Queen of the Night
Could this be the most lauded bloom in the universe? Perhaps. One reason is that it only blooms at night and only for a few hours at that. Very coy. A plant that knows something about marketing.
Also known as Moon Cereus and Moon Cactus this plant is native to Mexico and the West Indies and is a member of a genus of 20 species of semi-pendant, rock dwelling cacti.
I found the name, Night-Blooming Cereus, quite confusing and can refer to either genus of Hylocereus or Selenicereus. To add to the confusion, it was, at one time, assigned to the genus, Cereus. The orchid, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, is also known as the Queen of the Night.
It is vine-like and droops or climbs up to 10 feet with blue-green stems that look like leaves. They should be grown in hanging baskets (although they can be heavy) or the climbing stems supported with a trellis.
Although interesting to some, they can be considered boring, large, and cumbersome to others. The St Petersburg Times once called the plant "downright ugly".
Selenicereus grandiflorus prefer dappled to part shade and fertile, acidic, humus soil, moist but well drained. The soil should never become soggy or dry. They like high humidity so mist them daily. Don't let them be hit by freezing weather. I have read that they should not be subject to below 59 degrees but I've also read that cool nights down to 50 degrees will help them produce blooms. One of ours wintered in the ground in Northern Florida (freeze once or twice a winter) but never bloomed, either.
In certain circles their flowering is attended by impromptu, spontaneous parties because of the rarity of the event and the short notification of impending bloom by the buds. Invited guests might receive a call in the early evening. Emails might not be read in time.
They do not flower until maturity. the flowers are immense (reportedly up to 12 inches long and 8 inches in diameter) and very sweetly scented (some say, vanilla). The plant flowers at night, after midnight, and fades soon after daybreak.
The plant pictured here, one of two, never flowered for about ten years (one wintered indoors and the other outside in Northern Florida - zone 8/9). They were both kept outdoors one summer in North Carolina (zone 7/8) and one night, one of them flowered unexpectedly. It was situated such that it was only noticed by luck. The flower remained for a day allowing photos to be taken.
Cheryl Morton of Birmingham, AL sent us these photos of her night blooming cereus plant.