2021 | How to Grow and Care for Orchid Cactus

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Epiphyllum Cactus plants, also known as the Epiphyllum spp., Orchid Cactus, are beautiful flowering ornamental plants. They are grown for indoor and outdoor decoration. These plants are known for their large and bright flowers. The Orchid Cactus plants are native to Central America. The Orchid Cactus plants need a host plant to grow. Although their name is Orchid Cactuses, these are not a species of orchids. They are a completely different genus of flowering plants. They have a symbiotic relationship with their host. In this kind of relationship, one plant uses the other plant to survive, and in doing so they provide help to the host plants.

Unlike other succulent plant species, the Orchid Cactus needs a lot of care to grow. For that reason, these are only seen in highly controlled environments in homes and greenhouses. These plants do not like growing in the cold, (not cold hardy) and that is why they are grown in controlled environments to protect them from temperature changes. To grow these plants, you will need to work on balancing the watering. You cannot overwater these plants as they are cactus plants and they do not like being overwatered. Also, they do not like being dried out. Below is a complete guide about these plants.

Overview

Common NameOrchid Cactus, Epiphyllum Cactus.
Scientific NameEpiphyllum spp
Genus, FamilyEpiphyllum
Size, TypeMedium, Succulent,
Color of stem, leaves, and flowersMultiple colors depending on the species,
Flowering SeasonStarts Early winter and ends in Spring.
Perennial/Annual.Perennial, evergreen.
HardinessUSDA zone 10 and above.
Temperature range65 to 75°F, 18 to 24°C
SunlightFull sunlight to partial shade.

Lineage

The Orchid Cactus plants belong to a genus of flowering plants, known as the Epiphyllum. The Epiphyllum is a sub-category of the Cactaceae family, known for its large flowers and need for the host. These plants are succulents, but they do not like dryness or wetness. They have a lot of behavioral habits that are different from other succulent plants. It is not a single species, but an entire genus with more than 10 species. Each species has its characteristics.

Appearance

The Orchid Cactus plants have a beautiful appearance. Each species has its size and shape. They have pointy green large leaves. The Orchid Cactus plants have large flowers. These large flowers have different vibrant colors on the inside and outside as well. These vibrant and multi-colored flowers attract a lot of insects such as bees, and hummingbirds. Some of these flowers have soft petals, while some have hard circular petals. The arrangement of petals, size, and color of the flower depends on the species of Orchid Cactus plants that you are choosing. You should be very careful while choosing the right variant because the entire look of your plant depends on the species. Their stems divide and form small thin branches. These branches grow leaves and flowers on them.

Flowering

The Orchid Cactus plants have beautiful flowers of multiple colors, sizes, and shapes. Their petal size and other characteristics can also be different from the other ones. These characteristics depend on the species and cultivars of the Orchid Cactus. Flowers grow on the tips of branches. They produce flowers during the spring season. If your plant is not producing flowers, you should withhold water supply during the winter.

Natural Habitat

The Orchid Cactus plants are native to the tropical regions of Central America. They do not grow on their own, they take up a host tree and climb over it forming an epiphyte. These plants are capable of growing on a large number of Central American tree species. They use these trees to get their water and minerals. The Orchid Plants do not have leaves on their stems. Leaves are only found near the branches. They use these branches and stems to absorb sunlight. These plants can also be planted outside their natural environment. But they need more care than most succulent plants.

FACTS

Below are some basic facts about Orchid Cactus Plants

  • The Orchid cactus plants are semi-succulent plants
  • Orchid Cactus plants are native to Central America.
  • These plants grow on top of other tropical forest plants.
  • Orchid Cactus do not like to live in completely dry conditions, nor do they like constant wet conditions.
  • They are grown as indoor ornamental plants because of their beautiful flowers.
  • Their flowers are larger than most other succulent plant flowers.
  • Orchid Cactus grows a long stem with multiple branches.

Requirements to Grow Orchid Cactus Plants

SoilWell-draining and full of nutrients.
SunFull sun to partial shade.
WaterMaintain a balance between wetness and dryness.
FertilizerFeed at least once a month to your plants.
Temperature65 to 75°F, 18 to 24°C

Soil Requirements

Similar to most succulents, the Orchid Cactus needs soil that contains sand. Sand makes the soil well-draining. This well-draining soil allows the excess water to move out quickly. It prevents the trapping of water in the soil for the long term. This is how it helps in protecting the roots of the Orchid Cactus plants. Apart from the soil being well-draining, it should also be full of all nutrients. Orchid Cacti need a lot of nutrients to grow. If your soil lacks nutrients, the orchid Cactus would not reach its optimal growth speed. For that reason, it is very important to use nutrient-rich soil. You should use pumice, perlite, sand, clay soil, compost, mulch, and fertilizers to make this type of soil. These elements help create a balanced type of soil that has nutrients in it and is also well-draining.

Sunlight Requirements

The Orchid Cactus plant needs full sun to partial shade conditions depending on your location. For example, if you live in a very hot area, you should plant them in shades. If you are living in a very cold area, where sunlight is low, you should make sure that your plant receives enough sunlight during the day. If you have a window facing east, it would be the best place to keep your Orchid Cactus plants. You should make sure that your plant receives plenty of sunlight, but is also protected from sunlight during the hot midday in summer. Make sure that your plant is under the full sunlight during the morning, and is under the shade in midday. In this kind of sunlight condition, the Orchid Cactus plants grow fast and thrive.

Temperature Requirements

The Orchid Cactus plants need moderately warm temperatures. Maintaining a slightly warm environment is also important as it helps the Orchid Cactus plants bloom. During the spring season, make sure that the temperature around your plant remains higher between 65 to 75°F, 18 to 24°C Exposure to extremely low temperatures such as below zero C during the winter can cause the death of these plants. For that reason, you should protect your plant if you live in a cold region.

You should plant them indoors to protect them from the low temperatures and snowfall. You can plant them in a greenhouse environment to protect them from cold conditions in the winter. The Orchid Cactus plants also do not like to be grown in very hot conditions. So, if you are growing the Orchid Cactus plant in a warm area, you should protect them from the heat during the summer.

Water Requirements

Watering conditions for the Orchid Cactus plants are very different from other succulent plants. They do not like the completely dry conditions, nor do they like to stay wet all the time. So, you will have to create a balance between dryness and wet conditions. You should water your plant according to the season, climate, weather conditions, and other factors such as the age of the plant, and size. Keeping these factors in mind you should create a watering chart.  Below are a few recommendations for the watering chart.

  • While making the chart, keep in mind the temperature differences during the summer and winter. In summer plants need more water as the hot conditions cause the soil to quickly dry out. Meanwhile, in the winter, your plant needs less water as cold conditions prevent the soil from drying out for weeks.
  • You should also consider other conditions such as where you are planting them. If you are planting them in a cold region, you should provide them less water as compared to the plants in hot regions.
  • Do not let the soil completely dry. Keep checking the soil if it starts drying, you should water them. This will create a balance between wetness and dry conditions. Watering once every 5 to 6 days in summer and 8 to 10 days in winter would be enough for these plants.
  • Tip for Flowering – Before the spring season, you may need to let the plant dry. This dryness combined with the high temperatures would force the Orchid Cactus plants to produce flowers.

Fertilizers Requirements

The Orchid Cactus plants need a lot of nutrients to grow. They get these nutrients from the soil. But soil only contains a limited supply of these nutrients and it quickly depletes. This can slow the speed of growth of your plant. To prevent this, you should provide nutrients to your plant. To do so, fertilizers are used. Fertilizers contain all the nutrients that your plant would need. You should keep providing fertilizer to your plants at regular intervals. This would help your plants to maintain their rate of growth. The most common method of fertilizing your plants requires you to create a mixture of water and fertilizer. You can feed this mixture to your plants once every month.

Repotting

The Orchid cactus plants should be repotted after the blooming season. You should wait for them to wilt and drop their flowers. After that, you should prepare a new pot that is bigger than the one it is already in. You should fill this new pot with the required soil type and fertilizers. After that, you will need to uproot and replant the Orchid Cactus plant to the new pot. While uprooting and replanting, make sure that you do not damage the roots of the Orchid Cactus plants. This can result in the death of the plant, so you should be very careful. After repotting, provide some water to your plant. This would help its roots to adjust to the new soil and grow.

Pruning

The Orchid Cactus plants need pruning once a year. You should prune them after the spring season. This would help you get rid of the dead flowers, and branches. You should start cutting from the edges of the plant and give it a proper shape. You should use sharp tools to prune your Orchid Cactus plants. After pruning, provide your plant some water and fertilizers. This would help the growth of new branches.

Problems and Pests

The Orchid Cactus plants are attacked by fungus gnats and root rotting. These two are deadly diseases and can cause the death of the plant. You should take precautions to protect your plant from these problems. You should use fresh soil to plant the Orchid Cactus, it would help avoid the fungus gnats’ problems. Root rotting is mostly caused by overwatering. Maintaining a proper water supply would help your plant protection from the root rotting.

Propagation

Orchid Cactus plants are mostly propagated using the cuttings method. Cuttings are taken after the pruning. You should let these cuttings dry. After that, you will need to plant this cutting in the required potting soil. You should keep the soil wet and provide it with enough indirect sunlight. It will take a few weeks to grow new roots. You can also plant them using their seeds, but the Orchid Cactus plants propagated using seeds can take up to 5 years to produce flowers. For that reason, most experts advise using the cutting method.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How long does it take for an Orchid Cactus to bloom?

Orchid Cactus plants can take up to 5 years to produce flowers. Plants that are grown from their seeds may take 5 years. Meanwhile, the Orchid Cactus plants that are propagated using the cutting methods can produce flowers earlier.

Question: Why is my Orchid Cactus not blooming?

There can be several reasons for the Orchid Cactus plants not to bloom. For example, low temperature during the spring season, more water supply during the winter, and age. The Orchid Cactus plants can take years before they start producing flowers. So, you will have to wait for them to reach a mature age and start producing flowers.

Question: Why is my Orchid Cactus Limp?

If the size of the leaves of the Orchid Cactus plant is smaller than the usual size, you should place your plant in better sunlight conditions. Limp condition in the Orchid Cactus plants occurs when they are not receiving plenty of sunlight. For that reason, you should keep your plant under the sunlight.