Queen of the Night…Majestic Display

When we have visitors in our garden, it’s not unusual for someone to ask, “What is that?” The plant that evokes this question is a Night Blooming Cereus, also known as Queen of the Night, but I must admit it looks anything but royal! The plant is a succulent, part of the cactus family. It is a sprawling, lanky plant with wide leathery leaves. It lacks the beauty that people usually want in a plant, but if you just wait and have the patience to let this plant mature, you will be rewarded with a spectacular display. On August 8, our “Night Bloomer” shared its glorious and short lived beauty with me and my husband, Bob!

The first flourish starts about two weeks before its final display. A tiny pink bud starts on the side of one of the leaves. After several days, the bud is about 4 inches long, and in a few more days it is about 6 inches long and begins to turn tip up. That is when you really need to watch for the creamy white color to start peeking through the dark pink tepals that wrap the bud. When you see the cream color show, get ready! I usually call friends and neighbors to announce the event and I warn them that it will be a late night! This time our little beauty started to open about 10:30 pm. A tiny opening at the end of the bud soon enlarges just enough for you to see the pollen covered stamen inside. Slowly, slowly the flower continues to open wider and wider until it is completely open…about two hours later.

Beautiful! The creamy white flower shows yellow pollen covered stamen and wears a pink skirt at the base of the bloom. The fragrance that this blossom emits at full bloom is an intoxicating smell of white flower fragrance and spice. This whole magically beautiful display only last for 8-10 hours and in the morning the spent blossom is limp and hanging from the leaf, fragrance gone. No matter how many times I see this flower open, it never gets old. It is magnificent every time!

I was lucky enough to have a dear friend, Anne Heles of Beaufort SC, who shared a cutting of her “Night Bloomer” with me. It took several years for it to bloom and sometimes it takes a couple of years before it blooms again, but this plant is very easy to grow! Remember, it’s a succulent so it needs well drained soil. Bright light is good, but direct sun burns the leaves…I hang my plant on a lower branch of a tree in my yard. It winters in an upstairs bedroom window with morning sun and other than that thrives on neglect. Easy enough for a beginning gardener and spectacular enough results for a garden enthusiast!

To learn more about this beautiful plant-Google “Night Blooming Cereus”. You can see more photos and even a time lapse of the flower opening. I know you won’t be able to resist learning more about this exotic plant. (PS…I just found 4 more tiny pink buds on my plant…and the magic starts again!)■

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