House Plants/Cereus Night-Blooming Cactus
About two years ago, a friend gave me a small, very bedraggled looking plant that looked a little like our Orchid Cactus, but without the prickly little "knobs" in the leaf margins that bud into flowers and new shoots. The plant, since I began to care for it, has grown to immense size and is just beautiful. The leaves are huge, bright green, and develop new shoots all over the place. The new growth is shiny, a light apple green with reddish margins. I think it may be a Night-Blooming Cereus, but how can I be sure? In all the time it's lived in our house it has never bloomed. How do I encourage it to do that (bloom, I mean)? We live in South-eastern Virginia. The plant's home is an enclosed porch with lots of bright light. The temperature in winter hovers around 50-55 degrees. I am very much looking forward to your answer. Thank you!
Orchid Cactus and Night-blooming Cereus are common names that are often applied to different plants. My best educated guess based on your description is that you have an Epiphyllum oxypetalum.
There are three important factors required for getting your plant to bloom. First and foremost, it must be very potbound. The root system is very small for a large unwieldy plant. The leaves often flop over causing people to move the plant into larger pots. Every time it gets moved into a larger pot, it will take several years or more for the roots to fill the new pot and it will not flower until it is potbound. This is where most people go wrong and why it is commonly reported that the plant must be several years old before it will boom or that it never blooms.
Second, your Epiphyllum requires a lot of very bright indirect sunlight all day long. If it is indoors, a few hours of direct sunlight is also good. Outside, it can be grown in light shade but must be protected from direct outdoor sun-rays at all times.
Third, flowers are promoted when fall night time temperatures fall to 50 degrees F. or lower. If you can keep it outside or in outside temperatures in the fall until temps drop to almost freezing, that is best for bud formation. If not, the 50-55 degree range you mentioned should be sufficient to produce some flower buds.
Make sure your Epiphyllum is potted in a gritty, porous potting mix that you keep moderately damp throughout the year, but a little drier in the fall. Fertilize it at half strength monthly.
I have written a detailed article on Epiphyllum care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.
Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.
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Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC
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