Epiphyllum (ep~ih~fill~ums) “upon the leaf” in Greek) are native to Central America and commonly known names include climbing cacti, orchid cacti, and leaf cacti
It is a rather small genus of 19 species of plants in the cactus family (Cactaceae). The Epiphyllum Society of America maintains a list of epiphyllum hybrids that contained over 7,000 names in 1996.
Like all cacti, epiphyllums have stems but no leaves. Unlike desert cacti, however, epiphyllums grow on trees, not on the ground. They also lack the sharp spines of their desert cousins.
Epiphyllum phyllanthus was first described by an Englishman, Adrian H. Haworthin 1813 and hence determined that Epiphyllum would be an appropriate genus name.
Later in 1820, the same plant was described as Phyllocactus phyllanthus by a German named Link, who was unaware of the plant’s first description.
Since the first published name was Epiphyllum phyllanthus, the Genus remained Epiphyllum and Phyllocactus became its synonym.
Indeed, Phyllocactus became prominent as a word that described not only the epiphyllum species but all epiphytic cacti including the hybrids produced by various epiphytic cacti plants.
- Scientific name and distribution
- Epiphyllum anguliger (Lem.) G.Don Mexico
- Epiphyllum baueri Colombia, Panama
- Epiphyllum cartagense Costa Rica, Panama
- Epiphyllum crenatum Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvadore, Honduras
- Epiphyllum chrysocardium
- Epiphyllum columbiense
- Epiphyllum costaricense
- Epiphyllum floribundum Peru
- Epiphyllum grandilobum Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama
- Epiphyllum guatemalense Guatemala, Honduras
- Epiphyllum laui Kimnach Mexico
- Epiphyllum lepidocarpum Costa Rica, Panama
- Epiphyllum macropterum
- Epiphyllum oxypetalum (DC.) Haw. Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico
- Epiphyllum phyllanthus (L.) Haw. Mexico to Venezuela then south to Argentina
- Epiphyllum pumilum Britton & Rose Guatemala, Mexico
- Epiphyllum rubrocoronatum Ecuador, Colombia
- Epiphyllum thomasianum Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua
- Epiphyllum trimetrale
- Formerly placed here
- Disocactus phyllanthoides (DC.) Barthlott (as E. phyllanthoides (DC.)
Being they are so closely related, these varieties of epiphytic cacti readily cross with each other. Added, since the early 1800s, plant hobbyists have crossed epiphyllums with other, more colorful epiphytic cactus species.
As a result, there are now literally thousands of different hybrid epiphyllum varieties, with various rainbow-hued blossoms.
The plants are known as epiphyllum hybrids, epiphyllums or just epis, which are widely grown for their flowers, are artificial hybrids of species within the tribe Hylocereeae, particularly species of Disocactus, Pseudorhipsalis, and Selenicereus. In spite of the common name, Epiphyllum species are less often involved as parents of Epiphyllum hybrids.
Epiphyllums Used For Good Of Mankind
Epiphyllum is used in the treatment of cough and tuberculosis. It is used in reducing heat by detoxification and loosening stools. It was mainly used in Chinese medicine. It can be used in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia thus serves as an analgesic.
Epiphyllum when mixed with honey and other herbs and consumed control hypertension. Epiphyllum oxypetallum contains phytochemical compounds such as saponins, phenolic compounds, steroids, glycosides, tannins, terpenoids, and resins. It can be used to treat diabetes due to the absence of reducing sugars.
Antibacterial activity is exhibited by the phyllocaldes. In the treatment of cardiac disease and dropsy, the stem is used. Soups are made from petals of faded bloom which is believed to possess aphrodisiac medicinal properties.
Epiphyllums like orchids grow naturally above the ground in moss, mold, and soil found in the crevices of branched trees. Hence they bloom better when rootbound, so they must be grown in small pots.
Their growth can be compared to that of a vine i.e they form a tangled mass of stems and roots which helps them hold their place in the crevice. Hence a trellis or stake must be added to support such vining growth.
Epiphyllums must be given indirect or filtered sunlight. They like to grow on trees where they get dappled i.e dispersed sunlight.
Epiphyllums require moisture but tend to rot in wet soil, hence over watering will spoil their growth. Water the pots until water leaks from the drainage holes in the pot and then do not water again until the top third of the pot is dry.
The level of water must be checked every few days. Their growing periods are during spring and fall and hence the water requirement is high during this period. After they flower during spring, they enter a resting phase and hence need less water.
Epiphyllums must be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer like 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 from spring throughout fall. A dilute fertilizer can also be used. Adding too much of the fertilizer will hinder the plant’s growth.
Buds are formed during long cool winter nights and cooler temperatures and hours of darkness favor blooming. Plant’s that have buds must not be moved as they can easily drop off. Here the flower buds are as large as a person’s hand and the bloomed flowers are as large as a person’s head. The fruit is edible on some, very similar to the pitaya fruit.
Epiphyllum hybrids need different treatment from semi-desert cacti. They should be protected from direct sunlight, preferably 75% shading at midday.
They are not frosted hardy, so need to be protected from freezing conditions.
It is recommended that the growing medium allows rapid drainage of water and is open, with at least one-third of coarse material to prevent compaction.
Plants should be kept moist. High nitrogen fertilizers are not recommended; no fertilizer should be given during the winter rest period.
Propagating epiphyllum hybrids from cuttings is said to be easy. Rooting hormone can be applied to the base of the cutting before it is allowed to dry for ten days or more so that the cut forms a callus.
The cutting is then planted sufficiently deeply so that it can stand upright. Water is not given for two weeks, after which the growing medium is kept at least slightly moist.
Plants can be misted. They are fast-growing plants and should flower within two years. Epiphyllum hybrids should be re-potted every 2 to 3 years as they tend to sour and deplete the nutrients in their growing medium.
Because the plants are aggressive and grow quickly, they are susceptible to depleting the potassium in their growing medium which results in older growth failing to remain turgid and shriveling. Flowering is triggered by withholding water and giving the plants a dry resting period of about two months during the winter.
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