Gardening Tips: A nocturnal crop is a traditional New Orleans plant — and a good excuse for a party

Can you give me some information about growing a night flower? At what time of the year do they bloom most often? Is there anything I can do to encourage flowers? What do you recommend for exposure to sunlight? There is a mixture of leaves on my plants — some broad and some thin. Is that normal? Mike Bezel

Epiphyllum oxypetalum, a flowering plant, is a traditional veranda plant grown by generations of New Orleans gardeners. I regularly get questions about how to grow this plant.

Like most members of the cactus family (cactus), these plants do not have leaves. In their native South American forest, they grow among the trees, rolling between the branches. The leaf-like structures are flat trunks that act like leaves. The thin stems allow the stems to stick to the trees where the plants live. Therefore, the wide growth and the thin growth you see are very common.

The most spectacular, white, fragrant flowers generally occur in summer, mainly in May or June, October – occasionally. The flowering is occasional, not continuous, and should be before the plants have sprouted (generally, two years or more).

The flowers open at 11pm or later, so you have to stay to see them (New Orleans tradition and a great excuse for a party). For sleeping heads, choose a fully open flower and place the stem in a glass of water in the refrigerator. When the flowers in the plant dry out in the morning, the flowers in the refrigerator will still be fresh.

Fertilizer is not necessary for them to grow. Follow the labeling instructions and apply your favorite soluble fertilizer once a month during the summer.

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The most important thing is to give enough light. Avoid strong, full sun spots. Remember, they get some shade from the tree valley where they grow up in their hometown. If you give too much sun, the leaves will turn red or pink.

A place that gets direct sunlight in the morning and covers the rest of the day provides enough light for a night-flowering crop to bloom. If you put the plant in full shade without the early morning sun, it will be less likely to sprout and will bloom as it grows.

Plants grow in well-drained clay soil or in cactus and a good mix. Water as soon as the soil is dry. If you do not water enough often, the plant will look weak. However, keeping the soil moist at all times encourages root rot. Move to a larger container only when it is most needed. When the pot is frozen, the plants generally bloom.

They are not cold. During the winter months, bring them home and put them in a bright window.

I have an angel trumpet with purple and white flowers. Today I found a very large, pale green caterpillar chewing all the leaves – up to the navel. Janet Arnold

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I was given an orchid seedling. Can you give us some information about this plant? – Donald Simon

This caterpillar grows into one of the Spenx moths or hummingbirds. These moths flutter their wings very quickly. They eat in the evening and at night and can hover in the air like hummingbirds. People sometimes make mistakes even for hummingbirds, but hummingbirds only eat during the day.

Your angel trumpet (Datura) looks deep for a while, but grows again. Develop your favorite general-purpose fertilizer now by following the label instructions. If the caterpillars reappear, do not allow them to damage the plant a second time. Take BT, spinosad or other pesticides to control caterpillars on jewelry.

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Dan Gill is a retired consumer horticulturist with LSU AgCenter. He will host a “Garden Show” on WWL-AM on Saturday.

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