En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Identification of plant with bell-shaped flowers
January 03, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am in need of a plant name to purchase. It is absolutely beautiful. The plant has light green leaves, the flowers that bloom look like bells (of course they hang upside down...
view the full question and answer

Learning to identify native plants in backyard
June 28, 2011 - Please let me know how a layman like myself can identify native plants in my backyard. I don't know the plant names and don't know if they are dicots or any other technical terms (that some websites...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 24, 2008 - I found a flower about 5 inches tall and it is Pinkish White the head of it hangs down and looks like a rose that hasn't bloomed yet. It reminds me of an Orchid like Fairy . Its Mystic like! what is ...
view the full question and answer

Question about the Chitalpa tree
June 28, 2012 - A bush w/6" long pencil thin seed pod, leaves 4"x1/2", flower that looks like the flower on the Chitalpa tree. Is there a Chitalpa bush. The one I have I grew from seed from the pod; flat, round ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 25, 2012 - I have a plant that was in a funeral arrangement. The plant has green leaves with darker green spots on it. I do not know what kind of plant it is, nor do I know how much light the plant needs on a ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center