What are epiphytic cactus

What is an epiphyte plant?

An epiphytic plant is a particular plant that does not need to have ground contact to grow. These plants generally grow on other plants that capture water vapor in the atmosphere and feed on some organic substances accumulated at their bases. They install their roots in the axils of the branches, or fix themselves on the barks. In our latitudes, mosses and lichens are epiphytic plants but the majority of them are most often from tropical forests. They have adapted to their environment by fetching the light in height because only 3% of sunlight can pierce the canopy and reach the ground in these countries where nature is so exuberant. Placed higher, they capture more light,

A beautiful lesson of adaptation!

Origin and classification of epiphytic cactus

Members of the Cactaceae family, the epiphytic cacti originate from the humid tropical forests of South and Central America, at an altitude of 900 to 1,500 meters.

Unlike the majority of Cactaceae living in arid desert conditions, epiphytic cactuses in moist jungles can receive up to 400 cm of rain per year.

They are called epiphytes because they develop on other plants without parasitizing them. Their roots allow them to anchor in the hollow of branches where organic debris has accumulated and decomposed. This light, coarse substrate allows water and oxygen to penetrate to the roots that absorb water and dissolved nutrients.

There are currently many species of epiphytic cactus that are very interesting for their foliage and spectacular flowers.

The cultivars of Schlumbergera ( Christmas cactus , “Thanksgiving Cactus”) are quite common and have a wide variety of colors.

Hatiora gaertneri known as Easter cactus
Hatiora gaertneri known as Easter cactus

Cultivars of Hatiora gaertneri ( Easter cactus ) are becoming more popular, as well as Epiphyllum ( orchid cactus ). Their common names usually refer to their flowering period.

There are many species of epiphytic cactus appreciating substantially the same culture conditions. They belong to the following genera: Rhipsalis, Cryptocereus, Heliocereus, Hylocereus and Weberocereus.


Cuttings are a faster multiplication process than sowing, plants grow fast and have fewer diseases and parasites than globular ones, and then, and most importantly, I realize that by collecting different kinds, I get an abundant flowering almost uninterrupted throughout the year.

  • January flower : Epiphyllum X “Geoge’s Favorite”
  • March flower: Disophyllum X “Frühlingsgold”
  • May flower: Aporophyllum X “Orange Glow”
  • July flower: Cryptocereus anthonyanus
  • September flower: Schlumbergera orssichiana
  • November flower: Rhipsalis pilocarpa


My advice for growing epiphytic cacti

Epiphytic cacti are among the easiest cacti to grow:

  • They need a soil acidic, well drained (I use a mixture of sandy soil and vermiculite).
  • Watering, which should not leave the soil permanently slightly damp, will be practically weekly in summer and monthly in winter. It must be done with non-calcareous water, ideally rainwater.
  • The epiphytic cacti like a sunny situation without excess.
  • To obtain a good flowering, it is essential to have in winter a cold period (about 10 ° C). Warm plants all year round do not bloom or bloom.

These few conditions being respected, you will in a few years with ease plants with beautiful and abundant flowering, posing few health problems. My collection has pleasantly proved this essential point.

How to measure soil moisture of your succulent plants ( in the pot )

Carnegiea gigantea also known as Saguaro