Orchid cactus is a popular houseplant, while dragon cacti are cultivated mainly for their fruit. Although they belong to the same family of succulents, there are pronounced differences when it comes to their growing conditions. Read on and find out what our research revealed.
Orchid cacti and dragon fruits are closely related plants with similar characteristics and origins. Their differences lie in light, water, temperature, and soil requirements which are based on the specific variety.
The article includes a comprehensive explanation of their basic differences in terms of appearance, plant profile, and growing conditions. We further aim to make the differentiation to help you decide which plant you prefer and which is most appropriate for your home.
Origin And Plant Profile
Orchid Cacti (Epiphyllum)
Orchid cacti, commonly referred to as epis, are treasured and well-sought specimen because of their elegant and attractive flowers with vibrant colors of white, red, orange, pink, purple, and yellow.
Although it belongs to the cactus family, it is originally from the tropical rainforests of Central America, making it averse to the dry conditions of the desert.
Epis are considered epiphytes (non-parasitic) which are known to grow on the trunks and branches of trees and develop aerial roots that absorb water and nutrients from the humid environment rather than acquiring it from its host.
They develop long and flat but non-thorny stems. You can appreciate them best when they are grown in hanging containers. This will allow the stem and flowers to cascade and create an attractive backdrop or highlight.
Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus undatus)
Dragon fruit, also known as pitahaya, produces tasty pinkish fruits as well as fragrant white flowers that only bloom overnight. Native to tropical jungles of American regions, they do not fare well with the arid conditions of the desert.
They have long and thick spiny stems that form aerial roots, which they use to scale on plants and structures within their proximity. Mature dragon fruit can reach up to 20 feet tall and is considered invasive in some areas, especially in Florida.
The section includes a comparison between their growing requirements.
How Do Orchid Cactus And Dragon Fruit Differ For Light Requirements?
In their natural habitat, orchid cactus grow under the tree canopy; that’s why they thrive best in filtered sunlight. Direct light will scorch its leaves as well as affect its flower production. Inadequate exposure results in leggy and fragile stems.
Outdoors, you can plant them on branches of trees to replicate their growing environment, or you can find a shaded area near other large plants that are exposed to the morning light.
Indoors, it is ideal for placing containerized plants near an east-facing window so that they can receive adequate morning sunlight.
As a member of the cactus family, dragon fruit plants thrive best in full sunlight. They can tolerate partial shade, but the fruit and flower production will not be as abundant. It grows rapidly, and the heavy stems tend to spread and scale nearby structures, trees, and other plants.
Pick a sunny spot in your yard or garden and grow the dragon fruit next to a strong trellis or lattice support. It would be advisable to plant it at a considerable distance from your house or any element of the landscape.
The plant may be grown indoors in medium or large containers next to a window with adequate sunlight. You need to turn the pot occasionally to ensure that all parts receive equal exposure.
Do Orchid Cactus And Dragon Fruit Need Identical Soil Conditions?
Since epis roots are sensitive to overly compact regular garden soils, they are best grown in containers or pots. As much as possible, you should keep the potting mix loose, well-draining, and acidic.
A combination of organic and inorganic materials creates the ideal growing medium. Peat moss and compost create an acidic as well as nutrient-rich environment, while perlite, pumice, and coco chips promote better aeration and drainage.
Dragon fruit cacti are noted to tolerate most soil types and ground conditions in the wild. However, fertile soil rich in organic matter will optimize its growth, development, and fruit and flower yield.
Adding a layer of mulch or compost around the base of the plant would provide a consistent source of beneficial nutrients while retaining moisture and moderating soil temperature.
Since they grow and develop more rapidly on the ground, it is possible to keep them indoors in large, well-draining containers. A mixture of garden soil, compost, coarse sand, and perlite would provide an ideal medium that drains well and is rich in organic matter.
Do Orchid Cactus And Dragon Fruit Need The Same Amount Of Water?
Overwatering can kill the plant. If the soil is too damp, the leaves will turn yellow and eventually wilt.
Unlike traditional cacti and succulents, epis must be watered regularly, especially during the growing season. The best way to provide the plant with adequate hydration is to keep the roots moist at all times. Check if the first two inches of the topsoil are dry in between hydration.
Reduce watering frequency in the winter to prevent the proliferation of plant diseases.
The particular species slightly differs from other cacti in that it has relatively higher water requirements, especially during the flowering phase. They should be watered regularly once the blooms appear up until the fruits are harvested.
Dragon fruit plants are tropical cacti as differentiated from desert varieties which thrive in dry, sandy soil.
Regularly monitor the topsoil to determine if your plant needs hydrating; once the upper two-inch layer feels dry to the touch, it is time to water your plant. Reduce the frequency during late fall up to the end of winter and amend with mulch to moderate moisture.
How Do Temperature And Humidity Affect Orchid Cactus And Dragon Fruit Succulents?
Native to the rainforest, the plant does not tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best grown in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11.
During the colder months, it is best to keep epis indoors to protect them from winter frost.
You should place it in a humid area inside your home away from cold draughts, heaters, and furnaces. After sunset, keep the lights off so that the plant will be able to grow flowers during the spring.
Originally from the American tropical regions, dragon fruit should be grown in areas with a sunny environment and warm climate. It cannot survive frigid conditions and prefers temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are living in regions with colder climates, it is preferable to grow them indoors and overwinter the plants in greenhouses or cold frames. You can mist the foliage to maintain the proper amount of humidity.
How To Fertilize Orchid Cactus And Dragon Fruit?
In its natural growing environment, the soil has low nutrient levels. However, it is beneficial to feed the plant a few times a year with a balanced fertilizer that has low nitrogen (N) content.
Too much nitrogen encourages leaf formation rather than flower yield. A fertilizer with a 2-10-10 nutrient combination provides the plant with adequate nutrients and helps with bloom development.
Dragon fruits require large quantities of fertilizer and prefer to be fed regularly during their first year. Once they become established, the plant will fare well without constant feeding.
However, you might occasionally need to amend the soil with compost and organic materials such as tree leaves, grass clippings, worm castings, and sphagnum peat moss.
Are Succulents Easy To Propagate?
You could easily propagate orchid cactus through stem cuttings. It is necessary to choose a healthy stem and cut it diagonally at least nine inches in length. Let the wound harden and heal for at least one to two weeks before planting to prevent decay.
Afterward, prepare a cactus potting mix and insert the cuttings in the growing medium. Do not water immediately. Instead, you can begin by misting the plant. Once the roots emerge and start to form, you can start watering the cuttings.
Dragon Fruit can be propagated through stem cuttings as well. The only difference is that the plant can be directly inserted in the potting mix without waiting for the wound to harden and heal.
Ideally, you must cut stems at least 10 to 12 inches long to ensure the plant will survive and grow. Hydrate afterward and place the container in a dappled location for at least a week o let the plant adapt to its new environment.
Do Succulents Need To Be Pruned?
Although epis are slow-growing cacti, they develop large and long stems that make it difficult for the plant to support itself. Prune off lengthy portions and use them for propagation.
Considered invasive in some regions, dragon fruit should be pruned regularly to control its growth. Periodic clipping is also necessary to maintain proper aeration, prevent proliferation of pests and diseases, promote adequate light penetration and encourage bloom production.
So How Does An Orchid Cactus And Dragon Fruit Differ?
|Indirect, shaded, or dappled light
|Direct sunlight or partial shade
|Consistent watering, tapered in the winter
|Regular watering during the flowering and fruiting season
|Organic, well-draining, acidic
Can’t be grown directly on the ground
|Tolerant of most soil conditions, thrives in organic and fertile medium
Can be grown directly in the soil and containers
|Fertilize a few times a year (2-10-10 fertilizer)
|Requires feeding during the first year of growth
|Temperature & Humidity
|humid conditions & temperatures above 50 degrees F
|humid conditions & temperatures above 65 degrees F
|Regular heavy pruning
Is An Orchid Cactus A Succulent?
Orchid cactus is a succulent and belongs to the cactus family. Although the plant can store water in its leaves, it requires frequent hydration, and the soil is not allowed to be totally parched.
Although orchid cactus and dragon fruit belong to the cactus family and have similar characteristics, both species differ in terms of their preferred growing conditions. We hope the article helped you differentiate between the two species.
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