Don’t be confused by the name — an Orchid Cactus isn’t an orchid, but it does have amazing flowers. Orchid Cacti are tropical succulents with big, vivid blooms that earn an orchid comparison. Also known as epiphyllums, epicacti, or just epis, there are many varieties in a range of brilliant colors, including yellows, pinks, reds, oranges, and white. Their jaw-dropping flowers can be an incredible 10 inches (25 cm) or more.
Orchid Cacti are native to tropical jungles in Central and South America. They’re larger relatives of popular houseplants like Christmas Cactus. Instead of leaves, they have wide, flat, segmented stems. Growing as air plants like orchids do, they live attached to tree branches without harming the trees. New growth on Orchid Cacti may have small thorns or spines, but these usually disappear as they age. The photos below, showing large Orchid Cacti covering walls and palm tree trunks, were all taken in Hawaii. All the flower photos were taken in San Francisco and Pacifica.
As epiphytes, Orchid Cacti are good for hanging baskets. They bloom best when kept in small pots with rich potting soil. Give them shade with some filtered sun, and regular water in spring and summer. Keep them drier over winter. They do need cool temps in winter, but always keep them above freezing. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, they grow well outdoors. It’s easy to start new plants from stem cuttings. Cut a segment at least 8 inches (20 cm) long. Let the cut end dry for a few days before potting up.
Other closely related cactus species with large flowers are sometimes lumped under the name Orchid Cacti. These include the Hylocereus genus, which grows beautiful and tasty Dragon Fruit. For more info about Orchid Cacti, check Plant Care Today and WikiHow.