Are you a gardener up for a challenge? Do you want to grow something unique that is more of an experience than a house plant? If this is you, you will like to learn all about growing and caring for the queen of the night plant. Although the night queen only blooms once a year, it’s not a tricky plant to grow. It’s only a hard plant to catch blooming. If you’re not checking the plant in spring, you may miss out on the lovely fragrant flower that blooms only once a year.
You may think that a plant so particular about its blooming time is probably challenging to grow, but it’s not! The night cactus plants proliferate and make excellent houseplants ( as well as an outdoor plant in the correct zone).
To grow healthy and happy queen of the night plants, all you have to know is what they need to thrive. These plants thrive in partial shade with indirect light in very well-draining soil. They also require water bi-weekly during spring and summer with a high potassium fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
BEFORE YOU TRY TO GROW A NIGHT-CACtUS, CHECK YOUR GROWING ZONE
The queen of the night (common names: dutchman’s pipe cactus, night-blooming cereus, night cactus, and night-blooming orchid cactus) are tropical plants that grow in the jungles of Central America, South America, and southern Mexico. Mature plants can grow up to 10 feet tall grown outdoors.
Although the queen of the night is technically a cactus species, it enjoys the same environment and growing conditions as a tropical plant.
These flowers are epiphytic plants. Epiphytic plants are air plants. They grow on other plants or objects for physical support. Epiphytic plants have no attachment to the ground.
The blooms and petals of the queen of the night can be white, yellow, pink, and cream. The white flowers are a particularly excellent addition to a moonlight garden.
- Learn More: Are you looking to plan or grow a white blooming moonlight garden? We wrote an entire post dedicated to the best plants to add to your nighttime garden. All the plants we chose added something to the experience from scent to texture.
WHEN DOES THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT BLOOM?
The exotic blooms of this beautiful orchid cactus bloom in a single evening between 12 pm and 3 am in late spring. You may think a flower that blooms in a single night isn’t worth the effort but for gardeners who want the challenge, seeing the flower bloom once is more rewarding than a summer full of annual blooms. It’s an experience that only a gardener or true plant lover can understand. The sweet smell from the flower is memorable and can only be experienced once a year.
CAN THE PlANT BE GROWN INDOORS?
Night-blooming cereus (epiphyllum oxypetalum plant) is hardy to USDA zones 10-11, but that doesn’t mean folks in colder zones cannot grow the queen of the night plant.
This night cactus can be grown successfully as an indoor plant with little care. At the end of this article, we created a section that explains the best practices for caring for a queen of the night plant indoors as a houseplant.
PROVIDE A GROWING LOCATION WHERE THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT CAN STRETCH AND GROW
As your queen of the night grows, you will notice a lot of long shoots coming from the plant. These are long stems designed to grab onto the nearby trees so that they can grow with them in the wild. The branches, or stolons, have small root-like structures that help the plant keep a grip on other plants. These stolons allow the plant to move along the canopies of the trees in search of better light.
Plant your queen of the night in a location that has afternoon shade.
Frost tolerance is essential to know if planting outdoors.
PROVIDE YOUR QUEEN OF THE NIGHT WITH INDIRECT LIGHT
The queen of the night likes to grow in the shadier parts of the jungle, so you will not want to give them too much direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the afternoon. Direct sunlight can burn and damage the leaves.
But do not mistake partial shade for full shade. The plants require indirect sunlight to bloom, so an area with morning sun and afternoon shade will work very well.
Plant your queen of the night underneath billowy shrubs. The shrubs will provide support and shade as your cactus grows and keep the plants out of direct sunlight.
Related: We have an entire post dedicated to the best flowers you can grow in the shade. The list includes some of the easiest and most dramatic flowers for big beautiful displays even in the shadiest parts of your garden.
WATER EVERY TWO WEEKS AND BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERWATER
It would be best to water your queen of the night every two weeks. Every time you water, check to see if there is moist soil or dry soil. Keep the soil dry between waterings and only add additional water when the top inch of soil is completely dry.
Never allow your night cactus to sit in standing water. Standing water and too much water will contribute to root rot which can be fatal.
During winter, cut back watering to every 4-6 weeks.
BE SURE TO PROVIDE THE WELL-DRAINED SOIL WITH A PH BETWEEN 5.5 AND 6.5
The queen of the night plant requires very well-draining, airy soil. The plant will also grow well in sandy soil, peat moss, and pine bark because these soil types are great at draining the excess water away from the roots.
This night cactus plant does not need much space in the pot; it tends to grow even better when root-bound.
Queen of the night grows best in slightly acidic soil, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
FERTILIZE WITH TROPICAL PLANT FOOD WITH HIGH POTASSIUM and low nitrogen FOR BEST BLOOMS
Fertilizer can be applied every four weeks from spring through early fall, but use a low nitrogen fertilizer.
Too much nitrogen will produce lots of green foliage on your night cactus at the expense of blooms. On the other hand, potassium-rich fertilizer will encourage the night cactus flowers to bud and blossom, so be sure the fertilizer you use in spring is low in nitrogen and high in potassium.
We recommend you use a specific cactus-type food because it will support all the essential nutrients needed by this plant for a healthy life. Do not add liquid fertilizer directly; make sure to dilute as per the instructions. Full strength fertilizer can cause root burn.
In place of chemical fertilizer, you can use organic matter-rich compost to help replenish the soil.
Provide moderate humidity for quick healthy growth
Queen of the Night cactus growth is very good with moderate humidity. The cactus will thrive if indoor humidity is around 40-60 percent. You can use a shallow tray of pebbles and water under the plant to improve humidity. The night cactus will not be able to reach the water, but the humidity around the plant will increase.
BE SURE TO TAKE CARE OF DISEASES AS THEY ARISE
Night cactus flowers are suspectable to a few diseases, primarily fungal leaf spot and root rot:
Fungal Leaf Spot
The queen of the night cactus is susceptible to fungal leaf spots – particularly during a wet rainy spring season.
An infected night cactus plant will develop fuzzy, mold-like patches on its leaves. Fungal leaf spots can be pretty challenging to treat.
If only a few spots are present, fungicide spray might be able to help. However, if the cactus is infected, it may be time to start over. Cut off a healthy portion of your night cactus to start a new plant.
Destroy the old night cactus plant and the soil in which it was grown. Please do not compost as the disease can thrive in compost heaps and may pass to other plants.
Plants can succumb to root rot, but you can prevent root rot by providing well-drained soil during planting and ensuring you are not overwatering.
Root rot has many symptoms, such as stunted yellow upper leaves or softened development, sometimes with roots collapse. First, remove the plant from its pot to check the roots.
Green roots are healthy, but you may have root rot if your plant has yellow mushy roots.
Once root rot takes hold, it is challenging to treat. It is best to start over with a new plant. Destroy the plant and the soil in which it was grown and do not compost. Before reusing the pot, sanitize and disinfect well before reusing with a new plant.
Take care of pests as soon as you find them
The most common pests that impact the queen of the night are mealy bugs, mites, worms, scale, and whitefly.
Use neem oils for cleaning or insecticidal soaps for destroying harmful pests.
A simple insecticidal soap spray is 1 tsp of liquid soap to two cups of water. Spray liberally all over the plant, including the underside of the leaf. Repeat every 3-5 days until the infestation is under control.
PROPAGATE YOUR NIGHT CACTUS ORCHID WITH STEM OR LEAF CUTTINGs
Propagating this plant is relatively simple; you can use leaf cuttings or stem cutting to start a brand new plant from the orchid cactus family.
Take a 4-6 inch long cutting from a healthy night cactus plant and dip the cut end into rooting hormone to give the plant a better chance to establish itself.
Dry the night cactus cutting in a cool dark place for two weeks before planting in cactus potting soil. Cacti need dry out and callous over where the cut is to minimize the potential of the cut rotting.
PRUNE FOR GOOD HEALTH AND ENCOURAGE BUSHIER PLANTS
Regular pruning encourages the plant to become bushy and full. Spring is the best time to prune, right before it grows again. Then, you can use leaf cutting to start a new plant.
Around mid-March, the long leaves start producing beautiful flowers.
IF YOU’RE IN A COLD ZONE, GROW YOUR QUEEN OF THE NIGHT CACTUS INDOORS AS A HOUSE PLANT
Queen of the night plants grows very well in containers. They look lovely grown as houseplants or hanging baskets, and can be trained to climb a trellis indoors and outdoors. There are a few different care tips for this orchid cacti to grow healthy and thrive indoors:
Houseplants of all kinds can significantly benefit from summering outdoors, especially epiphytes such as the queen of the night plant.
Be sure to place your plant in full shade first, so it doesn’t burn. Your plant will have spent a long time indoors in less than ideal conditions, so your plant will need time to harden off.
Please keep it in complete shade for several days. Then you can maybe move it to an area with dappled sun, or perhaps just a touch of the morning sun. Avoid harsh mid-afternoon sun, or your plant may quickly burn.
Plants grown indoors will require 6-8 weeks of rest during the winter months for flower buds to set in spring. While the plant is resting, keep the soil dry and do not fertilize. Place the plant in a cool dark spot during this resting phase.
Repot your queen of the night only when required
Queen of the night is best if left root-bound. You will not need to re-pot your plant often. It’s best to replant only when the drainage is lacking. When you repot, do not pot up to a much larger container, you will want to pot up and add an inch or two only to the pot’s diameter. Too much potting soil will provide too much excess water, so be sure not to re-pot into a much larger container.
Repotting can also damage the roots and may prevent spring blooms altogether.
Is the night cactus plant toxic to humans and pets?
Queen of the Night Cacti is classified as non-poisonous to humans and pets. However, if large quantities of the plant are eaten, nausea and vomiting can occur.