Climbing cactus (Epiphyllum phyllanthus)

Climbing cactus (Epiphyllum phyllanthus) - Cactus Plants

Climbing cactus (Epiphyllum phyllanthus) is an epiphytic, succulent, evergreen perennial plant producing aerial roots on the stems. It has no leaves, instead having stems that photosynthesise. It produces fragrant flowers that only open at night time.

Scientific classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Genus: Epiphyllum
Species: E. phyllanthus
Scientific Name: Epiphyllum phyllanthus Haworth
Synonyms: Cactus phyllanthus, Phyllocactus phyllanthus, Epiphyllum hookeri, Epiphyllum phyllanthus var. hookeri, Epiphyllum pittieri.
Common Names: Climbing cactus.

How to care and grow Climbing cactus (Epiphyllum phyllanthus)?


It thrives best bright, filtered light indoors and partial shade if it grows outdoors. Summer weather can be quite harsh, especially when the sun peaks during the day. Even though an Epiphyllum appreciates full sunlight, beware not to let it bake in these scorching conditions.


It will grow in soil with a pH of 5.0 to 9, however, they prefer soils with a higher-alkaline pH of 6.2 to 7.0. Adding organic fertilizer can add nutrients to the soil, and can likewise help balance pH levels, as most organic fertilizers have a pH of around 7.0. The addition of grit or perlite will give an extra layer of better structure and drainage while still giving proper aeration and drainage.


Normal room temperatures 60-75°F/16-24°C. To set blossom buds, the plant needs 8-10 weeks of cool 60-65°F/16-18°C days and 45-55°F/7-13°C evenings in winter.


It does not like being left in moist conditions from watering or even from the water level in the air, they are able to live in slightly higher humidity levels than most cacti species. It can withstand moderate to high humidity levels. In fact, they would need such moderate to high humidity for its growth.


Keep the soil wet spring through fall, while the plant is growing. In winter, water sparingly until the point that new growth starts in spring. Never enable it to dry out. Shriveled, limp stems are a sign the soil is too dry. After blossoming, rest one month before fertilizing. Don’t over-fertilize.


Apply a diluted NPK 10-10-10 fertilizer once a month during the growth period and cactus fertilizer (NPK 0-10-10) to promote flowering.


Propagate from the seed or by stem cuttings. sow seeds in spring or late-spring. Take stem cuttings in spring to late summer. Cut the leaf-like stem into 6-9 inches sections and let it callus (dry) for several days in a warm place. Fill a pot one third full with cactus compost and cover with a layer of grit. Insert the cuttings 1-2 inches deep. Keep the compost just moist and maintain temperature of 18-24°C. They should root in three to six weeks and flower the following year, if taken early in the season.

Pest and Diseases

It has no serious pest or disease problems. Watch for mealybugs and scale insects. Also prone to fungal leaf spots and stem spots. Spray with insecticides to kill bugs and stop serious infestation. Use insecticides like Neem or pyrethrins for visible bugs.

Benefits of Climbing cactus (Epiphyllum phyllanthus)

  • The fruit is sometimes gathered from the wild for local use. The fruits are eaten as raw. A succulent, mucilaginous pulp with a slightly sweet flavor.
  • The leaves are used as a remedy for back pain, coughs and colds, as a laxative and remedy for whooping cough.

Last updated on July 17th, 2021

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