If you are looking for huge, fragrant white blossoms, the night blooming cereus is for you. One of the strangest sights in the desert is the striking thorny sticks called Night-blooming Cereus. It resembles nothing more than a dead bush most of the year. But for one midsummer’s night each year, its exquisitely scented large white flower opens as night falls, then closes forever with the first rays of the morning sun. The Chinese believe that this beautiful plant brings good fortune to the home.
Selenicereus grandiflorus was first discovered by early navigators in the jungles of Central and South America, cuttings were taken to Europe. The first record of these plants is 1753. The name “Epiphyllum” was given to them, meaning “upon the leaf” in reference to their habit of sending out their flowers from the edges of the “leaf”. Hybridizing of these cacti from the new world can be traced back to England in 1811. Enthusiasm soon spread to France, Germany and Belgium. Before 1900, seeds and cuttings were sent to the United States, contributing to the early knowledge of these fine plants here. Since then, Southern California, with its favorable climate, has become the Epiphyllum capitol of the world.
The flowers of the Epiphyllum species, with only one exception, are all white, or white with a touch of yellow. These very fragrant trumpet-shaped flowers, which bloom for only one night in June or July, are up to 4 inches wide and as much as 8 inches long. The waxy, creamy-white, many-petaled flowers are followed by a red-orange, short-spined ellipitical fruit about 3 inches long. Extremely small spines grow along the 4 to 6 ribs of these woody stems, which can easily break. It can be erect or sprawling, reaching a length of up to 8 feet, but is usually half that length. The true species is extremely rare in cultivation. Most of the plants under this name belong to other species or hybrids. Two plants are given the common name night blooming cereus. They include Selenicereus and the Hylocereus genus.
The Epiphyllum hybrids we have today are the results of hybridizing by many people over a great number of years. By crossing the species with related genera, such as Selenecereus, Hylocereus, Heliocereus, Nopalxochia and possibly others, as well as crosses between species, hybrid with species, white and purple, pink, rose and red. Combinations of colors, tints and shades, make some of our hybrids almost impossible to describe. The various shapes and sizes, the delicate or brilliantly iridescent colors of the hybrids, make them the most beautiful flowers in the entire succulent world. Because of the many variations, and the fact that these container grown plants are easily propagated from cuttings, this plant family is one of the most rewarding you can grow. It is sometimes edible, depending on the variety.
Until next time ya’ll