Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Epiphillum orchid cactus

One of the loveliest plants in summer that bloom among my indoor plants is this fascinating plant I've always thought of as a rain forest cactus - after a quick search of the internet I find out it is an Epiphillum orchid cactus and comes in a variety of colours. I received the first cuttings of this huge plant back in 1994 or 95 - maybe even earlier. It is an old plant and started blooming for me about 15 years ago when I moved near Port Hope and put it in a sort of green house environment for the summer for the first time.

These days, all winter it sits inside and sticks me with its little spines when I try to clean around it. I usually place it so it gets indirect light during the winter, with two other semi-tropical plants - another that blooms in summer as well and quite near a 10 foot Norfolk pine that is trying to reach the ceiling in this church.

In spring sometimes even before the threat of frost is past, I can't wait to get the plants outside. So out goes this baby and into a spot where it gets quite a bit of sun. It appears to thrive. It is an amazing and beautiful plant at this time - interesting at other times. But when it blooms it's breathtaking. The blooms begin like so many tiny red spots along the edges of some leaves, not all. The leaves are fleshy and succulent. I believe there may be two kinds of cactii in this basket of spines, some of the "leaves" or stems - whatever they are called - are triangular others are flat.
Usually there are more buds on the plant. On close inspection I just noted several little white nodules along the scalloping of the leaves - this is where the flowers begin to develop. However I believe the strange summer - with only July being very hot and August being sometimes hot and sometimes not, it may have affected the bud production. Also I didn't feed the plant as much this year as I usually do. Or perhaps it is in the wrong place - light obviously has an effect, just like fertilizer and water.

So I've learned quite a bit this morning.

And I suspect that this fall I am going to have to transplant this baby into a bigger pot. Being root bound does help with flower production, but on the other hand, there is a limit. Before I do that though I'll be going back to do some research - so easy now that it's at our fingertips - a virtual library in an instant.

Despite all this, the glorious crimson flowers are a delight to see, particularly on this gray cold morning that belies the forecasters call for sun and is spitting rain. The tropical beauty of the blooms gives the illusion of heat if not the reality. But I think I can see the plant shivering in its pot this morning. It's not that much above 0C this morning - perhaps 10 degrees? Sit by the fire and read kind of weather.

However it's the day after Labour Day, school buses ply their routes once again and it seems as if we're gearing up to get back in business. Somehow the first of September has always seemed more to me like the beginning of the year, than close to the end. I suppose really if you follow the pagan calendar, the Vernal equinox should really be the first of the year. Whatever, I will carry the idea of the hot tropics, created by these lovely huge blooms (about six inches across when really wide open) with me throughout the day to warm my thoughts if not my body.

Hope you have something hot to keep you warm if you're in a cool climate today.


  1. We love to put our indoor plants outside for the summer. We put them in a shady area where they often go unnoticed and then in the late summer at sign at first frost we are usually amazed at how robust and healthy they are. Plants like people deserve to be outdoors when its appropriate!

  2. I completely agree Bill - love that you do the same with yours.