Replacing Your Lawn To Cut Water Use
May 29, 2015

Tropical Beauty Without A Passport

Simply Succulent. Fort Bragg CA.

Simply Succulent. Fort Bragg CA.

Tropical Beauty Without A Passport

Simply Succulent. Fort Bragg CA.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.

Simply Succulent. Fort Bragg CA.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.



Caring for Epiphyllum, The Orchid Cactus

  • HEAT: Loves it.
  • LIGHT: Filtered. Under an eave, tree, trellis or skylight.
  • PROTECT FROM; Rain, snow, wind, hail, snails and slugs.
  • WATERING: Remember, these plants are from the rainforests. Moisture yes; sopping wet no. Keep drier in winter.
    Note: Mine are grown in unheated greenhouses on the Pacific Coast so watering once a month or less, November thru February.
  • REPOTTING: Best done in early Spring or early Fall. Plants can be groomed, cut back or divided.
  • PESTS: Aphids, white fly and mealy bugs. Solutions: Increase ventilation, remove by hand, or spray leaves.
  • GROWING MEDIUM: For every grower there is a different mix. If you already grow Violets and Orchids, do the same for Epiphyllum. My own mix is the same one that I use for succulents (decomposed fir bark and mushroom compost with added perlite and/or pumice). The goal remains the same whatever the approach – nutrient rich, fast draining and well aerated mix.
  • STAGING: Big plants require support and security. Note: One friend from the Bay Area wires them into his nondeciduous trees where they remain year round.
  • FERTILIZING: Grow high nitrogen solution in Spring if plants are still young and small. Bloom low nitrogen solution for flowers in early Spring (once a month.)
  • PLANTING A LEAF: The leaf can be left unattended and open to the air, but not bright light, for weeks or even months. There is no soil involved, so it can travel with you on vacation by plane, boat or car. When ready to plant, support a 4” to 8” leaf by planting 1/5th of it into a pot with a hole. Put a piece of screen over the hole. Fill the pot with growing mix. Place the pot on a plate and water the plate. The water wicks upward and there is no danger of rotting out the leaf before it begins to set root (or water the soil fromt he topside lightly and regularly). Place the planted leaf in a filtered light location. Within 3-6 weeks the roots develop. Within 3-6 months new growth should appear.