If you’re looking for an epicactus for a room, these days there is a colorful palette of varieties to choose from. Here’s the proper way to care for epiphyllum hybrids.

Aug 19, 2021 10:47 am
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Growth type
  • Succulent
Growth characteristics
  • upright
  • overhanging
Flower color
  • purple
  • yellow
  • red
  • pink
  • white
Flower shape
  • Funnel
Flower characteristics
  • lightly fragrant
  • scattered light
Soil type
  • loamy
Soil Moisture
  • moderately humid to humid
Lime compatibility
  • sensitive to lime
Nutrient requirements
  • nutrient-rich
  • rich in humus
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower Decoration
  • picturesque growth
Winter Hardness
  • frost-sensitive
  • Interior greening
  • Planters
  • Winter garden
  • Warm House
Garden style
  • Pot garden

A wide range of easy-care floral wonders from the tropical rainforests of central and south America are described as epicacti. Among them, the genus epiphyllum represents the largest group. It has one thing in common with the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) and the Easter cactus (Hatiora) or Mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis): All of them grow in the branch forks of other plants, generally large trees. These are the epiphytes. In 1824, Georg Ackermann brought a specimen of the somewhat unusual cactus plant (Cactaceae) to Germany for the first time. Among the European breeders it was Curt Knebel in particular who ensured a colorful palette of further varieties - including soil-tolerating species - through cross-breeding in the first half of the 20th century. Most of the Epicacti traded today are such Epiphyllum hybrids. The (Epiphyllum anguliger) has particularly attractive shoots.


The Epicactus has partly upright growing and elongated, partly bowing shoots. They hang over with increasing length. The Epiphyllum hybrids are therefore highly suited as hanging-basket plants. If it should grow upwards, tie up the erose shoots. Depending on which species have been cross-bred, the individual offshoots can grow up to 11.81 inches long, so that older specimens can achieve considerable heights. Older plant parts become woody over time.


The flattened, green shoots are generally considered as leaves. However, in fact it is the fleshy offshoots, in the serrations of which so-called areoles appear, from which the flowers grow.


Colloquially, an Epiphyllum hybrid is often referred to descriptively as an ‘orchid cactus’. The trumpet-shaped flowers are a real spectacle. The large-flowered breeds can grow flowers of up to 11.81 inches in diameter. The color palette is huge and includes all the color shades from white, to yellow, and pink, as well as red and even purple. The white flowering varieties in particular often have a strong fragrance. While the original species of epiphyllum belong to the night flowerers, the traded epicacti varieties flower during the day. With good care and ideal conditions, they may even flower several times a year.

Epicactus variety ‘Deutsche Kaiserin’
Epicacti, here the variety ‘Deutsche Kaiserin’, are particularly happy near a bright window

Epicacti love a warm, bright location in direct sunlight. Their natural location in the diffuse light of luscious rainforests corresponds best to west or east facing windows. During the resting phase from November to March, it has proven advantageous to place Epiphyllum somewhere cooler, such as in the or in a conservatory with temperatures between 46.4 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures are important during the resting period in order for the cactus to flower. The Epicactus likes to be outside in the summer. However, avoid sunny places. The former primeval forest dwellers quickly get sunburned. A place under the shady leaf canopy of a tree is better. As soon as the temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the fall, the plant should be brought back indoors.


Do not use standard trade cactus soil, rather special substrate created for epicacti, or orchid soil. Unlike the prickly relatives from desert areas, epiphyllum loves humus-rich, permeable soils. If you want to mix the soil yourself, use about two thirds of soil with a high organic component, that could even be compost soil loosened with some Seramis or , and one third pine bark pieces.


During the vegetation period from spring until the fall, unlike succulent cacti, the epicactus requires a lot more water. You should water plentifully in particular as soon as the buds appear, namely as soon as the substrate has dried out. The soil should be moist but not wet. Water a little more sparsely every four to six weeks after flowering. During the winter resting phase, when the Epiphyllum hybrids are in cooler conditions, watering once a month is often sufficient. Use rainwater if possible. If your tap water contains a lot of lime, you should descale it before watering.


Fertilize the Epicactus during the growth period from March to August every two weeks with a special epiphyllum fertilizer. If you want to use standard houseplant fertilizer, half the dosage is sufficient. Cactus fertilizer is not suitable: It contains too much nitrogen.

Epiphyllum hybrids
Epiphyllum hybrids appreciate fertilizer application every two weeks

Young Epicactus plants grow quickly and will already need repotting after one year in the spring. Older plants should be repotted every few years in a slightly bigger pot. Choose a pot that is not too big.


If the Epicactus has become to big and bushy for you, you can prune it back. Remove the deadheads under the flower head.


Epicacti love high humidity. So you should spray the leaves as often as possible with soft, room temperature water. If you want to do something really good for your Epiphyllum hybrid, sprinkle the plants with temperate water.


There are numerous varieties of Epicactus. ‘Irette’, for example, has various color tones in one flower. ‘Gladyce Jones’ has iridescent colors. ‘Ackermannii’, which was previously often billed as its own species, is one of the most heavily flowering varieties.


Propagation through seed sowing is difficult and the offspring can turn out different to the mother plant. That’s why Epiphyllum hybrids are easily vegetatively propagated using cuttings, which gurantees the variety. Do this by cutting off a 3.94 to 5.91 inch long shoot at an angle in the spring or summer. The cutting point should dry out for at least a day in the air before planting to prevent rotting.

Diseases and Pests

In general, Epicacti are healthy and robust. Mealy bugs may occasionally occur. Spider mites result if the air is too dry. Plant diseases usually occur if the nutrient-loving epiphyllum hybrids do not have enough food.