Q: My neighbor has a plant she calls a night-blooming cereus. We stayed up until 1:00 a.m. one night watching the flower open, almost like waiting for a new baby to be born. It has the most heavenly scent. Can it be grown outside? Where did this plant originate?
Q: I have a 6th generation flower that I would like more information about. My grandmother always called this flower “Christ in the manger”. The bloom takes several hours to fully open and is in full bloom around 1:00 – 2:00 AM. The bloom withers away and is usually hanging at dawn.
A: Night-blooming cereus, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, is one of the best plants to “passalong” between friends and family.
Originating in South America, this member of the cactus family has flat segments approximately six inches long. As the segments grow and re-branch the plant sprawls over anything it can reach. Its huge white flowers have an intoxicating scent, attractive pollinating moths.
It is best planted in a pot since it does best when kept outdoors in filtered sunshine during the summer and beside a sunny window in winter. Propagate a cereus by snapping off a segment and inserting the lower third in slightly moist potting soil. You can keep it to a manageable size by rooting parts to give away to friends.