Imagine a tree with 51 branches… this is the tree of succulents. One branch represents all cacti (from the family Cactaceae). The other 50 branches would be succulents from 50 other plant families. Thus cacti—which are native to the USA, Mexico, Central and South America—are succulents but not all succulents are cacti.
Cacti grow in a variety of habitats. Many are terrestrial (growing in the ground); others are arboreal (growing in the trees). Rhipsalis (native and widespread in Central and South America), Schlumbergera (commonly known as Christmas and Easter cactus) and Ephiphyllums (Orchid Cactus) grow in the tree canopies of tropical jungles from Mexico to Central America.
You can enjoy the tropics without a passport or the cost of travel by growing Epis (as they are affectionately nicknamed). This plant provides spectacular bloom in a wide range of colors, textures and sizes. It is possible to start a plant from a leaf cutting. To achieve a large plant with potentially hundreds of blooms requires four to ten years from a single cutting.
The hybrids offered at Simply Succulent are almost entirely due to the loving efforts and generosity of Fort Bragger Jim Goekler. Jim worked at Georgia Pacific for decades but his real passion was pollinating (“crossing”) orchid cactus, thereby creating his own blends of form and color. Jim still has a small veggie garden and lovely perennials surrounding his home, but his legacy is his personally named Epi “children.”
One of his eldest is “Lemon Custard” crossed with “Bewitched.” The flower is a fluffy form about six to eight inches in diameter, and delights the eye with its multi-hued orange, yellow and red petals.
Epiphyllums begin blooming (depending on the hybrid and growing conditions) from May to August each year. As there is more surface to the leaves there are more flowers. Regular feeding in the spring with low nitrogen (N), high potassium (K), and phosphorous (P) fertilizer is suggested. Occasionally adding trace minerals is also recommended.