METRO PLUS

American beauty

BRIGHT BLOOMS The Orchid Cactus

BRIGHT BLOOMS The Orchid Cactus  

Popularly known as Orchid Cacti because their big bright coloured flowers, these plants belongs to the family Cactaceae. The name comes from the Greek epiwhich means `upon' and phylos, `leaf'. The flowers were once thought grow on the leaves which are, in fact, flattened stems. Place of origin: Tropical America. They have flatnotched stems, 2 ft long and 2 inches wide, branching profusely from the base, forming clumps. Areoles in the notches have tiny bristle-like spines; areoles in upper parts carry flowers.

Epiphyllum aukermannii produces 4"-wide, bright red blooms in all seasons. Flowers have cupshaped inner petals and spreading outer ones with pale green tubes. Each flower lasts for two days. They are scented.Give Epiphyllum medium light. If possible, keep the plants in a shady spot. These plants require warmth with high humidity. Mist-spray them daily. Water moderately keeping the potting mixture thoroughly moist. After flower buds start to form, apply liquid fertilizer every two weeks. Use as pot plants on terraces, balconies and indoors. Use rich but light soil mixed with leaf mould and sand.

Propagation is from cuttings. Remove a 5"-long branch and allow it to dry for a day before inserting into potting mixture of coarse sand, peat and compost. Several cuttings are usually planted around the rim of the pot. Keep the soil slightly moist until the cuttings root.

After they have flowered, don't water or feed for six weeks. Move them to a sunny spot outdoors for summer. Keep the compost damp.

CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN

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