I’m sharing tips for epiphyllum oxypetalum care. Epiphyllum oxypetalum—also known as night blooming cereus or “queen of the night” cactus, is a gorgeous, resilient plant that blooms only at night. Learn all about this unique plant!
Epiphyllum oxypetalum care: Night-blooming cereus
I don’t know if this is a grandma plant, but the only two people I know who have had this plant are grandmas, so I’m going to call it a grandma plant. That’s right—I was at one of my grandmothers’ houses a year or so ago and complimented a gorgeous plant she had in her front room.
She said it was a night-blooming cactus (full name: epiphyllum oxypetalum), that she actually had a cutting of that I could have! She’d accidentally knocked the piece off, so instead of throwing it away, she started to root it in water. Anyone wondering where I get this from?
I gladly took it, even having literally no idea what it was or how to care for it. It was a family get-together, so we didn’t have much time to talk. She just told me it was a plant that only bloomed at night, and the flowers died before dawn. Pretty wild.
Then, recently, I was visiting my other grandmother and noticed she had a large epiphyllum oxypetalum potted on her front patio. I asked her about it—she told me that the plant I saw was actually a pup of a much larger plant that she used to have. Then she pulled out a painting of the mother plant—including the gorgeous night bloom! Probably the only time I’ll see this plant blooming considering I cannot stay up that late.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum or night-blooming cereus
So let’s talk about this plant now that we know grandmas everywhere love it. Probably no one calls it epiphyllum oxypetalum because it’s hard to remember and even harder to say. It’s more commonly called a queen of the night plant, a night-blooming cactus, or a Dutchman’s pipe cactus. As I noted, it blooms rarely and only at night. The flowers wilt before dawn.
I actually think the plant has a really cool look even without the flowers it’s so famous for. It’s large stems branch one on top of another and remind me of a Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus look. These branches/leaves are a bit floppier, though, and look really cool hanging down over the side of a shelf. It’s a fast-growing plant when it’s happy!
Tell me more…
As I was researching a bit for this post, I found some pretty cool stuff I wanted to share about how this plant is seen in different areas of the world. In India, it’s called something that roughly translates to “night lotus” in one language—in another, it is named after the Hindu God of creation. They believe that people who pray to God when the plant blooms at night will have their prayers fulfilled.
In China, the Chinese chengyu use this flower to describe someone who has an impressive but brief moment of glory. The “brief moment of glory” is because the plant often blooms only once a year. In Japan, the cactus also is highly regarded as “beauty under the moon.” And in Sri Lanka, “flower from heaven.”
Despite the worldwide love for this plant, it is actually native to southeastern Mexico and South America. However, it is grown in tropical areas across southeast Asia and has become naturalized in China.
How much light does an epiphyllum oxypetalum need?
Epiphyllum oxypetalum care is pretty easy, but is it kind of weird to think that a plant that blooms only in the middle of the night would thrive with high levels of bright, indirect light. But it is what it is. This plant is actually pretty flexible. Even before I knew exactly what kind of light this plant needed, I had it in somewhere with a medium amount of light. It still rooted and grew very well!
That’s probably because it grows naturally in rainforests under dense canopies of trees that block out a lot of sun. The best light for this plant is probably by a very bright window. If sunlight is too bright, the leaves can burn. However, I find that really hard to do with houseplants.
If you choose to move your night-blooming cereus outdoors for the summer or if you live in an area where you can keep your plants out year round, choose a spot where this plant doesn’t get too much direct sun. Under trees or balconies or in shady areas will help your plant thrive.
Temperature and humidity needs
This plant does well in all typical household temperatures. If you move your plant outside for the summer, make sure to bring it indoors when the temperatures begin to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Epiphyllum oxypetalum plants can survive outdoors all year long only in USDA zones 10 and 11.
Humidity is essential for for epiphyllum oxypetalum care because this plant since it hails from hot, humid locations. It will probably survive just fine in your home without extra considerations, but it’s a good idea to give it a bit of extra love during especially dry periods. For us, that’s summer and winter when the AC and heat are cranked down/up.
You can increase humidity for your Epiphyllum oxypetalum plant (and all of your houseplants, for that matter) by placing it in a room with a humidifier, by misting the leaves with a spray bottle (my preferred method), or by setting the pot it’s in on top of a tray with pebbles in it.
How much water does an epiphyllum oxypetalum cactus need?
I generally water mine like I water my other cactuses. The leaves retain water and consist mostly of water-filled tissues, so they can survive short periods of neglect. However, they aren’t as hardy as other cactuses. Don’t let the soil dry out totally between waterings if you can help it. Keeping the soil slightly moist during its active growing season is best.
If your plant is indoors, that probably means watering roughly once a week. If it is outdoors, the soil will likely dry out much quicker, so keep an eye on it and give it more water as needed. In the winter, you can water your plant every few weeks or so to keep it going. You don’t want to overwater it.
While you’re watering your night blooming cereus, you can also give it a diluted balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer. Only do this while the plant is actively growing during the late spring, summer, and early fall. For what it’s worth, I haven’t fertilized mine yet. But mine has also not bloomed yet, so take from that what you will. 🙂
For more plant care tips, check out my list of the easiest houseplants to care for, my tips for caring for indoor succulents, my tips for propagating succulents from leaves and cuttings, all about how to fix succulent stretching, and my adventures in growing succulents from seed.
Night blooming cereus soil needs
This plant needs well-draining soil to help prevent the plant’s roots from sitting in soggy soil. No plant likes wet feet and root rot. A good might of soil, sand, and perlite works very well. I planted mine in my DIY succulent soil recipe that is one-third soil, one-third sand, and one-third perlite. It has been pretty happy in it because the sand and perlite helps encourage drainage.
How to propagate epiphyllum oxypetalum cuttings
The best way to propagate epiphyllum oxypetalum is using leaf cuttings. You can root epiphyllum oxypetalum cuttings directly in soil, but I typically prefer to propagate plants in water if they can be. That’s because I like monitoring the root growth and displaying the plants in my propagation stations while I’m doing so. (See my DIY test tube propagation station and my DIY glass jar propagation station!)
As I mentioned earlier in this post, my plant came from a cutting of my grandmother’s plant. It fell off of her plant, so she simply stuck it in a jar of water to begin rooting. When she gave it to me, it had some small roots sprouting, so I popping it back in a jar of water at home for a few more weeks.
I wish I had a photo, but I don’t. I just gave it a few weeks until the roots were nice and long, and then I planted the cutting directly in well-draining soil. I did not add any rooting hormone and watered the plant once every few weeks or so. This was late fall, so honestly the worst time to root a new plant, so I didn’t want to overwater it.
Once the weather started to warm up and the days began to get a bit longer, I started watering roughly once a week. I began to notice new growth a few months later. In fact, I had it on this cute slatted open shelving and one day noticed a piece of the plant had grown up through the shelving. 🙂
Epiphyllum oxypetalum flowers
Mine has not bloomed, but I talked to my grandmother about hers blooming. At first I was worried that I’d never be able to know a bloom was coming since they bloom at night. Did I have to sit up every night to wait for it? I’m way too lazy for that.
It turns out that you’ll see buds pop up from the leaves. The buds will begin to grow larger and larger until the flower is ready to bloom. And the sweet-smelling flowers are BIG. Up to half a foot! Here is a painting my grandmother made of a photo she took of hers blooming. She must have been dedicated, because the flowers begin to open around 10 PM, peak between midnight and 2–3 AM, and then close before the sun comes up.
Some things to remember about getting this plant to bloom:
- Keep the plant healthy and happy.
- It is more likely to bloom when it’s cooler and grow new lush green leaves when it’s warmer.
- Nurturing your plant with a fertilizer specifically designed for cacti can help encourage blooming.
- Keep in mind that your epiphyllum oxypetalum is more likely to flower if it is tight and snug in its pot.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum care: Is it toxic to pets or children?
There’s nothing to suggest that epiphyllum oxypetalum plants are toxic to pets or children. However, I always suggest keeping plants away from kids and pets if they are nosy and prone to mess with them. Don’t eat plants unless you know what you’re eating. 🙂
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