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Epiphyllum Oxypetalum Care

This article shares tips for epiphyllum oxypetalum care, aka the“queen of the night” cactus.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum care

When I first wrote about this plant several years ago, I talked about how I got my first epiphyllum oxypetalum cutting from my grandma. I was at her house and complimented it—she said it was a night-blooming cactus, and she actually had a cutting I could have.

Later I visited my other grandmother and noticed she had a large epiphyllum oxypetalum potted on her porch. 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. She pulled out a painting she’d done of the mother plant—including the gorgeous night bloom! I love it.

painting of Epiphyllum Oxypetalum flowering

Epiphyllum oxypetalum care overview

  • Epiphyllum Oxypetalum, aka “queen of the night,” belongs to the genus epiphyllum, including various trailing and climbing cactus varieties.
  • Unique for its night-blooming characteristic; flowers bloom only at night and die by dawn.
  • Prefers bright, indirect light and should be protected from prolonged direct sunlight to prevent leaf burn.
  • Requires even moisture without being waterlogged; top few inches of soil should dry out before watering again.
  • Grow in well-draining houseplant soil.
  • Prefers warmer types and higher humidity but does well with typical household levels.
  • Can grow quite large, with a fast growth rate and arching stems.
  • Propagate through stem cuttings.
graphic summarizing the care tips outlined in this post

Background on epiphyllum oxypetalum

So let’s talk about this plant now that we know grandmas everywhere love it. Its most accurate name is epiphyllum oxypetalum. The genus is epiphyllum, which contains loads of different types of gorgeous trailing and climbing cactus varieties. The species is oxypetalum.

You’ll most commonly see it called a queen of the night plant, a princess of the night plant, a night-blooming cactus, or a Dutchman’s pipe cactus. However, know that many other types of night-blooming plants (many of which are also types of epiphyllum) are referred to by these and similar names. So it can get confusing.

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. The Chinese chengyu use this flower to describe someone who has an impressive but brief moment of glory. Why? Because the plant often blooms only once a year.

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.

Epiphyllum Oxypetalum

Epiphyllum oxypetalum vs. night-blooming cereus

Though it is often referred to as a night-blooming cereus, epiphyllum oxypetalum is not a cereus plant. And it is not closely related to any of the species in the tribe Cereeae, such as Selenicereus, that are more commonly known as night-blooming cereus. All Cereus species bloom at night and are terrestrial plants, while epiphyllums are usually epiphytic (and can bloom at night, too).

Once you look at a few Selenicereus plants, it will be clear where the confusion comes from. They certainly do have a lot of similarities! I own a few Selenicereus species:

  • Selenicereus anthonyanus, a type of plant commonly known as “ric rac cactus.” This type of Selenicereus is also very similar to another type of epiphyllum. And that type of epiphyllum is also referred to as a ric rac cactus. It is difficult to tell if you have an epiphyllum ric rac or a Selenicereus ric rac without seeing it flower (white on epiphyllum, pink on Selenicereus).
  • Selenicereus chrysocardium, otherwise known as a “fern leaf cactus.” Truly one of my favorites. I love the big, dramatic leaves on this one. Mine has not flowered yet, but I really got it for the leaves.

So while you’ll commonly see this plant referred to as a night-blooming cereus or a queen of the night, it’s safest to use its full name—epiphyllum oxypetalum. I love to try to get to the bottom of what exactly I have, but if you can’t, don’t worry. The care needs for all of these orchid-style cacti are very similar.

For more epiphyllum, check out my care article on epiphyllum guatemalense monstrose, aka the curly orchid cactus!

How much light does an epiphyllum oxypetalum need?

Epiphyllum oxypetalum prefers bright, indirect light. Place your plant in a location where it will receive plenty of indirect light throughout the day. Avoid placing it in a location where it will be exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time.

Direct sunlight can burn the leaves and cause the plant to become stressed. At my old house, I had my large queen hanging in a window that got morning light. It did great. Then we moved to the new house which, pre-sunroom construction, didn’t really have any location that got good light.

Sow what did I do? I threw that bad boy outside and hung it under my neighbor’s cherry tree! This dense tree provided plenty of shade for the plant (see first photo below). It grew like crazy all summer until it was time to bring it inside, where I hung it in a window that gets a lot of light from late morning until the sun sets (see second photo below).

It might also be worth noting that even before I knew exactly what kind of light this plant needed, I had it somewhere with a medium amount of light. It still grew well. While it might not grow as fast, this one can tolerate medium light levels as well.

large epiphyllum oxypetalum plant hanging outside under a tree
large epiphyllum oxypetalum in a sunroom with other plants

How often should I water it?

Epiphyllum oxypetalum plants prefer to be kept evenly moist but not waterlogged. Water the plant when the top several inches of soil are dry. To water your plant, thoroughly soak the soil until water runs out of the bottom of the pot.

I generally water mine like I water my other cactuses. The leaves retain water and consist mostly of water-filled tissue, 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.

During periods where I’ve neglected my plant a bit, the signs of stress I notice are limp leaves, some minor wrinkling, and—in severe cases of neglect—yellowing leaves. A good drink usually plumps the plant right back up.

If your plant is indoors, that probably means watering roughly once a week in the spring and summer, less in the winter. And 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.

large Epiphyllum Oxypetalum

Why are my leaves turning yellow?

I mentioned that I’ve experienced yellowing leaves from underwatering. Yellowing leaves can be a result of both over and underwatering. The best way to determine which is responsible is to check the soil.

If it is bone dry and shrinking away from the edges of the pot, it’s probably underwatering. If it has been consistently wet and you haven’t been letting the top several inches dry out before watering again, it is probably overwatering. Overwatering prevents the flow of oxygen to the plant’s roots and leads to root rot.

Yellowing leaves can also be a sign of a pest infestation or issues with lighting. Look for signs of bugs on your plant such as sticky residue, webbing, and—of course—bugs! Too little light can lead to the leaves to fade and yellow a bit.

Epiphyllum Oxypetalum leaf
A healthy epiphyllum oxypetalum leaf

What is the best soil?

Plant your epiphyllum oxypetalum in well-draining soil. This helps to both prevent the plant’s roots from sitting in soggy soil and and enhance the flow of oxygen to the roots. Most plants don’t like wet feet and root rot.

I planted mine in my DIY succulent soil recipe that is roughly 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 and prevent too much moisture retention.

This plant would also be fine in a store-bought houseplant or indoor plant soil mix. These mixes come with additives like coco coir or peat moss for lightweight moisture retention and perlite for drainage. Read more about soil additives in my article Indoor Potting Soil 101 & the Best Soil for Houseplants.

large Epiphyllum Oxypetalum

Temperature & 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 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Epiphyllum oxypetalum plants can survive outdoors all year long only in USDA zones 10 and 11. 

Humidity is a good part of optimal epiphyllum oxypetalum care, but it also tolerates normal household humidity levels well. It will probably survive just fine in your home without extra considerations, but you can increase humidity by adding a humidifier. When I water my plant, I also like to rinse down all of the foliage in the sink.

man sitting in a plant-filled sunroom with cats

How large does an epiphyllum oxypetalum grow?

Epiphyllum oxypetalum can grow to be quite large, and they can live for a long time. My neighbor has a large one that has been passed down for a few generations in her family. And while mine is still a pretty young plant, it’s a big boy!

It is a fast growing plant, spreading multiple feet wide and tall. While it isn’t technically a trailing plant, it grows in a somewhat arching, weeping way that gives it a trailing feel. The stems also branch out from one another, giving a full, trailing look.

Mine has also shot out multiple long, thin stems that have then sprouted more growth. You can see them in the picture below. These have made the plant quite unruly, but I’m keeping them on—a least for now—because they look cool.

I have read mixed things about whether or not you should prune these off. I have left mine on since they emerged about a year ago. And the plant has remained perfectly healthy, throwing out blooms like crazy every few months. So they are staying for now!

woman holding a very large epiphyllum oxypetalum

Epiphyllum oxypetalum flowers

It’s time to dig into flowering. Truthfully, I would have this plant even if it didn’t flower. But the flowers are just a cherry on top. And mine flowers like crazy! The flowers are large, beautiful, and white (sometimes other colors).

And they only bloom at night and, outdoors, are pollinated by bats. In my experience, they have a very light, pleasant scent. Each flower is typically about 6 inches in diameter, has a funnel-shaped form, and contains 5-20 petals.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum plants typically bloom in the summer and fall, but mine blooms all year in my sunroom. On Christmas Eve, I had like 7 blooms open at once. The flowers begin opening around dusk, peak overnight, and begin closing when the sun comes up. They will then wilt and fall off.

Want to see a flowering plant in motion? Check out this Reel on my Instagram that shows all the blooms I had on Christmas Eve. Below are some more pictures of the blooming proces.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum flower bud
Epiphyllum oxypetalum flower
Epiphyllum oxypetalum flower

How long does it take for epiphyllum oxypetalum to bloom?

The exact length of time it takes for an epiphyllum oxypetalum plant to bloom will depend on a variety of factors, including the age and size of the plant, the growing conditions, and the care it receives. In general, epiphyllum oxypetalum plants typically begin to bloom when they are at least 3-4 years old and are grown in optimal conditions.

To encourage blooming, I recommend providing your epiphyllum oxypetalum with plenty of bright, indirect light and well-draining soil. It is also important to water the plant regularly and consistently, but avoid overwatering. A stressed out plant, whether from over or under-watering, is less likely to bloom.

I give my queen some concentrated Liqui-Dirt plant food roughly once a month in the spring, summer, and early fall. And when I repot it, I use a high-quality soil with a slow-release fertilizer and plenty of nutrients in it.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum propagation from cuttings

The best way to propagate epiphyllum oxypetalum is using stem cuttings. You can root epiphyllum oxypetalum cuttings directly in soil, but I typically prefer to propagate plants in a way that I can monitor root development. I’ll go over two methods I’ve used for this plant—water and LECA.

Propagating epiphyllum oxypetalum in water

As I mentioned earlier in this article, my first 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 popped it back in a jar of water at home for a few more weeks.

Once the cutting had roots that were a few inches long, I put it in a small cup and fresh, well-draining soil and watered it roughly once a week until I saw new growth. That’s when you know it’s a success.

propagating epiphyllum oxypetalum cuttings in water
epiphyllum oxypetalum roots on a propagation
propagating an epiphyllum oxypetalum cutting

Propagating epiphyllum oxypetalum in LECA

I have also propagated epiphyllum oxypetalum cuttings in LECA. If you’re new to using LECA, check out my tutorial How to propagate cuttings in LECA. Propagating in LECA is awesome because it’s pretty much as easy as water, but it helps encourage stronger root growth.

Simply add some LECA in a jar, then put the cutting in and fill in around it with LECA to stabilize it. Then add water—but only enough water so that it fills that initial layer of LECA you added in. The goal is to fill it up until just before it hits the bottom of the cutting.

I don’t have photos of when I did this, but I do have pictures of when I propagated a fern leaf cactus in LECA. You can see the nice root growth below. This was a lifesaver when I was trying to salvage what I could of my fern leaf cactus after it threw a fit all winter.

LECA in a glass jar
roots on a fern leaf cactus propagation

Is epiphyllum toxic to pets or people?

I couldn’t find anything to suggest that epiphyllum oxypetalum plants are toxic to pets or humans. However, I always suggest keeping plants away from people and pets if they are nosy and prone to mess with them.

In conclusion…

The epiphyllum oxypetalum “queen of the night” plant is a gorgeous plant with flowers that bloom only at night. It requires bright, indirect light and regular watering to keep the soil moist but not soggy. This plant can grow to a considerable size and is easily propagated through stem cuttings.

If you’re looking for a bold plant to add to your collection, this might be the one for you. Have you ever grown a “queen of the night” cactus? Share your experiences or tips in the comments below!

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collage that says Epiphyllum Oxypetalum care guide with pictures of the plant

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  1. Jamil naddaf says:

    I like your advice about this plants,I had one and I love it

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