The epiphyllum oxypetalum, also known as queen of the night plants, queen of the night flower, night blooming cactus, night queen flower, dutchman’s pipe cactus, or princess of the night flower, is an epiphytic cactus from the Netherlands that blooms in spring and summer months.
The epiphyllum oxypetalum produces large white flowers with prominent red veins with fragrant nectar, hence the nickname queen of the night.
Multiple species of this plant go by the common name queen of the night, but most people use it to refer to Epiphyllum oxypetalum. They are often called night-blooming cactus, but they are not cacti, they are more closely related to lilies and other members of the order Asparagales.
These plants have short-lived flowers which open in the late afternoon or early evening and close early the next morning.
Basic care instructions are simple for the queen of the night plants, epiphyllum oxypetalum. These night blooming, tropical houseplants thrive in bright light but prefer some protection from direct sun in the hottest part of the day. Let’s take a look at how to care for the queen of the night plants to keep them happy and healthy in your home or office.
Origin and distribution
The night blooming cactus is native to South America. In North America, it can be found from Florida through Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona. It is also commonly known as Queen of Night Cactus and Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum, commonly known as Queen of Night, is a succulent shrub that originates from Central America. It belongs to the family Cactaceae, which includes other well-known members such as Saguaro cactus and Joshua tree.
The flowers bloom at night and close up during daylight hours. After blooming, many people like to remove most or all of the blooms so that no new buds are created for next year’s season.
The process is called deadheading. This will give you an idea of how long your plant will bloom each season. Some growers report that their night-blooming cactus plants have lasted more than 15 years with proper care.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum propagation
As with many epiphytic cacti, propagation is achieved mainly through division, though seeds and cuttings are also viable methods. To propagate by division, remove offsets during repotting or after flowering, as they’re most easily removed before significant root development has occurred.
Remove offsets with a sharp knife or saw and replant in fresh cactus soil. These plants should be watered and placed in full sun while they become established. They can then be gradually acclimated to lower light levels.
Propagation from seed is possible but can take several years to produce mature plants. Collect seeds from ripe fruit and sow them immediately in a well-drained soil mix at 70 degrees F (21 C).
Seedlings will emerge within four weeks, but it may take several years for them to flower. Cuttings taken from stem tips in spring can also be rooted under mist if bottom heat isn’t available. Tip cuttings grow faster than stem tip cuttings, but both types require about six months to produce roots.
Cut 1/2 inch off each end of your cutting; place your cutting in water until you see roots growing from its base; plant your cutting directly into a container filled with potting soil; keep your cutting warm and moist until you see new growth appear on top; begin fertilizing regularly once new growth appears on top.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum care information
Epiphyllum oxypetalum requires a lot of care, water, and humidity in order to thrive. These plants are best kept as houseplants in temperate climates but can be overwintered outside if brought indoors during winter months. They need plenty of indirect sunlight and should never be exposed to the full sun until they have acclimated to their new environment.
Queen of night plants are typically grown indoors and require bright light. If your plant does not receive ample, direct sunlight on a regular basis, it may become leggy and require frequent pruning to maintain a healthy shape.
If you’re going to grow your epiphyllum outdoors, it must be provided with partial shade and plenty of water to survive. Epiphyllums do not like dry soil conditions; they cannot handle over-watering either.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum, or queen of night plants, should be grown in a cactus mix with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 and in a pot at least 8 inches in diameter. The soil should drain well, as too much water will cause root rot. The roots should never sit in standing water.
If you have an epiphyllum that is growing indoors, it is best to keep it on a windowsill that gets good sunlight but not direct sun exposure. Make sure to provide your plant with adequate humidity by placing it on a pebble tray filled with moistened rocks or vermiculite.
Water your plant every two weeks during its dormancy period and once every week when actively growing.
While many types of plants require regular watering, Epiphyllum oxypetalum isn’t one of them. In fact, overwatering is actually one of its biggest threats. Keep in mind that Epiphyllums have air pockets that tend to hold onto water. If you don’t let these pockets drain completely, they will quickly rot and kill your plant. Water only when the soil feels dry to touch at a depth of 1 inch.
Use tepid water and allow it to drain from each pot before adding more water. You can also mist your plant with tepid water or place it on a humidity tray filled with pebbles or rocks soaked in water. This creates a humid environment around your plant without drowning it in too much moisture.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum fertilizer
In order to grow your Queen of Night plant indoors, you’ll need to buy a fertilizer that’s specifically formulated for tropical plants. Follow the directions on your package, but generally speaking, you should use more fertilizer in warmer months than in colder ones.
Keep in mind that since it is so hardy, fertilizing too much is rarely an issue when growing Epiphyllum oxypetalum. If anything, err on using less fertilizer than recommended rather than more.
Most epiphyllums will survive light frosts, but temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or -7 degrees Celsius can prove dangerous to these tropical plants. In most climates, it’s safe to leave them outside year-round as long as temperatures stay above freezing during winter.
If you live in a colder climate, keep your plants protected by bringing them indoors when they start to show signs of frostbite.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum is a tropical plant that lives in high-altitude, low-temperature regions. In fact, it can even survive underwater for short periods of time if need be. So it’s no surprise that humidity plays a vital role in its growth and flowering cycle.
You’ll notice that it tends to flower best after there has been some rainfall or other precipitation.
The ideal humidity range is between 60% and 70%. Too much or too little humidity can cause your plant to drop its leaves. If you notice that your plant has lost a lot of leaves, it may be a good idea to invest in a humidifier or dehumidifier.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum pruning
It’s easy to forget about your potted plant during winter, but pruning it can help you avoid a number of problems. When spring comes around, prune your epiphyllum oxypetalum immediately after blooming to remove dead growth and keep it healthy for summer. In fall or early winter, take out all leaves that have fallen to prevent them from gathering in the pot.
You may also want to divide clumps every few years if they become too crowded. The queen of night plants is relatively hardy, but if you live in an area with cold winters, bring it inside before temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). You can place it on a sunny windowsill indoors and water it whenever its soil feels dry.
When to repot
Most epiphyllums like to be repotted in mid-summer, around July. Why? Because that’s when they bloom. If you don’t take care of them in time, though, they’ll go into dormancy, and they won’t bloom again until next year. Keep an eye on your plant and make sure it doesn’t get too big for its pot; if it does, it will need to be transplanted.
One way to grow an epiphyllum oxypetalum is by a process called dormancy. During dormancy, you will provide your plant with cool nights and warm days. The plant itself should be in a semi-shaded area during these conditions. Although you will be unable to water your plant during dormancy, do not worry, it does not need water at all during these times!
So don’t feel like you have to keep it alive, all it needs is darkness and warmth! In fact, if you try to water it while dormant, it could rot away. This means that if you live in a hot climate where temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the year, your plant may never go dormant on its own, and so might never flower for you!
If that’s the case, try moving your plant into cooler temperatures for several weeks each year or purchase one that has already gone through dormancy.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum flower & fragrance
Epiphyllum oxypetalum is known for its fragrant white flowers. The blooms appear at night and are said to resemble trumpets or deer antlers, which explains why they’re sometimes called the princess of the night plants. It also explains their other common name, dutchman’s pipe cactus.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum’s growth rate is extremely slow. It can take up to ten years for an epiphyllum to bloom, and most individual plants live 20–30 years. This species of cactus can grow up to 6 in (15 cm) tall and has a diameter of 3–4 in (7.5–10 cm). The stems are slender with round joints, elongated, and almost succulent.
The queen of night plant has been linked to poisoning because it contains calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals are sharp and can cause skin irritation, especially if they come into contact with an open wound.
If you have pets or children in your home, keep them away from these plants as ingestion can be fatal. If a child does ingest any part of one of these plants, seek medical attention immediately.
USDA Hardiness Zones
Epiphyllum oxypetalum thrives best in USDA zones 9 through 11. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico, where they grow on trees or rocks in partial shade. They can be grown indoors as houseplants if you live in a colder climate.
In these regions, they’re commonly known as the queen of night plants because their large flowers open at night and close during daylight hours.
Pests and diseases
Epiphyllum oxypetalum plants are susceptible to many pests and diseases, but they are particularly vulnerable to mealybugs. These white, wax-covered insects can grow in large numbers quickly and may cover a plant if not treated promptly. Ants will often protect mealybugs by building structures around them, which makes it even more important to remove these invaders.
Treat them with an insecticidal soap spray or alcohol spray. Mealybugs also leave behind a sticky residue that attracts ants, so wipe off any residue you find on your queen of night plants. Other pests include spider mites and scale insects.
Scale infestations can be difficult to treat; you’re better off removing affected leaves rather than trying to kill all of them at once. Spider mites tend to thrive in hot, dry conditions, so keeping your queen of night plant healthy is essential for preventing infestations.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum is an exquisite cactus often used for its showy flowers, which may look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Its scientific name, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, is derived from Greek words that mean upon petals, likely referring to their abundance. The plant belongs to a subfamily called Cactoideae and is also known as queen-of-the-night or Dutchman’s pipe cactus.