Orchid Cactus: How to Grow Care Guide

Hi Judy
I have a EPIPHYLLUM ORCHID CACTUS I think. I got it over the summer last year from my aunt. I absolutely love it. It bloomed one flower in late August. I was only watering it once a week. I keep her hanging high by a window, but for the past two months I have noticed that the stems are turning like a dry brown, closest to the soil. I have increased the water a little at a time. I’m not sure if its helping. I’m real worried. My aunt loves that plant so much and gave it to me because she knew I feel in love with it and would care for it properly. I’d hate to disappoint her if its something I can fix.
Please help. Thank you!

Hi Toni, here are some tips on how to care for an Orchid Cactus.

Red Orchid Cactus
Orchid Cactus

How to Grow Care Tips

Properly taking care of an Orchid Cactus, the scientific name is Epiphyllum, is a bit of a balancing act. These plants do not like to have wet soil, especially in the winter, but they also shouldn’t totally dry out. An Orchid Cactus needs to go dormant for about 8-10 weeks during the winter months if you hope to have it bloom again the following year.

Temperature: During the winter, when your Orchid Cactus is dormant, lower the temperature to around 55°-65°F  (12.8°-18.3°C) especially at night, water sparingly, and do not fertilize. Total darkness at night, if possible, is a plus. Here are some more care tips to help you take care of your Orchid cactus.

Light: Keep an Orchid Cactus in bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light. throughout the year except when it is dormant.

Water: Keep the soil barely moist from late March until mid-September while plant is growing. During the winter, water less.

fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.: Feed your Orchid Cactus every two weeks from the end of March to November with a plant food high in phosphorous diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength.

Propagation: An Orchid Cactus is easily propagated in the spring using 5″ stem cuttings. Pot Size: You should try to re-pot your plant every other year or so (in the Spring and never when it’s blooming), using  a pot just an inch or two larger than the current pot it is in. These plants bloom more when a little root-bound. Once the buds appear, do not move your Orchid Cactus to a new location or it may drop buds and flowers. It’s important to keep the plant away from drafts and heating vents.

What Causes Brown Stems on an Orchid Cactus

Improper watering: Be sure the plant isn’t drying out too much or isn’t too wet. Water when the top 50% of the soil has totally dried out, and   then water well until the water comes out the bottom drip holes in the pot.

Keep plant away from heating vents: Be sure your Orchid Cactus isn’t near a heating vent. The hot air can damage the stems.

Keep plant away from cold drafts and cold windows: If Orchid Cactus is browning and brittle more on one side than another and is near a window, be sure there is no cold draft blowing on it.