For months, Selenicereus grandiflorus looks more like an ugly duckling, until one night the plant turns into a swan and unfolds its full beauty. The name Queen of the Night is derived from the short, nocturnal flowering period. The cactus then enchants with large, creamy-white flowers that smell of vanilla. Cactus lovers hold festivals and many a botanical garden opens its doors to look forward to the moment when the blossoms open. As a cactus plant, the plant is quite undemanding and can easily be cultivated in the living room at home. If she gets an adequate winter break, nothing stands in the way of a rich flowering.
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Characteristics of the Queen of the Night plant
The fast-growing plant originally comes from Central America. There it grows half-climbing, half-hanging on rocks and trees. Its snake-like, thorny shoots, which can easily reach a length of more than 1 m and a diameter of 2.5 cm even in the bucket, often need support in indoor culture. It is advisable to stabilize the shoots from the start. The flowers open at night and wither before sunrise. Only on the same day can you tell whether the flower will open later or not. Signs are a noticeably swollen bud with slightly opened petals. The radiating flowers exude a lovely vanilla aroma. Their size is also impressive, they can have a diameter of up to 30 cm. The Queen of the Night blooms between June and July.
Cacti are generally light germinators, so the seeds should never be completely covered with soil. Good results are achieved if the seeds are scattered on a lightly pressed and level substrate. The fine substrate should always be kept moist and covered with a lid or piece of foil to better regulate the temperature and humidity. The seed tray can stand on a tray filled with water so that the soil always draws enough moisture. Direct sun is not advisable for the small seedlings, but the location should be bright. Temperatures between 24 and 28 degrees are optimal. The best conditions for sowing are in spring and early summer. The germination period for Queen of the Night seeds is about 2 to 3 weeks.
Seeds are available online, but can also be obtained from the fruit of adult plants. For this purpose, only leave healthy, undamaged fruits on the plant and wait until they are almost overripe. The seeds can be easily removed from the overripe fruits. After a thorough cleaning of pulp residues, the seeds can either be sown directly or stored for later use.
As is usual with cacti, the Queen of the Night is also quite robust and undemanding. So maintenance is not particularly difficult. Selenicereus grandiflorus thrives in year-round indoor culture, but the plant can also be accustomed to a summer location outdoors.
location and substrate
The location claims of the Queen of the Night derive from the conditions in their home ranges. So she loves a warm place with a temperature of at least 20 degrees. It should be light to semi-shaded, it is better to avoid blazing sun.
Selenicereus grandiflorus can also be accustomed to an outdoor location in spring and summer. Here, too, it is important to avoid strong sunlight. In addition, a wind-protected place should be chosen, since the long shoots are not very stable.
For optimal growth, the plant needs loose, well-drained soil. The substrate should be acidic and nutritious. Potting soil containing humus is suitable, which can be mixed with a little peat, sand or perlite.
The Queen of the Night can easily stand together with other cacti, succulents or other tropical plants. The larger the plant gets, the better it is to cultivate as a specimen, as its long shoots can easily get in the way of other plants.
The warm spring and summer months are the main growing season for the Queen of the Night. During this time, new shoots can grow up to 40 cm long. Regular fertilization is helpful for growth, because only the strong, thick shoots form strong buds.
- liquid fertilizer in the irrigation water
- Cactus fertilizer or complete fertilizer suitable
- 1 x week
- Stop fertilizing in winter
When watering, there is a cactus-specific feature: watering is only done in summer. During the cold rest period, the Queen of the Night hardly needs any water. During the winter, be careful not to let the shoots dry out or become shriveled. These would be signs that the plant needs more water.
In summer, however, regular watering is the order of the day. Especially in spring and summer, during the growth period, the plant needs significantly more moisture. You also get a fine spray mist particularly well. Increased humidity and regular spraying during the growing season improve bud formation and increase the chances of magnificent flowers.
After flowering, the plant’s physiological processes slow down again and it needs less water. It is essential to ensure good drainage here so that the roots do not rot. It helps to let the top layer of soil dry thoroughly before watering again.
Selenicereus grandiflorus does not need regular pruning. The scissors can only be used if the plant has grown too large or has unsightly shoots. The plant tolerates such a cut without any problems. Ideally, supply the fresh interfaces with charcoal, which actively helps against fungal diseases. The cut shoots are ideal as cuttings.
The snake-like shoots of the plant grow quite quickly and their roots need more space after a while. It is advisable to repot the Queen of the Night about every three years. If the root ball does not fill the entire pot within this period of time, please wait. Here are the tips:
- Attention thorns!
- Repot on a firm, wipeable surface.
- Wear gloves.
- Act carefully, shoots unstable.
- Broken shoots can be used as cuttings.
- Choose a solid pot.
- Increase pot size slowly.
- Ensure good drainage.
- Think of space for climbing aids.
- Use fresh, new substrate.
- Shake off old substrate.
- Shake the root ball slightly in between so that the substrate gets into the gaps.
- Press the substrate lightly.
- Then water lightly.
Selenicereus grandiflorus can be propagated by seeds or cuttings.
Cuttings can be easily cut from the shoots of the mother plant. Experience has shown that cuttings with a length of 15 cm show good rooting and grow into solid plants. The interfaces of the cuttings should be treated with charcoal so that fungal diseases do not attack them.
After that, the offshoots need a drying phase of 1 – 3 weeks, if possible in a warm but shady place. During this time, the cuttings dry slightly. Then they can be stuck with the dried interface in a humus or peat substrate that is kept only slightly moist. In a semi-shady location, the offshoots usually root quickly.
The Queen of the Night plant is not hardy and needs winter quarters for its dormant phase. This pause reduces growth so that strong shoots and buds can grow again in spring. The conditions:
- Bright location
- Cool temperature between 12 and 15 degrees
- Below 10 degrees the plant gets damaged
- Suitable: unheated room, stairwell, conservatory
- Overwintering on the window sill above the heating is unsuitable, impairs flowering!
- Don’t fertilize.
- Water very little.
- Take care that shoots do not collapse or become shriveled. Then water immediately.
- Water and fertilize as usual from March.
The Queen of the Night is now threatened with extinction in her native regions. In order to draw more public attention to this fact, it was voted cactus of the year in 2009 by the cactus societies of Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Cactus lovers now hope that the Queen of the Night can at least survive in culture in the future.
Their thorns not only protect the plant from enemies, they also reduce transpiration (evaporation). This helps the plant to survive longer periods of drought effortlessly.
Selenicereus grandiflorus is a real crop and was cultivated by a German drug manufacturer until the 1980s. Several medicinally effective ingredients can be found in the flowers and young shoots. In pharmaceutical use, the antispasmodic and blood circulation-increasing active ingredients from the plant are used for heart medication.
diseases and pests
The tropical queen of the night is very resistant to diseases and pests. As a cactus plant, it is robust, but does not tolerate too much water and then rots in the root area. Occasionally, so-called mealybugs or mealybugs can nest. These infest representatives of the cactus family quite often. On the other hand, it helps to generously spray on a mixture of water, a few drops of washing-up liquid and paraffin oil. You can also pick off individual mealybugs and their cocoons manually with tweezers. It is advisable to check the infested plant for other pests in the weeks that follow.
have to wait a long time for flowering, but it is a real experience when the Queen of the Night finally shines in full bloom. The plant is quite undemanding, but needs regular fertilizer and a cool winter quarters. Even in indoor culture, the endangered cactus develops meter-long shoots that amaze everyone.