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Epiphytic cacti

By RAINBOW GARDENS Nursery & Bookshop


Rooted Cuttings - Use 3 to 4 inch pots for individual cuttings. We prefer plastic pots, as the mix does not dry out as quickly, and therefore the plants require attention less frequently. But, if you tend to overwater, clay pots may be the answer.

Remember, however that clay pots may require watering as often as every other day in extremely hot and dry weather, as epiphyllum roots should never be allowed to dry out completely.

There is an advantage to purchasing two cuttings of each epiphyllum variety. Two cuttings can be potted together immediately in an 8 inch pot, thereby enabling you to avoid "potting on" (transplanting your epiphyllum into a larger container) indefinitely. Your epiphyllum will reach maturity and blooming size in a much shorter time as well.
Pot your rooted cuttings in dry mix. Handle the cutting gently. Commercially packaged indoor plant mix is excellent, if coarse and last draining. See the section below entitled "Potting Mix for Epiphyllums" for suggested ingredients for making your own. Plant your cuttings no deeper than 1 to 2 inch...just deep enough so they remain erect.
Put the newly potted cuttings in a shaded place for one week. Then move them to their "permanent home". Light requirements are explained in more detail in the section entitled "Light Requirements for Epiphyllums".
Withhold water for one week. Water lightly thereafter for about a month. Then put the cuttings on a regular watering schedule as discussed below in the section entitled "Watering Epiphyllums".
Unrooted cuttings - The mechanics for planting unrooted cuttings are essentially the same as for planting rooted cuttings las described above). Keep the mix dry or just slightly damp and the cuttings in a shady place until they are rooted, which takes about six to eight weeks in warm weather. Then move the cuttings into filtered light. If rot appears, cut off the rotted portion, cure the afflicted cutting for a week or two, and start the rooting process over again from the beginning. All unrooted cuttings should be well cured before they are potted. That is, they should have been allowed to dry in a cool place for a minimum of one week (longer for cuttings that are triangular or very thick). The unrooted cuttings you purchase from us will not have been cured long enough so that they may be potted upon receipt.

You may use commercially packaged indoor plant mix, providing it is coarse and fast draining. The consistency of commercial potting mix may be improved with the addition of perlite, fine bark, pumice, or even small gravel. Avoid commercial mixes (such as African violet mix) that contain too high a ratio of peat moss.
Suggested mix for home preparation - 1 part leaf mold, 1 part coarsely ground bark, 1 part 1/4"-1/2" redwood or fir bark, 1 part perlite (or horticultural pumice if you can find it). You may add 1/2 part horticultural charcoal if you wish. Leal mold may be difficult to obtain in many parts of the country. We have found that commercially packaged camellia-azalea mix is a satisfactory substitute for leaf mold.*Just bear in mind that the mix should be three parts organic matter and 1 part perlite or pumice. We do not use peat moss or vermiculite. For each cubic foot of mix, add 1/2 cup bone meal. Don't be afraid to experiment, as there are any number of combinations of similar ingredients that will prove to be equally satisfactory. You should also bear in mind that your climate has a direct bearing on the preparation of mix. If you live in an EXTREMELY humid area such as Hawaii, coastal Florida, or near the Gulf of Mexico, you will want to lighten the consistency of the mix suggested above in arder to provide more rapid drainage. This may be accomplished by decreasing the amount of leaf mold and redwood bark and increasing the amount of perlite or pumice (do not apply fertilizer for at least 3 months after applying new potting mix to your plants).

The main thing to remember about watering established Orchid Cacti (epiphyllums) is that the mix should never be allowed to dry out completely. When you water the plants, do it thoroughly so that the water flows freely from the drain holes. Then allow the top 1/3 of the mix to dry before watering again. Use your finger to determine when this has happened. Nothing replaces checking the mix every few days to see whether it is time to water. Generally speaking, clay pots will dry out more quickly, and during the summer months especially, must be watered frequently. We prefer plastic pots as they do not require attention as often, but overwatering is more of a danger. If you tend to overwater, stick with clay pots. Orchid Cacti go through natural growth cycles in the spring and again in the fall. Naturally, they demand more water during this time. The plants usually rest after flowering and again during the winter months. Even if your plants look a little wilted from the stress of producing flowers, do not increase the amount of water you have been giving them. This is a natural phenomenon and the plants will usually recover their plump look by fall. During the winter months, give the plants just enough water to stay moist.

Epiphyllums prefer filtered sunlight or a few hours of morning or afternoon sun, never direct noonday sun. The plants may be grown under lath, shade cloth (density depends on your particular climate). a fully leafed tree, or on a patio or near a window where they receive morning or afternoon sunlight. Here at Rainbow Gardens, the air is clean and the sun is bright. We use 80% polypropylene shadecloth. Many of you will be able to raise your plants outdoors until cold weather arrives. If you winter your plants in the house, situate them in an evenly cool. but not freezing, room where lights are not turned on after sundown.

Our research indicates that epiphyllums may be raised under fluorescent grow-lights. The distance from light to plant should be at least 10 inches. The amount of light should be 500 to 1000 footcandles. The length of time to which the plants are exposed to artificial light should correspond with actual hours of daylight during each season of the year. This is essential for bud development.
Watch your plants closely for signs of overexposure or underexposure to light. Yellowish or sunburned growth indicates the light is too strong. Weak spindly growth with no evidence of a strong mid-rib indicates the plants are not receiving adequate light. If you are going to make a mistake regarding light, make it in the direction of a little too much. Your plants may look a bit stressed, but at least they will produce strong healthy growth, and more importantly, they will flower. As all plants naturally reach for the available light, give your epiphyllums a quarter turn every week or so in order to encourage symmetrical growth.

If nothing else, one could safely say that epiphyllums are marvels of adaptability. They prefer temperatures that range between 45 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But they will tolerate extreme heat if some effort is made to keep them well shaded and the humidity level up. Epiphyllums will also tolerate temperatures of less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours, but will freeze if exposed to freezing temperatures for any length of time. The epiphyllum species and the small flowered hybrid epiphyllums are particularly susceptible to cold damage when the temperatures drop below 40 degrees F, and some extra protectìon should be afforded these tender plants. If at all possible, protect your epiphyllums from frost. If you are wintering your epiphyllums in the house, they prefer an evenly collocation between 45-50 degrees F where they do not receive artificial light after sundown. These cool winter temperatures and long nights are necessary for bud formation to take place.

Epiphyllums prefer at least 50% humidity, but will tolerate less. We wet down the ground in our shade houses during the dry summer months in order to keep the humidity up. Gently misting is beneficial also at this time.
Epiphyllums like free air movement, but do not respond well to strong cold and hot winds. Do not crowd your plants too closely together.

 When placed on a fertilizing schedule, your plants should receive an application of balanced fertilizer (ie., 6-6-6, 8-8-8, 10-10-10 at least once a month starting in spring and ending in falI. There are many good balanced fertilizers on the market that are excellent providing they are used according to package directions and are not too high in nitrogen (over 10%). It does not matter whether the fertilizer you select is liquid or granular. If you already have fertilizer on hand that has more than 10% nitrogen, it is alright to use it providing you dilute it an example, if your fertilizer contains 20% nitrogen, use half the recommended amount or even less. It is always better to use too little fertilizer than too much.
In order to promote blooms and harden off tender young growth in time for winter, we use an application of low (or no) nitrogen fertilizer...0-10-10 or 2-10-10...once at the end of February and again in early November. Do not fertilize your plants during December or January.


Epiphyllums are relatively trouble free as far as pests go. The most common pests are scale (small round tannish insects) and mealybug (whitish insects that leave a cottony residue). both of which can be controlled by spraying with one of the insecticidal soaps that are on the market. You can also controI these pests by spraying them with a solution of 1/2 rubbing alcohol and 1/2 water. Snail bait should be put out on a regular basis, as both snails and slugs love epiphyllums and can do a great deal of damage in a very short time.

It takes at least two to three years to raise a blooming size epiphyllum from the rooted cutting/cuttings you purchase from us. The major blooming season for day blooming plants starts in late April, peaks in May, and ends in June. During the other months of the year, we are rewarded by the occasional "off season" bloom, especially from the small flowered varieties.Many of the night blooming epiphyllum species bloom in late summer and early falI.


The object of "potting on" is to gradually move a young plant up into its final pot size. In the spring, check your rooted cuttings to see which of them should be potted on. Since cuttings from different varieties of epiphyllums grow at different rates of speed, not all may need to be moved into a larger pot. If a cutting has made good side growth...two or three fairly long (6 inches or longer) branches, move it up into a one gallon or 8 inch container. Use fresh dry mix. Do not water for one week after potting on. Then water lightly for a month or so before putting the plant back on a regular watering schedule. If you do not have room for a large plant, the plant can be grown on indefinitely, and staked as well, in a. one gallon container. If you have plenty of room for a large plant. the epiphyllum can be grown on for another year or so in the one gallon container and finally moved into a two or three gallon pot.
Repotting, as opposed to potting on, simply involves changing the potting mix in order to provide fresh nutrients for your plant. Repotting should not be necessary more often than once every three or  four years if you have provided adequate fertilizer for your plant in the interim. Wait until about a month after blooming season to repot your plant. Unless you suspect rot or root pests, it is not necessary to remove all of the soil from the roots. Simply loosen the root ball slightly and shake off some of the old mix. Then repot, using fresh dry mix. Do not water for one week after repotting. Then water lightly for a month or so before putting the plant back on a regular watering schedule.


As a general rule, epiphyllums will bloom in the spring on 2-3 year old potted plants. To acheive epi blooms, ensure your plants receive a lowered nighttime temperature of 40-50 degrees F. during the winter. Springtime is also the time for blooms on 1-2 year old rattail cacti, and rhipsalis. Hoyas bloom in the early summer on 1-2 year old plants. Thanksgiving-Christmas Cactus bloom anytime between those holidays on 1-2 year old plants. Easter Cactus bloom at Easter time on 1-2 year old potted plants. Selenicereus-Heliocereus-Hylocereus bloom at different times in the spring and summer on 2-3 year old plants. Most of these plants like to be rootbound before blooming.


Generally speaking, the culture, mix requirements and blooming period of the "Iess spiny" epiphytic cacti...rhipsalis, chiapora, cryptocereus, disocactus, the same as what we have outlined for epiphyllums. The "spinier" epiphytic cacti...HELIOCEREUS, HYLOCEREUS, SELENICEREUS...bloom during the spring and on up into early summer. We recommend the addition of 1/3 volume washed builder's sand to either commercially packaged indoor plant mix or basic epiphyllum mix. These plants prefer a little stronger light than epiphyllums. 


Aporocactus, aporophyllum, borzicactus and disapora require much the same treatment as epiphyllums. Add 1/3 washed builder's sand to basic epiphyllum (or commercially packaged) mix. Generally speaking, the more densely a cactus is covered with spines, the more sunlight it prefers. Accordingly, aporocactus and borzicactus can tolerate strong sunlight, whereas the less heavily spined aporophyllum and disapora (bigeneric hybrids of aporocactus x epiphyllum, and disocactus x aporocactus respectively) prefer filtered light as do epiphyllums. The mechanics of potting, fertilizing, watering and pest controI are the same as those outlined for epiphyllums. Flowering season for rattail cacti corresponds with the epiphyllum flowering season.


There are many plants that can shower one with blooms during the Holidays in November, December and ApriI, but none can compare with the lovely Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter Cactus. These plants are by far the all time favorite indoor plants, probably the most popular of all flowering cacti. While most plants in the cactus family are thought of as desert dwellers, these would definitely not survive in the desert, or even outside where temperatures reach or exceed the frost range level. Holiday Cactus thrìve on a temperature range of 60° to 75°F., strong but indirect sunlight, perfect for a sun porch, kitchen window, or other area inside the home where a southerly exposure is dominant. Whether grown indoors or outdoors, please be aware that they will freeze if temperatures drop below 32°F.

Light requirements:
try to imagine the Holiday Cactus in their habitat growing at an altitude between 3000 and 5000 feet, rooting in plant debris among the branches on decaying humus or on the ground in stony, shady places. Unlike other jungle cactus, Holiday Cactus do not climb the trees for light and therefore require bright but filtered light.

Soil requirements: Holiday Cactus have been grown in as many different soil mixes as there are people growing them, but we have found that a mix of 40% perlite and 60% peatmoss (PH 5.0 to 6.0) is best.

Water requirements: in habitat, rainfall varies from 17 inches per month from December to March, to 3 inches a month in the dry season. Therefore, you can understand that they require moisture at all times. lt is good to let your plants dry out slightly between watering, so air can penetrate the roots, but never let it go completely dry. Holiday Cactus can be lost from underwatering as well as overwatering.

Fertilizer requirements: Fertilize your plants at least once a month with a well balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-5. We prefer a liquid fertilizer, but it does not have to be. A granular works just as well as long as you fertilize them regularly. For Christmas Cactus, stop fertilizing (September) 1-2 months prior to short day period (light span less than 12 hours). Resume fertilizing after blooms are over. Easter Cactus can be fed all year long except during their blooming period.

Inducung christmas cactus blooms: two methods can be used to induce blooms: temperature method or photoperiod method.
Temperature method: keep nighttime temps around 55-60°F. Anything above or below this temperature range will result in growth only-no blooms.
Photoperiod method: A short night period (Iess than 12 hours of darkness) at temperatures above 60°F. will initiate flower buds. This should take 3-4 weeks. Using either method, once flower buds appear, you may resume your normaI growing habits. Remember: cooler or higher temperatures during any stage of bud formation will delay flowering an additional two to four weeks. (This section: Inducing blooms-applies only to Christmas Cactus. Easter Cactus do not require this treatment for inducing blooms).

Cultivation: propagation is from stem cuttings (one or two stem sections) and may be done at any time. However, if done in the winter months it may require bottom heat 70°F. Fertilization begins after rooting has started (2-3 weeks later). Pinch back two stem segments in May or June to increase branching.
Problems with pests are few but they can be devastated by snails, or caterpillars. Do not use Diazinon products on your plants as this can cause stunting and distortion. Watch far fungus rot, use a good fungicide to prevent. Root mealy bug, when found, should be treated by submersion of the plant in an insecticide such as Malathion or Cygon 2E. Submerge the pot until no more air bubbles are seen. This insures that the root system is saturated, and the root ball is thoroughly treated. Repeat as necessary. Spotted branches or holes in branches is not uncommon in epiphyllums. It is caused by uneven termperatures-high daytime temps with rapid cooling in the evening. This can only be prevented by growing in a perfectly controlled environment. This will not affect your blooms.

Cultural tips: upon receipt of rooted cuttings of your holiday cacti from Rainbow Gardens, pot in our suggested potting mix, or in your favorite potting mix-and water.
In order to prevent loss of moisture, we suggest you use a top dressing of gravel, crushed rock or aquarium rock. This also dresses the pot up and makes it look nice.
Fertilize your plants regularly. They will not only look better but will perform for you to their maximum.
If plants are grown inside the house, be sure that they are grown out of the blast from the forced air fumace and away from the fireplace, and cold draft. They will do best for you inside if given a room with a temp of about  55°F. in a spare bedroom or a little used room with an eastem or southerly exposure. When they come into bloom you may move them where they can be enjoyed far the season. ADDITIONAL REMINDER: passive flower colors (white, yellow, pink) in Christmas Cactus will definitely show color variations in their blooms if temperatures drop below 50°F. during any stage of the bud formation. This reminder does not apply to Easter Cactus.

We have found that hoyas will grow well in our Thanksgiving-Christmas & Easter cacti mix (see culture section two paragraphs above far specific mix requirements). We also recommend good quality indoor plant mix lightened with the addition of 1/3 perlite. Pot your plant upon receipt in a 3 to 4 inch plastic pot. Water immediately.
Water freely during the flowering season, but allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings when the plants are resting. Do not remove the spurs or stubs from which the flowers are borne as they will bear flowers the following season.
Hoyas may be trained to grow on small trellises or grown as hanging basket plants. They should have at least four hours of filtered sunlight each day. They will also grow well in a shadier position, but may not flower as freely. Blooms will usually appear on a two to three year old rootbound plant. Most varieties flower in the spring and summer. Temperature, humidity and fertilizer requirements are basically the same as those outlined for epiphyllums. Mealybugs love hoyas. Spray your plant with a solution of 1/2 rubbing alcohol and 1/2 water to control these pests.

Pot your cacti and other succulents immediately upon receipt in a mixture of 1/3 washed builder's sand and 2/3 good quality indoor plant mix. Use the smallest possible container you can (with drainage holes) without crowding the plant. Then  pot on gradually as the plant grows. Water lightly and keep the plants in a shady position far a week or so. Then move the plants into filtered sunlight. Cacti and the other succulents we sell seem to prefer filtered bright sunlight. A bit of experimentation with light on your part is in order. Allow the potting mix to dry out partially between watering, but don't allow your plants to remain bone dry, particularly during their growing season. Water less during winter months if your plant does not appear to be in an active growth cycle. Fertilize once a year in early summer, using a mild balanced higher than 8% nitrogen. Protect from frost. Pests such as scale and mealybug can be controlled with one of the insecticidal soaps that is on the market.

As with any set of rules or suggested general care for plants, please don't consider ours as FIRM. Rainbow Gardens is situated in an area of mild winters and tropical-like summers. We are not subjected to extreme changes in temperature such as you may experience in your area. Some of you may keep your Flowering Jungle Cacti in your home, greenhouse or office most of the year. Be prepared to lose some plants until you find the mix and fertilizers that suit your growing regimen the best. Soil is only one parameter of a complex growing regimen and must match the other factors in that region, such as light (intensity and duration), air (quality and movement). fertilizer (frequency, type and strength), water (PH, dissolved solids, pollutants, etc. and frequency), pests and pesticide use, etc. What works as a mix for others could well be deadly for your plants.
You may lose a few cuttings before you've set upon a steady pattern of good growth and beautiful blooms.. .your reward for meeting the challenge head on! Good luck!!!

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