Sunday, August 26, 2012

Random plant event: Epiphyllum NOID

And this would be the second of the two big developments during the hiatus.1

This probably shouldn't have happened either, by the way. Just three months ago, the plant was just two unrooted cuttings,2 which is surely way too young to be blooming. Though the cuttings were from growth that looked pretty solid and substantial, which is maybe why it worked anyway. I don't know.

In any case, I first noticed that something was going on in mid-July. It wasn't immediately clear that what I was seeing was a flower bud, as opposed to a developing branch, but by 21 July it was pretty obviously a flower.

I refused to get my hopes up about this, because Epiphyllums are fairly prone to dropping buds when being grown in less-than-ideal conditions, and the conditions here are nothing if not nonideal, so I was kind of expecting to be disappointed sooner or later. But it kept developing.

(3 Aug)

The orange color in the above photo is true-to-life; even though the flower was actually pink, I spent a few days hoping that it was actually going to turn out orange, because of the bud.3 But by 7 August, it was clear that no, it was going to be pink after all:

And then things proceeded very rapidly. About 8 hours after the above picture, the bud started to open:

I took a bunch of pictures because I wasn't sure how many opportunities I would actually get; some Epiphyllums' blooms are only open for a single evening, and even though I didn't think that was the case here, I wanted to be sure to get some kind of photographic documentation, lest the flower be gone in the morning. So the opening-bud pictures are kind of crap, but they were the best I could do at the time.

By the time I went to bed on 7 August, the plant looked like this:

And then when I woke up in the morning, it looked like this:


So then I took like 150 pictures on the morning of August 8, which is what the rest of the post is about.

This not only immediately became my favorite flower of aaaaalllllllllllll the flowers I've ever had in the house (including the orchids, 'cause fuck orchids, they don't like me anyway),4 but then I also called my mom, and was like oh my GOD mom, you HAVE to come see this FLOWER I just got it's AMAZING.

The surprising part being that the family actually did come up a couple days later, on 12 August, by which point the flower was beginning to droop a bit, but it was still in good enough shape that you could sort of see how it would have been impressive at one point. I figure they got the general idea. (They were more impressed with the Clivia, though.)

Epiphyllum: bringing families together!

The flower lasted a mere four or five days, by the way: late on the night of August 7 until late afternoon on the 12th.

The odds of this happening again next year, or ever, are pretty slim, I suspect. Probably it only happened this year because the cutting had lots of stored energy from being grown outside, and was freaking out over the sudden decrease in light. Though I suppose the other cutting could still decide to bloom at some point. Hard to say. The orange-blooming cuttings I'd actually asked for had a much rougher trip, and were smaller to begin with, so I doubt those will bloom any time soon, but clearly Epiphyllum-type miracles do happen, so I'm not going to rule it out.


1 The first, in case you missed it, is here. The explanation for what was going on with this hiatus is here.
2 (A bonus plant, that arrived here as part of a trade.)
3 I'm not strongly anti-pink or anything, but given the choice, I'd rather have had orange. The Epiphyllum I'd actually asked for was orange.
4 This is all the stranger because I'd seen plenty of Epiphyllum photos on line before this, and had been largely unmoved by them. I mean, the pictures were nice and all, but nothing I'd seen before this prepared me for the actual jaw-dropping beauty of seeing one in the flesh.


CelticRose said...


Lucky you! Only 2 of my cacti have ever bloomed, and those are both Mammillarias, so the flowers are tiny.

Nic said...

I love Epiphyllums, they are just so stunning. If I had more than east-facing windows and overheated rooms in this apartment I would probably collect them. My grandmother used to grow a bunch before they became too heavy for her to handle and they would flower reliably as long as they spent summer in a sunny spot outside and winter in a cool and bright spot in the house, so you might well see more flowers in the future.

Jenn said...


Pat said...

What a bobby-dazzler!

What personality would you assign?

Child Actor? Brilliant, pretty and far too precocious?

Andrea said...

Wow it really is amazing, and been 0pen for a few days, I would like to have a cutting of your plant! I have a big clump of the white EO planted on the ground and it really just open for a few hours at midnight. Is that one also sweet scented. I do agree with you though, the flower primordia is already developed before the stem was cut, so it just continued to grow!

Kapt'n Splash said...

I've always been told Epi's will only flower (or flower best) when root bound, but have never been able to find any information to confirm that, and my own are very small and young and have never flowered. Any idea if that may be true? If so yours being in a small pot like it is that could be why it flowered so young!

mr_subjunctive said...

Kapt'n Splash:

I strongly doubt it; mine would only have had two months (give or take) to grow roots before it flowered, and it was starting out from no roots at all. I mean, there are plants that could fill a 4-inch pot with roots in two months, but it seems like a stretch to think that that's what happened here.

It is my personal suspicion that no (or at least very few) plants bloom best when rootbound. There are, after all, no pots in nature for plants to get rootbound in. What I think is happening is that plants bloom when they reach a certain level of maturity, either w/r/t size or age, and people who aren't conscientious about moving their plants into bigger pots as soon as they need it wind up with plants that reach that size and are also rootbound. So people see that the plant is blooming and go, oh, I guess it must have bloomed because of something I did, and they look at the soil, and see that it's rootbound, and assume that the one caused the other, but actually the rootboundness and the blooming are both being caused by the same thing, the age of the plant. And then they tell other people oh, those have to be rootbound to bloom, and the information becomes "common sense," but it doesn't have any actual bearing on anything.

In other cases, the connection may be real, but even then, being rootbound is probably stressing the plants (the soil can't hold as much water if a plant is rootbound, so generally this would be drought stress), and they're blooming out of desperation to pass on their genes before they die. It's not necessarily the case that they wouldn't bloom on their own eventually anyway, or that the best thing for the plant is to leave it rootbound and force a bloom out of it early.

It's also possible that some growers deliberately underpot their plants in order to force blooming via stressing, and that that's become the advice on certain species because, after all, that's what the growers do. The trick there being that the growers don't have to concern themselves with the long-term health of the plant.

Melody said...

Stunning! Cacti flowers don't get enough credit, probably because most people never get to see them on their own plants. They aren't easy to flower unless you get the light and water right, further decreasing most growers chances if they don't know any better. Congrats though, it's beautiful!

Tom said...

Ahhhhhh congrats! I'm so completely jealous. I have an Epi that is like 4' across and still never gotten a single bloom off of it. I always forget how spectacular the blooms really are until I see one in person (once every 2 years at a conservatory usually).

carmen said...

love it...just stunning. I'd too be taking tons of pictures and sharing it with everyone whether they wanted to see it or not lol. I have one small pot of epi cuttings I got from an orchid show a few months ago. I have no experience with these but I hope to have it bloom someday. I find it odd that it grows in so many different shapes, some parts are flat and some parts are long and skinny with small hairs on it....hard to believe it's all the same plant.

Thank you for sharing!!

Jane in the midwest said...

Holy $hit Sherlock!!!! That is jaw-dropping! Did you measure the flower at all? Cuz it looked HUGE, but photos can be inaccurate in that way.

Here I was just casually browsing through blogs, and then when I came across your epi flower I almost jumped out of my chair. Made my day, you did! :)

mr_subjunctive said...

Jane in the midwest:

I never actually pulled out a ruler and measured it, but I did compare it against my hand, which I know the size of,[1] and it wasn't as big as that. I'd guess the diameter was about 6 inches, give or take half an inch.


[1] When my fingers are extended and splayed as far as I can make them go, the distance from the tip of my thumb to the tip of my pinky is 8.75 inches. The reason I bothered learning this in the first place is that it's a convenient (I don't want to say "handy") thing to know when trying to guess the diameter of unmarked pots, but it has lots of other applications too.

Anonymous said...

'lots of other applications'

I see what you did there, cheeky bugger! ;)

mr_subjunctive said...


Whatever it was I did there, it was accidental. I just meant it's been useful in other cases where I've needed to measure things and didn't have a ruler handy, as I almost never go anywhere without my hands.

Jordan in Oregon said...

This may accidentally double post:

So as someone who wants to propagate the ever-living crap out of my giant Epiphyllum (not dubbed Monstro for nothing), what potting mix did you use, and do you have any other tips?

mr_subjunctive said...

Jordan in Oregon:

I used the mix I always use. Most of the credit for the bloom is, I suspect, that the plant had been well-cared for before the cuttings were taken, and they were large, thick cuttings. Next year, the Epiphyllums will all go outside, but I'll be very surprised if I get a repeat performance.

Unknown said...

I'm curious if it ever bloomed again? Do you still have this one? I have a huge white E. oxypetalum that is setting buds now. They only last a day though :-/

mr_subjunctive said...

Nick Winstead:

No, it hasn't bloomed again. The Epiphyllums here have been suffering quite a bit from being so big and unwieldy that there are very few places where I can put them, which means they don't get enough light, which means they don't grow well. I am probably going to have to get rid of all three of them this spring / summer, because there's no point in continuing to try and grow a plant that I can't give adequate care for.