Leaf cactus, Epiphyllum - care and wintering

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Leaf cactus, Epiphyllum - care and wintering: plant

Leaf Cactus, also called Epiphyllum and Phyllocactus, is one of the most beautiful cactus species. This plant is very popular because of its lush flowering in red, pink, purple or yellow and is also quite easy to maintain. It's important to know that leaf cactuses need a slightly different care than most succulents.

Leaf cacti are not like most succulents from the desert regions, but are at home in the tropical wet forests of the Americas. This origin also explains most of the differences in care. On the market numerous breeding forms and hybrids are to be found, which differ in form and color of the flowers. Individual specimens even bear flowers with the stately diameter of about 30 cm. Finally, it should be mentioned that the popular Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) also belongs to the leaf cacti.

Location from spring to autumn

Epiphyllum needs like most cactus and other succulents a bright and warm location. Direct sunlight is harmful to the plant, it can cause burns. A few hours of sun a day are no problem. As a good sunscreen, e.g. Wax paper or light cotton fabric attached to the window. A leaf cactus, which is allowed to stand outdoors during the warm season, is particularly comfortable. Again, the location must be bright and without direct sunlight. The advantage of staying outdoors: the window glass absorbs the UV rays, but they are in urgent need of cacti for their growth.
Furthermore, the site should be protected against rain, although just these cactus plants tolerate more humidity than their native of the deserts relatives. At the latest before the first frost comes the time to move the plants to their winter quarters.
Tip: Schlumbergera needs several hours of darkness every day for bud formation and therefore feels comfortable on the windowsill in a room that is only slightly lit in the autumn and winter evenings.


Phyllocactus is not hardy, but it needs a cool location in winter. If the plant grows in the warm room all year round, it permanently weakens it. For winter accommodation, a winter garden is suitable, in which the temperatures of about 15° C prevail. If no conservatory is available, the leaf cactus can overwinter in a room where it is heated sparingly, e.g. in the bedroom. Even in winter, this greenhouse needs enough light.


Although Epiphyllum is a cactus plant, this plant does not need a cactus soil. Even more: in the cactus soil threatens to enter the plant quickly. On the market are ready to find mixtures for the leaf cactus, otherwise the conventional potting soil can be mixed with 1/3 lavakies. Some peat also benefits the plants. The right substrate for this type of cactus should definitely be humus and at the same time loose and permeable to air.

to water

Unlike many succulents, the leaf cactus prefers moist, drying out the soil and thus the root tolerates the plant only conditionally and can quickly die off. Absolutely ensure good drainage, waterlogging is unhealthy for the Epiphyllum. It is only watered with lime-free water, it is recommended to descale tap water or - even better! - to use rainwater. Water is poured so much that the substrate always remains moist. The leaf cactus needs water additions around the year, but in winter only little water is needed. Outside the winter, the leaf cactus should be sprayed daily with lukewarm water.
Tip: Only spray if the plant is not exposed to the effects of direct sunlight - The plant can cause severe burns!


In this regard, the leaf cactus also differs from most cacti and requires other fertilizers. Actually, a conventional flower fertilizer in a thrifty dosage is sufficient, half of the recommended dose is enough. Fertilization takes place about every two weeks, and only from March to August. In the winter rest period the plant does not need any fertilization, because its metabolism is slowed down and it can not absorb the fertilizer.
Tip: The fertilizer must contain only little nitrogen, as this leads to the formation of rotten spots on the plant body.


The easiest way is the propagation through cuttings, this is done as follows:
  • A shoot ("leaf"), about 15 cm long, cut off from Epiphyllum,
  • Wrap the cutting in a dry cloth and lay it out for about a week to dry,
  • Once the cut has dried out, place in a loose sand mixture or special leaf cactus mixture,
  • Planting depth is about 2-3 cm,
  • After another one to two weeks, the cuttings have taken root and may be repotted.


Young fast-growing plants are to be repotted annually. In older plants repotting can happen less often. Experienced gardeners recommend changing the substrate once a year or every two years. The plant is carefully removed together with the soil, the remaining substrate is disposed of, the new one filled.
Tip: The Christmas cactus also has thorns, which by the way are very difficult to remove from the skin! Do not work without gloves!


Leaf cacti are among the undemanding houseplants and rarely get sick. Most health problems are due to the wrong care. When phyllocactus gets too little light, thin sprouted shoots quickly form. These are to be removed and better lighting conditions are to be ensured. Calcified water can damage the plant vehemently, even lack of drainage is unhealthy and leaves the leaf cactus rot - danger especially through root rot! In contrast, it helps to repot in an air-permeable soil and to pour only moderately. If the cactus is attacked by spider mites, then it is a sign of too dry air. In addition to chemical agents, regular spraying can help.

Frequently asked questions

  • Are leaf cactuses suitable as a traffic light plant?
Yes, especially Schlumbergera looks appealing as a traffic light plant. If Epiphyllum does not grow as a traffic light plant, older plants must be supported, otherwise the shoots threaten to break off.
  • Can leaf cacti overwinter outdoors?
In a very mild winter and well protected, Phyllokaktus can hibernate outside, but temperatures below -3° C damage the plant, so the optimal winter quarters is a winter garden.

Worth knowing about the leaf cactus soon

  • The leaf cactus has small instinctual approaches, which are usually referred to as leaves of the plant.
  • Some cacti also have small spines, which are soft and not stinging.
  • The flowers of the leaf cactus reach a normal size of about 20 cm.
  • Here are the flower colors, depending on the variety, in the colors white-yellow and red or orange to admire.
  • The flowers themselves have a large number of leaves and in their midst are raised Staubstempel.
  • The flowering time of the leaf cactus is usually from spring to summer.
  • Because the cactus comes from the rainforests of South and Central America, he likes it warm and humid.
  • Nevertheless, he does not like direct sunlight and he finds temperatures of 20-25° C the most pleasant.
  • Since the climate in this country is also quite mild, the leaf cactus is also ideal as a balcony or terrace plant.
  • He also accepts shady places, but in which he grows slowly.
  • The leaf cactus is not winter proof, which means that in winter it needs a light but cool place. 15-20° C are sufficient here.
  • In winter, the cactus does not need much water, but you should be careful that the earth does not dry out completely.
  • He is cast from below. If you were to pour it from above, rot would arise.
  • As a fertilizer, the cactus likes a sandy substrate or cactus soil. Here you can also make the mixture yourself.

Video Board: How to get Cacti and Succulent plants to flower.

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