Epiphyllum is a genus of 19 species of epiphytic plants in the cactus family, native to Central America. Common names for these species include climbing cacti, orchid cacti and leaf cacti.
Hybrids of the Epiphyllum species, sometimes called epis for short, make handsome houseplants. Native to Central and South America, Epiphyllum hybrids are particularly stunning in bloom. These members of the cactus genus are also sometimes referred to as the “orchid cactus," although they are not related to the orchid. Unlike desert cacti, rain forest cacti lack sharp thorns, although they do have tiny hair-like spines at the joints of their strap-like stems. In the wild, the white blooms of the ephiphyllum open only at night. But plant breeders have created day-blooming epiphyllum hybrids with flowers of orange, red, pink, violet and yellow. Named hybrids include Flamingo, Padre, Vive Rouge and Sun Goddess.
Rain forest cacti such epiphyllums require humidity and moisture, but should never be allowed to become waterlogged. They prefer bright but filtered light, and will burn if they receive too much sun. Epiphyllums do well in ordinary household temperatures and will tolerate a cool greenhouse or sun porch as long as temperatures do not drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. During the plant’s active period of growth in spring and summer, it requires monthly fertilizing with a 10-10-10 plant food.
Seeds are the typical way of reproducing. These cacti will easily grow from seeds and some from cuttings. Seeds can be sown in the spring or summer in well-drained pots of soil for cacti. Sow the seeds thinly on top. Cover them with a bit of fine quartz grit. Moisten and lay a piece of glass across the top. The pots should be set in a warm greenhouse until they start to sprout, after which the glass should be progressively removed so they can receive full light and air. It isn't good to keep the glass over the seedlings. The well developed seedlings can be planted separately in small pots. Cuttings made from pieces of the stem of any size can be detached and laid aside for a few days to allow a protective "skin" to form over the cut. They can then be planted in pots. Place them in a spot where they'll receive sun, and do not water until the soil becomes fairly dry. After a while the soil can be moistened regularly, but never kept constantly saturated.