Epiphyllum questions

Discussion in 'Cacti and Succulents' started by soccerdad, Oct 8, 2007.

  1. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member 10 Years

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    Two years and 8 months ago I planted 10 mixed epiphyllum seeds that I bought from Thompson and Morgan. Eight of them germinated and lived. The seed catalogue said that although these cacti usually take 4+ years to flower, these ones would flower in 2 years and 6 months.

    I have attached pictures of four of them (I hope). A 2' metal ruler hangs in each photo for scale. Some of the plants have some thin and some broad leaves (photo 2), consistent with my belief that the thin leaves broaden as they mature. But some have almost entirely broad leaves (photo 3), and some have almost entirely thin leaves (photo 4). They were all planted at the same time. Some of the leaves thin out and then widen - see photo 1 for the best example of this.

    None of them show any signs of blooming.

    I now have them inside for the winter, in a decently-lit but very cool room - it won't freeze but it may come close to it.

    Here are my questions:

    1. Any predictions of blooming?

    2. Do they look normal?

    3. What does the thinning and then widening imply?

    4. Do the different types of leaves, in terms of thickness, have any significance?

    5. I have not watered them for 2 weeks and they are absolutely bone dry. My plan was to water once a month - with no fertilizer - during the winter; does that seem adequate?

    6. They insist on growing primarily on one side of the container, regardless of how they are oriented vis a vis the sun. Any explanation?
     

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  2. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    I have quite a few at home, and I just let them do whatever, some years I get a good bloom, some years an average bloom. I'm not an expert on these, though I'm sure they're people here who are...

    Hope I helped, somewhat...

    Ed
     
  3. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    I recently discovered I knew far less about these species than I thought. This has been my experience:

    1. Any predictions of blooming? It took four years for our first one to bloom and it was substantially larger than the ones in your photos.

    2. Do they look normal? Perfectly

    3. What does the thinning and then widening imply? Just normal growth. I have blades close to 2 meters (6 feet long) and they all do this. We now have "branches" that sprout in the summer and grow straight up as well.

    4. Do the different types of leaves, in terms of thickness, have any significance? According to a recent email I received, you can determine the species using this factor. I have yet to be able to positively verify that despite numerous emails sent to acquaintances at several botanical gardens. I'm still trying to get to the bottom of this one.
    5. I have not watered them for 2 weeks and they are absolutely bone dry. My plan was to water once a month - with no fertilizer - during the winter; does that seem adequate? Although this is a cactus, remember, this is a rain forest cactus. It grows largely in Mexico and Central America at the fringes of some of the wettest rain forest on the planet. When I first received my large one quite a few years ago (very small then) I went to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami and asked for advice. I was told to keep it in fast draining soil mixed with lots of sand. The plant grows well, has gotten really big, and blooms each summer. The only advice I've ever found in writing suggested approximately 25% soil, 25% sand, 25% Perlite™, and 25% orchid potting media containing bark, gravel, and charcoal. This mixture has worked fine for me and I've given away many cuttings. The blades are not truly "leaves" but I've not been able to uncover a positive scientific term. During the summer, we water daily. In the winter, about twice a week. That would approximate the conditions in a rain forest. As I said, the plant is now enormous. In th little scientific information I can find, these plants are known as "trash can" plants and collect dead vegetation around the base (falling leaves). They use that to collect and hold moisture when the rain forest is less wet. That was the cause for the suggestion for a potting mixture that will retain water, but drain very quickly. As for fertilizer, I've always used a dilute liquid fertilizer the same way I fertilize my orchids.
    6. They insist on growing primarily on one side of the container, regardless of how they are oriented vis a vis the sun. Any explanation? Mine has done this exact same thing. I've never figured out why. The blades actually hang opposite the sun (north) in my tropical atrium. There is a lady on this board who specializes in these species, perhaps she will comment.

    I was recently told there are thousands and thousands of species.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2007
  4. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Not species, there are only a few dozens including close relatives of Epiphyllum. The number of hybrids is much larger, the last figure I saw was something like 10 to 15 thousands.
     
  5. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'm with you, sort of. I can find over 70 species and species variations listed on TROPICOS (Missouri Botanical Garden). But the lady who wrote to me insisted there were 13,000. I am assuming she was referring mostly to the hybrid forms.

    Since I don't specialize in this genus (I grow 4 species and/or hybrids) I have limited knowledge. But they are interesting.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2007
  6. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks everyone. The only debate seems to be how much to water over winter. Last winter I let them remain pretty dry, so this winter I will try watering them more frequently.

    Too bad no one said that they'd bloom next week. My family all regard them as the ugliest plants they have ever seen and only allow me to keep them because of my assurance of imminent breathtaking blooms...
     
  7. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Not next week (my Epiphyllum always bloom in May/June), but perhaps next year. It depends on what types you have, some start to flower when they are as big as yours.

    I have read that they must be kept below normal room temperature to flower well. I have not experimented with this myself, I always try to keep them at about 16-18 °C in winter, but it might be something to consider.

    I do not water them at all in winter.
     
  8. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Interesting that they should be kept cool to bloom. I checked on TROPICOS (Missouri Botanical Garden) for the range of the various species and they range from lower Mexico down through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, portions of the Guiana Shield and into Brazil. During that continent's summer, there is no coolness. Ecuador with its high Andes would have cooler temps, but I've personally been to almost all of those other countries and during the normal bloom periods it certainly is not what anyone would consider cool.

    Our large specimen primarily blooms in June and July and the temperature here would average 29.5 C or 85 F. We do however almost never see blooms once the temperatures rise substantially about 31C.

    I've been trying to get information on these species from several botanical gardens where I have contacts, but so far little success.
     
  9. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    I meant cool winter temperatures, when they actually flower the temperature can be much higher. But, as I wrote, I have never verified the importance of low temperature during their resting period.
     
  10. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    Hmmmm....I'm confused, mine only flower in summer. Mandarin, when your plants flower at 16-18 C I'm assuming that's in your summer, is that right?
    If so maybe the plants have adapted to realise that that is the hottest part of the year...

    Ed
     
  11. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    No, that's in winter, when the buds form inside the plant. It is much warmer (I grow them indoors) when the buds actually appear (late spring).

    I will try to find out where I read about this importance of coolness in winter. Low night temperatures during winter rest is necessary for some cacti if they should flower well, but I'm not sure about the Epiphyllum hybrids.
     
  12. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    When I am trying to learn the best conditions for any species I often refer to the weather charts for countries where the genue or species is common. I just looked up Costa Rica where the genus is reportedly common and the average temperature range is 18.3 to 29,5 C (65 to 85F) degrees. The rainfall is apparently fairly low from December through March (but never dry) but extremely high 10 to 18cm (4 to 7 inches) monthly from March through November).

    It would appear the plants in this genus would therefore prefer growing temperature to well above comfortable room temperature with a drier period (not totally dry) and an extremely wet period. That extremely wet period appears to coincide with the blooming times for the genus.

    Obviously, what works for any individual should continue to work. But if we are purely basing care on natural ambient conditions, these numbers would appear to fit within the norms for species within this genus.

    All I can say for certain is I grow my specimens under simulated rain forest conditions and we have as many as 6 or 7 blooms at one time during the early part of the summer.

    We never allow the plants to completely dry at any time during the year and keep them quite damp in the warm portions of the year. But we also use a very fast draining soil base which to some extent simulates the conditions the specimens would experience on the branch of a rain forest tree. It keeps moisture constantly available to the roots of the plants but they are never sitting in soggy soil. From June through August I water every single day and begin working up to that water schedule beginning in March. By September we begin to back off and by November we water two days a week. That schedule is maintained throughout the year.

    I would also like to hear from someone with scientific knowledge of these species regarding the information on cactus requiring a low temperature in order to bloom. Certainly, these species are generally considered cactus, but they are tropical cactus, not terribly similar to those species from the American Southwestern desert areas. The temperature extremes in the American SW desert can be quite high which would make sense for the plants needing those low temps in order to bloom. The temperatures of a tropical rain forest are quite different. With the exception of the high Andes of Colombia and Ecuador, really low temperature drops would be the exception rather than the norm.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2007
  13. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    Interesting to read how you grow them. When do they actually grow (e.g. increase in size) under your conditions? I do not dare to water them from October until spring, as I want to avoid etiolation (low light here) and cold, soggy root balls.


    Just a note: many North American species don't seem to care about winter temperature when it comes to bud formation, but some are very picky.
     
  14. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    The major growth period always is in May and June. I've had the plants put off stems that stand straight up from the parent plant to a height of almost one meter (3 feet) before their own weight causes them to fall downward. Those stems grow quite rapidly.

    My largest plant has stems that are a full 2 meters in length and at multiple points along their length branch to form totally new stems. The flowers always grow on the upward portion of the stem and stand as high as 15cm (6 inches) before finally opening. And once open, which is in the middle of the night, they are finished and die by approximately 10:30AM the following morning. The most blooms I can ever recall seeing was 7 at one time, but we've had quite a few times when there were as many as 6 open at the same time.
     
  15. Bince

    Bince Member

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  16. mandarin

    mandarin Active Member 10 Years

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    I missed that completely the first time I read your posting. It is generally recommended that these plants are kept at a minimum of 10-15 °C in winter. Mine have occasionally experienced lower temperatures (but above freezing) - they will not die from that, at least not if they are dry - but I do not know how they will react to a longer period of such coldness. Now I am getting really interested in the outcome of your growing experiment, and I am looking forward to a report next spring.
     
  17. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    Mine survive down to 4C over winter, but winter only lasts a month ;)

    Ed
     
  18. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member 10 Years

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    Here, winter is between 5 and 7 months long. And it rains non stop. I mean, perpetually. I have webbed feet from watching countless children's soccer games in the pouring rain.

    But it seldom gets very cold.

    Anyway, I will keep a record of the temperatures this year. I have only one indoor place to grow anything hanging, and it is an unheated storage room where I have installed some fluorescent lights.
     
  19. Darrow

    Darrow Member

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    Soccerdad:

    I don't have any responses to your questions but I just want to express awe at your plants. You say they are only 2 years and 8 months and grown from seed. That is extraordinary! Unbelievable. I have planted some cuttings that I purchased in fall and I am sure that they won't be the size of your plants in two + years. You must really have a GREEN THUMB! What is your secret?
     
  20. constantgardener

    constantgardener Active Member 10 Years

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    "Epis" are rainforest canopy plants & ideally would get the same conditions where you grow them...filtered but bright light (they won't bloom without enough light but burn in full sun); don't let them get bone dry as this kills the delicate root hairs. Fertilize with a low nitrogen fertilizer during growth. Temperatures are best at 40 degrees or more; epis can be damaged by temps as low as 35 degrees. They won't bloom until root bound.
     
  21. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member 10 Years

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    My thumb is closer to black than to green. I put seeds in soil and water them; if anything more is required, I don't provide it. I would love to be a good gardener - people used to come to the door to tell my mom how much they admired her flowers - but I do not have the ability.

    I bought a cheap heater and put it in the storage room, it has been keeping the room at about 11 deg to 12 deg at night; it gets to 18 deg or so during the day (I have been using centigrade so long that I no longer think in fahrenheit - never thought it would happen - although as a young man my work was only in the cgs system). I will post photos in the spring so we can see how they fared over the winter.

    My strelitzia, which I am keeping warm and well-watered, are growing like beans.
     
  22. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    Very interesting discussion. We have 4 epis, plus various cuttings, all unknown hybrids except the cuttings. They live outside in the summer, get regular water & fertilizer the. They come into the house for the winter. Our house is on the cool side, 65F daytime, 60F at night. We do let them dry out between waterings in winter. The older plants all bloom well, mainly in May or June right after they move back outside (hummingbirds love them!). We used to keep them in our cool sunroom in winter, but they didn't seem to like it- it does often drop into the 40's at night.
     
  23. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member 10 Years

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    It seems to me that it must be time to move them outside, esp. since they need to start getting watered and I am not able to water them in their current basement location, meaning that they have to be taken one at a time into another place to be watered - a lengthy job that I am unlikely to do even once a week.

    But the weather here has been incredibly bad. The lows at night went to about 1 deg C a few days ago, and even if that does not happen again we are facing lows of about 5 deg C for the next week - and who knows what after that.

    So: are they likely to suffer if I move them to a place where they are fairly warm during the days but only say 5 deg C at night?
     
  24. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Consider where they grow in nature. Most are from Southern Mexico, Central America and all of tropical South America into southern Brazil where the temps never get close to that kind of low. I know it can be a pain to deal with and I know that because of all the species I grow personally. During our winters I am in a near constant panic trying to make sure everything stays healthy. But as a general rule it would be best for the plants to avoid any temp below 12C or around 50F.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2008
  25. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks. I was afraid that would be the answer. It is just that they surely should start getting watered regularly ...
     

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