Garden Photo of the Day

Flowering Tonight Only!

A bright, but brief, flower

Today Lynn Crawford is sharing a very special plant with us.

Here are some photos of my night-blooming cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum, Zones 10–11 or as a houseplant). I have had the plant for numerous years, and it has never bloomed. It is a very unattractive, ungainly looking cactus. I put it outside this summer, back by the shed, only a few steps away from the compost pile. To my surprise about three weeks ago, I noticed that it had two buds coming out of a leaf (very strange). I watched it get larger and eventually brought it inside to watch the process. I have attached some pictures at several stages.

Last week it bloomed! People have been known to have parties to celebrate this “Princess of the Night” event. The night before I had an engagement of dinner and a movie, and I had to have a plant sitter who had my number on speed dial should it have decided to bloom that night.

Nevertheless, it waited until the next night. The process began about 8:00 and continued opening until 10:00–11:00. The fragrance was delightful, and the bloom was spectacular, approximately 8 inches across. The plant only blooms once a year for only one night, and the flower is wilted by the next day. It was certainly worth the wait.

night blooming cereusDeveloping flower buds. Looking promising!

Close-up of the flower buds. They’re beautiful even at this stage.

night blooming cereusThe flower fully open, beginning to spill rich fragrance into the night.

night blooming cereusTwo flowers twisting together. This beautiful and unusual cactus is native to Mexico and parts of Central and South America. The huge flowers with their powerful fragrance lure in bats to pollinate the blooms.

night blooming cereusA close-up of the spectacular bloom. Usually we think that a plant that blooms all summer long is the best, but there is a lot to be said for a plant that gives just a brief, but very special, display. The drama of anticipating the one special night that these bloom can give a special excitement to the garden that not much else can replicate.


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View Comments


  1. sandyprowse 11/01/2019

    That was a truly fascinating story! Much appreciate your sharing it with us. I have never heard of such a phenomenal occurrence. So interesting.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 11/01/2019

    I'm so glad that those flowers held off the twenty four hours so you could be there in person for the whole experience. A picture might be "worth a thousand words" but it would have been a shame if you weren't able to breathe in the fragrance as it first filled the air. Congrats on your patience and getting to witness your well earned reward.

  3. cheryl_c 11/01/2019

    Decades ago, my boss, who was an orchid enthusiast called me around 7 pm to invite me to his house (with my husband and with his wife) to witness the blooming of one of these - we had champagne to celebrate. It was fully open before midnight, and was as spectacular as yours. Thanks for recalling that wonderful memory for me!

  4. gardeningisfine 11/01/2019

    So glad for you! It really is a difficult plant to have around because of it “ungainly “habits, and so should reward you. My sister gave me a cutting many years ago. I always kept it in a part of the house we heat only minimally. It bloomed many times over the years, in fact I often missed it because I was not regularly in that part of our home. Sadly it developed scale (how I do not know) and had to be discarded. I plan to get another cutting from her and try again.

  5. User avater
    simplesue 11/01/2019

    Spectacular! Guess all the little guy needed was some fresh air outside to get healthy enough to put on a show of blooms. Really enjoyed hearing about this bloom and the plant sitter too! You are so funny, but I totally get it!

  6. btucker9675 11/01/2019

    When I was still a kid living with my family in Clearwater, FL, we had a very tall pine tree in our very large backyard that had night blooming cereus growing up to almost the very top. When it would bloom once a year, it was a truly spectacular sight - there would be 30 to 40 blooms. Magical - especially if it happened on a full moon night! Thanks for sharing these photos.

  7. User avater
    user-7007816 11/01/2019

    Thank you, thank you for sharing. I get excited when a few of my cactus plants bloom here in central Michigan, but this was a real treat.

  8. nobita88 11/06/2019

    The flower blooming at night is so beautiful and so wonderful, I love the posts from you. mapquest driving directions

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