Language of mother-in-law – Epiphyllum – Epiphyllum – Fatty plants – grow language of mother-in-law


The flowers

At the ends of the trunks bloom large very beautiful flowers, which usually last a day and a night.


Family, gender

 Cactaceae, Epiphyllum

Height at maturity

 80 cm



Speed of growth





 Non rustic, minimum temperature 10°C

Water requirements


Ambient humidity

 Medium-high, especially in summer


 Half shadow


 Vase indoors or outdoors


 Light and well drained



Origin, description and classification of mother-in-law language

The genus Epiphyllum, belonging to the family of the Cactaceae, is composed of about twenty species native to the rain forests of Brazil and Paraguay. In their natural environment they grow on trees (where the seed already germinates, carried by the wind), feeding on decomposing material and hydrating thanks to the rain and humidity in the air.

The stems, which in some cases reach a length of up to one metre, branch out abundantly and are composed of flat rectangular or triangular sections with wavy or serrated edges, without thorns.

Initially they are a beautiful light green and then turn to gray.

The plant has no leaves, but the chlorophyll photosynthesis is carried out by the individual sections present on the stem. The species are characterized by very fragrant white flowers that open only at night, from spring to summer. Pollination takes place by bats or nocturnal moths, equipped with a very long spirothrone capable of reaching the nectar present on the bottom of the corolla. Later on, there is the development of a fruit, edible, long up to 4 cm.

The pulp is white and gelatinous, sprinkled with small round and black seeds.

The name epiphyllum comes from the Greek and means “flower on leaf”.


Every 10 days or so during the flowering period, a few drops of liquid fertilizer are diluted in the water of the watering.

To obtain abundant and colourful blooms, from April to September it is a good idea to distribute once a month a fertilizer for flowering plants, with a low nitrogen content and high potassium content. To stimulate a plant that is struggling to flower, you can start fertilizing as early as February, increasing exposure to light.


Towards the end of July-beginning of August, once the flowering is finished, the 10-15cm long cuttings are taken from the stem and left to dry for a couple of days. They are then planted in a good compound based on fertile soil, which must be kept humid, and are placed in the shade, at a temperature of about 21°C. The cuttings need fresh air, so they should not be covered. After rooting, which takes 2 to 3 weeks, they are grown in the manner indicated for adult plants.

Watering and ambient humidity

abundant in the growing season so that the compound is completely moist; from October to March the soil is kept slightly moist, without ever letting the roots dry completely. When the buds begin to form, the amount of water supplied is increased and the plant is started to fertilize to encourage the development of flower buds.

Excessive watering, especially in the cold winter, causes the stems to wither and the roots to rot. When the plant is at rest, the compound must be moist but not wet, and watering must be sufficient to prevent the roots from drying out.

This type of cacti requires that the roots are always in a slightly moist environment, especially during the growing season (during spring and autumn). A good method is to wait for the most superficial layer of soil to become dry and then irrigate abundantly using a saucer. After about an hour this should be removed by removing the water drained through the drainage holes.

Generally it is necessary to intervene weekly during the summer and every 15-20 days in other seasons. In winter it can also be almost suspended to induce the plant to enter into vegetative rest.

When temperatures are high it is useful to spray frequently with demineralised water. The epiphyllum also likes natural rainfall.


ephiphyllum fioritaThe epiphilo prefers a good diffused light and does not like exposure in full sun. Even in winter the plant needs good light, but must be protected from direct sunlight.

If exposed to the sun for too long, the leaves will burn; the plant must be in a bright but sheltered position.

This plant needs a rather soft light. Ideally, it should be placed near a window screened by a light-coloured curtain. It is absolutely necessary to avoid, especially from May to September, exposing it directly to sunlight, which could cause serious burns to the stems.

In early spring, however, it may be useful to expose it more to stimulate the growth and emission of flower buds.

Choice of pot and substrate

A good peat-based potting compound is recommended. Before choosing the container, it should be borne in mind that within a few years the plant will certainly become very large, with long and heavy stems. It is therefore essential to choose a large pot and possibly very stable. Ideally it should be wider than tall, also because the roots do not need to go very deep.

Let’s get a very draining soil with a rather acidic pH. To obtain an ideal compound we can, for example, mix 2/3 of acidophilic plant soil with 1/3 of draining material, such as river sand, perlite, polystyrene or even small pieces of bark. The result should not be too homogeneous.

After having composed the vase, leaving the roots rather superficial, it is better to wait at least two days before irrigating so that any damaged parts can heal better and no rottenness will occur instead.


The minimum winter temperature must not fall below 10°C. The epiphyllum rarely suffers when exposed to high temperatures, especially when the ambient humidity remains high.

To avoid damage, it is a good idea to prevent it from falling below 10°C, because it is really not very rustic.

As it loves recirculation of air, it is advisable to keep the plant inside from November to May and move it outside as soon as possible, in the summer, respecting its needs for light.

Pests and diseases

White and cottony patches are a sign of attack by the cochineal. The most common parasites for the epiphyllum are the cotton cochineals and the scudetto ones. Rather frequent are also the “earth fleas”.

In both cases, systemic insecticides administered by irrigation are very effective.

If the infestation of cochineal is small, however, you can simply remove the subjects and disinfect the area with cotton and alcohol.

However, the stems can also become prey of cryptogams: they usually cause dark spots along the stems. If they are small in size, specific, curative and eradicating products can be used.

If the condition is now too extensive, it is recommended to remove the compromised part.


Epiphyllus crenatum produces flowers that only open during the day. It is an upright and branched plant, up to about 90 cm high.

The stems, with a cylindrical section in the basal section, are flat for almost the entire length and have the appearance of grey, green and fleshy leaves, with indented edges. The creamy white trumpet-shaped flowers are 20-25 cm long and 15 cm wide. Most of the hybrids of Epiphyllus found in nurseries derive from the crossing of this species with others.

Hybrid varieties are usually easier to grow and flower more easily than typical species. The “Cooperi” and “Kimnachi” varieties both have pretty white, fragrant flowers that open at noon and last only 24 hours. Other varieties have more durable flowers (4 – 5 days) such as “Dreamland”.

The genus Epiphyllum, with nocturnal flowering, has been employed by the varietal researchers to create hybrids with other similar plants in order to get bigger corollas, lasting, with more bright colours and with diurnal opening.

The genera used for the hybridizations were Heliocereus and Disocactus phyllanthoides.

Varieties with nocturnal flowers have been obtained thanks to the use of the genus Selenicereus.

Currently, the “mother-in-law languages” are available with petals ranging from white to yellow, red, pink and salmon.

Name and address


Flowers and fruits


Other features

 Epiphyllum hybrid, mother-in-law tongue

 Flat or three-sided, 1 to 10 cm wide, up to 80 cm long

 The flowers are born on the edge of the stem. Diameter from 10 to 15 cm.


 White, yellow, pink, red, salmon

 Simple cultivation

 Epiphyllum oxypetalum

 Up to 1.50 m long, cylindrical.

Branching into flat stems

 Up to 20 cm in diameter, fragrant, on a single night of the year


 From Latin America

 Epiphyllum crenatum

 Cylindrical and upright, then flat. Up to 60 cm in length

 Up to 20 cm long, at the beginning of summer

 Yellow, green, orange or red, with often contrasting outer petals

 From Central America

Cultivation techniques

Although the Epiphyllus are crap, they’re not typical desert plants. They are native, in fact, to the forests of tropical America and therefore do not need much sunshine. They grow well, however, in well-lit locations. They are cultivated in 15-25 cm pots, filled with a compound rich in leaf mould and bone flour or peat-based. The roots of the plants should never be allowed to dry up, not even during the winter.

When the buds begin to form, a fertilizer with a high potassium content is administered every 15 days. During the summer, it is necessary to protect the plants from the strong sun. Repotted annually after flowering. If the stems wither, the apical parts of the plant are cut off, dried for a few days and planted in containers filled with compost.

History of the project

storia lingua di suocera The plant was already known in the XVII century in the Far East and held in high esteem for its quality of blooming during the summer nights of full moon. In Vietnam a legend has developed that tells how the flower is the reincarnation of a princess removed from her father, who did not share his love for a young man of common origin. It was also used for ritual and medicinal purposes, since it was recognized for its tonic and aphrodisiac virtues.

However, botanical glory in the West did not begin until the middle of the 1800s, when the English expressly dedicated exhibitions to it. In particular, the Epiphyllum crenatum was immediately praised and attempts were made to obtain hybrids with brighter colours and daytime flowering.


The epiphyllum in the right conditions grows rather quickly and may therefore need to be repotted each year. It is best to proceed after the end of flowering and then avoid watering for at least a week.



 May – early July


 From February to October

Exposure to pre-flowering light







 Spring, but it can also happen in other periods

Crop care

It is a rather autonomous plant, but to keep it always beautiful and vital it is good to intervene by removing exhausted stems (gray) or damaged. It is advisable to carry out this operation in the middle of the summer.

Mother-in-law language – Epiphyllum: Propagation

The most common method in our country is undoubtedly cutting because it is simple and fast.

Sowing is not particularly difficult, but it is necessary for the flower to be pollinated manually with pollen from a totally different individual so that the grains are then fertile. It is also a rather long process: the first flowers will be seen only 6-8 years after germination. It is therefore a practice reserved only for nurserymen or enthusiasts.


It is done in spring or early summer.

A terminal section of the stem, about 20 cm long, is taken out. It must be left to dry for 2 days before inserting it in the pot. The ideal rooting compound is produced by mixing half the soil and half the perlite. Let’s humidify well and place at a temperature between 20 and 24°C, with a good light, but not direct.

Rooting takes place rather quickly, but to promote vegetative growth it is advisable to prevent the emission of buds during the first year.

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