Friday, April 1, 2011

Epiphyllums and Their Friends

This is certainly not an area in which I am an expert, but I was inspired by the lovely blooms on some of these this morning when I was watering the house plants. This first one is a plant with which most will be familiar, if nor from having grown it, from seeing it in the stores at Christmas time. The Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera, is native to Brazil. In the southern hemisphere they are simply called winter-flowering cactus. There are six species and a ton of hybrids. All are similar in form with flat jointed stems that make a small arching stemmed bush. They need less than 12 hours of light per day if they are to flower which is why you will usually see them bloom during the dark, short days of winter. Too much light, even artificial light, will hinder their bloom. Mine all live in rooms that don't get as much use in the evening and so are pretty much dark from sundown to sunup. The flowers grow from the tips of the stems. The fruits are green or reddish and grape-like, but since we don't have insects inside to pollinate them in the winter here, I've never seen any fruit on ours. These are shade loving plants. They live in west windows when in the house and their hanging baskets hang under the trees outside in the summer. It's amazing how well they grow outside. Just be sure to bring them back in before the nights get much below 50 degrees (F.) They can go down to about 41 degrees, but I hate to take chances. They like regular feeding in summer and autumn when they are putting on a lot of new growth. This lovely pink one lives in my sewing room this time of year.
Everyone loves the RicRack orchid cactus, Epiphyllum anguliger. This one, as you can see, has deeply serrated trailing stems. It has sweetly scented white or cream colored flowers in summer or fall, though mine has yet to bloom. A warm and shady place makes these happy, no cooler than 43 degrees. Mine is in a south facing window in the winter, but only gets morning sun.
Another non-bloomer (at least so far) is the Selenicereus pteranthus. This will have white flowers also when it finally gets around to it. This one is not quite as showy as the previous 2 (or the one to follow) sort of reminding me of a dinosaur or some sort of prehistoric plant, rambling at odd angles. This one is a bit spiny, unlike the previous ones. This one has 3 sided, fleshy stems. It likes shade and can be grown as a hanging basket plant or as a sort of upright rambler.
Now one of my favorites and one that was just covered with blooms last summer; I think I counted 23 or them at one time. This is Ephyllum ackermannii. These get rather huge for a potted plant. I keep mine trimmed to no more than 6 feet long since they have to live in the house in the winter and I have to carry them in and out. Even 6 feet has me tripping over the ends of the stems sometimes. The red/orange flowers on these are really big and showy - probably 6 inches across easily. In the wild, they grow in the tree canopy of tropical jungles from Mexico to northern South America. The flowers last a couple of days, longer in cooler weather. Regular feeding and warm shade will keep them happy. Minimum temperature is 41 degrees.
Here is a bud just starting that I noticed this morning. This plant is in a north window which is also shaded by a hemlock tree.
And here is the bloom that should be open in the next couple of days. Can't wait. I expect it will bloom again this summer as usual.
That's it for today.


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