Queen of the night flowering for the first time

In our garden, late winter to early spring is all about aloe flowers. When the aloes are done blooming, around mid-April, that’s when the cacti start. I’ve been so focused on the sun-loving cacti in the front yard that I almost forgot I also have a few shade-loving cacti in planters hanging from trees in the backyard.

I briefly posted about them three years ago, but have largely ignored them since then. That has started to change. The epiphyllums I was given in 2021 have survived (all but one), but life in coir liners hasn’t been ideal – the material doesn’t retain water and doesn’t offer much in the way of thermal insulation.

I’ve recently moved two of them into proper planters, and one of them promptly flowered for the first time. It’s a night-blooming epiphytic cactus with cream-colored flowers, commonly called “queen of the night.” According to the label, its botanical name is Disocactus crenatus ‘Chichicastenango’. The cultivar name is based on its place of origin, near the town of Chichicastenango in the highlands of Guatemala. It was offered by the Huntington in 2017 through its International Succulent Introduction (ISI) program, and it looks like it’s still available for $10.

“Queen of the night” is a catch-all monikers that is applied to any number of night-blooming cacti. The most common “queen of the night” is Epiphyllum oxypetalum, often grown as a houseplant. Another one is Peniocereus greggii, a thin-stemmed climbing cactus native to Arizona that typically grows in and through shrubs that give it support. Peniocereus greggii is as unassuming as it gets – some people say it looks like a bunch of dead sticks – but in late June or early July, Arizonans get so excited that they hold watch parties because its flowers are spectacular. (My friend Jan Emming has a great article about Peniocereus greggii on his website.)

Me, I threw my own watch party when the flower bud on my Disocactus crenatus ‘Chichicastenango’ had reached this stage:

πŸ• May 9, 4:38 pm

That was at 4:38 pm on May 9. Two hours later, it looked like this:

πŸ• May 9, 6:46 pm

And another hour later the flower was fully open:

πŸ• May 9, 8:02 pm

I tried my hand at a timelapse sequence to document the progress of the flower. It’s not great, but it gives you an idea of how it unfolded:


Typically, these bat-pollinated flowers open at dusk and only stay open until the following morning – 12 or 16 hours is all you get. That’s what I expected, but at 7:38 am the next morning the flower was still fully open. In fact, a bee was busy helping itself to the nectar:

πŸ• May 10, 7:38 am

I kept checking throughout the day, and 12 hours later, the flower was still alive and kicking. Granted it had closed a bit, but it looked good otherwise:

πŸ• May 10, 7:37 pm (here you can see the hanging metal planter the cactus is now in)

24 hours later, and it was clear the show was almost over:

πŸ• May 11, 6:29 pm

Another 18 hours later, and the flower was spent:

πŸ• May 12, 12:32 pm

Still, I’m amazed that the flower lasted 3½ days – and looked great for a good two of them. I’m so excited that I will now repot my other epiphyllums in hopes they, too, will reward me with flowers.

Note: Disocactus are closely related to Epiphyllum; in fact, Wikipedia says that “cultivated plants known as epiphyllum hybrids or just epiphyllums are derived from crosses between species of Disocactus (rather than Epiphyllum) and other genera in the Hylocereeae.” Coming from a frost-freeze tropical climate, they don’t like to get too cold, but mine have survived outside hanging from our chaste tree (bare in the winter). Here is a good article on how to care for epiphyllums aka orchid cacti.


© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.

Comments

  1. Your planter reminds me of Loree's Danger Garden planters! Love the Epiphyllum, but they sure hate it here in Phoenix. I have a Peniocereus "Queen of the Night" under a tree but it has not ever bloomed. Maybe not old enough yet. 3 plus days, wow!

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  2. Beautiful! I like that picture from the morning with the bee inside.

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  3. Congratulations Gerhard! I didn't realize that there were other cacti bearing the 'Queen of the Night' name. My own plant, labeled as Epiphyllum oxypetalum, is a clear white with pink tinges without the peachy yellow touches of your plant. I miss the blooms more often than I catch them because I don't spend as much time as I should in my lath house. Your post reminds me that all my Epiphyllums could use a boost of fertilizer ;)

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  4. Glad that you have blooming epiphyllums Almost all of mine have buds and 6 different colors have already bloomed. I don't seem to have had any problem with my plants blooming in coir baskets. I tend to over water, so that may be why they are OK. Hope many more of yours will bloom.
    Priscilla

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  5. Wow, thank you for that time-lapse and all the nifty angles. It's so beautiful--the colors, the form, everything!

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  6. How gorgeous! I'm hoping at least one of my Disocactus or Epiphyllum will bloom this year.

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  7. I do miss the Epiphyllums I used to be able to grow a couple hundred years ago when I lived in San Diego. I almost bought a couple when I was in Los Osos last month , but I really need to prepare a spot first. It sure is good fun when something blooms for the first time.

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  8. Your post makes me suspect that maybe the flower stayed open longer than usual because it hadn't been pollinated yet.

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