Epiphyllum crenatum can make a stunning addition to your home or garden. With its nocturnal flowers and sweet fragrance, it can liven up any room.
A great choice for beginners, it’s fairly low maintenance, and with a few tips and tricks, you can be sure your Epiphyllum crenatum will thrive.
What Is Epiphyllum Crenatum?
Epiphyllum crenatum, also known as the crenate orchid cactus, is an epiphytic succulent grown for its spectacular, fragrant flowers. Native to the tropical regions of South and Central America, it is a gorgeous and versatile plant that can be grown indoors, in pots or hanging baskets, as well as in gardens.
This tropical succulent produces leaf-like stems, light green and with a leathery texture. The stems are usually 2 inches (5 cm) wide and can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) in length.
The main feature of Epiphyllum crenatum is its stunning bloom. In spring and autumn, the plant will produce several large flowers, up to 8 inches (20 cm) wide. The flowers open in the night, and they have a unique, sweet fragrance. After they wilt, they also produce small, edible fruit.
Epiphyllum crenatum flowers are usually white, but they can come in many different colors. There are many hybrids to choose from, with colors ranging from pure white to orange, red, and even purple.
Some of our favorites are varieties of yellow orchid cactus, such as Epiphyllum “George French,” “Desert Falcon,” or “King’s Ransom.”
Epiphyllum Crenatum Care Guide
Epiphyllum crenatum grows best in bright, filtered sunlight. This plant is an epiphyte, usually found growing on trees in the tropical forests of Central America. As a result, it has adapted to receiving light filtered through the canopy.
When growing Epiphyllum crenatum indoors, we recommend placing it on the windowsill in a room that’s facing east or west, behind a sheer curtain. It can also tolerate some direct sun in the morning or evening. Avoid exposing it to the intense midday sun, as this can scorch the stems, causing them to dry out very quickly.
If your orchid cactus is getting too little light, this will result in leggy growth and pale, yellowing stems. Not only that, but a plant grown in the shade is unlikely to bloom. Giving this succulent the correct amount of light will result in healthy growth and abundant flowers.
Epiphyllum crenatum can be grown at average home temperature, yet it can tolerate temperatures as high as 90 F (32 C). Like all tropical plants, it is not frost-hardy and will suffer permanent damage if kept in temperatures below 41 F (5 C) for extended periods.
However, during the winter months, you can keep it in a room where temperatures drop to around 59 F (15 C), as this will trigger the flowering season in spring.
You can grow Epiphyllum crenatum outdoors in USDA zones 10b to 11b. Simply pick a part of your garden where the plant can receive some direct morning sun and filtered light throughout the rest of the day.
The crenate orchid cactus makes a stunning choice for hanging baskets, which is also a great way of protecting it from pests such as snails and slugs.
Water your Epiphyllum crenatum regularly and avoid letting the roots dry out. Don’t let the fact that this is a cactus trick you. Epiphyllum is a tropical plant, and unlike its cousins living in the desert, it’s used to receiving plenty of water.
In fact, you can even propagate it in water, which is not something we recommend for desert succulents. As a general rule of thumb, we suggest letting the soil dry to a depth of 2 inches (5 cm) before watering.
In spring and summer, you will need to water your Epiphyllum crenatum once every 7 to 10 days. Plants grown outdoors can be watered as often as twice a week, especially during very hot and dry periods.
In winter, you can reduce the watering schedule to once every two weeks. The plant’s growth will slow right down during the colder months, so avoid watering it too much even if it looks a bit wilted.
Overwatering can be a real problem for Epiphyllum crenatum, especially in winter, when low temperatures mean that the soil stays wet longer and when the plant uses less water and nutrients.
Epiphyllum crenatum has moderate humidity needs. If you keep the humidity levels around 40 to 50 percent, the plant will produce plenty of healthy new growth. If the air in the room is too dry, you can simply place the container on top of a pebble tray half filled with water.
For Epiphyllum crenatum grown outdoors, the easiest way to meet its humidity requirements is to mist it daily. Use room temperature water and mist it in the evening to prevent shocking the plant.
Also, provide this cactus with plenty of air circulation. If the stems stay constantly wet, this will only result in fungal problems later on.
The best soil mix for Epiphyllum crenatum should be aerated, nutrient-rich, slightly acidic, well-draining, but should also retain some moisture. We recommend making your own soil mix for this plant. Here’s a great recipe you can try:
- 1 part garden loam
- 1 part pumice or perlite
- 1 part orchid bark
A handful of horticultural charcoal for its antifungal properties and for adding extra drainage.
Can you use cactus soil for your Epiphyllum? Well, contrary to popular belief, a succulent mix is not ideal for this plant. The type of soil used for cacti doesn’t have enough nutrients for this flowering cactus, and it also drains too fast.
Epiphyllum crenatum needs a special fertilizer regime. In late February, just as the plant is entering its growth stage, we suggest applying a cactus fertilizer diluted to a third of the recommended strength.
Feed the plant once every two weeks, and stop any applications while the orchid cactus is blooming. Starting late October, you can cut down on fertilizers completely until the following year.
You can use a balanced fertilizer for this plant, with a nutrient ratio of 10-10-10. However, avoid using fertilizers that are rich in nitrogen because they can inhibit flowering.
Ideally, you should give your Epiphyllum crenatum a fertilizer that’s rich in potassium and phosphorus at the end of February and then again at the end of October. This succulent often blooms twice a year, and with this feeding regime, you can encourage abundant flowering.
Repotting Epiphyllum Crenatum
Epiphyllum crenatum has a slow growth rate and needs to be repotted once every two to three years. This cactus enjoys being a bit root bound, and mature specimens can stay in the same pot for up to seven years without much trouble.
The best time to repot the crenate orchid cactus is after it has finished blooming. Wait about a month after all the flowers have wilted, then transplant it to a container that’s one size larger. Allow the plant to settle for a few days before giving it any water.
We recommend using clay or terracotta pots for your Epiphyllum crenatum. This material is excellent for succulents, allowing air circulation to the roots and wicking excess moisture from the soil. Not only that, but it also provides support for the plant.
As your orchid cactus gets older, it can become top-heavy, and the weight can make it fall over. Terracotta pots are heavier and can prevent such accidents from happening.
How Do You Get Epiphyllum Crenatum to Bloom?
Epiphyllum crenatum typically blooms in spring but can also produce a second flush in autumn. To get it to flower, you can use fertilizers rich in phosphorus and potassium in late February and late October. However, the real trick is a perfect balance between these three elements: light, water, and temperature.
Make sure that your orchid cactus receives plenty of bright, filtered sunlight. If the plant is sitting in a shaded spot, it will become stressed and spend all its energy growing leggy stems rather than flower buds.
Never allow the soil of your Epiphyllum crenatum dry out completely. If the roots get dry, this will also result in plant stress, especially during the flowering season. In fact, the plant will drop its buds if it doesn’t receive enough water.
To stimulate flowering in spring, you need to provide your Epiphyllum crenatum with cooler temperatures during winter. Pick a room where the temperature stays at around 59 F (15 C) during the day and around 50 F (10 C) during the night.
Once the flower buds start growing, you can gradually increase the temperature in the room.
Epiphyllum Crenatum Propagation Guide
The easiest way to propagate Epiphyllum crenatum is through stem cuttings. You can use this method in spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. We recommend using mature, healthy stems without any signs of damage or discoloration.
Also, avoid propagating stems that have flower buds on them, as the cutting will spend all its energy on flowering rather than growing roots.
Let’s take a look at the step-by-step guide for propagating Epiphyllum crenatum:
- Use a sharp, sterilized blade to cut the stems. Large stems can be cut into smaller sections, about 2 inches (5 cm) long.
- Place the cuttings in a dry, well-ventilated room, away from direct sunlight. Keep them there for a few days until they develop a callus.
- Fill a container with a very well-draining potting mix. At this stage, half of your mix can consist of coarse sand or pumice. This will prevent the bottom of the cutting from rotting.
- Place each cutting vertically inside the potting mix until it can stay up without any support. Water the soil lightly, and keep the container in a room with bright indirect light.
- The cuttings should take two to three weeks to grow roots. Keep them in the container until you notice that they develop small stems. At that stage, you can transplant them into individual pots.
Common Pests and Problems
Epiphyllum crenatum is a low-maintenance, pest-resistant plant, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble growing it. Here’s what to watch out for, just in case.
The most common problem for Epiphyllum crenatum is caused by a mixture of too much water and poor-draining soils. This can result in stems turning soft and yellow and root rot in severe cases. Always use a well-draining potting mix for your plant, and allow the soil to dry out to a depth of two inches before watering it again.
Common pests for Epiphyllum crenatum are spider mites and mealybugs. Although infestations are rare, we recommend making a habit of checking the stems regularly and taking immediate action whenever you find these pests underneath the stems. Spray the plant with a solution of water and isopropyl alcohol once every seven days until all signs of infestation are gone.
For such a gorgeous plant, Epiphyllum crenatum is remarkably easy to care for and is perfect for beginners. Just remember these essential tips for keeping it happy:
- Epiphyllum crenatum is a tropical flowering cactus native to Central and South America.
- It produces large, showy flowers that open in the night and have a very pleasant scent.
- For healthy growth, plant it in well-draining soil, give it plenty of filtered light, and allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
- To get your Epiphyllum to flower, we recommend keeping it in cool temperatures in winter.
- This plant is very easy to propagate using stem cuttings.
- Epiphyllum is resistant to most pests and diseases but is very sensitive to overwatering.
With these tips, you’re ready to start growing your stunning Epiphyllum crenatum at home right now!
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