true epiphyllums are relatively modern plants in evolutionary terms. Almost all
of the epiphyllums grown and offered for sale today are hybrid descendents of
jungle cactii found in the tropical new world. The plants were introduced to England
in 1753 and many hybrids were propagated in England, Belgium, The Netherlands,
France and Germany. Ironically the hybrids were reintroduced to North America
from Europe in the late 1800's. The fine climate of Southern California has resulted
in that area becoming the major center of epiphyllum culture at this time.
The ESA (Epiphyllum Society of America)
is the international registrar for Epiphyllum hybrids. The society maintains a
directory of hybrids that is available for a very nominal fee. Anybody having
more than a passing interest in epiphyllums should consider joining ESA or one
of the regional clubs for the support available and to form acquaintances with
people sharing their interests.
The native habitat of the original species
is decomposed leaves collected in the hollows or cavities of jungle trees. That
should tell you a lot about the plant's preferences. They need the filtered sunlight
which is why they do well under trees, in lath houses and under shade cloth. The
roots like to be moist but not wet. The plants should have a soil approximating
the jungle environment and they should have good drainage. Most of them, particularly
the flat branched ones, do very well in hanging baskets. The
hybrids are not normally nocturnal or diurnal blooming as many of the true species
are. Most of them have some fragrance at night and depend on color to attract
pollinators during the day. The hybrid flowers are wonderfully beautiful, and
have few rivals in cultivation. Depending on the variety, the flowers last from
3 to 7 days. Of course, that represents an obvious target for any wannabe hybridizer.
They generally bloom in April through July, but there are early bloomers and late
bloomers. This is another obvious hybridizer's target.
Some work has been
done on developing indoor plants, although that has not been the main focus. All
of the relevant organizations, including ESA have regular shows that include some
flower arranging. A hybrid that could compete with orchids for use in corsages
would be welcomed by any grower.
There you have it. A plant that is easily
cared for and produces flowers of unparalleled beauty. The epi is it's own reward
and you will be an aficionado after your first one blooms.