Epi Care by Season


June – July – August

With the end of the blooming season now is the time to feed, prune and repot. After the blooming season your epi will take a breather and then they will start to produce new growth.
Summer makes few demands on epies.  Your plants need shade, food, water and good drainage.
Your epies need light and they need protection from the summer’s burning sun. Summer holds the greatest potential for foliage damage due to too much sun exposure in combination with higher temperatures and low humidity. You might need to add additional shade cloth to protect your plants. 
Summer is also the traditional season to repot, fertilize and prune your epies.
Plants that stay too wet are at risk for root rot. Repotting alone might not correct the problem. You need to determine if the pot size is correct, if there are enough drain holes, and if the soil mix in the problem pot is different from what is typical for your collection.
As always, continue to check your plants weekly for soil moisture. Autumn can mean heavy rains and high temperatures. This combination can lead to root rot. If you have this problem, you need to assess your soil mixture and pot drainage. You might need to add larger soil particles (sponge-rock/redwood bark) to your soil and you might need to drill additional holes in the bottom and/or sides of your plastic pots. If you are experiencing infrequent or no rain, water and mist your plants on a regular basis.
You need to continue to keep your plants in the shade to avoid sunburn and dehydration. Check the moisture of your soil at least weekly. Stick a finger a few inches into the potting soil to judge dampness. It your plant dries out it could be because of the potting mix you are using. It is also possible that your plant’s root system is too big for the pot, thus there is no room for the potting soil to hold moisture. Misting the growing area will cool your plants and the surrounding area. The best time to mist is in the evening when temperatures are diminishing and the stoma or “breathing pores” of the plant open, thus allowing the plant to absorb moisture from water it contacts.
Nutrition / Fertilize
Now is the time to fertilize your epies for growth. Use a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 14-14-14. A fertilizer rated 21-21-21 is simply three times stronger so use two thirds less. If you use Osmocote remember that dissolution only occurs at temperatures above 70F. You need to consider where your plants are growing and what the climate is. You might not want to use this time or slow release fertilizer.  Usually two teaspoons should be sufficient. It should be scattered upon the surface of the soil and may be worked into the top half inch. Remember to look at your plants before you “just fertile”. If there is a build-up of fertilizer from previous years (maybe old plants that have not been repotted in several years) the “crust” greatly inhibits water from entering the pot and reaching the roots below the top inch of the soil … thus you are not improving your plant. Bottom line – don’t just blindly throw a scoop of fertilizer in your plants.
Continue to prune your plants. Your plants will let you know which branches to remove and which to leave. Remove all dead and withering plant material by breaking off branches or by using clean shears. The blooming season has just and the growing season is upon you. Be alert to weed seeds, which have been waiting for warm weather to germinate. Diligent removal of weeds will eliminate more drastic measures after they take over your pots. Oxalis, one of the most common and tenacious wees has a long tap root that must be removed.
Planting & Repotting
We repot to encourage growth, which will hopefully then encourage blooms in the Spring. As a general rule you should repot your epi when it stops growing or stops blooming. As a practical matter, you should repot when you feel your epi needs it. This is an optimal time for planting and repotting. Pot unrooted “raw” cuttings with the areoles or notches facing upward. Use a dry to moderately moist soil. Mist the cuttings for several weeks, attempting to saturate the soil with moisture. You might notice that as the cuttings take root, they will produce areoles above the soil level at the terminal end, this is an indication that your cutting is rooting beneath the soil. Once roots take hold, the cuttings will begin to re-hydrate and may now be watered lightly.
Pot Sizing
There are some pot size considerations. Epies like to “feel” the sides of the pot to bloom well, so use a small pot for a small epie. Selecting too large a pot for an epi can cause the plant to retain too much water, which may cause root rot. (Note:  mushy places on a branch signal too much water.)
If your plant shows stress it’s likely due to the loss of moisture and nutrition. This less than desirable appearance will ordinarily improve as the plant regains itself. If you feel that your plant is suffering from a waterlogged root system, this could be caused by poor pot drainage or excessive rainfall. Remove your plant from its pot and inspect your roots. When a root mass has completely rotted, the best solution is to remove the roots completely. You will need to allow your plant to callous, then repot your plant in a new mixture. Plant your epi deeper than a plant with an intact root system. This will allow adventitious roots to form above the original intersection between once existent roots and growth.
Inspect your plants for insects. Scale and mealy bugs are usually the most prevalent pests at this time. Sprayed soutions of Malathion or insecticidal soaps are usually the best for most insects. If you experience an infestation of scale you might have to remove the plant from its pot a give it a complete scrub-down with a toothbrush saturated with one of the insecticides mentioned above. Remember to put out snail and slug bait. Cabbage moth larva (small green to gray “inch worms”) can wreak havoc on tender growth. A valuable home defense for these pests is a 50/50 percent solution of rubbing alcohol and water sprayed from an atomizer.
Repotting – It is a good idea to put a plant back in the same size pot once it has reached the ideal size for your collection. Epies are like goldfish. If you put your plant in a larger container it will grow proportionately. As long as your plant blooms and is healthy, you don’t need to repot. Epies bloom best when their roots are crowded (which is not the same as being root-bound). If your plant is root-bound, remove up to a fourth of its roots. Potting soil should be damp but not wet. Do not water new repotted plants. Wait two weeks before beginning to gradually water.
Pruning – Maintain well groomed plants. Remove diseased, dying and exhausted stems while leaving a well balanced, symmetrical plant. A discolored stem indicates the plant is about to shed it, so you should remove it. Cut stems at the base, unless there is a healthy side branch.
Temperature – Protect your plants from direct sun, and increased humidity during hot, dry days by wetting the ground beneath them or misting them.
Garden Jewels Nursery is San Diego's primary resource for Epiphyllums, or Epi- Hybrids & Species,
Oxypetalum, Orchid Cactus, Jungle Cactus, Hookeri, E. Crenatum and Semi Shade Plants.