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Plant of the Month
This is a spectacular epiphytic cactus, with beautiful pink flowers. The plant may have originally been native to southern Mexico, but has been spread by cultivation over a long period and can now be found widely through the central Americas.
D. phyllanthoides produces long and generally flat stems, which grow upright at first but hang down later. New growths can appear anywhere on the plant but the strongest shoots generally arise near the base. Flower buds appear at the areoles along the edges of the stems, during the spring. Petal-like structures, also pink, appear along the flower stalks while the buds are still developing. The result is that the plant appears to be flowering, well before the buds do in fact open – so you get colourful plants for much longer! The flowers themselves open during May or June, in the UK. They are about 8 to 10cm long, and a similar size across.
Because of its growth habit, the plant can be grown very successfully in a hanging basket, and cultivation is straightforward. The plant is best grown in diffuse or dappled light. It prefers an organic based compost, but as it is a strong grower, some soil-based compost (such as JI) can be added; the plants should be fed during the growing season too. The plant can be kept cooler and drier during the winter months, but for best results avoid temperatures below about 10C.
To produce new plants, simply cut mature stems into sections of about 10 – 15cm and part-bury these in an open compost. Roots will develop around the base, and new shoots should appear soon after. Putting the cuttings in a plastic bag can help to keep the humidity high, without overwatering, until new roots are sufficiently developed.
D. phyllanthoides is thought to have been one of the main species used to produce the range of hybrid plants that are cultivated today as "Epiphyllums" (but because of their – often unknown – parentage, these hybrids are better just called "epies"). Beautiful as these hybrids may be, this original species is hard to beat, and well worth growing.
Copyright 2013 Mark Preston No part of this article or the accompanying pictures may be reproduced without permission