Pond Lily Cactus – Nopalxochia phyllanthoides

A native of Mexico, the Pond  lily Cactus was introduced into Europe in the 19th century and soon became a popular house plant.

It was often displayed with pride in the parlour, where the cool conditions suited its needs — low winter temperatures are necessary for the production of flower buds.

The plant was crossed with similar cacti to create several hybrids which produced flowers in a wide range of colours. The species has rather small flowers, which resemble those of the water lily, but the much improved hybrid NopaIxochia phyllanthoides ‘Deutsche Kaiserin’ has large blooms.

Once the flower buds have formed, at a winter temperature of 10-13°C (50-55°F), the plant should be moved to a warmer position. After flowering, you can move the plant out into the garden. Warmth during the growing season will produce new stems on which flowers will be carried the following year.

The Pond Lily Cactus has flat leaf-like stems with slightly toothed edges that branch out near the base. It grows to about 30cm (12in) in height, with a spread of 60cm (24in).Pond Lily Cactus - Nopalxochia phyllanthoides

Pests And Diseases

Brown humped or flat discs on the stems or in the roots are scale insects. Treatment: Remove scale insects on stems with a cotton bud that has been dipped in diluted methylated spirit. To treat scale insects on roots, drench the compost with insecticide. If the attack is severe, take cuttings from healthy stems and discard the plant.

Pale or reddish stems are a sign of stress, caused by very dry compost. Prevention: Water regularly, but do not let the compost become wet.

Making new plants

The easiest way to increase your plant is to take stem cuttings. The best time to do this is in May, although cuttings will root at any time.

1 To ensure an attractive plant, choose short, mature stems. Use a sharp knife to remove them from the parent plant, and allow the cut surfaces to callus for a few days before you plant them.

2 Insert the cuttings in pots filled with compost made from equal parts sphagnum moss, leaf mould and sharp sand. Put 3-5 cuttings in each pot to get a fuller plant.

3 Water carefully — the compost should be kept on the dry side — and place the pot in a shaded position.

4 After 6-8 weeks the roots should be well established. You can then bring the plants into bright light and treat them as mature.

PLANT CARE

This is a fairly easy plant to care for, so long as it is given a cool position in winter, to encourage flower buds to form, and a rich compost. Remove any stems that become discoloured or deformed.

Potting: Repot after flowering, using a mixture of four parts leaf mould, two parts sand and one part charcoal.

Water moderately and regularly in the spring and summer. The plant can tolerate drought for short periods, but try to avoid this. Water sparingly throughout the winter until buds form, then increase.

Feeding: Feed once a month from March to October.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: It needs bright light, but not full sun.
  • Temperature: Keep at 10— 13°C (50-55°F) in winter to encourage the formation of flower buds. Increase the temperature gradually as buds form. It will tolerate normal summer temperatures.

Buying Tips

  • It is best to buy Pond Lily Cactus in the spring when it is in bud. If you cannot find it at local nurseries, try a specialist cactus grower.
  • Choose a plant with healthy green stems. Avoid any with pale or reddish stems, which indicate that the compost has been too dry.
  • Pond Lily Cactus will live for many years, but the leaf-like stems become unattractive in time, and the plant should be renewed with cuttings.

The Pond Lily Cactus is one of the most profusely flowering of all cacti. It is not difficult to grow indoors, and can also form part of a cacti collection in the greenhouse.

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