Six on Saturday: Epiphyllum plant rescue

I’ve fancied an epiphyllum cactus for a little while. Also known as orchid cactus, these are native to Central and South America. They are epiphytes and would naturally be found in crevices of trees or rocks where enough humus has formed to capture water. It’s a forest cactus rather than the more usual desert cactus that comes to mind with the word cactus. They live in the understory so like a little more shade than desert cactus making them good houseplants. Epiphyllum look good hanging over the edge of pots and suit hanging pots well so they can hang as they would in the wild from tree branches.

1. The plant

I found a large one growing in one of the local garden centres. It is not looking the best currently but it was cheap for the size. This has suffered in just about every way a plant can. It has been sat on a waterlogged bench in a boiling hot greenhouse. The greenhouse has no vents beyond opening the doors so it has been fried and drowned. Not ideal for a cactus. It also appears to have been nibbled on by something and had a good A-Z of weeds including two varieties of Oxalis. On the face of it a plant not worth getting but it was cheap for a decent-sized plant. It may turn out I can’t fix the issues and then it will be used as a large amount of cutting material to propagate more.

2. The weeds

The first step was removing as much of the weeds as possible. I took it out of the pot. A lot of it peeled off the outer layer in big sections leaving the plant behind.

3. Soil removing

The soil it had been potted in was less than ideal and it was rather sodden so I removed much of the existing soil. This left the plant which only has a small root network. I imagine this is pretty normal though going off its epiphytic nature.

4. Potting mix

I mixed a more suitable potting mix made up of part sand, part grit and part compost. This will have some moisture retention but free enough draining that it doesn’t sit in water like it has been.

5. Potting up

I potted it back up in a smaller pot. having removed the weeds and probably losing some of the roots in the process the root ball was much smaller and generally, you want a plant growing in a pot that is just slightly bigger than the root ball. I’ve potted it slightly higher than it was previously as by my reckoning it had been buried a bit low. This has left a bit of unsightly damaged stem but this will be hidden as it grows. But I think the stem may suffer with rot left as it was.

6. Finishing touches

I then top-dressed it with some grit and found it a cache pot. It doesn’t suit the plant that well but it will do for now. There are two rather grand flowers so I get a taste of what it may be like in future years. It’s got quite a bad lean to it that I’m trying to rectify by facing it away from the light. Though to be fair I don’t mind it on a plant like this where I think it looks a bit more natural having a sense of direction.

Hopefully, now it’s out of the direct sun it should darken a bit. It is more yellow than the photos appear. This is probably a mix of the watering and the sun. We’ll see if it sorts itself out over the next few months. I’d still quite like an Epiphyllum anguliger, the fishbone cactus, but this will do for now. It still has signs of its mistreatment but if I can keep it going it will be a plant with a bit more of a story and character.

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6 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: Epiphyllum plant rescue”

    1. I may end up using this for cuttings of it doesn’t look happier. I imagine they’ll be pretty easy to get going from cuttings like most succulents. Just giving them a chance to dry and root a little then getting the watering right. Not too little and not too much.

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