Night-blooming cereus is the common name for several species of flowering ceroid cacti, usually possessing short-lived flowers that bloom at night. These plants bloom once a year and produce beautiful, often fragrant flowers that open after nightfall and last only for a single night.
While the name “cereus” is often associated with these plants, it is not limited to the Cereus genus. There are actually multiple species from different genera that fall under this category, including Cereus, Epiphyllum, Hylocereus, and Selenicereus.
The reason why night-blooming cereus is often thought of as a single plant is due to the confusion with the common name. The problem with common plant names is that the same name can mean different plants in different areas such is the same with Bird of Paradise.
Common names often group together different species or varieties that share similar characteristics or habits. And while the is the name “Cereus”, the term “night-blooming cereus” is a catch-all phrase that encompasses various cacti species that share the characteristic of blooming at night.
What are the bloom characteristics of a night-blooming cereus?
Night-blooming cereus plants typically bloom in stages, with the flowers opening gradually over the course of several hours. The flowers usually begin to open in the evening and continue to bloom throughout the night, with the peak bloom occurring in the early morning hours. The flowers typically last for only one night before wilting and falling off by dawn.
During this nocturnal flowering, these fragrant flowers attract moths, butterflies, and bats who come to savor the nectar and promote pollination.
Night-blooming cereus flowers are usually white or pale shades of other colors, often large, and frequently fragrant. Plants in the same geographical area tend to bloom on the same night, and healthy plants may have multiple blooming events spread over the warmest months
Varieties of Night-Blooming Cereus
Night-blooming cereus is an umbrella term for approximately seven different genera, which have the night-blooming characteristic. Some of the most common types of night-blooming cereus plants include:
Epiphyllum oxypetalum, also known as the queen of the night, is a tropical cactus with flat, broad leaves. It produces large, fragrant white flowers that bloom for only one night and can reach up to 12 inches in diameter.
The outer tepals of the flowers are linear and reddish to amber, while the inner tepals are whitish and oblong or oblanceolate. The edible fruits are oblong, purplish red, and can reach up to 4 x 3 inches in size.
The plant is native to Central and South America and is often grown as a houseplant in other parts of the world. In addition to its ornamental use, it is used in traditional medicine in many Asian cultures to treat respiratory ailments and bleeding conditions and is believed to have pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cereus Peruvianus, also known as Peruvian Apple Cactus, is a large, columnar cactus that can grow up to 30 feet tall. It produces beautiful, white flowers that bloom at night and close by morning. This unusual cactus is typically three-sided and the fruits are said to be edible in their raw state. It is a member of the same family as dragon fruit.
The Cereus peruvianus is unique in that it has no spines! This dark green succulent is one of the easiest plants to look after and is therefore a popular houseplant. Night-blooming cereus flowers are almost always white or very pale.
Hylocereus Undatus (Selenicereus grandiflorus)
Hylocereus Undatus, commonly referred to as the white-fleshed pitahaya or Dragon Fruit, is a tropical fruit that grows on a cactus. It is a nocturnal bloomer, and produces fragrant, white flowers, measuring 8 to 12 inches long and 5 to 7 inches wide.
The fruit is oblong to oval, 2 to 5 inches long, and 1 to 3 inches thick, with red skin and white or pink pulp. The Dragon fruit also has other common names in different languages and regions including strawberry pear, Belle of the Night, Cinderella plant, and Jesus in the cradle.
Cereus Forbesii, also known as Forbes’ Torch Cactus, is a columnar cactus that also produces large, white flowers that bloom at night. Its vertical ribs enhance its charm, creating a unique visual texture.
This exotic plant stands out with its slender stems resembling nature-sculpted columns and can reach impressive heights, making it a true focal point.
This easy-to-care-for companion thrives in bright to moderate light and requires only moderate watering, making it an ideal choice for plant enthusiasts who appreciate hassle-free beauty.
Cereus Jamacaru, also known as the mandacaru cactus, is a tall, straight-growing, cylindrical cactus originating from South America. Also known as “Queen of the Night” or Cereus Jamacaru De Candolle, Cereus Jamacaru also produces large, white flowers that bloom at night.
The plant is native to Brazil and is often used in traditional medicine. Its attractive flowers and berries and their eye-catching shape make it a wonderful ornamental plant.
Cereus repandus, also known as giant club cactus, is a large, erect, spiny columnar cactus found in South America. It produces large, cream-colored, nocturnal flowers that remain open for only one night. These flowers are important for pollinating bats.
It is grown primarily as an ornamental plant but also has some local culinary importance. The fruits are thornless and vary in skin color from violet-red to yellow. The edible flesh is white and contains small, crunchy seeds
The Wayuu people from the La Guajira Peninsula of Colombia and Venezuela also use the inner cane-like wood of the plant in construction.
Cultivation and Uses
Night-blooming cereus can be grown indoors in homes or greenhouses in colder climates, but they are primarily found outdoors in tropical areas.
Some night-blooming cereus plants produce fruits that are consumed by people, such as those from the genus Cereus and Hylocereus. The dried flowers of night-blooming cereus are used as an ingredient in Cantonese slow-simmered soup.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different species of night-blooming cereus?
Night-blooming cereus includes several different species, including Cereus Peruvianus, Hylocereus Undatus, Cereus Forbesii, Cereus Jamacaru, Cereus Repandus, Selenicereus pteranthus, and Epiphyllum oxypetalum. Each species has its own unique characteristics, but all share the distinctive trait of blooming at night.
How often does the night-blooming cereus flower?
The night-blooming cereus is a rare and exotic plant that blooms only once a year, usually in the summer. The plant produces large, fragrant, white flowers that open at night and close in the morning. The flowers usually last only one night, but some plants can produce multiple blooms over several days.
How do you care for a night-blooming cereus?
Night-blooming cereus plants require bright, indirect sunlight and well-draining soil. They also need to be watered regularly, but not excessively, as overwatering can lead to root rot. Fertilizing the plant once a month during the growing season can also help promote healthy growth.
What are the ideal lighting conditions for growing a night-blooming cereus?
The night-blooming cereus requires bright, indirect light to grow and thrive. The plant should be placed in a location that receives plenty of morning sunlight but is shaded from the intense afternoon sun. Too much direct sunlight can cause the plant to wilt and die, while too little sunlight can prevent it from blooming.
What is the proper way to propagate night-blooming cereus plants?
The night-blooming cereus can be propagated by stem cuttings or by seeds. To propagate by stem cuttings, simply cut a healthy stem from the parent plant and allow it to dry for a few days before planting it in well-draining soil. To propagate by seeds, collect the seeds from a mature fruit and plant them in a pot filled with well-draining soil.
What is the significance of the night-blooming cereus in spiritual contexts?
The night-blooming cereus is often associated with spiritual and mystical beliefs. In some cultures, the plant is believed to have healing powers and is used in traditional medicine. In others, it is considered a symbol of love, beauty, and the transience of life.
Can you eat the fruit of a night-blooming cereus, and what does it taste like?
Yes, the fruit of the night-blooming cereus is edible and has a sweet, tangy flavor. The fruit is typically eaten fresh or used to make jams, jellies, and other desserts. However, the fruit should be consumed in moderation, as it contains high levels of fructose and can cause digestive issues if consumed in large quantities.
Can you eat the fruit of a night-blooming cereus, and is it safe?
Yes, the fruit of some night-blooming cereus plants, such as Hylocereus Undatus, is edible and safe to eat. However, it is important to note that not all night-blooming cereus plants produce edible fruit, and even those that do may not be safe to eat if they have been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
Are night-blooming cereus plants toxic to pets, such as dogs?
Yes, some night-blooming cereus plants can be toxic to pets, such as dogs, if ingested. The plant contains alkaloids that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms if consumed in large quantities. It is important to keep night-blooming cereus plants out of reach of pets and to seek veterinary care immediately if your pet ingests any part of the plant.
How rare are night-blooming cereus plants and where can they be purchased?
Night-blooming cereus plants are not particularly rare and can be found at many nurseries and garden centers. They can also be purchased online from a variety of retailers. When purchasing a night-blooming cereus plant, be sure to choose a healthy specimen with no signs of disease or damage.