En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - March 25, 2005

From: Baltimore, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Smarty Plants on epiphyllums
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I don't have a digital cameria, but I hope you can identify my plants easily by description. I believe they are called something similar to the word "epithelium". They look like a "mother-in-law's tongue", bloom once a year with a single flower and are wonderfully sweet-smelling. One flower is like a gigantic yellow buttercup; the other is like a giant white daisy. One plant has smooth leaves, both cactus-like in looks, and the other has slightly hairy leaves. They grow a giant red bud on the ends of their long, long leaves, and the blossom comes from that. i was given them in San Diego, where they stayed outdoors in pots, and did really well. I moved to Maryland and I am alarmed that they have not done well. I moved them inside when the weather started to get cold. i don't want to lose them but they are not doing well. i believe they are native to the southern U. S. i don't want to lose them. Please help.

ANSWER:

Your plants are very likely epiphyllums, epiphyllum hybrids or something like them.  They are in the Cactaceae family. They are not native to the US, but to the South and Central American tropics. You can find information, photographs, and interesting links on Glenn's Epiphyllum page and on the web page for the San Diego Epiphyllum Society. These web sites also have information on caring for epiphyllums. If you don't discover the exact identity of your individual plants from these sites you might do a Google search for "epiphyllum" and go from there.

Two possibilities come immediately to mind for the problems you are having--water and fertilizer.  If you brought the plants in before winter and have kept them in a warm place they should be ok.  However, they require almost no water during the winter months and will rot if they are over watered, especially at that time.  If you fed them during the winter or shortly before bringing them in, that would only exacerbate the problem.  It's possible that the plants are reacting to the water quality in Maryland.  You should look for a build-up of fertilizer salts in the soil surface, the base of the plant, or even on other plant surfaces.  If these salts are present, you should thorough wash the plant with a garden hose and flush the soil with fresh water (a process called leaching) for at least five minutes. Epiphyllums are easy to propagate from cuttings, and that may be your best bet for salvaging your prized plants.  The second website above has a very good discussion on propagation.
 

More Plant Identification Questions

Strange growths in flower bed in Virginia
July 07, 2008 - What in the heck are these strange growths in my flower bed?I can't even describe. May I send you pictures?
view the full question and answer

Weed identification
February 27, 2012 - Weeds / Wildflower. I dream of a photo identification for weeds / wildflowers that pop up in my garden here in Austin, Texas. Maybe I don't want to pull them up. How do I know? Do you know of a b...
view the full question and answer

Identification of rose campion
August 04, 2007 - My friend shared a plant with me and I cannot identify it. She said that it was Rose Campriow? or something like this. It has very small pink/purplish blooms with grey green foliage. It is a perenn...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 29, 2008 - Greetings, Sir/Madam! What is the name of that weed that grows ubiquitously in St. Augustine, Fl (literally overnight when it rains) and has two skinny "arms", with little greenish beads on the arm...
view the full question and answer

Information about pre-1920s biodiversity near San Antonio
February 12, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: I am transforming my .3 acre urban yard three miles north of downtown San Antonio into a native wildscape. I am planting all native plants using your website, books, and nea...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center