the water or nutritional intake.


L'Epiphyllum , if grown in pots, it needs loose soils, rich in organic matter and coarse material to avoid the compaction of the soil around the roots and the stagnation of irrigation water.

The plant is repotted only when it has developed a certain number of new branches which should normally take place every 2-3 years.

The best time is at the end of flowering.


Every two weeks throughout the spring - summer period the plant is fertilized by diluting 1/3 of the doses indicated in the package in the irrigation water while in the other periods they must be suspended.

As for the type of fertilizer to be used, this must be equally balanced in nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) and use the formulas 6: 6: 6 which means 6 parts of nitrogen, 6 parts of phosphorus and 6 parts of potassium or 8: 8: 8 or 10:10:10 once a month starting from spring and until autumn Pay attention that the nitrogen content is not higher than 10% as in this case the concentration would be too high and not tolerated by the plant. If you already have a fertilizer at home and want to use that, then you will have to dilute it with water in proportion.


L' Epiphyllum in order to flower during the winter period it must stay at temperatures around 7-10 ° C and without artificial light after sunset. With higher temperatures the plant will not flower.

The flowering period is between April and July depending on the plant.

The flowers can last from just one day and one night to several days.


It is a plant that cannot be pruned. Only the parts that dry up or become damaged are eliminated to prevent them from becoming a vehicle for parasitic diseases.


The multiplication occurs mainly by cuttings.


The cuttings, which are nothing more than portions of the plant, are taken in summer, from the end of July - beginning of August, about 10-15 cm long. Once taken, they settle in a sheltered and cool place and let the cut wound dry for about seven to ten days. After that they are planted in a compost based on fertile soil and sand for about 1/3 of their length and the pot is placed in a shady position and at a temperature around 21 ° C. If you can't make the cutting stand upright, help yourself with a stick. During the thinning period the compost is kept slightly moist and after about 2-3 weeks lethal and have rooted at which point the plant can be treated as if it were an adult. They will bloom after about 3 years.


They are plants particularly resistant to diseases and parasites.

The plant shrivels and becomes limp

This symptom indicates that the plant has had too much watering or that the soil is too wet.
Remedies: first you need to remove the plant from the pot and eliminate the damaged roots. After that the cut parts must be treated with a broad spectrum fungicide powder. Then let the earth dry well, put the plant back in the pot and wait at least a week before watering to give the cut surfaces time to heal. For the future, better regulate watering.

The plant appears to be burnt

This symptom indicates that the plant has been exposed to direct sun.
Remedies: move the plant to a bright position but never in direct sun.

Presence of cracks in the branches

Cracks, more or less large holes in the branches are formed as a result of excessive temperature changes between day and night.
Remedies: arrange the plant so that it is not subjected to these thermal stresses.

Spots on the underside of the leaves

Spots on the underside of the leaves could mean that you are in the presence of cochineals and in particular the mealy cochineal. To be sure, it is recommended that you make use of a magnifying glass and observe. Compare them with the photo on the side. They are characteristics, you can't go wrong. Also if you try to remove them with a fingernail, they come off easily.

Remedies: remove them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. For larger plants, use specific pesticides available from a good nurseryman.


The word Epiphyllum comes from the Greek epi "Above" and phyllum"Leaf" or "above the leaf" to indicate the flowers that seem to bloom directly on the leaves (but actually bloom in the margins of the stems).

Some also call these plants cactus orchids because of their characteristic of being epiphytic plants even if they have nothing to do with leorchids.

The first hybridizations date back to the early 1800s, in England. From England the first hybrid plants spread to France, Germany and Belgium and in the early 1900s to the United States, especially California where, thanks to the favorable climate, it has practically become the capital of Epiphyllum in the world.

Mother-in-law's tongue - Epiphyllum

The epiphyllum they are succulent plants native to the tropical and subtropical forests of Latin America. Unlike other cacti, they live in a basically very humid environment, clinging to other trees, as do epiphytic orchids. They have become very popular as houseplants due to their ease of cultivation, their particular declining habit and their magnificent and colorful flowering.

Video: Trimming Epiphyllum plants