Tuesday 16 July 2013

How to grow epiphyllums?

Orchid cacti

I thought I would do a short post to extol the virtues of ‘epis’ as an easy and amusing epiphytic-cactus house plant. Scruffier and with a shorter flowering period than christmas cacti they are rather fun when they produce their huge exotic flowers. As is my want when writing my blog I turn to the net to supplement my own experience. I was horrified to find what  paraphernalia I need to grow them! Special compost, special liquid feed and precisely controlled temperature. Articles even suggesting using rooting hormones. It’s all absolute nonsense and if you can’t root  a succulent shoot of this leafless plant it’s time to give up!

I was given a complimentary cutting from a cactus grower. The cultivar name was scrawled with a biro like this. It rooted of course!

Take liquid feeding. It’s delusional to imagine every plant needs its own special feed. All most  gardeners need is  no more than a high potash tomato liquid feed for any of their plants. Provided all nutrients are provided, plants are perfectly capable of taking up the nutrients they need. In my own case I have stopped liquid feeding altogether and prefer to very lightly ‘top dress’ with a commercial granular fertilizer that is formulated with all the plant nutrients - nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulphur and trace elements. 

Our conservatory has a new roof! Our epiphyllums are now grown (with a few orchids) on this high shelf on the opposite wall to a huge window that faces south east.

Shoots of epiphyllums are rather undisciplined and untidy. Judicious pruning or very careful placement - when they can look rather exotic - is needed. You might very well decide they are not for you when I tell you the flowers last only a couple of days. But the flowers are vivid red, white, orange or yellow and are very large and absolutely exquisite. ‘Epis’ are really quite sweet when their tiny flower buds appear on the flattened green leafless photosynthetic stems. They quickly get bigger and bigger and bigger. Mine reach up to five inches in diameter. Nine inches across is not uncommon. Perhaps mine are small because they do not receive sufficient t.l.c.  (tender love and care!).

Epiphyllum flower flops in front of an orchid

They are very easy to grow if you have a bright warm place to grow them. They do not need direct sunshine but it should not be dull if they are to flower. When our heating broke down this January mine were subjected to zero degrees centigrade for a couple of nights. They did not turn a hair but this is not recommended. Normal room temperatures are best but like most house plants  they should be well away from the radiator.

Over the years I have grown them in all manor of compost. John Innes 1 or 2, multipurpose peat compost with extra slow release fertilizer, even modern peat free compost! I am being a little facetious here, some modern composts are really quite excellent but there is also a lot of cheap rubbish around! Ever to push the boundaries mine  are in Seaton Ross soil with added slow release fertilizer! My soil is almost uniquely sandy and this is not generally recommended! There are several good reasons why garden soil is not suitable for plants in small pots!

Our conservatory shelf is under-lighted (not shown here). At night our epiphyllums make exotic shadows on the ceiling

My post on christmas cacti gives more details of how to grow epiphytic cacti

My recent Open day.

We had a very successful Open day which I will be writing about soon. I was delighted to meet bloggers Sue and Martyn Garrett who have prepared two fine posts about my Open day on their blog. It was great to meet them. Sue is quite a card!


  1. What a surprise you have Epiphyllums too. I used to have quite a lot of different ones, but as we do not heat our greenhouse anymore the quantity of plants have reduced to a minimum, for I cannot have them all in our conservatory attached to the house. I agree with you they are very easy to grow. A very long time ago I got leaf cuttings from a hobby grower of all his different colours epis. I always was and still am surprised about the beautiful large flowers they produce, but only for a few days. Nevertheless I think it is nice to have some of them.

    1. Thanks Janneke for your helpful comments.
      Sometimes when I go 'out on a limb' with unconventional advice I think I am 'spitting into the wind'. Nice to have confirmation that they are so easy.
      PS I am not trying to test your wonderful english with my colloquial phrases. It is quite coincidental that I am talking to a lovely Dutch lady.

  2. We used to have a large red epiphyllum which was given to us by my father-in-law. It was years ago and I can't really remember what happened to it. One problem was that it dripped sticky nectar ( I think it was nectar) so it was difficult to position.

    By the what what sort of card I wonder? It was good to meet you too!

    1. What a card, what a character was my real meaning. Of course any card would be graced by you!
      Have not spotted the nectar on mine perhaps because it is up on the shelf...although my Hoya is now starting to drip!

    2. A character? A work of fiction? Sorry Roger I'm just playing with you so I must be a playing card!

      Typo crept in again - did you notice?

    3. Yep thought it was par for the course! Just joking
      When I was an inexperienced blogger I corrected a spelling on someone else's blog.I got a flea in my ear from all his followers!

    4. Being an ex-teacher it is so tempting! I can spell just can't type!

  3. I'm just a novice gardener but I would love to know who your top growers of Eppiphyllums & would they do ship to South Africa even if they come as leaf cuttings? I am asking on behalf of a friend

    1. I have used the cactus shop https://cactusshop.co.uk/index.php?id_category=324&controller=category for cacti and they seem to have a good range of epiphyllums. I believe they ship abroad.
      In truth your friend is best searching the web for South African suppliers


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