Art

The Beauty from South America Blooms in Melrose

... orchid cactus needs tender, loving care!

Len Dalton



This is the orchid of the cactus family. While there are only 16 wild species of Epiphyllum; there are better than 300 varieties recognized. The flower size varies from two inches to some as large as ten inches across for a single flower and have a complete color range. The flower grows directly off the leaf-like stems which in turn are of many shapes and sizes.

The original orchid cactus was found in the jungles of Central America, the northern parts of South America and in Mexico.

A good potting mixture for the orchid cactus is one that contains a moister and richer soil than required by desert types of cacti. Shade well from strong sunlight. They are easily grown outside in the warmer months and must be kept indoors in winter. They will tolerate temperatures down close to freezing but in winter must be allowed an eight to ten week rest period when they should be kept as dry as possible without allowing the stems to shrivel. This assures good blooming in summer.

This yellow variety came from an eight inch cutting. It grew well in my greenhouse but showed no interest whatever of blooming. In disgust, I removed it outside to a spot which got direct sun only late in the day. It remained there with no attention from me at all. Soon, my wife asked if I had seen it lately. When I looked, I found it was covered with over 60 developing blooms! We waited anxiously for the first one to open. In my entire life, I had never seen or expected to see a more beautiful bloom. It measured six inches wide and seven inches long! My neighbors all flocked to see and photograph it and in succeeding days they came to see them as they opened.

Now the plant is in the greenhouse and will go back outside in mid-May. We also have several of the brilliant red variety which also bloom well but with smaller flowers.

February 25, 1999



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