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Night Blooming Cereus

Epiphyllum oxypetalum

Night blooming Cereus, also known as Queen of the Knight, is a member of the cactus family.  It’s a rather unassuming and clumsy-looking plant with large paddle-shaped leaves (technically flattened stems that function as leaves) that grow in an untidy jumble.  When a new leaf is about to be produced, a long thin stem arises at a crazy angle and then slowly unfolds.  Not what I would call the most attractive plant.  In fact, for most of the spring through fall, my night blooming Cereus has been relegated to a spot near the air conditioning units.

With all the beautiful plants out there, you might ask yourself why bother?  Well, after the plant is four or five years old, it redeems itself.  Sometime in mid-July, the plant will develop a bud that looks like something from a Dr. Seuss story.  Over the next few weeks the bud will elongate and grow larger.  When the bud begins to turn upwards you know the reveal will occur within the next seven to eight days.

The bud slowly begins to unfurl after dusk, but the real excitement begins to build around 9:00 PM when hour by hour, the thin outer petals unfold, followed by the broader inner petals.  Around midnight the flower will have reached its full glory.  Depending on the variety and age of the plant, the blossom may be as small as five inches across or as wide as a foot.

The blossom is an exquisite, pure clean white, large cupped flower with feathery petals and a long, radiating stigma.  There are conflicting thoughts on the fragrance:  some consider it divine, while others find it overpowering and offensive.

Since the bloom only appears one time a year, opens at night and is wilted by dawn, anxious gardeners have been known to stay up all night so that they don’t miss the show.  If you’re a good friend, you may be invited to come over in your jammies and celebrate with a watch party.

(click pictures for source)

Beth_DiGioia_Night_Blooming_Cereus  Beth_DiGioia_Night_Blooming_Cereus

Night Blooming Cereus is easy to care for.  Water and fertilize (with a well-balanced water soluble product) regularly from March through August, but allow the soil to dry out between watering.  Discontinue fertilization and reduce water to one time a month September through February.

Hardy to zone 10, it’s grown as a houseplant in McKinney, but when the daytime temperatures are consistently above 65 degrees, it appreciates being moved outdoors and placed in a morning sun/afternoon shade spot.  Re-pot only when necessary as the plant blooms best when pot bound.

I’ve never seen this plant for sale, but most gardeners will happily share a piece of a leaf that roots readily in rich, well-draining soil.  So if you’re looking for an unusual plant that gives you an excuse to stay up all night and party, find a friend with a night blooming Cereus and beg a piece.



For more gardening inspiration, you can visit Beth’s website.


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