How to Grow Epiphyllum Oxypetalum

Written by beth asher
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Epiphyllum Oxypetalum is a night blooming succulent cactus of the type called an epiphyte. Oxypetalum is also called 'Dutchman's Pipe' after the trailing habit of the flower buds which resemble little round bowled pipes. Epiphytes grow in the upper story of tropical jungles by clinging to trees; but they are not parasites. This cactus is a night bloomer whose fragrant flowers last 1 to 3 days. Oxypetalum forms the buds during early spring and blooms with the arrival of cooler fall temperatures. The leaves are broad and do not resemble the usual fleshy leaves of other succulents. Epiphyllums are easy to grow and with proper care will produce abundant blooms.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pot with a drainage hole
  • Potting soil
  • Compost
  • Sphagnum peat
  • Sand
  • Vermiculite
  • Gravel
  • Liquid fertiliser

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    Potting and Placing Epiphyllum Oxypetalum

  1. 1

    Use a potting soil that drains well, one of the speciality soils for cactus and succulents, or mix your own soil. Use 1 part compost, 1 part coarse sand, 1 part sphagnum peat and 1 part vermiculite.

  2. 2

    Use a pot only 2 inches bigger around and 4 inches deeper than the root ball. Put a 1 inch layer of gravel in the pot for drainage. Put in the cactus and add potting soil, making sure the top of the root ball is 1 inch below the edge of the pot. Fill with potting mix, firming it by hand as you go.

  3. 3

    Water once thoroughly when done. Provide a tray at least 1 inch bigger around than the pot bottom filled with gravel and water under the oxypetalum pot for extra humidity. Do not put the pot in a location directly above an air vent if keeping the oxypetalum in the house.

  4. 4

    Repotting is best done every 3 to 4 years. Do any repotting after the end of blooming, according to Orchid's 2009 bulletin, "Planting and Growing Instructions."

    Feeding, Watering and Light

  1. 1

    Water regularly, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings, during the growing months of spring and summer. Do not allow the soil to become soggy. Water your oxypetalum sparingly and lightly during the winter months. Some growers have reported success withholding water during this period.

  2. 2

    Fertiliser can be given by using a liquid fertiliser in the water during the growing season of spring. Do not use fertiliser with a high nitrogen content and do not fertilise during the winter.

  3. 3

    Give your oxypetalum 6 hours of filtered sunlight a day. Never place the cactus in direct hot sun. In winter 1 or 2 hours of full sun satisfies the plant's requirements. Occasional misting in very hot weather helps.

    Bloom Production

  1. 1

    Lower the temperature for epiphyllum oxypetalum during the lowlight months of fall and winter. More blooms will be produced if the plant has a chill period. Try for a temperature between 10.0 to 15.5 degrees C.

  2. 2

    Exposing your Dutchman's pipe cactus to frost will cause buds to drop and may kill the plant. Make sure to bring oxypetalum in during the winter months if it will be exposed to temperatures lower than 7.22 degrees C.

  3. 3

    Leave a contented oxypetalum in its pot. They tend to bloom better when slightly potbound. Light pruning can be done after blooming is finished.

Tips and warnings

  • Epiphyllum cacti can be grown in partly shady locations in the garden all year round in mild winter climate zones.
  • Pot your cactus in a wire basket lined with moss and filled with potting soil, then hang it in a tree in mild climates. The tree gives the cactus the filtered sun it needs and provides a natural setting.
  • Oxypetalums are easily propagated from cuttings. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone before planting in moist, but not soggy, soil mix.
  • According to Orchid's 2009 bulletin "Planting and Growing Instructions", oxypetalums should never be placed on the ground. Slugs, snails and gnawing insects are attracted to them and can skeletonise the leaves in a short time.
  • Sunburning occurs when indoor grow lights are placed too closely or outdoor sunlight is too direct and strong. Avoid hot direct sunlight.
  • An oxypetalum has to reach bloom size before it will form buds. This growing period can be anywhere from 4 to 5 years.

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