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The Night Blooming Cereus

By: Kim Messer
The Night Blooming Cereus is in the Orchid Cactus family.  The Cereus has many colorful nicknames, Princess of the Night, Dama de Noche and Queen of the Night.  The genus Epiphyllum has twenty or so night bloomers and a few Orchid Cactus varieties which bloom during the day.  They are a wonderful low maintenance addition to any yard or patio.  They also will thrive inside in a well lit location. 
Cereus Flat Leaf
They were first discovered in the Jungles of Central and South America and then transported to Europe. These have long narrow stems which can sometimes be sharp and thin, good for climbing into the crooks of trees.  They prefer morning sun and will usually not flower until they are four or five years old.  The flower will start as a small bud and grow to 5 inches or more.  The flower will begin to open around ten pm and fully open by midnight.  The bloom is quite spectacular and fragrant.  It can be four to six inches wide and long. Some people have a night blooming party, but we enjoy ours before sunrise.  The bloom will close once the sun lights the sky.  This flat leggy variety, I keep in a hanging basket underneath an oak tree.
     We also have another variety of Cereus in a pot on the patio.  It is a columnar cactus with an elongated body.  These upright Cereus are native to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of southern Arizona, east to western Texas and south to northern Mexico.  I have been lugging this one around since college.  It can grow to ten feet or more.  The flowers on this Cereus are more spectacular.  The petals are larger and the flower is almost dinner plate sized. It is also very fragrant.  Each type Cereus will have one to eight blooms at a time from June through October.  They require minimal water and only a light organic fertilizer.  When fall approaches, reduce watering and fertilizing throughout the winter so the plant can reserve energy for blooms next season.  
Cereus Upright with 3 Blooms
     Some plants are like an old friend… predictable, dependable and constant.  The flowers are just a bonus… Plant a cactus and make a friend.