Disocactus Ackermannii

Orchid Cactus

The Orchid cacti can be a picky customer, but when you treat it correctly, it will bring your home beauty for years to come.

An Orchid cactus (forest type cacti) blooms multi-petalled bright funnel shaped flowers that spread out from 4 - 6 inches, and the foliage can get a little out of control. This is a tropical cactus, and will need to be watered frequently.


This native of southern Mexico flourishes in the tropical environment. Despite the name cactus, it enjoys water. Natural growth periods are in the spring and fall only. Its scientific name has recently been changed to Disocactus ackermannii from the previous Epiphyllum ackermannii, rendering some amount of confusion in the botanical world.

Flowering: Never disturb a plant that is actively flowering except to water it. Flowers of the orchid cactus form green tubes at the base, which spread out into 4-6 inch (10-16 cm) blossoms. These are shades of bright red, with yellow stamen in the center. The flowering process occurs in mid-spring, and, once open, blooms will remain open day and night. They will produce a small seed bearing fruit.

How It Looks: The Disocactus ackermannii grows in a fern-like manner, arching toward the ground. Stems begin as round bases that grow to 7 inches (18 cm) long. Once this has finished growing, future cactus segments will begin as plump sections which will mature into flat segments up to 30 inches (75 cm) long each. The edges of these segments have a natural wavy appearance, with each wave point containing cactus spines. This cactus will continue producing additional segments until it measures 4 feet (1.2 m) wide.


Origin: South Mexico.
Names: Orchid Cactus (common). Disocactus Ackermannii (botanical/scientific).
Max Growth (approx): 4 feet wide, if not pruned.
Poisonous for pets: Not known.
Picture of the Disocactus Ackermannii

Orchid Cactus Just Blooming

Orchid cactus blooming

Orchid Cactus Care

Temperature: Keep this cactus between 60-75ºF (16-24ºC) during its active cycle. During the resting period, daytime temperatures must be 60-65ºF (16-18ºC) and night-time temperatures must be 40-55ºF (4-12ºC).
Light: These plants prefer their sunlight to be indirect or filtered. Do not expose to sunlight during the heat of the day. A healthy plant will show dark green growth with red edges if the right amount of light is being provided.
Watering: The soil of Disocactus ackermannii must have careful attention paid to its moisture levels. The roots must never dry out, but the top 1/3 inch of soil should become dry between watering.
Soil: Best mixture for this plant to thrive is 3 parts potting soil to 1 part pumice, bark chips, or perlite. Pumice is preferred.
Re-Potting: As the root system expands, your plant will need to be re-potted. Every 2 years, move the plant to a single size larger pot. Do not remove the soil from around the roots during transplant. Instead, shake the excess off, and fill in the gaps around the roots with new soil. Never re-pot within a month of blooming.
Fertilizer: Once a week during the summer and fall months, offer your orchid cactus a balanced mixture of fertilizer such as 10-10-10, diluted to 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. In the spring, a blooming fertilizer such as 7-9-5 should be used. During the winter rest period, use the balanced fertilizer, but reduce feeding to once per month.
Humidity: During the spring, summer, and fall, normal room humidity is tolerated. During the winter rest, humidity should be lowered with a dehumidifier in the resting room.
Propagation: From seeds, this cactus takes 12-15 years to mature to the blooming stage. Propagation of a flowering plant takes one year, and is achieved by breaking off sections at least two leaf segments long. Permit the cuttings to harden for one week, then plant exactly two leaf serrations deep in soil. Water sparingly but regularly.
Resting Period: In order to ensure blooms in the following year, these plants require a winter resting period. Beginning in December, move your orchid cactus into an unheated, dark room. Provide it with daylight during the normal hours the sun is up. Watering should be minimal during this time. Remove from resting room in early March or when buds form.

Potential Problems

  • Control width of growth (otherwise they get seriously out of hand and ugly) by removing cactus segments at the segment origin point only.

  • Sunburned or yellowed, withered leaves is an indicator of too much sun light.

  • Small segment growth that appears limp is an indicator of too little light.

  • Never disturb a flowering plant in any way except to water it.

  • Touching the blossoms will cause them to fall off the plant.

  • Over-watering will cause the root system to rot away in less than a month.

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