gardening partial shade

Behold the Spectacular Beauty of Night Blooming Cereus!

night blooming cereus flower

An artist friend had posted a flower she affectionately dubbed “queen of the night.” She had sat up all night waiting for the plant to bloom and was elated when it finally did. I found out it was actually a night blooming cereus… a plant unknown to me but I just had to have one to see what the hubbub was about!

I purchased one online from The Flower Pot Nursery in Louisiana on etsy for ten bucks nearly a year ago. It came in perfect, looking like a vigorous, albeit floppy, nonprickly cactus lacking glochids. In my enthusiasm, I had a beautiful, new ceramic pot awaiting its arrival filled with cactus soil. I kept it in a filtered shade section of my coleus garden and brought it into the greenhouse for the winter.

Back out in the semi-wooded area, I honestly pretty much forgot it existed save to water it a few times when it hadn’t rained in a while. It dawned on my that perhaps I should put it back in the greenhouse during rainy season, but the rains are not as frequent this summer as they typically are and I just didn’t bother.

A month or two ago, while tending to other plants, I noticed what appeared to be a spent bloom on the two-foot-long plant. At first glance, I thought it was a wet tissue laying in the bushes… but nope… gosh darn it, the plant bloomed, and I was completely oblivious.

night blooming cereus spent bloom
night blooming cereus spent bloom (mixed in with smilax vines and beautyberry in the woods)

Committed to pay closer attention, I checked out the “branches” of the cactus more frequently. Despite that, I wound up missing the second bloom as well. I finally noticed another bud taking shape next to the spent bloom I missed,

night blooming cereus bud
night blooming cereus bud

Determined to catch this one in bloom, I got up at 2am, walked out in the dirt in my PJs and bare feet, and made my way to the woodland garden in the dark. I picked up one of the solar landscape lights and shined it on the bud, but it was still a bud. No flower yet!

I checked the bud again the next day and either forgot or decided it still wasn’t ready the following night so I didn’t make the midnight trek. I checked it again the day after and noticed it had a fuller shape. Perhaps this would be the night.

Well, at 3:30 in the morning, I awoke from my slumber too tired to venture out again. However, I couldn’t get back to sleep, and she was taunting me to come outside and meet her. I am so happy I did!

night blooming cereus in bloom
9″ night blooming cereus in bloom poking out from a pine tree

There she was in all of her glory! I didn’t expect so many petals and a big bunch of anthers. I could even clearly see the stigma with a fluffy opening.

Now that I know the shape of the blooms, I have determined it is some breed of either White Night or Hooker’s Night Blooming Cereus, which is a less fragrant variety. When I ordered the plant, I thought I ordered “Queen of the Night” and didn’t realize there were many varieties… some grow in zone 9 but some grow in zones 10 and 11. A couple will even grow in zone 8! Mine has much narrower petals but, thankfully, is suited for zone 9. Looking at the list of other zone 9 cultivars, Pink Orchid Cactus, Dragon Fruit, Deerhorn, Cardeiro, San Pedro, and Peruvian Apple cactus are said to do well in zone 9.

This was a very exciting experience for me. I was mesmerized and didn’t want to leave the beautiful flower knowing it would shrivel up and die shortly thereafter. I read that in New Orleans, they actually have night blooming cereus watch parties! I can certainly see why. 😉

You may also like...