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Epiphyllum oxypetalum (Dutchman's Pipe Cactus)

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Scientific Name

Epiphyllum oxypetalum (DC.) Haw.

Common Names

Dutchman's Pipe Cactus, Jungle Cactus, Lady of the Night, Night-blooming Cactus, Night-blooming Cereus, Orchid Cactus, Queen of the Night

Synonyms

Cereus latifrons, Cereus oxypetalus (basionym), Epiphyllum acuminatum, Epiphyllum grande, Epiphyllum latifrons, Epiphyllum purpusii, Phyllocactus acuminatus, Phyllocactus grandis, Phyllocactus latifrons, Phyllocactus latifrons, Phyllocactus oxypetalus, Phyllocactus purpusii

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Hylocereeae
Genus: Epiphyllum

Description

Epiphyllum oxypetalum is an epiphytic cactus with erect or semi-erect, profusely branched, cylindrical, up to 20 feet (6 m) long primary stems. It is one of the most cultivated species in the genus. The primary stem is woody at the base and bears elliptic, leaf-like, scalloped, dark green branches that are up to 16 inches (40 cm) long and up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) wide. The large white flowers are funnel-shaped, up to 12 inches (30 cm) long and up to 5 inches (20 cm) in diameter. This very fragrant, nocturnal blooms appear in late spring or early summer. They open in the late evening and close again at sunrise. The fruits are purplish-red, oblong, angled, up to 6.4 inches (16 cm) long, up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) wide.

Photo by Warren Sarle

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Epiphyllums are hardy to about 50 °F (10 °C), but require at least 60 °F (15 °C) during the growing season, so are best grown in a heated greenhouse, conservatory or indoors. Place the pots in bright, filtered light, with moderate to high humidity. To increase the humidity, position the pot on a tray filled with gravel and keep this topped up with water, but not enough so that the water reaches the surface. These cacti require sharply-drained growing media. Grow them in a standard cactus soil with added grit or perlite. Alternatively, mix 3 parts loam-based compost with 2 parts grit or perlite and 1 part peat-free multipurpose compost.

Overlong stems can be cut off or shortened. New shoots will usually develop just behind the cut. However, be careful not to overwater after pruning as the plant's water requirements will be reduced. Large Epiphyllums can become unstable in their pots. Either repot into a heavier pot, such as terracotta or a wider container, such as a pan. Alternatively, try using canes and tying the stems up, but this can look unsightly.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Epiphyllum.

Origin

Epiphyllum oxypetalum is native to southern Mexico and to extensive areas of South America.

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