FAQ

The flowering cacti commonly known as "orchid cacti" or "epiphyllums" are more properly designated as "epicacti" which includes hybrids of a
number of genera including epiphyllum, heliocereus, nopalxochi
a, selenicereus, and a number of others. They are true cacti that all share a epiphytic growth habit and are most at home in conditions favored by orchids and bromeliads in the understory of tropical forest where they receive filtered sunlight, regular rainfall and good drainage. The closer these conditions can be approximated in cultivation, the better they will grow for the hobbyist.

1. They can be grown from seed, but this takes years to produce a flowering plant and one has no assurance of what the appearance of the flower will be. They are more generally grown from cuttings which always breed true to the parent and produce a flowering plant in two to three years. Epi cuttings should be allowed to cure for one to two weeks after cutting and before planting to prevent rot. If in doubt about when to plant, wait. Cuttings can easily be kept for a month or more in a shady, protected place.

2. One epi cutting can be started in a 4" pot or up to four cuttings in an 8" pot. Commercial orchid mixes, to which additional bark 
or leaf mold has been added, work well as a potting medium. A mix from Mike Davis consists of 1/3 azalea mix, 1/3 small orchid bark, and 1/3 #5 perlite. This allows fast drainage if grown outdoors. Mark the name of the variety on a plant tag with the pot. Cuttings often are sold with the name written on them, but a tag ensures that the name will not be lost - which can easily happen with the thousands of hybrids now available. Plastic pots require less watering than clay pots.

3. Epicacti grow best in filtered sunlight under the shade of a tree, lath, or shade cloth. If grown in too much shade they will not flower as well. They should be protected from strong winds, yet have adequate air circulation around them to prevent unwelcome pests.

4. Epicacti should never be allowed to dry out completely, yet shouldn't remain wet all the time either. Water should run through the pots quickly and leave the mix moist. A regular feeding with a 10-10-10 formula during the summer months is helpful, as is a twice-a-year feeding with a 0-10-10 formula in November and February to assist in setting flower buds.

5. Epicacti generally flower from late April through the end of June, with the heaviest bloom in late May. There are exceptions; however, with some fall and winter bloomers and late varieties that produce flowers well into August. So by careful selection, a hobbyist can have a collection that will provide flowers nearly all the months of the year! As with orchids, the small blooming varieties bloom sooner and give a great display on the plants, sometimes covering every areole on the stems. Small varieties also tend to bloom off-season.


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