Epiphyllum (Orchid Cacti) - Expert tips

How to care for Orchid Cacti (Epiphyllum) - Expert tips for thriving plants

The Epiphyllum is a succulent with a special background. Most succulents originate from the desert, but this pretty plant species originates from the tropics. They live there as an epiphyte, which means that they grow on top of other plants. What a special skill that is, isn't it?

Epiphyllum plants are also known as orchid cacti, leaf cacti, hanging cacti or climbing cacti. While they are cacti, they don't have typical cactus “leaves”. Technically, they don't have leaves. Instead of leaves, they have mostly green and thick stems that can grow really long. The stem edges will mostly have a bit of a quirky shape, which gives the plant a very fun look. When you take very good care of your Epiphyllum, you might be rewarded with some gorgeous flowers. These appear in a variety of colours and make the plant even more beautiful!

Epiphyllum plant

Orchid Cactus Care: 10 expert tips for growing it successfully

  1. Choose a spot that gets lots of natural light for several hours daily. The best spot is near the east and north windows.
  2. Keep it out of intense midday sun as this can damage them. Sunlight in the morning or evening can be beneficial since it is less intense than sunlight during the midday.
  3. Always check the soil before you start watering it. Your Epiphyllum is really sensitive to overwatering. If the soil has dried out, it is time to give it a new drink. Wait a few more days if it still feels moist.
  4. If the stems of your Epiphyllum appear shriveled or puckered and soft, it might be a sign they are thirsty. Then water your Epiphyllum as soon as possible!
  5. When watering, try to direct water to the soil rather than the stems. Wet foliage, especially if left overnight, can make your plant susceptible to fungal diseases.
  6. If the stems turn yellow, it can be a sign of overwatering. Make sure the pot has good drainage and adjust your watering routine accordingly.
  7. Epiphyllums prefer higher humidity as they are from the tropics. If you live in a dry area, consider placing the pot on a tray filled with pebbles and a bit of water.
  8. Use a well-draining and airy cactus or succulent soil mix. This ensures that water doesn't remain stagnant at the roots, which can cause rot.
  9. Winter is a resting period for Epiphyllums. Cut back on water and refrain from feeding them during this time. Dormancy is necessary for good bloom production in the future.
  10. They may need some support. Growing Epiphyllums can become quite heavy, especially when they are in bloom. Keep them from breaking by providing stakes or other structures.

Epiphyllum care

Light requirements

The Epiphyllum is pretty easygoing when it comes to its light requirements. It will grow best on the spot with moderate light since this recreates the light conditions the best from where it originates from. But a little bit more or less light will do no harm. Find a spot near the east or north-facing window, and it will be one happy houseplant!

Expert tip! If you have a south or west-facing window, it can work, but you might need to use curtains or blinds to diffuse the intense midday and afternoon sun.

When she receives too much light, its foliage will discolour. That is your sign to place it in a little bit less light. When Epiphyllums don't get enough light, they might stretch out, leading to elongated stems. This is the plant's way of trying to reach more light. Insufficient light can also result in reduced flowering or no bloom at all.

Epiphyllum plant leaves


This plant is succulent, which results in needing less water than non-succulent plants. However, due to its tropical origin, Epiphyllum will need water slightly more often than succulents that originate from the desert. Make sure that potting soil dries out before watering it again. The easiest way to check this is by feeling the soil’s moistness with your finger. If you have a hard time doing this, you can always rely on our tools, Tessa and Naomi, to do this job for you. :)

Expert tip! It needs less watering during the autumn and winter months. You’re probably used to watering it much more in the summer, but be careful when autumn approaches. Its soil will likely dry out much longer!

Like other cacti, the roots of Epiphyllums can rot if they sit in water for extended periods. The plant's stems might turn yellow or translucent and mushy or soft. Thus, always check the soil before you start watering it!


Since succulents grow less rapidly than non-succulents, this results in them needing less nutrition. You can add some nutrition to your watering routine during the growing season, but only half a portion. That should be more than plenty to keep your Epiphyllum happy and healthy.

Expert tip! You can encourage blooming by using a low-nitrogen fertiliser in the final week of February and again at the end of October.

Temperature & humidity

If you keep the temperature between 21-28°C and the humidity above 30%, your Orchid Cactus will love staying with you. As tropical houseplants, they will also benefit from higher humidity (50-70%), but they tolerate low humidity fairly as well. If you find your indoor environment too dry, especially in winter when indoor heating can reduce humidity, consider using a humidifier or placing the plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water. You don’t have to mist the plant, but it will benefit to wipe the dust off of her big stems very regularly.

Expert tip! During winter, place your Epiphyllum in a place with slightly cooler temperatures, around 15-18°C during the day. This cooler period helps the development of flower buds. If the plant is kept too warm throughout winter, it might not receive the signal to produce blooms.

Repotting & soil

Usually, Epiphyllums can be repotted every 2-3 years. They prefer being a bit root-bound, which often encourages blooming. However, if you notice rapid growth or the plant becoming too top-heavy for its container, you might need to repot sooner. Epiphyllums, being epiphytic cacti, prefer a well-draining and airy soil mix. We recommend using PLNTS Epiphytes potting mix or succulent potting mix.

Epiphyllum plant close up

Propagating Epiphyllum

You can make a whole family of Epiphyllum plants by propagating them through stem cutting. Remember, Rpiphyllum has fleshy stems instead of leaves. You have to pick a healthy stem that doesn’t look wrinkly. Place the cutting in water or in a well-draining soil mix and wait for roots to develop.

Expert tip! If you have trouble with cutting that starts rotting, you can also place your cutting after taking it from the plant in a dry area. Wait for it to form a callus around the edge, and then plant them as you prefer.

Once the Epiphyllum cutting has grown a bit and you notice it's forming a strong root system, you can transplant it into a bigger pot if needed.

Most common pests on Epiphyllum

Overall, Epiphyllum plants are pretty healthy and sturdy. This is the reason why they don’t get pests very often, like other plants. But you can still keep an eye on mealybugs, aphids, fungus gnats and spider mites. If you need any help with diagnosing your itchy problem, then you can go to our PLNTSdoctor page. Here, you will find all the information you need to determine what pest you're dealing with and how to get rid of it.

Is Epiphyllum poisonous for your pets or children?

The Epiphyllum is not poisonous for kids and pets to ingest. Nevertheless, we would not recommend encouraging any nibbling since it can still cause irritation.

Buy your new Epiphyllum online at PLNTS.com

At PLNTS.com you can buy Epiphyllum online, like the Epiphyllum Anguliger. Whether you like your plants big from the start or prefer to grow them from tiny BabyPLNTS into full-grown PLNTS - we’ve got you covered!

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Hi, I'm Emma, your PLNTS.com guide!

Hi, I’m Emma, your PLNTS.com guide!