Sunday, January 10, 2010

Special garden post, January 10, 2010- Orchid Cactus

I write this week about epiphyllum, or the orchid cactus family. There is a close-up of one of my epis in the picture contest this week. I thought that an extra post was appropriate because I had a lot to say about this great plant.

Most of you know about the plant known as Christmas Cactus. Some of you even have those heirloom plants that belonged to your grandmothers. They can live for decades, blooming over the winter, often at Christmas. They get big, come in a variety of colors, and are a reliable indoor plant.

Epiphyllum, or orchid cactus, are cousins of the Christmas Cactus.
They are not orchids.
I understand they are in the cactus family. But they are nowhere like what we think of as cactus plants.
I believe they were originally epiphytes, growing in trees without soil. Consequently they do not particularly like sun, and they will grow in a light soil mixture. I try to plant them in a mixture of small orchid bark mix, and potting soil. They want good drainage.
They do get big. Some of mine are 4 feet in diameter. They have to have plenty of space.
They come inside during the cold. In Iowa, that's a long time. They cannot freeze, even though they are rather forgiving if a frost nips at them as a result of your mistake.
I find them a wonderful companion in the shade garden, since I hang them in the trees. After all, when you have filled up the two garden dimensions, up is the only space left.
You propagate them the way you would propagate Christmas cactus. You just stick a cutting in some light soil mix and wait for them to grow. If you are very efficient you can dip the cutting in a rooting hormone, but I do not find that necessary.
The flowers are big, particularly compared with the Christmas cactus. They are maybe 5-6 inches across.
They mostly go dormant in the winter, which means you can sort of stick them away in a corner with limited light. At the same time some varieties are different. I have this one at the moment that is putting out new growth. Most are still asleep.
In the pictures below you see varieties from my garden. The yellow and red ones are the oldest ones. The little white one actually blooms in the fall. I grew it from seed, ordered on eBay all the way from Germany. That has been my most exotic seed purchase ever. It took about 5 years to get big enough to bloom.

They come in many colors. In my ten year plan for the garden I have about the same number of plants that I do now, which is maybe 20-25. However I want to have more varieties, which means many more colors. I am up to 5. It used to be 3. I hope that even more colors arrive this year.

And of course the flowers are beautiful.
Here are pictures.

For more information check out this link
Epiphyllum Society of America

At that cite there is a very neat picture array

1 comment:

Flowers said...

Thanks for sharing the picture of different kinds of Orchids. All the pictures look awesome. Enjoyed your blog very much.