My Epi Collection

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The Green Scene

Landscaping & Swimming Pools

I have been designing and planting gardens in California for over 35 years. Most of my clients want low-maintenance plants that a basic “mow, blow and go” style gardener can handle. For them, I select tough-to-kill trees and plantings that require little water, infrequent fertilization, and absolutely no love to thrive. The basic plant palette complies with most homeowners’ associations and looks good with minimal care.

For me, it’s different. I like to grow rare specialty plants that require a little more care but pay back ten-fold when it comes to providing unique beauty or fragrance in the garden. In my own backyard, I have dozens of pots, over 50 hanging baskets, and planters over-stuffed with a variety of rare plants, succulents, cacti, 9 fruit trees, and even 5 varieties of Dragon Fruit (more on this later).

Of all my plants, my favorites are my vast Epiphyllum collection. Sometimes referred to as Orchid Cactus, Strap Cactus, or just “Epi’s,” they produce the most spectacular flowers you’ve ever seen! The flower size ranges from petite to super large blossoms up to 10 inches across. The flowers themselves can look like tropical birds with a color palette that ranges from subtle creams and whites to striking iridescent and vibrant colors.

Below are photos from my garden epi collection.

The Epiphyllum were originally discovered hundreds of years ago in the rainforests of Central and South America. These rainforests, known for their lush and diverse plant life, provided the perfect environment for these unique epiphytes to thrive. Unlike most plants that root in soil, Epiphyllums often grow on tree branches, or other plants, drawing nutrients from the air and rain.

Watering once per week off-season and twice per week during spring and summer seems to do the trick. Although they are related to cacti, their origins in the rainforests make them thirstier than other cacti.

These flowers are very showy but short-lived. Some bloom for only a few days, while others open only at night. This family of plants received a boost in fame from the movie “Crazy Rich Asians,” where, in one scene, the whole family and guests run out in the evening to witness the rare blooming of a specialty White Epiphyllum oxypetalum.

Today, Epiphyllums are grown by hobbyists and collectors all over the world. They are fairly easy to care for and grow well in no-frost areas. However, one of the things that make Epi’s special is that the unique colors can only be replicated by a clone of the original. This means it must be grown from an actual cutting from the original family lineage. You can’t just buy a packet of seeds and get the same color. Because of this, rare colors are sold at nursery shows and specialty clubs where trading favorites is how you best fill your collection. Because these plants are best grown from cuttings, I have always referred to them as “friendship plants.” I’m always happy to share cuttings with family, friends, and clients, and I really enjoy receiving texts and photos of blooming plants years later.

Growing an Epiphyllum from a cutting to the point where it blooms can take patience. Typically, it can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years before a cutting will bloom. This waiting period requires dedication but is incredibly rewarding when the first flowers start to appear.

These plants are relatively easy to care for. Planted into cacti/succulent potting mix that drains quickly, I give mine a little fertilizer every month and treat once a year with a light spray of Malathion insecticide.

Epiphyllums, with their spectacular blooms and unique growth habits, offer a delightful challenge for any gardener willing to invest a little extra care. They are a testament to the beauty and variety of the plant world, rewarding patience with breathtaking displays of color and form. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice, adding an Epiphyllum to your collection is sure to bring joy and admiration.


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