Epi Care Basics
Provide your epiphyllums with filtered light, good drainage, balanced watering so that they are not wet but do not dry out. It is as simple as that but it is more complicated to achieve than it first appears.
Epiphyllum are Epiphytic cacti. As an epiphytic cacti they grow on other plants, not as a parasitic but using the plant as a host. Epiphyllums are also not cold hardy (below 35ºF.). In colder climates they are normally found only as houseplants or in greenhouses.
Watering epiphyllums is basically a balancing act. They should not be allowed to dry out, yet over watering is the number one cause of plant death. The key to watering Epiphyllum plants is to keep the top 1/3 of the soil moderately damp and preventing standing water from around the roots. Epiphyllum plant care is all about balancing water and light needs.
For best results choose a filtered light location. A site where they get full morning sun but shelter from high noon light is best but they do well in northern exposure also. The key is protection from direct midday direct sun.
Epis bloom best when you give them regular, light fertilizer applications. However they take much less fertilizer than is called out for other types of plants in the same size container. Using about 1/3 to 1/2 of what is normally called for is a good rule of thumb. Make sure to use a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 or 5-5-5) during the growth periods in spring and fall. In February, use a low nitrogen fertilizer (2-10-10 or 0-10-10) to promote flowering and root development. Then once flowering has commenced, suspend feeding the plant until October.
Epiphyllums do appreciate cool temperatures and actually need to be exposed to 50ºF to 60ºF in winters for a couple of weeks to force blooms. However prolonged temperatures below 35ºF there is a chance it will kill your plant. If the temperature drops to 30ºF for only a couple of hours over night, your plants will probably be all right especially if they are situated close to the house where it is normally a little warmer. But, if the temperature goes down to 30ºF and stays there for many hours you may lose your plants.
Epiphyllums have few insect or disease problems and will bloom, and possibly fruit for you with a little good management if you do not wish the plant to fruit just remove the flower after it has finished blooming.
Epis are relatively pest free but there are some pests that will enjoy your plants. Aphids, mealy bugs, scale, snails, slugs, and caterpillars are pests to watch out for. Minor infestations of scale can be controlled with the application of rubbing alcohol directly onto the scale with a cotton ball or cotton swab. Snails and slugs are controlled with readily available snail/slug baits.
One other problem is loosing the name of your Hybrid Epiphyllum.
Mark the hybrid name on a plant tag and keep it in the pot. Old mini blind slats make great tags. Use permanent marker on one side of the tag and lead pencil on the other. This type of marker may fade or fall out of the pot. We also like to use metal tags attached to the pot wires. Some SDES members are beginning to write with a paint-pen on the pots or using a label maker to print names and put them on the pots. Then there is the old standard of using black felt tip pen to mark the cutting leaves with the plant name.