Congratulations! You’re the proud owner of a Queen of the Night orchid cactus cutting.
You will soon be experiencing the joy of witnessing one of the most interesting little quirks of ornamental horticulture: the night-flowering Epiphyllum.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum. Photo - Diana Cochran Johnson
You’re now a member of the nocturnal tribe, waiting up in the wee small hours, ever-sensitive to the sweet scent of an opening Epiphyllum, part of the
‘Queen-scene’, one with the crowd that understands one Queen of the Night is simply not enough.
Completing your initiation into this secret society is simple. Just follow the steps below, don’t over-water them and keep a vigilant lookout for emerging
buds at the margins.
Take a leaf and cut it into 4 inch sections across the vein. Make sure you don’t lose track of which end is up, and which end down. This is important!
Slice the bottom of your cutting into a point, or ‘V’ shape. This will make it easier to insert into the potting mix, and will help differentiate the bottom
from the top.
Cut a ‘V’ shape in the bottom of your piece, leave for a few days to dry out and voila, a star is born!
Allow a few days for the cutting to dry before you plant it. Similar to Frangipani cuttings, Epiphyllum cuttings need to callus over where they have been
cut before planting to reduce the risk of introduced disease and rotting.
After a few days have passed, and the raw edges of your cutting have callused over, press the ‘V’ end of your cutting into some potting mix in a 4 inch
pot. Water it once - that's right. Just once! Then place in a warm, sheltered position with a little morning sun, but not too much. An over-dose of
sun will bleach out the deep, lush green and may burn them.
Forget about them. Don’t water. In particular, don’t let your Epiphyllum cuttings get too wet over winter. They will rot with too much moisture.
This simple technique will work with most Epiphyllums, so plant up as many as you can get from your piece. Once the cuttings strike it’s time to move them
out into the garden and watch for the emergence of the flower buds. Some Queen of the Night, especially E. oxypetalum, produce flowers in
time to coincide with a full moon.
When choosing a position for your Queen of the Night it’s worth keeping in mind the growth habit of your particular species. E. strictum, for
instance, is pendulous and is best suited to hanging baskets, or over retaining walls where it can hang as much as 1 to 1.5 meters. E. oxypetalum,
on the other hand is rangier and loves climbing trees. It’s a good bed fellow with a large frangipani, or Jacaranda, flowering in opposite seasons.
Epyphillum strictum. Photo - Jenmin-2013