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Curly Orchid Cactus Care

Learn how to care for the unique curly orchid cactus!

How to care for the unique curly orchid cactus

If you’ve read my past plant guides, you might remember my care guides for epiphyllum oxypetalum and epiphyllum anguliger/selenicereus anthonyanus (ric rac cactus). Both two of my absolutely favorites! And today I’m adding another to the epiphyllum gang: epiphyllum guatemalense monstrose.

But most people just call it the curly orchid cactus. Much like the ric rac cactus, the orchid cactus looks unique and dramatic, but its care requirements aren’t unique and dramatic. In fact, curly orchid cactus care is pretty standard. So let’s jump into it.

curly orchid cactus hanging by a window

Curly orchid cactus care overview

  • Curly orchid cactus (epiphyllum guatemalense monstrose) is a unique and dramatic-looking plant.
  • Originated from a mutation from the Epiphyllum guatemalense plant and features distinctive curly stems.
  • Prefers bright, indirect light, mimicking its natural rainforest habitat under dense canopies.
  • Water only when the soil has dried out almost completely.
  • Plant in a well-draining cactus or succulent soil.
  • Normal household temperatures and humidity levels are generally adequate.
  • May benefit from extra humidity, especially in the winter.
  • Repot with the roots begin growing out of the pot’s drainage holes.
  • Propagate easily through stem cuttings.

What is a curly orchid cactus?

The curly orchid cactus—otherwise known as the epiphyllum guatemalense monstrose—is actually a mutation of another plant. It comes from the epiphyllum guatemalense plant, and the curly stems are the mutation. And a beautiful mutation it is!

It is a jungle cactus that has evolved to grow in very poor conditions—on trees, between rocks, or in a variety of otherwise less-than-optimal growing situations. In fact, the curly orchid cactus is an epiphyte, which is a type of plant that grows on another plant, typically a tree or shrub, without deriving nutrients from the host plant.

Instead, epiphytes obtain moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and debris that collect around them. These plants are often found in tropical and subtropical regions, where they thrive in humid and moist environments, such as rainforests and cloud forests. And here it is hanging in my decidedly non-tropical dining room.

beautiful display of plants with hoya rope plant, snake plant, curly orchid cactus

What is the best light?

Bright but indirect light will help your plant’s curly locks thrive. This could be near a south- or west-facing window where the plant can benefit from filtered sunlight. But since it’s from the rainforest where it has evolved to live happily under a dense canopy of trees, it can also handle medium light.

Whatever you do, shield it from too much direct light. While epiphyllum guatemalense monstrose enjoys bright light, direct sunlight can scorch the leaves and cause them to become discolored or damaged. Monitor your plant to make sure you don’t need to move it away from a window or add a sheer curtain.

If your plant’s curly stems are starting to thin and stretch out, it likely needs more light. Consider moving it to a brighter spot—closer to a window or under a grow light, for example.

curly orchid cactus hanging by a window

Water & soil needs

As an epiphyte, this plant grows up trees and doesn’t want to live in moist soil. Water when the soil dries out almost completely. Help protect your plant’s roots from rot by planting it in a well-draining soil amended with some additional perlite. Or just use a cactus/succulent soil mix.

When you water your plant, soak the soil thoroughly and let all of the excess water drain from your pot’s drainage holes. This will give your plant the moisture it needs—and don’t water it again until most of the soil has dried out.

Temperature & humidity needs

The curly orchid cactus will do just fine in a variety of normal household temperatures and humidity levels. But because it is from the jungle, it will appreciate all the extra humidity you can give it! Help keep your curly orchid cactus its happiest by adding a humidifier nearby. 

I generally do not give my epiphyllum plants extra humidity though, and they are still very happy. Your mileage may vary based on your home’s conditions, so monitor your plant to make sure it doesn’t need some help.

curly orchid cactus hanging with other plants

How often should I repot it?

Much like other epiphyllums, curly orchid cactus plants do just fine when they are snug in their pots, so they don’t need frequent repotting. I recommend waiting until the plant’s roots begin growing out of its drainage holes before sizing the pot up an inch or so.

When repotting your plant, make sure to use fresh, well-draining soil. Do not size the pot up too much, either. You do not want to drown your plant in soil. And make sure to use a pot with drainage holes!

Propagating a curly orchid cactus

Epiphyllums in general are very easy to propagate, and the curly orchid cactus is no exception. You can check out my full Epiphyllum Propagation Guide for a full tutorial. I’ll outline the process below as well.

First, take a stem cutting and set it in a cool, dark place for a few days to let the cut end of the stem callus over. This will help the new plant regulate its water intake when you plant it.

Next, plant the cutting in a mix of well-draining soil—something like the well-draining soil I outlined above in the care section. Water your cutting to keep the soil moist. Try to avoid letting it dry out or overwatering it. You want just enough moisture to help encourage root growth.

When you notice new growth or when you feel significant resistance from the plant when you try to gently tug it out of the soil, that means it is rooted! Begin caring for the plant as normal—and pass it along to a friend so they can enjoy this cool plant too 🙂

curly orchid cactus leaves

In conclusion…

The curly orchid cactus is a remarkably low-maintenance yet visually striking plant that adds a dramatic flair to any indoor plant collection. Despite its exotic appearance, it requires standard care practices for indoor plants.

Did you find these tips helpful? Share your experiences or ask questions in the comments below—happy planting!

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hanging plant with text overlay that says caring for the curly orchid cactus

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  1. Danielle W says:

    I just got one of these plants about a month ago. I have it under a grow light because my apartment faces east and doesn’t get much sun. I’ve noticed it turning a deeper green and thought that was a good thing. should I not have it directly under the light?

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      Hello! That sounds perfectly fine to me. I’d monitor the plant for signs of scorching, which are usually more like white blanching or brown (depending on the plant and how long ago it was exposed). If you do notice that the plant’s foliage is turning anything other than green, I’d either decrease the intensity of the grow light or move the plant slightly farther away.

  2. Tina says:

    Where can I find the curly Cactus

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