Selenicereus - Queen of the Night
The fragrant flowers of selenicereus cannot be called magnificent and impressive. This unique cactus with almost smooth shoots became famous under the name "Queen of the Night" is by no means accidental. Even against the background of other beautifully flowering representatives of the Cactus family, selenicereus is considered a unique plant. The fabulous beauty of flowering and the original strong aroma make an increasing number of flower growers choose the queen of the night for the role of their favorite exotic. And even if huge flowers bloom for just one night, and it’s very difficult to place a cactus with shoots several meters long, the selenicereus is worth all the effort spent to achieve such a spectacular flowering. It is not so difficult to look after him, it is much more difficult to create optimal conditions for him.
A nightly sight to watch all year long
Selenicereus can rightfully be considered a unique cactus. Creeping or creeping cacti of impressive sizes, which are rightly ranked among the most spectacular beautifully flowering indoor cultures "for the elite", are united into the genus of these rare exotic beauties. His popular names - the lunar cereus, the lunar cactus, the princess of the night or the queen of the night, the moon candle - one way or another appeal to the presence in the species name of Selena - the Greek goddess of the moon.
Thousands of tourists annually come to see the flowering of seleniteres in the botanical gardens, and the institutions themselves specially extend their work overnight so that as many spectators as possible visit the greenhouses. Selenicereus is largely due to its special attitude to the plant in botanical collections due to its status of "cactus is not for everyone." But the magnificent queen of the night can be grown independently, along with other types of beautifully flowering cacti.
Selenicereus (Selenicereus) combines in one genus 25 species of unusual forest cacti. These are large epiphytes with powerful, long and very thin shoots extending from the base of the bush, most often flat. These cacti outwardly differ from disocacti and from other types of ampelous succulents. Reaching only 1-2 cm in diameter, and not even 5 meters in length, the shoots of this cactus are impressive at first sight. Their surface is almost completely bare, with a glossy sheen. Spines are rarely located in areoles, small, thin, nevertheless, they are characterized by increased tenacity. To match the unusually long shoots and flowers that strike their size. Other than huge, complex in structure inflorescences of this type of cactus can not be called. Outwardly, they somewhat resemble a water lily, in fact, they are complex tubular inflorescences with numerous perianth, divided into hundreds of internal and external petals-lobes. In this case, the inner petals can both form a bowl and completely fill the inner space of a flower like chrysanthemums. Needle- or filiform, external lobes emphasize a calyx from wider, lingual-like perianth lobes, creating sensations of a double flower structure. It is worth taking a closer look at the buds of selenicereus. At the beginning of their development, they seem to be a dense ball, consisting of white hairs, from which a svezvidny dense bud gradually rises. Decorate flowers and luxurious lush stamens.
Popular species of selenicereus
Tropical cacti from the genus selenicereus in room culture are either hybrid plants or one of the 5 most common species. These American-born cacti can boast a considerable variety, although the name "Queen of the Night" is usually associated with the name of one single species - large-flowered selenicereus.
Selenicereus large-flowered (Selenicereus grandiflorus) is by no means the most representative representative of the genus from the point of view of the beauty of flowers, and its inflorescences are far from the largest. But the queen of the night became famous as one of the first selenicereuses introduced into indoor culture and definitely as one of the most reliable species. Plants produce quite specific long shoots that do not always look very decorative. The greenery of this cactus must be tied to supports; even at a young age, it forms a lot of randomly located, directly growing, drooping, climbing shoots up to 5 m long and 1 to 3 cm in diameter, often densely branching and forming distinctive tangles. 3-4 ribs are clearly distinguished on the shoots, and areoles of small spines are rarely located and fall over time. This cactus releases aerial roots that help the plant cling to its supports. A greenish-gray color, sometimes with a violent shimmer, and a glossy sheen emphasize the subtlety of the shoots. But if the greenery of the plant cannot boast of extreme decorativeness, then the beautiful large flowers blooming at night are really impressive.
Single, painted white, they reach a diameter and a length of up to 30 cm, bloom only at dusk and last only a few hours until morning. Thin, needle-shaped, numerous perianth lobes form a kind of halo around the inner funnel of a flower with lingual “petals”. The outer petals are narrow and long, the inner ones are much wider and shorter. The golden yellow color of the marginal petals only emphasizes the radiant white center of the flower. One of the advantages of this species is the formation of a large number of buds, whose flowers bloom literally one after another in spring and early summer. Belongs to the distinctive features of large-flowered selenicereus is the delicate aroma of vanilla with light notes of jasmine, which surprisingly strongly manifests itself in the night air. After flowering, the cactus forms large spherical fruits up to 9 cm long yellow, orange, red and pink colors.
Selenicereus wing-flowered (Selenicereus pteranthus), or the princess of the night is only slightly inferior in popularity to the most common kind. It is also a fairly large plant with shoots reaching several meters, ribbed, creeping, powerful. The flowers have a slightly different, “airy” structure and a complete lack of aroma.
Even less common in room culture:
1. Hook-shaped selenicereus (Selenicereus hamatus) - able to produce lashes of shoots up to 12 m long cactus with a bright green color, numerous ribs, peculiar hook-shaped processes and spiked setae. Its inflorescences reach 40 cm in length and 20 cm in diameter, differ in fairly wide external and almost oval internal perianth lobes. Flowers of this species are more reminiscent of calyx; they are distinguished by pale yellow stamens and pale green color.
2. Selenitereus Anthony (Selenicereus anthonyanus) also became famous thanks to its popular name "fish bone". This climbing cactus with delightful leaf-shaped, fleshy stems up to 15 cm wide and several meters long and really in the form of shoots most resembles fish skeletons. Flat stems with a fairly bright color are deeply cut along the edges like oak or dandelion leaves, but the lobes of the leaf are not paired, and the short spikes in the areoles are almost invisible. The flowers of this cactus are surprisingly elegant and have a brighter color than competitors. Even if they reach a diameter of only 20 cm, and are limited to only 12 cm in length, the transition from the color of the perianth from bright pink outside to orange in the center and delicate creamy pink inside the corolla seems surprisingly watercolor. The outer and inner perianths are almost identical in width and differ only in the greater length of the outer petals. In this selenicereus, perianths evenly fill the calyx, slightly resembling garden dahlias and chrysanthemums. This species is often grown in ampelous culture.
3. Golden-flowered Selenicereus, or Golden Heart Selenicereus (Selenicereus chrysocardium) on its dense shoots reaching several meters in length, flaunts not even recesses and depressions, but leaf-shaped lobes, reaching 15 cm in length and 4 cm in width. From a distance, its shoots seem to be cirrus leaves, and it is only visible nearby that it is just a flattened succulent stalk. The flowers of this species are large, funnel-shaped, up to 25 cm in diameter, very fragrant, with a creamy-reddish tint of the outer and a snow-white color of the inner perianth petals. The brightest part of the plant is the rich yellow stamens that really look like a golden center.
Selenicereus care at home
The queen of the night is not often found in the collection of even big lovers of cacti. Low popularity and extremely low distribution at home is associated primarily with those myths that turn the plant into an almost exclusively hothouse culture. In fact, it is no harder to grow selenicereus than any other flowering cactus that requires a cool winter. It’s easy enough to choose the conditions for it, and attentive care is no different from the care that any beautifully flowering plant in the house needs to provide. Moreover, this cactus is quite unpretentious, rapidly developing, pleasantly pleasing with an abundance of flowers, fully compensating for the difficulties of creating the right dormancy regime.
Lighting for selenicereus
Queen of the night can be reckoned not only as the most photophilous indoor plants, but also as sun-loving cultures. This cactus can be placed on the windowsills of the southern orientation, it is absolutely not afraid of direct sunlight and blooms much better in a sunny place. Even midday rays do not affect the attractiveness of the plant. True, at the stage of active development, selenicereus can accept both penumbra and diffuse lighting: the cactus retains its love for the sun, but bright lighting becomes vital not at the active development stage, but during the resting phase. Providing a sunny location is one of the important conditions for stimulating flowering in this cactus, it is necessary for the development of a large number of strong buds. Selenitereus does not like artificial illumination and does not respond very well even to slight fluctuations in lighting during the flowering or dormant stage.
During the winter, selenicereuses should be kept in cool conditions. The air temperature should not fall below 5 degrees, while the range of optimal temperatures is 10-12 degrees. The maximum allowable temperature during the resting phase is 18 degrees, but it is better if it remains as close as possible to 10 degrees.
During the period of active growth, this cactus can grow only at room temperatures. Cool conditions at the stage of budding and flowering are unacceptable, cacti are best placed in hot conditions, since in fact during flowering they are heat-dependent and, due to violation of a comfortable temperature range, buds can crumble. During spring and summer, any temperature from 18 to 25 degrees or hotter is suitable for selenicereus.
One of the features of this cactus with long and randomly growing shoots can be safely called intolerance to drafts and sharp fluctuations in temperature. True, drafts can cause special damage to the plant only at the budding and flowering stages, during which a temperature drop of more than 3-4 degrees can cause massive dropping of buds and even flowers beginning to blossom. Selenicereuses should be placed in places protected from any fluctuations in air, especially from the flow of cold air. But this cactus grows well with artificial heating (although if there is no contrast between the draft and the air from the batteries).
In summer, selenitereus can be placed on sheltered balconies. As a result of brighter lighting, the shoots will acquire a reddish hue, but then quickly restore their natural color. But the cactus will bloom more abundantly next year.
Watering and humidity
In order to find the optimal irrigation strategy for selenicereus, it is always necessary to check the condition of the soil, controlling the degree of its drying out. During each subsequent procedure, you must make sure that the substrate is completely dry in the upper layer and partially on average. This cactus, like most of its beautifully flowering counterparts, is extremely afraid of waterlogging. And any excess or too frequent watering can lead not only to decay, but also to the death of the plant. During the winter, to stimulate flowering, selenicereus should be in almost dry conditions; it is watered very rarely, just not letting the shoots fade. But in the spring and summer, when carrying out such procedures, they always focus on the rate of drying of the substrate. This cactus belongs to those species of indoor plants that tolerate hard water very poorly. For him, you can either pick up defended soft water or specially soften it with the usual addition of any natural acid. But it’s important not to overdo it with acidification.
In general, this cactus feels great under normal conditions and does not need air humidification procedures. For luxurious flowering of selenicereus, it is nevertheless necessary to ensure sufficient air humidity. This cactus, unlike its counterparts, simply adores regular spraying and even foliar fertilizers. At the same time, increased humidity is important for selenicereus only during the budding period, while in winter, any increase in air humidity can lead to problems with rot and lack of flowering.
Rinsing or washing methods can be used to remove dust. In this case, when spraying, and when watering, and when removing dust, it is very important to monitor the temperature of the water, which should equal the temperature of the air or be slightly higher.
Actively growing, very large shoots of this cactus necessitate a somewhat more active feeding than for the rest of the family. Selenitereus is fed not once a month, but once every 10-14 days. Top dressing is applied only during the stage of active development from March to November, completely abandoning the procedures during the resting stage.
For this cactus, special fertilizer mixtures designed for representatives of the Cactus family are best suited. In addition to root dressing, selenicereus loves foliar treatment with a weakly concentrated aqueous solution of fertilizers. At the same time, during budding and flowering, spraying with fertilizers can be made more frequent than recommended by the manufacturer.
Pruning and selenicereus formation
The formation of selenicereus is by far the most difficult moment in their cultivation. Randomly growing stems, sometimes densely branching, scatter in different directions, drooping, large, but at the same time, like all cacti, fearful of injuries create problems with the placement of the plant. Selenicereus requires constant formation and attention to tying. The work is always complicated by very tenacious, albeit small, sparse spines.
For selenicereus always establish support. Since the plant itself does not have an impressive appearance, it is precisely due to the supports that can give it greater decorativeness. If you use ordinary pegs or boring supports, you can make the cactus even more unremarkable.In addition to tying to a support, selenicereus and pruning of unattractive or long shoots will be needed. A full-fledged formation is not carried out, since it does not contribute to thickening or the creation of more beautiful bushes. Therefore, pruning is worth it only when the cactus is really necessary (or advisable from the point of view of ease of handling the plant). After damage, the selenicereuses grow well enough. But it is better to cut off only no more than 3 shoots at a time, since stronger pruning will cause the formation of ugly stumps. If the shoots were accidentally injured during transplantation or other procedures, the stem should be cut as soon as possible just below the site of damage.
Transplant and substrate
Unlike most cacti, selenicereus prefers a fairly nutritious, humus-rich substrate. But with all the importance of nutrition, one should not forget about the two most important soil parameters - water and air permeability. For selenicereus, you can use any ready-made mixture for succulents and cacti. But to achieve the best degree of drainage, it is desirable to add charcoal, fine expanded clay, vermiculite or agroperlite to it. You can make a substrate yourself by mixing turf soil with coarse sand in a ratio of 2 to 1 with the same loosening additives.
Plant transplantation causes difficulties only in terms of handling large and "uncomfortable" shoots. Young cacti are transplanted annually, adults - only as necessary and possible. The optimal time for transplantation is considered mid-spring. During the procedure, it is necessary to lay a high, powerful drainage at the bottom of the tank. In years when transplantation is not carried out, for the selenicereus, the topsoil is completely removed to the level of the beginning of the root system and replaced with a fresh substrate.
Diseases and pests
Among pests, the most worrying among selenicereus is mainly felt, felt, scale insects, spider mites, which are very difficult to control on a cactus. The only acceptable method of control is the use of a highly targeted fungicide. Due to the waterlogging of the stems and the base of the bush, various rot very actively spread. They need to be fought with correction of care and timely trimming of damaged parts.
Among the queens of the night, various types of specific spotting are common, which are usually characteristic only for hybrid plants. It is advisable to fight them with fungicides, although these diseases can be very difficult to overcome.
Reproduction of the Queen of the Night
The optimal propagation method for selenicereus is considered to be cuttings. Since plants produce long shoots, they are easy to cut into small fragments and root after drying the slices (in any slightly damp substrate or under a hood in humid air). The best time for grafting is considered spring. The younger the escape, the faster and better it will take root.
You can get selenicereus from seeds, however, under room conditions they ripen very rarely, but are sometimes found on sale. Seeds germinate easily in slightly moistened soil, provided that they are not deepened too deeply, covered with a film or glass, and kept at room temperature. Young selenicereuses obtained by any method develop very actively, grow several meters of shoots per year and are capable of producing buds by the fifth year.