Epiphyllum are known as some of the easiest houseplants you could ever dream of growing. But maybe you are new in your plant parenthood journey or just new to the genus and have some questions. Hopefully, this article will give you some guidance. We will discuss; watering, light, best location in the house, temperature, fertilizer, humidity, flowers, insects, diseases, pruning, propagation and toxicity.
The blooms on orchid cacti are a real attraction for plant collectors. They are large and showy and many of them are deliciously scented as a bonus. It can be difficult to bring epiphyllum into bloom which (I think) offers plant parents the attraction of a challenge and adds an allure to owning this type of houseplant. Let’s face it, if you have epiphyllum blooms to show off on your Instagram, well, that’s a serious “flex” on your plant parenting skills.
This plant has many synonyms including Orchid Cactus, Queen of the Night, Princess of the Night, Christ in the Manger, Epiphytic Cactus and others. For now I will refer to this plant as Night Blooming Cereus or even just NBC.
The name Night Blooming Cereus is used for several genera of plants that are all very similar in physical structure, bloom type and fruit type. The most common ones are Epiphyllum oxypetalum, Hylocereus undatus (Dragon fruit), Peniocereus greggii and Selenicereus grandiflorus. Soooooo…that’s a bit confusing. I personally try to not purchase any plant marked as NBC unless it also has a botanical name included. But that’s just me and my weird hang-ups, you can purchase any NBC that you like.
Since there are different genera represented under the umbrella title of Night Blooming Cereus, it isn’t surprising to know that the plants do differ from each other slightly. For example, the blooms on an NBC can be creamy white, yellowish white, pinkish white or a pure snowy white. Unfortunately, you won’t know right away what color of blooms your plant will produce for a few years unless you have seen the parent plant or if you have purchased from a reputable seller.
Let’s talk about how to care for this plant.
Watering – Water deeply but only once the soil has dried out in the pot. Using a finger to check the moisture level is a must. I make sure that the potting mix is dried out down several inches before I even consider watering. Also, a drainage hole in the planter is a must. Make sure to provide it a fast-draining potting mix and let all excess water drain out of the pot after watering.
Once you have a plant that is 3-5 years old or older, you can encourage blooms by totally restricting water from November through March. This should also coincide with the lowered winter temperatures (see Temperature requirements). Once you can see flower buds forming on your NBC, resume regular watering.
Light requirements – Bright light is a must for this plant. Too much direct sun can burn those big, beautiful leaves though, so only a few hours of direct sunlight is best.
Best Location in the House – Place your Night Blooming Cereus directly in an East or West facing window and it will love you forever.
Temperature requirements – Like most houseplants, the Night Blooming Cereus will live happily in the same temperatures that we humans like to live in. It can tolerate cold temperatures, but I don’t advise leaving it out in any temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Temperatures also play a very important role in encouraging blooms for this type of Epiphyllum. Night Blooming Cereus will generally refuse to bloom without a “winter chill period”. To recreate this “chill period” in our homes, we must give this plant night time temperatures that fall in somewhere between 35 and 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) for the winter months (preferably from November to March).
Fertilizer – Dilute fertilizer by half. Apply fertilizer during Spring and Summer and straight into Fall as a general guideline. In the Winter, watering should slow or stop completely (depending on the age of your NBC) so no fertilizer throughout the Winter.
Humidity – Normal household humidity levels are completely appropriate. Night Blooming Cereus is also very tolerant of lower humidity levels, so it’s a great choice for plant parents who don’t keep a humidifier in the house.
Flowers – The Night Blooming Cereus has some of the largest and most dramatic flowers in the houseplant world. Think cactus flowers except even bigger. They are several inches across (some describe them as dinner plate sized), open only at night and have a wonderfully intoxicating scent. That being said, they aren’t terribly easy to bring into bloom especially if you aren’t an experienced plant parent.
Night blooming cereus will not bloom as new plants, they most likely will bloom for the first time somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. Once you have a plant that is aged 3-5 years, you can modify your watering and temperatures in the winter to encourage your plant to give you those fantastic blooms. (See the Watering and Temperature requirements sections of this article.)
You may have noticed that there is no picture of NBC blooms here. I haven’t put up any pictures of blooms because my plants haven’t given me any blooms yet. My oldest NBC plant is four years old this year and so could potentially give me blooms. It almost certainly won’t because I didn’t really give it low enough temps over the past winter and so I don’t expect to see any blooms this year. When I get blooms, I’ll certainly do a blog and I’ll update this post with a photo too. And I’ll most likely do an Instagram “flex” post too. Teehee.
Insects – Mealy bugs appear to be the most common insect complaint for this plant. Aphids, scale and mites are also a potential threat. I have not had pests on any of my Epiphyllum plants (I’m knocking on wood right now!) which leads me to believe that they are not terribly insect prone.
Diseases – In general, Epiphyllum don’t seem to suffer from many diseases. Soil that holds too much water will be the cause of the diseases you may encounter about 90% of the time. Most commonly those diseases are root rot or fungal leaf spot (see photo below) which can be dangerous to your plant’s overall health.
Pruning – The NBC can have crazy and sometimes awkward looking growth patterns. If your plant is growing in an unattractive habit, simply cut away any weird growth. It won’t bother your plant at all. Do take into consideration that the oldest leaves on your plant will be the first ones to bloom. You may not want to cut those more mature stems if blooms are one of your goals.
Propagation – Night blooming Cereus is really easy to propagate, which is lovely. I simply take cuttings. You could also use water to propagate cuttings, or even LECA if that’s your jam. I use soil. I recommend that you do whatever works for you. I’ve never lost a single NBC cutting using soil, so that’s the method I’ll continue using. But again, use whatever method works best for you.
Toxicity – According to the ASPCA, the NBC is non-toxic to cats and dogs. I’ll include a link to the ASPCA site if you’d like to look for yourself. I would also like to caution you that if you have a young child or pet that is interested in touching or chewing on your plants, the NBC can still be a choking hazard just due to the tough texture of its leaves/stems. So if you have a curious pet or child in the home, it’s best to keep your NBC out of their reach.
Link to my Etsy shop, Matilda and Clementine which often (but not always) has rooted Night Blooming Cereus cuttings available.
If this article was helpful to you, make sure to follow this blog. Simply head to the bottom of the Home page of this website, click the Subscribe button and type in your email address. Sharing and liking these articles is also very helpful to us. Thanks for reading!
Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.
Reference for this article: