Increasing The Blooms On My Orchid Cactus

Question:

 I have several Epiphyllum cactus growing on my patio in pots.  The plants are healthy, producing plenty of leaves but I only get a few flowers each year. They get about an hour of filtered sun daily and I fertilize often with 30-10-10.  What can I do to get them to produce more flowers and should I prune them to control their size?

Answer:

  • Epiphyllum cacti are actually a type of orchid that is native to the rain forest of Brazil. 
  • They’re mainly epiphytic plants meaning that they grow without soil on the sides of trees and in the forks of branches; however, they do grow in containers with well drain soil. These orchids have broad flat stems with serrated edges along with being segmented and joined by a midrib.
    • They’re related to the Thanksgiving, Christmas, also known as Zygocactus and the Easter or spring variety called Schlumbergera. All of the Epiphyllum cacti have very large and showy flowers and can reach over seven inches across. Although a spring bloomer, there are some varieties that bloom in the fall.
  • The flowers typically open at night but only last for a couple of days. Although exotic, Orchid Cactus are easy to grow here in the Bay Area but they’re sensitive to the cold in the winter. The lack of or limited number of flowers that your plants are producing is a nutrient issue.
    • In addition, the limited amount of light is a contributing factor.
  • The 30-10-10 fertilizer is too high in nitrogen while the potassium percentage is too low. Potassium is the last number in the fertilizer analysis while nitrogen is the first number. 30-10-10 encourages a plant to be lush and green.
  • Normally the second number, phosphours, influences flower and fruit production but that’s not the case with Epiphullum’s. I’d switch to the Gro More 6-30-30 Orchid Food or something similar.
  • Orchid Cactus are not fed year round so I’d feed them February through October, giving them a rest period for the balance of the year. During the rest period, you encourage buds to set by watering them sparely for eight to twelve weeks, starting in November. Once buds appear, keep the plant in the same location, as changes in light and temperature by moving them around will cause them to drop its buds and flowers.
    • When moved indoors, keep the Orchid Cactus away from drafty areas like doorways and heater vents, much like a poinsettia. Keep your plants in bright, indirect light year-round, however they can take some direct sun light first thing in the morning.
    • An Agrosun Dayspot grow light is suggested to increase the light during the winter months especially if you bring the plant(s) indoors.  
  •  Orchid Cactus are pruned annually in the spring months after flowering to control the growth.  They’re cut between the segments using a sharp and clean knife or pruning shears.
  • They’re also repotted every three-years as Orchid Cactus prefers to be slightly pot-bound to bloom. And one final note, unlike other flowering plants never repot them while they’re blooming.